Is Noam Chomsky Anti-American?





Mr. Webster is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of British Columbia.

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Following is a comment made by Mr. Webster in the course of an exchange on H-Diplo in early April. It was in response to a comment by Russil Wvong, who questioned Noam Chomsky's use of quotations.

While I am not a Chomskyan, I must confess that the notorious Professor Chomsky is among the contributors to an upcoming book I am editing on East Timor, and I feel compelled to say a word on this topic, even among people obviously more versed. Chomsky is of course not a diplomatic historian first and foremost, and this may account for some of the resentment that is heaped upon him. His concern in writing about U.S. foreign policy, I think, is less to advance a theory of American imperialism than it is to examine "the manufacture of consent" in democratic societies. Insofar as he has a theory on American foreign policy, it is not so very different than that of (say) William Appleman Williams and others in the "open door" school. Even as a polemicist, Chomsky must take a back seat to Williams. So [Russil] Wvong's web page caution -- "I'd say that Chomsky is not a reliable source of historical information. When reading Chomsky, you should be very careful to check his version of what happened against other sources" -- is worth underlining.

But when writing about East Timor, for instance, Chomsky is primarily interested in showing how the official "propaganda" line of successive U.S. governments was deployed. In the beginning, he suggests, the U.S. argued that Suharto's Indonesia was a force for good in Southeast Asia, a barrier to advancing Communism, and that the death toll in East Timor was exaggerated. As recently declassified records show, Ford and Kissinger gave explicit approval to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 because of fears that the tiny country would become another Cuba in Southeast Asia, at a time shortly after the fall of Saigon. Carter and others agreed to continue supplying the arms that were used in Indonesia's war in East Timor, one which cost the lives of as many as one Timorese in three. All this was taking place at the same time as the genocide in Cambodia (Chomsky speaks of a "decade of genocide" beginning with the U.S. bombings in 1969 and continuing through the Khmer Rouge period, when most of the deaths took place).

Chomsky compares the media coverage of the two genocides and makes the case that one (Cambodia) was played up because it suited the interests of U.S. elites and the other (East Timor) was played down because it did not. In other words, there was "benign terror" which suited U.S. foreign policy interests and was ignored, and there was "constructive terror" which it suited U.S. interests to pay close attention to. Now, all this shows a lack of sensitivity to Cambodian victims, but Chomsky's main interest in clearly in exploring his "propaganda model."

Similarly today: the new line of U.S. government and elite sources is that the U.S. "looked away" or "failed to act" on East Timor until 1999. Chomsky's case, a fairly solid one, is that the U.S. government consistently gave active support to the Indonesian war in East Timor. His conclusions about U.S. foreign policy are secondary to his main conclusion that the public discourse on American policy is spun in such a way as to show American policy in the best light possible and enhance the popular conception that the United States acts out of international idealism.

And I think his popularity stems from this ability to provide what is on the face of it a plausible explanation of the gulf between rhetoric and actions. The direct challenge to dearly-held prevailing ideas explains to some extent why he is vilified in his own country by so many. ...

Chomsky is certainly more popular outside his country. His argument may discomfit non-Americans less, since they -- we -- are able to accommodate his views into an all-too-common condescending attitude towards Americans. (On the other hand, when Chomsky tried to criticize Canada on CBC radio, he was cut off.) I don't know that this, or anything he writes, makes him anti-American however. In fact there are few terms right now that are more abused and more in need of definition than "anti-American." Some of Chomsky's acolytes may have contracted "Ramsay Clark's disease," that strain of American exceptionalism that instead of seeing the United States as uniquely good sees it as uniquely evil. But Chomsky could just as easily say he is standing up for the best in America, the long tradition of dissent and the desire to re-make America as a country realizing its full democratic potential. Sometimes stridently, sometimes with errors in detail, he attempts to speak truth to power. What could be more in keeping with the ideals said to motivate American society?


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Michael Barnes Thomin - 7/2/2004

I guess the cat got Mr. O'Neachtains' (if that's your real name) tongue.


Michael Barnes Thomin - 7/2/2004

Mr. Thomas-
Cat got your tongue?


Michael Barnes Thomin - 7/2/2004

How informative. Yet, like always, NONE of Chomsky's critics attacked the facts. This is for a simple reason... they can't.


Gary Goodman - 2/2/2004

Chomsky takes great pains to differentiate btw grassroots socialism of equality of opportunity - which used to be quite similar to 'democracy', and the socialism of the USSR, which was a Statist empire, not dissimilar from the regimes of recent US Presidents, both Dems and Republicans.

The original Nazis included both the SA and SS elites, plus the (international) capitalists that supported them, and the brownshirt facists in the street who thought that after they expropriated the wealth of the so-called rich bourgoisie (Jews and others), Hitler would actually introduce a National SOCIALIST state in which they could partake. No deal. They *thought* they would steal from what they thought was "the rich" and give to themselves, but Hitler trumped them.

