July 26, 2003

Andrew Sullivan = Noam Chomsky

I had an epiphany this evening, an epiphany provoked by reading Andrew Sullivan immediately after reading something smart by the highly intelligent Tom Nichols of the Naval War College. Nichols wrote, appropos of Noam Chomsky:

What many of us find objectionable, however, is Chomsky's fundamental hypocrisy and dishonesty.... Chomsky's writing is meant to mislead and to distort.... He is a practitioner of the Big Lie approach to political debate: if a falsehood is stated baldly and loudly enough, it'll get by.... Here's a gem from the New Mandarins (1967): "Three times in a generation American technology has laid waste a helpless Asian country," that is, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. This is a statement that is so simplistic and dishonest one can only marvel at Chomsky's audacity in saying it. Imperial Japan, helpless? North Korea, rolling its tanks to the Pusan perimeter and coming within a whisker of conquering the peninsula, helpless? But Chomsky is smart enough to know one thing: if he puts it on the printed page, some less perceptive reader will assume it to be true, and the propaganda will have worked its purpose...

And then I come to Andrew Sullivan:

www.AndrewSullivan.com - Daily Dish: DARK DAY FOR KRUGMAN: His hopes for recession seem to be receding.

And I realized: what Nichols (rightly) describes Chomsky as doing is exactly what Sullivan is doing. Nobody who has read Krugman's writings over the past three years thinks that Paul Krugman is "hoping for recession." Paul Krugman has been yelling into his megaphone as loudly as he can for more stimulative monetary policy and more aggressive steps to expand demand to keep us as far away from deflation as possible. And he has had an impact--in my judgment, monetary policy is looser, the unemployment rate lower, and prospects for future growth better than if Krugman had simply stayed quiet on stabilization policy issues over the past three years.

But the fact that Krugman has been working as hard as he can to shift economic policy in directions that will reduce the likelihood of recession and accelerate growth--a fact that Sullivan knows full well--is, in Sullivan's view, irrelevant. Just because Krugman has been working as hard as he can for stronger anti-recession policies is, for Sullivan, no obstacle to Sullivan's claiming that Krugman has been working for a recession. For Sullivan is playing Chomsky's game. As Nichols says about Chomsky: "the Big Lie approach to political debate: if a falsehood is stated baldly and loudly enough, it'll get by."

For, like Chomsky, Sullivan is smart enough to know one thing: if he writes it down, some less perceptive readers will assume it to be true, and the propaganda will have worked its purpose.

Posted by DeLong at July 26, 2003 09:50 PM | TrackBack

Comments

"Maybe we should thank the Democrats for shedding their moderate clothing to reveal their true Swinging-Seventies selves."

http://www.majorityleader.gov/news.asp?FormMode=Detail&ID=127

Greetings from Glorious Majority Leader!!!!

Posted by: ji on July 26, 2003 11:19 PM

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There's a little extra something about Chomsky that Sullivan lacks: he writes in such an elliptical fashion that while you always knows what he means, he can always claim later that he really meant something else, to better fit his current message of the day. He's like a propagandist for a totalitarian regime that exists in his head.

Posted by: Walt Pohl on July 27, 2003 12:39 AM

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Say what you will about Chomsky, Sullivan is NOWHERE in his league.

Posted by: bill on July 27, 2003 01:49 AM

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You've gone off the rails Brad. The equation Chomsky = Sullivan is just Orwellian. Whatever Sullivan wrote, and however it might strike you as similar in style to Chomsky's strident bul*****, only Chomsky is himself so consistently. Chomsky has been publicly bizarre over a span of 4 decades.

Posted by: beck on July 27, 2003 02:13 AM

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I'm afraid Bill is right. Sullivan jumps to his conclusions far too quickly and directly to weasel out of them the way Chomsky does. He simply relies on the psychology of a partisan readership to keep him from having to face contradiction. Chomsky is much subtler than that. His statement is arguably half true, and I can certainly construct an interpretive context in which it is fully true.

Nichols doesn't seem to contest the idea that Vietnam was, in fact, a helpless country destroyed by American military technology. That makes this one-third true. In Korea, had the US not gotten involved, it is clear that the country would not have been nearly so devastated, and the Korean people - the "country" in the broadest sense of the word - were helpless against the military power deployed in their land. As for Japan, well, it was pretty helpless against weapons of mass destruction and unable to offer much resistance to large scale and later nuclear bombing.

To evoke this context is, of course, to render Chomsky's case content-free. This might be said of any war, anywhere. In the end, a country always ends up devastated and before it finally collapses the looser usually is pretty helpless and the civilian population is almost always helpless, at all times. But, I would give good odds that Chomsky's argument structure prepares for the possibility of just this sort of defense.

Posted by: Scott Martens on July 27, 2003 02:20 AM

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Agreeing with the above, it's an amusing comparison, but not that accurate. Sullivan is like Chomsky in that Sullivan is a part-time polemicist. And almost all polemicists share the traits Brad is discussing.

Gosh, I'm trying to think of who really is arguably Chomsky's counterpart on the right. Someone brilliant, with unrelated (to his/her political writing) outstanding academic credentials, a polemicist seen as a courageous truth-teller that is not important to mainstream political opinion (or power) but is extremely influential to the more cloistered intellectuals and wannabes that are his/her audience. Any suggestions?

I've probably written this before, but I feel bad for Sullivan. I once liked him. When he was at TNR, I wasn't even really much aware of his right-wing leanings. It's my impression that he's moved quite a bit to the right since then; and it's my theory that he has done so because he was (badly) betrayed by the left on the issue of gay marriage, which is close to his heart. I am in total agreement with his claim that gay marriage is an absolutely essential liberal idea, a civil rights issue of paramount importance (not just practical, but theoretical). That he was abandoned, and even excorciated by liberals and leftists on this issue offends me and in that context I think I understand his now obvious loathing for contemporary liberalism.

Also, of course, he may just have a deeply traditionalist streak in his temperment. I know some people that were rather far more to the left than me that I've correctly predicted were nascent conservatives and have watched them become so.

Posted by: Keith M Ellis on July 27, 2003 04:43 AM

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If Vietnam was so helpless, why did they win the war?

Posted by: Daniel on July 27, 2003 05:04 AM

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I don't get Brad's vitriol against Chomsky. Some brilliant people should be read, but not much trusted. Although he is inconsistant, and occasionally disengenuous, Chomsky does have some legitimate insights, and has made some important contributions in the political sphere. For instance, "Propaganda, American Style". Sullivan is hardly brilliant. What's next? Does Chomsky equal Limbaugh? What about G. Gordon Liddy? Nazis? Gimme a break. Chomsky is himself. Reasoning by Analogy is so easily bogus.

Posted by: Steve on July 27, 2003 05:58 AM

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Say what you will about Sullivan, at least he has never asked his readers to believe that John Ellis Bush is named after Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart.

Posted by: Paul Zrimsek on July 27, 2003 07:45 AM

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Sullivan is using the straw man argument against Krugman. Fabricate a statement or belief and attack the person even if they never said it or did not believe it. For instance, Al Gore never said he invented the internet, people who are against the war in Iraq are not necessarily pro Saddam and no one in their right mind (PK included) is hoping for a recession. The straw man is standard propaganda that goes on all the time.

Chomsky is not using a straw man argument. He is making an interpretation of events that is not well supported by the facts. One can argue that Chomsky has a realistic or unrealistic POV based on the facts. With Sullivan, one first has to establish that he is mischaracterizing the debate. In the simplistic TV debating society, the debate becomes whether or not PK wants a recession. The debate never moves on to the important questions surrounding fiscal policy. Is current fiscal policy effective and could it be more effective? The big question gets lost. This is the whole idea of writers like Sullivan. They want to shift the debate and make it about individuals to avoid discussion of policy issues. At least Chomsky focuses his debate on real policy.

Posted by: bakho on July 27, 2003 09:36 AM

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What is of interest, is that Paul Krugman is considered such a threat to the radical right. These folks have no regard for democratic exchange, and are determined to intimidate any persuasive voice who argues against benighted policies and developments. Paul Krugman is a courageous signally incisive wonder!

Posted by: lise on July 27, 2003 09:49 AM

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Sullivan at least has an excuse: he's on drugs, namely that testosterone chest patch he reports on from time to time. He uses it because it makes him feel good and makes him handsome.

What's Chomsky's excuse?

Posted by: David Lloyd-Jones on July 27, 2003 10:46 AM

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Post about Chomsky's intellectual dishonesty all you want, Brad, you won't hear any argument from me. However, not stating that he is Jewish, in your vehement review of the Holocaust denial story, closing the thread as you never do, and then deleting the comment where I pointed that out to you, is also, um, intellectually dishonest. I thought you didn't like that? You may be smart, but you sure ain't honest, Mr. DeLong, and that's a big one to give up so willingly. Now go ahead and delete this like my last comment to this effect.

Posted by: John Isbell on July 27, 2003 11:21 AM

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Sullivan's comment is typical of the following pattern: suppporters of Bush's policies present misleading reasoning based on false information. Critics try to point out what is sound analysis in the hopes of pushing for alternative policies. The critic is attacked as being a traitor or a liar or worse. It's sad that dishonesty and supporting bad policies have become prerequisites for being a patriot.

Posted by: Hal McClure on July 27, 2003 12:48 PM

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Sullivan is one 180-degree-turn in sexual orientation away from being Pat Buchanan.

Posted by: oneangryslav on July 27, 2003 01:14 PM

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I don't get how rational thought is furthered by equating Chomsky and Sullivan. They both use "Big Lies"?!? Well, maybe, but probably so does half the planet, including my children when I catch their hands in the cookie jar.

Posted by: Andrew Boucher on July 27, 2003 02:03 PM

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I really do think that decent people can discount fully anything Mr. Isbell might have to say on the subject of anti-Semitism.

Commenting a couple of weeks ago about an article in the Observer in which Richard Ingrams asserted that he discards letters by Jews, Mr Isbell had the following to say:

Posted by John Isbell at July 16, 2003 05:33 AM

"I guess I'll add, rather tendentiously: whenever I see a letter on black issues with a black signature, I tend not to read it.

Of course, black signatures are so much harder to spot. The way they blend in with the community. Jewish names you can spot a mile off.

Is all this there in that guy's comment? I think it is."

http://www.jennworks.com/cgi-bin/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=685

By the way Isbell your comment about our host is arrant nonsense. Brad obviously closed down the thread because he realised that it was just about to spin out of control. Everyone and his dog knows that Chomsky is Jewish, at least in the strictly religious sense of having been born to a Jewish mother.

You aren't seriously suggesting that a Jew cannot be anti-Semitic or a Holocaust denier are you? If the following comments by Alan Dershowitz do not indicate that Chomsky is an enemy of Jews everywhere I'd love to know what does.

Alan Dershowitz on Chomsky and Holocaust denial:

My next encounter with Chomsky revolved around his writing an introduction to a book by an anti-Semite named Robert Faurisson who denied that the Holocaust took place, that Hitler’s gas chambers existed, that the diary of Anne Frank was authentic, and that there were death camps in Nazi occupied Europe. He claimed that the “massive lie” about genocide was a deliberate concoction initiated by “American Zionists” “and that “the Jews” were responsible for World War II. Chomsky described these and other conclusions as “findings” and said that they were based on “extensive historical research.” He also wrote that “I see no anti-Semitic implication in the denial of the existence in gas chambers or even in the denial of the Holocaust.” He said he saw “no hint of anti-Semitic implications in Faurisson’s work,” including his claim that “the Jews” were responsible for World War II. He wrote an introduction to one of Faurisson’s book which was used to market his anti-Semitic lies.

In a subsequent debate at the Harvard Medical School, Chomsky initially denied having advocated a Lebanon-style binational state for Israel, only to have to back down upon being confronted with the evidence. He also tried to dispute the fact that he had authorized an essay he had written in defense of Robert Faurisson to be used as the forward to Faurisson’s book about Holocaust denial, but again had to back down. Chomsky took the position that he had no interest in “revisionist” literature before Faurisson had written the book. When confronted by Robert Nozick, a distinguished philosophy professor who recalled discussing revisionist literature with him well before the Faurisson book, Chomsky first berated Nozick for disclosing a private conversation and then he shoved him contemptuously in front of numerous witnesses.

http://www-tech.mit.edu/V122/N25/col25dersh.25c.html

Posted by: Pooh on July 27, 2003 02:21 PM

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That's hilarious - Chomsky opening up a can of whoop-ass on Nozick.

Posted by: ETC on July 27, 2003 02:50 PM

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this sums it up, if y'all haven't seen it:

http://www.internetweekly.org/photo_cartoons/cartoon_greenspan_krugman.html

Posted by: Daniel Barnes on July 27, 2003 05:40 PM

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As far as Korea goes, I'd urge the reading of "Blowback" by Chalmers Johnson. His Asian policy credentials are more mainstream than Chomsky's, and he comes to interesting conclusions.

"If Vietnam was so helpless, why did they win the war?"

I believe what happened there is what's known as a Pyrrhic victory. One obtained at such great cost that to declare a winner is a bit of a stretch. Consider that they still have many living victims of Agent Orange, some into the third generation of poisoned families, many acres of unrecovered and formerly productive agricultural land, and a countryside littered with mines.

Compared to the 'winners' of that war, the US suffered far less in any comparable measurement. (Disclaimer: Yes, every family anywhere in the world who loses/has lost someone is completely entitled to feel like it's the greatest possible tragedy.)

Posted by: natasha on July 27, 2003 07:24 PM

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Re: John Isbell's comments in the referenced thread.

His remark was clearly tongue in cheek, meant as a parody of a quote in the original post, as follows:

[begin Alas, A Blog post] I've often criticized Israel's partsans for seeing anti-Semitism where it ain't - fo rinstance, virutally any criticism of Israel in the British press is attributed to anti-Semitism. But that doesn't mean that there are never legitimate complaints. From Richard Ingrams in this past Sunday's Observer:

"I have developed a habit when confronted by letters to the editor in support of the Israeli government to look at the signature to see if the writer has a Jewish name. If so, I tend not to read it."

Memo to Mr. Ingrams: Go fuck yourself. [end Alas, A Blog post]

Isbell's initial comment in response to this was, and I quote, "Yup." The parodied statement quoted above came after.

Whatever your prior disagreements, to quote him out of context like that is in very poor taste, and quite dishonest. Because most people won't bother clicking through, and especially looking up the post it responded to, they might be inclined to take your word for it.

Posted by: natasha on July 27, 2003 07:47 PM

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Daniel wrote, "If Vietnam was so helpless, why did they win the war?"