Chomsky discussed the STRONG support from the US for facists after the war, against worker's unions based primarily in Italy but also Germany.

In the Wm. Bennett debate, Chomsky said something to the effect that the US is Mr. Chomsky's home and he wishes to help reform it to higher ideals, not leave it because it's leaders practice techniques of terror. That does not sound like an evasion.

You did NOT dispute that the US practices terror on captive populations, via the CIA and military, because that is a fact beyond question. The UN did not bring charges against the US of war crimes without clear evidence. That the the US ignored them, is immaterial to the point.

Chomsky explained CLEARLY why he would want to strengthen the State. He said that in a situation of widespread freedom and equality, he would want to abolish the State and allow personal freedom to flourish in a new society not yet designed.

However, in the current situation of corporate oligarchy, weakening the 'public' State is tantamount to giving more power to "unaccountable private tyrannies", corporations that are growing to control every aspect of our existence and thinking.

I have never seen Chomsky's name in a newspaper. Thomas Friedman and his ilk, on the other hand, get regular coverage several times a week. Ann Coulter smears individuals, from one side. Chomsky dissects the system as a whole, and does not take sides with "liberals" or "conservatives". If he takes any sides, it's with the "rabble". Your analogies simply do not hold water.

I assume Mr O'Neachtain is writing in support of our benevolent and all wise-government, a brilliant system of checks and balances, preserving Liberty and Justice for All. Thank you, sir, for defending our wise, noble, and much-maligned leaders, and the wonderful democratic machine they operate, from the wrath of the evil and tyrannical Noam Chomsky. How would they stay afloat without you?!


Gary Goodman - 2/2/2004

Chomsky has much to say about socialism, both libertarian grassroots leftist socialism, and rightwing socialism as practiced by the centralized government. (Only #4 is attributed to Chomsky.)

1. social programs in California were pushed and passed by the public that demanded them, including "conservatives"

2. the means to pay for them was not

3. [state expenses] - [missing tax revenue] = shortfall

4. California was in part bankrupted by Enron illegally manipulating pricing, shoving huge amounts of electricity at California (on paper) to jack up pricing for speculators. Bush of course helped to further deregulate Kenny Boy, so no one watched what he was doing and he was therefore simply 'trusted' to do the right thing. Isn't that nice?

5. The US definitely HAS socialist aspects, in terms of both social programs and centralized control of the economy. The Soviet Union murdered peasants, is mostly known for "social programs" of starvation, and also for a bureaucracy that controlled the means and methods and quantities of production of goods.

SOME of the US socialist aspects support "uneducated consumers of social programs". I will refrain from comment on that obvious smear.

MOST of the socialist programs support the Fortune 500 in terms of various subsidies to industry via the Pentagon, the largest budget allocation and growing under Bush, including R&D costs, buying up unsaleable goods of products prior to viable mass marketability, building roads in forests free for paper and lumber companies, giving public land to certain mining companies, supported advertising for exporters, and foreign aid that is stipulated to boomerang right back to key domestic companies such as Monsanto. ET CETERA.

Can't forget to mention the Military-Industrial Complex, including DynCorp, Carlysle, Halliburton, Lockheed, and others.

Dismantling of the New Deal, while funding the MI Complex, will reward the top 1/2% and 1% and 10% of investors and financial speculators, while simultaneously robbing not only the "poor" but all the middle class, and much of the rich directly under the top.

The Public, as a market for products other than staples such as privatized water and basic foods, will contract violently, as the US becomes Third World-ized. Reagan's former economist predicted that much, but I think the writing's on the wall, UNLESS something changes the course of Neoliberalism at home.

Most likely, the Commissars will continue to blame the Democrats for tiny remaining expenditures of direct emergency support to poor people, and the Dittoheads will lap it up while ignoring the man behind the curtain shoveling billions out to a small minority of people who could not really even be considered "Americans", as their only allegiance is to profit, not our country or any other.


Rahul Malhotra - 1/6/2004

It is important to note that Chomsky says the "preface" was added without his consent. While he defended Faurisson's right to publish, he did not believe in what the man wrote, and did not write a preface. What was written was used without his permission.


Morrigan O'Neachtain - 10/30/2003

It should be noted that in 1970 Chomsky delivered a speech to the North Vietnamese in which he expressed solidarity and support for their efforts against America's "brutal aggression." He said "The people of Vietnam will win, they must win, because your cause is the cause of humanity as it moves forward toward liberty and justice, toward the socialist society in which free, creative men control their own destiny."

Now if an individual went to Nazi Germany in 1942 and expressed the same sentiments, they would have been labeled a Nazi sympathizer.