Chomsky himself already answered that thusly: you're right, Vietnam won the war, as the bombed-out ruins of San Francisco show.

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on July 27, 2003 08:53 PM

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Brad is correct that Sully is LYING. PK does not wish a recession. No one does.

The real question should be, "Why is Sully lying?".

Sully is lying because it is a misdirection ploy. PK says that Bush policy is not efficient. Sully says that PK wants a recession so Democrats can win in 04. You say tomato i say tomato let's call the whole thing off. No issue!! Vote for the fighter pilot that landed on the aircraft carrier. End of story.

Posted by: bakho on July 27, 2003 08:58 PM

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delong's "allergy" to chomsky is taking on ridiculous proportions, but the comparison to sullivan is beyond the pale. distort and misrepresent chomsky all you'd like, your arguments are easily refuted by reading his actual writings in context or hearing the man speak.

but comparing him to an intellectually insignificant and morally empty hypocrite like sullivan is insulting to the extent that people actually take YOU seriously, delong.

so to anyone who cares -- read a couple of days worth of andy's blog bloviations, or one of his books... er, ah... i guess "virtually normally: an argument about homosexuality" will have to do. then pick any book by chomsky, or view his znet archive, or the monkeyfist archive. simply peruse ONE WORK of literally thousands of published pieces and decide for yourself how specious mr. delong's comparison is.

while you're at it, read edward s. herman's takedown of delong's "allergic" reaction to chomsky that was in this past weekend's counterpunch. i'm sure ol' brad is furiously researching his response to herman as i type this.

http://counterpunch.org/herman07262003.html

and brad, you should follow the advice of phil collins and not get "in too deep". you're outclassed, buddy. that's why you're so angry at noam.

Posted by: c note on July 28, 2003 01:35 AM

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Frankly, the mere fact that Chomsky would lend his name to Faurisson's work says all that needs to be said. I stopped paying attention to the likes of David Irving long ago. Chomsky seems determined to join that club.

As to DeLong being outclassed, I would stipulate a hypothesis that this blog is at least as widely read and possibly more influential, as Chomsky's entire body of work.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 28, 2003 01:48 AM

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"Say what you will about Sullivan, at least he has never asked his readers to believe that John Ellis Bush is named after Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart."

Side issue, I know, but this approach is a bit disengenuous. Bush never used the name "Jeb" much until he became a southern politician. And for a southern politician to adopt the name, "Jeb" is somewhat suggestive. Jeb Bush wasn't named after Jeb Stuart--that's just what he calls himself nowdays.

Posted by: rea on July 28, 2003 03:54 AM

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Some points about Chomsky:
* Unlike many commentators, his writings are heavily footnoted. He's also been known to tell questioners in audience, "*Don't* believe me! Look it up yourself."
* While he was incorrect in his early assessment of the extent of the Cambodian bloodbath, it doesn't detract from the main point of the book he (and Herman) made it in, _The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism (The Political Economy of Human Rights: Volume I)_ (at least, this is where I first read his treatment of this subject). Namely, that we can classify bloodbaths into 3 categories: nefarious (those committed by State enemies); benign (where the State has no strong interest either way); and constructive (those conducted by the State, or by allies of the State). This model is quite useful---for example, Rwanda clearly falls into the "benign" category for the US.
* Most of the reaction against Chomsky, I would claim, is not actually against his arguments (which I certainly don't always agree with) but rather because he criticizes the US and Israel.

Aside: Nichols remarks are laughable. While I would disagree with any such claim Chomsky made about Korea, his claim about Vietnam is surely correct, without any qualification. Re Japan, Nichols wrote, "Imperial Japan, helpless?" *At the time the destruction occurred*, Japan was indeed helpless against the US: its navy had largely been destroyed, and it was indeed helpless against bombing raids that killed hundreds of thousands of Japanese. (Recall that the raids using conventional, incendiary weapons killed far more people than the two A-bombs did.)

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on July 28, 2003 07:17 AM

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"Isbell's initial comment in response to this was, and I quote, "Yup." The parodied statement quoted above came after."

Given Isbell's quite hateful and irrational attack on Brad I decided that what might - just might, mind you - have been parody was almost certainly simply another bee in Isbell's bonnet.

"Whatever your prior disagreements, to quote him out of context like that is in very poor taste, and quite dishonest. Because most people won't bother clicking through, and especially looking up the post it responded to, they might be inclined to take your word for it."

You really think so? LOL.

With logic like that you should be working for Chomsky.

Posted by: Pooh on July 28, 2003 08:19 AM

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"and brad, you should follow the advice of phil collins and not get "in too deep"."

If in fact Brad were an ageing rock star hanging out in the world's fleshpots with Jagger and Clapton that would be truly excellent advice.

Posted by: Pooh on July 28, 2003 08:40 AM

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My post on the Herman thread was also deleted before it was closed. I merely asked for a citation for the allegation that Chomsky "wrote" that Faurisson was being "smeared by zionists." I don't know why that question was controversial enough to be deleted.

Also, how come Delong's quotation from After the Cataclysm deletes over 100 words from the paragraph on pg. 291? Is that intellectual honesty?

By the way, the Dershowitz story is BS. Why did he wait until Nozick was dead to tell it? You can read Chomsky's actual views because his early 1970's works on Israel have been re-released in "Middle East Illusions." I think Dershowitz has sour grapes since Chomsky proved him to be a liar in the Boston Globe and Dershowitz was publicly humiliated by the ombudsman for his mendacity.

Posted by: MaB on July 28, 2003 08:49 AM

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"*At the time the destruction occurred*, Japan was indeed helpless against the US: its navy had largely been destroyed,..."

...BY THE U.S., AFTER ATTACKING THE U.S. That's what the flag ("Don't tread on me") meant.

To make the Empire of Japan out to be a "victim" of the U.S. in WWII is nothing more than anti-U.S. rhetoric. It completely ignores the Empire of Japan's brutal aggression against China, Korea, Burma, Singapore, Malaya, the Philippines...am I forgetting others?

In the Bataan Death March alone, the Japanese are estimated to have killed 10,000 Filipino POWs.

But we're talking about Noam Chomsky...so nothing more than anti-Americanism would even be expected. If the man had any ounce of decency, he'd move to Cuba. (Or France. ;-))

P.S. "...his claim about Vietnam is surely correct, without any qualification."

I have a South Vietnamese friend who would probably object to the characterization of the U.S. being at war against "Vietnam." (Crazy as it may seem, some people in Vietnam wanted a country more like South Korea, and less like North Korea.)

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 28, 2003 09:15 AM

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"In Korea, had the US not gotten involved, it is clear that the country would not have been nearly so devastated,..."

@#$%! If the U.S. hadn't gotten involved, the entire country would be like North Korea! Have at least *some* small amount of sympathy for the 1+ million North Koreans who have *starved to death,* just in the last decade!

Posted by: Mark Bahner on July 28, 2003 09:24 AM

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"am I forgetting others?"

Not forgetting, but the following deserves especial mention:

Between December 1937 and March 1938 almost 400,000 Chinese civilians and prisoners of war were murdered by Japanese troops in Nanking. Over 80,000 women and girls were raped before being mutilated and killed.

That almost ranks up there with the 100,000 Hungarian Jews who were murdered in eight days in Auschwitz in 1944 while the rest of the world averted its gaze.

Two evil nations. So many apologists.


Posted by: Pooh on July 28, 2003 10:29 AM

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Will this post? Brad DeLong has deleted three comments here in which I answered Pooh's selectively edited charge of antisemitism, with no comment on Brad. He has a new post condemning Bush's policy of silencing critics. I don't know if this will post because yesterday he sent an email threatening to ban me. I replied that it's his blog, and he has to choose his ethics for himself.
If this posts, that seems ethical. If not, I will be saddened.

Posted by: John Isbell on July 28, 2003 11:50 AM

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c-note, Brad already cited the Herman smear job earlier.

What Brad is basically saying is that there are plenty of legitimate and intellectually honest critics of American foreign policy out there. Chomsky, unfortunately, is not one of them. I agree.

What's the current conspiracy theory on Liberia from the radical left, btw?

Posted by: ETC on July 28, 2003 11:55 AM

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If that crown of thorns bothers John Isbell so much, why doesn't he just take it off?

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 28, 2003 12:02 PM

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Very true, Steven. The longer my comments stay up (four gone now), the quicker I take that crown off. It's uncomfortable.

Posted by: John Isbell on July 28, 2003 12:13 PM

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I'm sorry to say I think Professor DeLong is a bit obsessed on the issue of Chomsky.


There's one very good reason why everyone should read Chomsky. He presents America as it is seen by many foreigners. I do not say that that is an accurate image; it isn't. But it is one that Americans need to understand so that, for example, they don't imagine that Iraqis will greet invading American troops with roses.


I also think that the criticism of Chomsky is overwrought. Professor DeLong has raised the comments Chomsky wrote about Faurisson's book. For the record, let me state that I think that it was wrong of Chomsky to review the book in a neutral fashion (even if ,as Herman says, the review was reprinted without Chomsky's permission). If this were all Chomsky had done in his life, it would define him. But consider that Chomsky is ethnically Jewish. While Jewish anti-Semites do exist, in general they renounce their ethnic identity; Chomsky has not. Therefore, a single ambiguous episode like the Faurisson case does not persuade one think that Chomsky sympathizes with Holocaust denial.


And I would point out that there are plenty of people, supposedly in the mainstream, with much stronger ties to extremists than writing book reviews. The Bush family, for example, with Dubya-grandfather Prescott having been indicted over the business ties with Nazi Germany that he declined to renounce just because of war. Poppy Bush hired numerous members/sympathizers of The Reich for his presidential campaign, and Fred Malek remains a close family friend. And then there's the close ties of both Poppy and Dubya to Reverend Sun Myung Moon, a man who in between brainwashing troubled kids and helping ship weapons to kill Central Americans called (alas, I have lost the citation for this) democracy, "a kindergarden for communism". Dubya also has some neo-Confederate ties that are troubling. Nothing Chomsky has done even compares to what one will find in the Bush family closet.


I find both pro- and anti-Chomsky factions to be cholerically emotional, not rational. Anyone with an advanced degree should have set aside the notion that we read people because we think they are "right". We read them because we think that even in their errors they help us see things we hadn't understood.


Chomsky deserves credit for bringing out the massacres in Indonesia and East Timor, topics that almost no one else was willing to discuss. He deserves derision for having been so willing to disbelieve that a brutal regime was rising to power in Cambodia. On the other hand, his mid/late-70s writings on Cambodia were no less credulous than Americans who think that the bombing campaign and subsequent famine, and the failure of the US to support moderate elements in Cambodia did not have something to do with Pol Pot's rise to power; indeed, most Americans are unaware that the Reagan Administration quietly supported Pol Pot *after* the massacres had been documented. Chomsky may well have been a fool, but Reagan was surely a knave.


The above, I think, is what a balanced approach to judging a scholar's work looks like. I confess that I feel somewhat disappointed with Professor DeLong's lapse of what I see as appropriate balance.

Posted by: Charles on July 28, 2003 12:53 PM

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Sully is correct. Even Alan Greenspan is now blaming Krugman for the bad economy.

http://www.internetweekly.org/photo_cartoons/cartoon_greenspan_krugman.html

Posted by: bakho on July 28, 2003 01:27 PM

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Fair enough Charles, but you made a factual error - Chomsky did not review Faurisson's book. He was asked to sign a petition that condemned "efforts to deprive Professor Faurisson of his freedom of speech and expression" which included suspension from the Univeristy of Lyon and a trial for "falsification of history." This petition (which Chomsky didn't write )created a scandal due to the use of words like "findings" to describe Fairisson's revisionism. Chomsky was then asked to write a statement on principles of free speech which was included in Faurisson's book without his initial permission. Nothing Chomsky has ever written supports any of Faurisson's "theories" but this hasn't stopped his critics from describing him as sympathetic to Holocaust denial.

Posted by: MaB on July 28, 2003 01:34 PM

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MaB,

Thank you for that clarification regarding the Chomsky preface to Faurisson's book.

Hell, I think *everybody* who discusses Chomsky is in danger of becoming obsessed with him, whether you lean for or again' 'im. What is it with the guy? Gigabytes of arguement back and for on a man who has f*** all influence on foreign and national poicy. Any nation's policies.

Personnally, I think he is brilliant. Like all to many brilliant people he is totally unable/unwilling to believe that anybody of any intelligence could disagree with him honestly, and is therfore either a moron or a shill. I loath sound-bite speech, but on the other hand there is a lot to be said for presenting a posiiton clearly and succintly. Under a thousand words, over a hundred will do. Chomsky seems to have a real problem with conciseness. I don't think he is a very good writer, for that reason. But I do purely love he way he shreds po-mo gibberish mongers. That's my view of the man. Your Mileage May Vary.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 28, 2003 02:26 PM

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Mark Bahner wrote, "To make the Empire of Japan out to be a "victim" of the U.S. in WWII is nothing more than anti-U.S. rhetoric. It completely ignores the Empire of Japan's brutal aggression against China, Korea, Burma, Singapore, Malaya, the Philippines...am I forgetting others?"

The issue re Japan is the deaths of *civilians*. The Japanese government is not the putative victim here, but rather Japanese.

No one should ever excuse Japanese war crimes, of course. But Japan didn't attack the US in some kind of historical vacuum---IIRC the US (and perhaps others) were trying to cut off Japanese access to oil, for example.

"I have a South Vietnamese friend who would probably object to the characterization of the U.S. being at war against 'Vietnam.' (Crazy as it may seem, some people in Vietnam wanted a country more like South Korea, and less like North Korea.)"

Certainly some Vietnamese might have preferred a different government. But the fact is that the US invited itself into Vietnam, and the resulting conflict cost millions of lives, spread to Cambodia, and so on. And what good was accomplished?

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on July 28, 2003 03:41 PM

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Mark Bahner wrote, "To make the Empire of Japan out to be a "victim" of the U.S. in WWII is nothing more than anti-U.S. rhetoric. It completely ignores the Empire of Japan's brutal aggression against China, Korea, Burma, Singapore, Malaya, the Philippines...am I forgetting others?"

The issue re Japan is the deaths of *civilians*. The Japanese government is not the putative victim here, but rather Japanese.

No one should ever excuse Japanese war crimes, of course. But Japan didn't attack the US in some kind of historical vacuum---IIRC the US (and perhaps others) were trying to cut off Japanese access to oil, for example.

"I have a South Vietnamese friend who would probably object to the characterization of the U.S. being at war against 'Vietnam.' (Crazy as it may seem, some people in Vietnam wanted a country more like South Korea, and less like North Korea.)"