Recently, Chomsky has referred to the United States as a "terrorist nation." William Bennet asked him in an interview why he chooses to live in such a nation, but Chomsky changed the subject.

If Chomsky is a Communist, so be it. My issue with him, is that his political persona is inconsistent with his "scholarship." While many call Chomsky an Anarchist, he has said that he wishes to strengthen the state. His endorsements of Communist revolution are also troubling. Ultimately, Chomsky is a publicity hound, making sure he says inflammatory things in order to be printed in newspapers and magazines. A kind of leftist Ann Coulter. While intellectuals debate his politics, he collects large sums of money from his book deals and speaking engagements. After all, if you find yourself no longer relevant in your chosen field (linguistics), why not write diatribes against the government?



jeremy - 10/19/2003

man, noam is a genious...and who cares if he is anti-american...i am...i hate america...any place founded on crime, assimilation, and genocide is bullshit. take it from a part aboriginal canadian...america can kiss my ass...i feel proud burning your stars and stripes, and i feel more proud saluting you with both middle fingers, so, in conclusion, FUCK YOU AMERICA, burn in hell you greedy money grubbing scum-fucks!!!


James L. Love - 9/20/2003

In the battle for hearts and minds we must not forget that facts don't count as much as intellectuals would like for them for them to count. This is because most of the great unwashed either cannot or will not think. Most, sad to say, look to personifications of their beliefs to tell them what to think.

The problem, therefore, is not the tension between two schools of thought. The problem is that in the national arena objective discussions rarely settle anything. Effective propaganda trumps objective discussion most of the time.

Caveat and reason for hope: you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

Extrapolation to the here and now: The lies of the Bush administration have already overtaken them.


Dave Thomas - 8/22/2003

Noam should take a look at his social programs in California where the state is being bankrupted by redistribution of wealth from educated producers to uneducated consumers of social programs.

I do not denie there is a problem, but Noam's socailism does not solve them. Thank goodness the reality of socialist policies errors will bring the system tumbling down.

Massive immigration by Central America's uneducated rural masses keeps oligarchy secure south of our border, but they coupole with the massive Bush tax cuts to force the choice, dismantle the New Deal and the Great Society in light of twenty-first century realities or raise the tax rate to 75% with no end in sight.

Noam will committ sepuku when he sees DEMOCRACY completely reject his philosophy.


stunning-reversal.com - 7/8/2003

Yes, typo, thanks!


Derek catsam - 5/11/2003

The United States did not enter World War I until 1917 and Debs was not arrested until 1919. Just a factual correction.


stunning-reversal.com - 5/10/2003

When we talk about whom or what are American there are at least two different contexts in which we can do this: ideologically and historically. From an ideological context either party is "American" or "un-American" depending on your own political perspective. To anyone who supports the neoconservative worldview of military domination and unquestioning loyalty to the leader and to the state, then of course Bush is American and Chomsky is an abomination. To anyone with a remotely progressive worldview, Chomsky is a brave patriot in the tradition of Thomas Paine while Bush is the spoiled byproduct of right wing privilege.

Things get more interesting when we look at them from an historical perspective instead of an ideological one because strictly speaking, American History has had its share of Chomsky's and Bushes. In her book "Silencing Political Dissent", Nancy Chang traces the historical context of the USA PATRIOT ACT as far back as John Adams who imprisoned political opponents without due process as suspected French spies. (Yes, it sounds oddly ironic doesn't it?) In that sense, Bush and his repressive mode of government are hardly new and America has seen its share of his kind. But in addition to Thomas Paine, America has also seen its share of Noam Chomsky's. Think of Eugene V. Debs who was imprisoned in 1916 for opposing America's entry into the Great War on the grounds that, like most wars, it was launched by the rich and fought by the poor.

What's really happening in this discussion is what is also happening in much of the media today--not so much an argument over facts but a battle to see who controls the words we use and the story that those words tell. Most of us understand, for example, that the war on Iraq is not simply a matter of for or against the troops who are fighting it. Many opponents of the war don't want the troops to die in what they see as a needless struggle. Many of those who favor the war, including George Bush Sr., admit that there are legitimate reasons for patriotic Americans to question the wisdom of invading Iraq. But for various reasons that center on politics, profit and a bizarre desire to act as pseudo parents to the American public, the media over simplifies and invites us to limit ourselves to one inadequate version of the story or another.

Whether you like them or not, Chomsky and Bush are as emblematic of American ideals as two people can be. The sooner we accept this, the sooner we can do what is rarely permitted in public discourse. We can have more objective discussions and a meaningful analysis of complex processes at work.

stunning-reversal.com


Bill Heuisler - 5/6/2003

Mr. Greenland,
First circumspection?
"I don't pretend to know very much about linguistics..."
Then circumscription?
"I don't understand the need of those who disagree with Chomsky politically to attack his theory of linguistics, which they almost uniformly know nothing about."
To finish with circumvention?
"I think Chomsky is a waste of time and should be left alone."