Certainly some Vietnamese might have preferred a different government. But the fact is that the US invited itself into Vietnam, and the resulting conflict cost millions of lives, spread to Cambodia, and so on. And what good was accomplished?

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on July 28, 2003 03:42 PM

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ASIDE:

What's up with all these timeouts, etc, I keep getting when trying to post? Is there something wrong with MT, or is this site just so popular that it's hard to get through?

Posted by: Stephen J Fromm on July 28, 2003 03:45 PM

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Pooh - Only about 1% of any given blog's visitors actually comment. More read the comments as a sideline, but are probably far less likely to click through a link in the comments than on the main page. Virtually no readers of any website or page click through every link, therefore, I feel my assertion that few would click to check is based solidly in reality. People are lazy, and I don't mean that in a bad way, especially when it comes to sorting out 'he said, she said' quibbles.

Additionally, you only linked to the comments thread. Not the thread plus post. Therefore, anyone trying to find out what Isbell was responding to would then have had to go to the main page of Alas, A Blog, and search for the entry. And if you spend any time at that site, you would know a comment like that uttered seriously would have led to an epic sh*tstorm.

But maybe you don't spend much time there, and maybe other readers don't either. I do, and it ticks me off to see someone playing fast and loose with the content (author or reader provided) of websites I like, and smearing people based on what was at the very most charitable a gross misunderstanding.

Charles - "I find both pro- and anti-Chomsky factions to be cholerically emotional, not rational."

It's beyond emotion, it's religion. "Chomsky Is The Devil vs. No He's Not." Who cares, already? It's like the sodding Greens vs. Dems debate, and everybody loses, except the conservatives.

No one puts guns to people's heads and forces them to read Chomsky, and then go around for the rest of their days pretending that everything he says is God's Own Truth. No one has ever died in the name of Chomsky, attempted an overthrow of any government at his behest, or subverted our legal system in order to forward his career. Chomsky does not try to say that large numbers of Americans are treasonous backbiters. He does not suggest that anyone, anywhere, deserves to be nuked or otherwise killed. And he never claimed to be infallible, last I checked.

Is there some kind of great goal that any liberal leaning person achieves by focusing on trashing Chomsky instead of going after conservatives who have actually done and said far more objectionable things? Ann Coulter, Karl Rove, and Rich Lowry don't spend all day wailing on Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson. Both of them raving nutcases, without the benefit of any scholarly credentials whatever, and inherently more embarassing. They all train their guns on us, and it works.

They work together, they win. Liberals are too busy holding the literary version of the Spanish Inquisition in their own ranks to bother fighting back. Enough, dammit.

Posted by: natasha on July 28, 2003 07:00 PM

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North Vietnam won because we let it. Our leaders made at least two grave errors. The first is playing defensively instead of offensively - trying to block the invasion rather than capture its source.

The other was the Paris Peace Accords. One can argue over whether or not we should have been there in the first place, but once a nation promises to defend another it is obligated to fulfill its promise. Kissinger was either utterly naive in assuming that Hanoi really wanted peaceful coexistence with Saignon and that Congress would allow the US to come to the latter's rescue if the former breaks the hudna - I mean treaty - or he knew full well that one day Saigon would fall while the US sits on its hands.

"Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize" - Tom Lehrer

Posted by: Alan K. Henderson on July 28, 2003 10:52 PM

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Here´s Chomskys own take on the story of him and Faurisson:

http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/8102-right-to-say.html

Posted by: Michael Greinecker on July 29, 2003 01:48 AM

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Stephen J. Fromm writes: No one should ever excuse Japanese war crimes, of course. But Japan didn't attack the US in some kind of historical vacuum---IIRC the US (and perhaps others) were trying to cut off Japanese access to oil, for example.

Ummm... speaking of historical vacuums, the USA et al were cutting off Japanese oil because the Japanese were rampaging through China and had just occupied French Indochina - a loaded gun aimed squarely at the Netherlands East Indies.

We can, of course, carry the historical "we did, they did" back to Perry's expedition to Japan, if you wish.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 29, 2003 07:11 AM

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Degraded and Dishonest
Refuting Brad Delong's Smear Job on Chomsky
By EDWARD S. HERMAN

In his "Thoughts" on Chomsky, under the title "My Very,Very Allergic Reaction to Noam Chomsky: Khmer Rouge, Faurisson, Milosevic," Brad DeLong is long on name calling, smears by selective choice of decontextualized words and sentences, straightforward misrepresentation, and numerous assertions unsupported by evidence. He is short on tolerance of viewpoints that he doesn't like and very short on just plain intellectual integrity. His preening self-regard and pomposity in straightening out Chomsky and his misguided "surprising number" of "followers" is also impressive.

In his first two paragraphs he makes the point that Chomsky's admirers "form a kind of cult," but no evidence is given supporting this insult, which is a familiar form of smear to denigrate people admiring someone with whom one disagrees. He then compares teaching such folks to teaching Plato to pigs. So his opening is pure name-calling.

In his next paragraph he tries to engage in substance, and this effort is worth a close look. He says: "Consider Chomsky's claim that: 'In the early 1990s, primarily for cynical great power reasons, the U.S. selected Bosnian Muslims as their Balkan clients' On its face this is ludicrous. When the United States selects clients for cynical great power reasons it selects strong clients-not ones whose unarmed men are rounded up and shot by the thousands. And Bosnian Muslims as a key to U.S. politico-military strategy in Europe? As Bismarck said more than a century ago, 'There is nothing in the Balkans that is worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier.' It holds true today as well: the U.S, has no strategic or security interest in the Balkans that is worth the death of a single Carolinian fire-control technician. U.S. intervention in the Balkans in the 1990s was 'humanitarian' in origin and intention (even if we can argue about its effect). Only a nut-boy loon would argue otherwise."

The first substantive statement in this paragraph, that the United States always selects strong clients, is truly "ludicrous": the United States supported the Nicaraguan contras, Savimbi's UNITA in Angola, the little rag-tag forces in Nicaragua that it organized to invade Guatemala in 1954, Somoza's Nicaragua, the Florida and Nicaragua-based invasion force for the Bay of Pigs, the remnants of Chiang Kai Shek's defeated army in northern Burma following the victory of the communists in China in 1949, Chiang's Taiwan from 1949, the Persian Gulf Emirates, and many other similarly "strong clients." The implication that because the Bosnian Muslims were shot in large numbers they couldn't have been U.S. clients is not only a non sequitur, it also flies in the face of massive evidence that they were U.S. clients, as any serious book on the subject makes clear (e.g., Lord David Owen's Balkan Odyssey, Susan Woodward's Balkan Tragedy, or Diana Johnstone's Fools' Crusade). This client status is not even controversial. DeLong's ignorance of this subject area is apparently close to complete, as he fails to note that our Bosnian clients also shot a lot of unarmed men, and that we, in collaboration with the Saudis and Bin Laden , ferried massive supplies and mujahadin troops into Bosnia (as described in detail in the Dutch report on Srebrenica) and bombed the Serbs on behalf of our Bosnian Muslim client in the lead-up to the Dayton agreement.

His next sentence about the Bosnian Muslims as "a key to U.S. politico-military strategy in Europe" misrepresents and therefore lies about Chomsky's language-Chomsky didn't say "key...in Europe," he said merely that the U.S. selected the Bosnian Muslims as clients in the Balkans, a narrower statement. DeLong then gives his quote from Bismarck, a phony parade of "learning" as we can't know whether Bismarck was correct or whether he even believed what he said, and what was true a century back might not be true now.

DeLong then goes on to say that it is true today that the United States has no strategic or security interest in the Balkans. It goes without saying that he doesn't offer evidence on this point or discuss contrary facts and views. Many analysts have pointed to:

(1) the huge U.S. military base built in Kosovo, which must have some security interest function;

(2) the fact that the NATO intervention destroyed the one independent political body in Europe not integrated into the Western political economy--Yugoslavia--and facilitated that integration;

(3) the importance of the Caspian oil area and the interest of Western oil companies in possible Balkans transport routes;

(4) the link between the Kosovo War and the April 1999 celebration of the 50th anniversary of the birth of NATO with an imminent NATO military triumph;

(5) the possible interest of the United States in reasserting its domination of NATO by taking the lead in the Balkans struggles; and

(6) the admissions by Clinton, Blair, and Defense Secretary Cohen that the "credibility of NATO" was a prime reason for the bombing.

But DeLong knows that all this is irrelevant because the U.S. intervention was based on "humanitarian" motives! This is one of those higher patriotic truths that DeLong grasps by intuition. But although Clinton and Blair were proceeding on the basis of humanitarian motives, you can be sure DeLong will not stop to explain why both of these humanitarians were consistent supporters of, and arms suppliers to, both Suharto and the Turkish regime that was ethnic-cleansing Kurds throughout the 1990s. The same Blair who fought for humanitarian ends with Clinton in 1999 also claims to have been fighting for humanitarian ends with Bush in Iraq in 2003. I wonder if DeLong buys that patriotic line now, or is it only a highly moral Democrat like Clinton who will pursue humanitarian ends? I should mention that Andrew Bacevich's recent book, American Empire, highly praised in the mainstream, asserts strongly that the United States had no humanitarian concerns at all in its Balkans war-making and that Clinton's resort to force was merely to establish "the cohesion of NATO and the credibility of American power."

So who is the "nut-boy"-Chomsky, or the man who misrepresents his target's language, regurgitates foolish patriotic truths, displays abysmal ignorance on matters on which he writes as if an authority, and rules out evidence and rational discourse on these matters?

After this proof of Chomsky as a nut-boy, DeLong has a few lines on what Chomsky admirers say when he presents them with that nut-boy phrase on Bosnia. No quotes from the admirers, just alleged paraphrases, with words like "Oil pipelines!" with an exclamation point, but no serious analyses or answers-just cute little putdowns.

One paraphrased reply mentions Chomsky's "insights." DeLong then goes on as follows: "Insights? Like his writing a preface for a book by Robert Faurisson," which he follows up with selective partial quotes like that Chomsky said that Faurisson seemed to be "a relatively apolitical liberal" and that Chomsky admitted to "no special knowledge" of the topic Faurisson dealt with and hadn't read anything by Faurisson "that suggests that the man was pro-Nazi."

Neither Chomsky nor his "followers" ever claimed these phrases were "insights"-that is the trick of a smear artist, who searches for vulnerable language in the target, takes the words out of context, and elevates them to supposed "insights." Note too the illogic-it was an alleged "insight" to write a "preface." Note also the dishonesty in not mentioning that the preface was only written as an independent avis and inserted in the book as a preface without Chomsky's prior approval (see Chomsky's "The Right to Say It," The Nation, Feb. 28, 1981.

Most important in this phase of the smear enterprise is DeLong's refusal to recognize that the avis was solely a defense of the right of free speech and that from beginning to end that was all the struggle was about for Chomsky. It was certainly not about Faurisson's views or in any way a defense of those views, and DeLong fails to mention that Faurisson was dismissed from his job teaching French literature because the authorities claimed they couldn't defend him against his enemies, and he was brought to court not for his political views but for "Falsification of History" (in the matter of gas chambers) and for "allowing others" to use his work for nefarious ends. This was a major civil liberties case in which, for perhaps the first time in the West, a court decided that the state has a right to determine historical truth.

DeLong wants to deflect attention from this important issue to Faurisson's views, which he presents in an unattributed quote which refers to Faurisson as "a guy whose thesis seems to be" (and then comes a rhetorical statement about a big lie). DeLong latches on to Chomsky phrases in the avis that Faurisson seemed to be a "relatively apolitical liberal," and was not necessarily pro-Nazi--a view Chomsky arrived at after talking with several of Faurisson's leading critics in France, who were unable to provide any credible evidence of anti-Semitism or neo-Naziism--but DeLong fails to note Chomsky's statement in the avis that Faurisson might indeed be an anti-Semite or Nazi as claimed, but that that would have no bearing on the issue of freedom of speech. DeLong also fails to mention Chomsky's repeated expressions of horror at the Holocaust as "the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history" and his statement that we "lose our humanity" if we even enter into debate with those who deny or try to diminish Nazi crimes. Note also the dishonesty in suppressing Chomsky's repeated statements that he has signed free speech petitions for numerous Soviet bloc victims without knowing their views, or even with an awareness of their obnoxiousness--which he didn't mention-- but never suffered criticism, or DeLong-type smear jobs, for not having researched the exact beliefs of these civil liberties victims.

DeLong says, "Would it be better not to misrepresent Faurisson's beliefs? Not to claim that he is a relatively apolitical liberal? Not to say that you have seen no evidence that Faurisson is pro-Nazi? It is, after all, a much stronger defense of free speech to say that you are defending a loathsome Holocaust-denier's right to free speech because free speech is absolute, then to say that poor Faurisson-a relatively apolitical liberal-is being persecuted for no reason other than that some object to his (unspecified) 'conclusions'." As noted, DeLong's statement that Chomsky "misrepresents Faurisson's beliefs" is false. His second point is also false, because if the free speech issue involves protection of a man accused of "loathsome" views, who is being attacked for those views, both the nature of those views and the fact that he is being attacked for them are of some importance, even if they are not central. But Chomsky made it clear that he thought the views of civil liberties victims-loathsome or not-were irrelevant in decisions as to whether they should be defended, a point that every civil libertarian takes for granted. DeLong's smear objective compels him to skirt around this principled position.

DeLong's last line is an obscurantist masterpiece in which he stumbles over his own rhetorical effusion: Faurisson was being "persecuted"--this is irony, suggesting that he got what was coming to him, although DeLong is of course a believer in free speech! And "some object to his (unspecified) 'conclusions'"-again, heavy-handed irony in which Faurisson's evil views, that people like Chomsky are unwilling to openly acknowledge or deny, are opposed by good people who have been allegedly "persecuting" him. When he says that the bad folks are complaining that Faurisson was persecuted "for no other reason" than objections to his unspecified conclusions, does he mean that there was another reason to go after him, or is that just reinforcing the point that the "(unspecified) conclusions" were quite enough?

As with Bosnia, DeLong gives a list of three straw-person answers on Faurisson from Chomsky "supporters," again without citation or quotes, but with much sarcasm and sneers, as he continues his hit-and-run smear job.

DeLong then takes up Chomsky's crimes in treating Cambodia. He starts with a quote from our 1979 book After the Cataclysm (ATC):

"If a serious study...is someday undertaken, it may well be discoveredthat the Khmer Rouge programs elicited a positive responsebecause they dealt with fundamental problems rooted in the feudal past and exacerbated by the imperial system.Such a study, however, has yet to be undertaken."

DeLong comments: "Reflect that it was published three full years after the Cambodian Holocaust of the Year Zero. Ask yourself whether this is an uncovering or a covering of the crimes of an abominable regime." The answer is that a single stripped-down quote taken out of context and that speculates about what may come from a future study tells nothing to an honest person. DeLong naturally fails to acknowledge that our stated aim in the book was not to uncover crimes but to see how the "facts have been interpreted, filtered, distorted or modified by the ideological institutions of the West" (ATC, vii). For DeLong, as for the mainstream, this was an illegitimate objective.

DeLong seems to think that the "holocaust" occurred instantaneously upon the takeover of the KR in 1975. He pretends that full data on this closed regime were readily available for a book published three years later. He fails to mention that in speculating here Chomsky (and this writer, his co-author) also raised the possibility that the worst charges might also turn out to be true when all the facts are in, and that we were drawing no conclusions about where the truth lies in this range of descriptions (ATC, 293). He suppresses the fact that our reference to the "positive response" was taken mainly from Francois Ponchaud's Cambodge annee zero, where Ponchaud speaks of the "genuine egalitarian revolution," the "new pride" of miserably oppressed peasants in constructive work, and first time women's participation. Ponchaud's book was widely cited as an authoritative source as well as a condemnation of the KR, so citing it and acknowledging its finding of positive features in the KR revolution wouldn't suit DeLong's purpose; nor would Long attack Ponchaud as an apologist for the "crimes of this abominable regime" although Ponchaud's positive statements are unqualified, whereas DeLong goes into a tantrum about a speculation of ours saying that these explicit conclusions may turn out to be correct. We quoted similar material from David Chandler and Richard Dudman, highly respected analysts of Cambodia. DeLong suppresses our use of these sources as well in order to make it appear that any positive notions were unique to his smear target. He suppresses the fact that Ponchaud himself complimented Chomsky for his "responsible attitude and precision of thought" in his writings on Cambodia.

DeLong continues: "But it gets worse. Go back to your Nation of 1977, and consider the paragraph"-then quoting us that "Space limitations preclude a comprehensive view," but that specialists writing in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Economist, and Melbourne Journal of Politics have studied the evidence and concluded "that executions have numbered at most in the thousands" DeLong then quotes at length an ally attacking these source references, and DeLong himself says he looked through the Economist and couldn't find anything written by the Economist staff on the subject. "So why does Chomsky lie about these 'highly qualified specialists'? The claim that it is 'space limitations' rather than 'non-existence' that prevents their being named cannot be a claim in good faith, can it? And why would anyone lie for Pol Pot, unless they were either a nut-boy loon or were being mendacious and malevolent in search of some sinister and secret purpose?"

DeLong's statement that Chomsky lied here is itself a plain lie. Our references were exactly correct. DeLong couldn't find anything written by the Economist "staff," but he knows full well that the reference was to a letter to the editor, published in and therefore provided by, the paper, by Cambodia demographer W. J. Sampson, an economist-statistician who was living in Phnom Penh and worked in close contact with the government's central statistics office. Sampson's work is cited with respect by Nayan Chanda, at the time the most highly respected journalist in Southeast Asia, writing for the Far Eastern Economic Review (ATC, 231f). Sampson was at least as "highly qualified [a] specialist" as anybody on the staff of the Economist. DeLong knows that we cited many other "highly qualified specialists" just one year later in After the Cataclysm, so his sneer about the "non-existence" of these sources is another dishonest suppression and shows that his own "good faith" and intellectual integrity are non-existent.

DeLong and his ally claim that Chomsky said that Khmer Rouge killings were "at most in the thousands," and that Chomsky had implied that this was "a conclusion of an article[by Nayan Chanda in] the Far Eastern Economic Review." DeLong and friend also note that the author Chanda says "the numbers killed are impossible to calculate." DeLong's ally asserts that "Chomsky presented the Far Eastern Economic Review as confidently denying the possibility that killings were vastly higher, but Chanda specifically denies such knowledge and confidence." First of all, we did not attribute the "at most in the thousands" statement to Chanda, but to Sampson. Second, we ourselves quoted Chanda's statement that "the numbers killed are impossible to calculate," that DeLong implies we neglected (ATC, 229). Third, we quote Chanda saying that the testimony from refugees and others "leaves no doubt: the number of deaths has been terribly high" (229), so the statement that Chomsky denied "the possibility that killings were vastly higher" is another lie.

DeLong ends on Cambodia asserting that "Chomsky not only said that there wasn't conclusive evidence that the Khmer Rouge were genocidal butchers, he wrote-falsely-that there was reliable evidence that they weren't genocidal butchers." This is one more flat, outright lie. We never said, or hinted, anything like this. We cited every serious source available at the time on the KR killings, including Ben Kiernan, Michael Vickery, Stephen Heder, David Chandler, Chanda, Ponchaud, and State department Cambodia experts Charles Twining and Timothy Carney. We quoted Twining's estimate of killings--in the "thousands or hundreds of thousands," but with admitted difficulty in getting valid numbers. We quoted Twining's superior Richard Holbrooke's estimate of "tens if not hundreds of thousands " for "deaths" from all causes. The State Department's Timothy Carney estimated the deaths from "brutal, rapid change" (explicitly not "mass genocide") as in the hundreds of thousands (ATC, 159-160). We took no position on the accuracy of these numbers, but did note that they were far below the widespread mainstream claims of two million massacred. On DeLong principles, the State Department analysts and Holbrooke are liars and apologists for Pol Pot, downplaying the "conclusive evidence" that he was a genocidal butcher.

DeLong never mentions that our book was explicitly aimed at countering the huge and lie-rich propaganda barrage on Cambodia that began upon the KR entry into Phnom Penh in April 1975, a barrage and lies which only served a political and ideological purpose and did not help the Cambodians in any way whatsoever. DeLong of course ignores our comparative analysis of the difference in treatment of Indonesia in East Timor and Pol Pot in Cambodia. A larger fraction of the population of East Timor died in the wake of the Indonesian aggression than died in Cambodia under Pol Pot (where many of the deaths were residuals of the starvation conditions facing the KR in April 1975). The East Timorese mass killings were positively supported by the U.S. government, and in contrast with Pol Pot's killings those in East Timor were readily subject to U.S. influence and control. Brad DeLong does not condemn these killings as genocide and assail its perpetrators and apologists for practical support of genocide. Doesn't this make him an apologist for genocidal butchers?

DeLong never mentions that estimates of the numbers killed by the U.S. Air Force in its bombing of Cambodia from 1969 to 1975 run into the hundreds of thousands, which on his terms should make Nixon and Kissinger into "genocidal butchers." He has never so described them, nor assailed those who neglect this "genocide." He never mentions that the United States defended and supplied the KR after its ouster by the Vietnamese in 1978, which allowed the KR to continue to attack Cambodians; this doesn't elicit his indignation over support for genocidal butchers. With a turn in U.S. policy toward China and the Khmer Rouge in 1977-1978, we find Douglas Pike, former U.S. government specialist on Vietnam, and later head of the University of California Indochina Archives, writing in November 1979 about the "charismatic leader" Pol Pot, leader of a "bloody but successful peasant revolution with a substantial residue of popular support" and where most of them "did not experience much in the way of brutality." This great warmth toward the genocidal butchers, long after the facts were in, and after the escalated KR killings in 1977 and 1978, has produced no allergic reaction in Brad DeLong.

In his book The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism, in a chapter entitled "Science: Handmaiden of Inspired Truth," Robert A. Brady noted how often scientists carelessly "assume that the attempt to think rigorously in one field automatically implies thinking rigorously whenever one thinks about anything at all." When he does this "he is merely allowing himself to abandon rational criteria in favor of uncritical belief." Brady pointed out that such "uncritical belief" is often the conventional wisdom, in which God and country rank high. Could it be that just as Brad DeLong, by an act of patriotic faith, explains Clinton's wars in the Balkans as based on humanitarian motives, so also he offers implicit apologetics for U.S. policy in Cambodia and East Timor based on the same deep-seated chauvinistic biases? Could these underpin his "allergic reaction" and intellectually degraded and dishonest smear job on Chomsky?

Posted by: Mike on July 29, 2003 09:39 AM

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Mike, was that necessary? Other posters have posted links to the article, and there are quite a few people in this world who pay a fee for every byte they download.

Posted by: Steven Rogers on July 29, 2003 10:19 AM

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MaB complains, correctly, that I "made a factual error - Chomsky did not review Faurisson's book." I regret the error.

However, even if one accepts Chomsky's explanation (http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/8102-right-to-say.html --thanks to Michael for posting it) at face value, I think it was an error on Chomsky's part to address the Faurisson controversy. At any given moment, there are a large number of people whose civil liberties are infringed, so it is not surprising if others read our choice of who we defend as a silent statement of our support for their ideas. Many people will not support the ACLU precisely because they always seem to have the time and resources to defend Nazis, Oliver North and the tobacco companies, and never enough time to defend union organizers, academics or the like.

Natasha asks, "Is there some kind of great goal that any liberal leaning person achieves by focusing on trashing Chomsky instead of going after conservatives who have actually done and said far more objectionable things?"

Alas, yes. There is a long tradition in this country of liberals attacking people to the left of them as a means, they imagine, of immunizing themselves against attack by the right. Some shameful things were done by liberals during the McCarthy period in the name of anticommunism. There's no doubt there was Soviet espionage during the 1940s and 1950s. There's also no doubt that the overwhelming majority of American communists had nothing to do with it. Like Arab-Americans today, hundreds of thousands of people are subjected to abuses of human rights for questionable reasons. And just as Democrats supported the clearly unconstitutional and unAmerican USAPatriot Act now, many liberals supported clearly unconstitutional and unAmerican legislation like the Smith Act, the McCarran Act and so on.

At some point one does wish, as you indicated, that liberals would find that there are more and more important targets on the right, and leave be such figures as Noam Chomsky.

Posted by: Charles on July 29, 2003 11:15 AM

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MaB complains, correctly, that I "made a factual error - Chomsky did not review Faurisson's book." I regret the error.

However, even if one accepts Chomsky's explanation (http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/8102-right-to-say.html --thanks to Michael for posting it) at face value, I think it was an error on Chomsky's part to address the Faurisson controversy. At any given moment, there are a large number of people whose civil liberties are infringed, so it is not surprising if others read our choice of who we defend as a silent statement of our support for their ideas. Many people will not support the ACLU precisely because they always seem to have the time and resources to defend Nazis, Oliver North and the tobacco companies, and never enough time to defend union organizers, academics or the like.

Natasha asks, "Is there some kind of great goal that any liberal leaning person achieves by focusing on trashing Chomsky instead of going after conservatives who have actually done and said far more objectionable things?"

Alas, yes. There is a long tradition in this country of liberals attacking people to the left of them as a means, they imagine, of immunizing themselves against attack by the right. Some shameful things were done by liberals during the McCarthy period in the name of anticommunism. There's no doubt there was Soviet espionage during the 1940s and 1950s. There's also no doubt that the overwhelming majority of American communists had nothing to do with it. Like Arab-Americans today, hundreds of thousands of people are subjected to abuses of human rights for questionable reasons. And just as Democrats supported the clearly unconstitutional and unAmerican USAPatriot Act now, many liberals supported clearly unconstitutional and unAmerican legislation like the Smith Act, the McCarran Act and so on.

At some point one does wish, as you indicated, that liberals would find that there are more and more important targets on the right, and leave be such figures as Noam Chomsky.

Posted by: Charles on July 29, 2003 11:26 AM

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I'd be all for leaving Chomsky alone if he wasn't so revered and so often cited by radicals and the undergraduate campus leftist crowd. The fact that he refuses to admit any error, preferring to wriggle and deny, about Cambodia or anything else just makes him look like a self-absorbed idiot. On top of that, his scholarly standards are virtually non-existant, and I've caught him out several times distorting and even lying outright about what the sources he cites actually say. He's amazingly popular in universities in the US and in other parts of the world where anti-American sentiment is high, and for that reason his constant propagandizing, hypocrisy and lies should be challenged by all people who care about things like intellecual honesty and objective truth.

Posted by: BeezleBozo on July 30, 2003 11:40 PM

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I'd be all for leaving Chomsky alone if he wasn't so revered and so often cited by radicals and the undergraduate campus leftist crowd. The fact that he refuses to admit any error, preferring to wriggle and deny, about Cambodia or anything else just makes him look like a self-absorbed idiot. On top of that, his scholarly standards are virtually non-existant, and I've caught him out several times distorting and even lying outright about what the sources he cites actually say. He's amazingly popular in universities in the US and in other parts of the world where anti-American sentiment is high, and for that reason his constant propagandizing, hypocrisy and lies should be challenged by all people who care about things like intellecual honesty and objective truth.

Posted by: BeezleBozo on July 30, 2003 11:42 PM

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I'd be all for leaving Chomsky alone if he wasn't so revered and so often cited by radicals and the undergraduate campus leftist crowd. The fact that he refuses to admit any error, preferring to wriggle and deny, about Cambodia or anything else just makes him look like a self-absorbed idiot. On top of that, his scholarly standards are virtually non-existant, and I've caught him out several times distorting and even lying outright about what the sources he cites actually say. He's amazingly popular in universities in the US and in other parts of the world where anti-American sentiment is high, and for that reason his constant propagandizing, hypocrisy and lies should be challenged by all people who care about things like intellecual honesty and objective truth.

Posted by: BeezleBozo on July 30, 2003 11:44 PM

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Oops. My apologies for the triple post.

Posted by: BeezleBozo on July 30, 2003 11:50 PM

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When it comes to epiphanies, once a year, I found, is all that is humanly possible to take.

Posted by: northernLights on August 1, 2003 02:33 PM

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To compare a moderate, reasonable, patriotic American like Andrew Sullivan with Noam Chomsky is grotesque. Chomksy hates this country, its people, its institutions and its ideals. His ideology is a bizarre farrago of Marxism and fascism and recently Islamic nationalism - whatever is anti-American is grist for his mill. Chomksy is a genius in linguistics, but his political writings should be filed under "L" for "loony left".

Posted by: Joe Willingham on August 3, 2003 08:16 PM

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It's difficult for me to relate to someone who is so unable to accept Chomsky's well documented and well constructed arguments. I believe his commentary on the success of American indoctrination is vindicated by the fact that so many believers in the Holy State exist. I salute Chomsky for being one of America's great minds up there with Thoureau, Orwell, and Zinn.

Posted by: Dave on November 10, 2003 06:40 PM

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