Chomsky-critics need protection from your circumlocation. Heaven protect our delicate hubris. But a local anesthetic is indicated when you circumnavigate anyone again.
Bill Heuisler


Jon Burack - 5/6/2003

Do people have trouble reading here? I did not say, nor did I even come close to implying, that Chomsky was either a Marxist or a Freudian when I mentioned those two, largerly fraudulent, intellectual claims to understand the deep structure of the world. I was making an entierly different point -- one more of a challenge to others than to Chomsky. I do not mind keeping up with the rather high level of invective here coming it seems from many on the left. All I ask, however, is that it be directed at an actual target.

Chomskty may indeed be anti-Communist, as you say. I doubt Pol Pot felt as much, though. For while nitpicking every real or (more often) imagined U.S. crime, Chomsky has been utterly disinterested in the 100 million or thereabouts killed by Communists over the past century. Whether he can more readily be Red-baited or Brown-baited (is that what you prefer?), I have no idea. I do know he is utterly undeserving of the honors accorded him.


Josh Greenland - 5/6/2003

"Two such deep structures -- Marxism and Freudianism -- have been especially attractive to intellecutals."

Good luck. Chomsky was, is and always has been anti-Communist and anti-Marxist, unless he's changed his tune very recently, which I doubt.

If anyone wants to red-bait Chomsky, I suggest they first read his rabidly anti-Communist preface to holocaust denier Robert Faurisson's Memoir in Defense Against Those Who Accuse Me of Falsifying History, a book published by the Old Mole press in Paris, in the late 1970s or early 80s. The short title of the book is Memoir in Defense. The book and preface are in French, but in the 1980s I wrote to Chomsky's office at MIT and he sent me an English translation of the preface.


Josh Greenland - 5/6/2003

I don't pretend to know very much about linguistics, but from what I've read, Chomsky's theory of generative linguistics revolutionized the field. According to one writer, there is simply pre-Chomskyan linguistics and post-Chomskyan linguistics, and even the "anti-Chomsky" linguists do some form of Chomskyan linguistics.

I don't understand the need of those who disagree with Chomsky politically to attack his theory of linguistics, which they almost uniformly know nothing about. When he writes about linguistics, he is writing IN his field, but when he writes about politics, history or economics, he is writing OUTSIDE his field. Knowledge in linguistics simply doesn't translate to knowledge in history, politics or economics. And vice versa.

I think Chomsky is not worth following politically. He gets a lot wrong in his writings, and uses his great ability as a writer and his intimidating footnotes to cover up the BS he tries to put across. I think he is some kind of weird rightist who intentionally tries to sound like a lefty so as to have a following and defenders. I think only a minority of the things he says are wrong and really weird, but that's a large minority of what he says. The majority is standard leftwing or liberal stuff that could be learned from writers and activists who actually do know what they are talking about. Outside of his field, I think Chomsky is a waste of time and should be left alone.


Josh Greenland - 5/6/2003

"Few of the genuinely sentient bother to discuss Chomsky's Cognitive Revolution Theories because his Minimalism in Language-Formation experiment is merely indoctrination into (in his words) "the evil the US routinely practises." No more, no less."

Oh really? Then why did the Department of Defense support Chomsky's work in the 1960s?


William H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/4/2003

Been there, done that, and what else could you expect? To use the right's rhetorical gesture, what else from such a "source?"

Instead of making the case well yourself, here or in print?


William H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/4/2003

Mr. H, please at least read a peer-reviewed essay cited in my post to find out what I "mean." Check the notes and go from there. Laern something...for a change.

The intellectual laziness and ad hominem dismissals coming from the right don't imply, they express, shrilly, a lack of curiosity, openness to new ideas, and downright mental laziness masked by smugness.


William H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/4/2003

Mr. Burack's post is nonsense. Developments in cognitive science are not by any stretch of the imagination a secular version of Christian salvationism, which is the notion that underlies his uninformed, cliched reply to me.


Bill Heuisler - 5/4/2003

Mr Leckie,
Few of the genuinely sentient bother to discuss Chomsky's Cognitive Revolution Theories because his Minimalism in Language-Formation experiment is merely indoctrination into (in his words) "the evil the US routinely practises." No more, no less.

A friendly warning, however, when you discuss language it's best not to get tangled up in long-winded redundancy. For instance you say Chomsky opens up "perspectives" that "bring a genuinely conservative critique of philosophical skepticism--in epistemology and ethics--to bear on such things as historical theory and practice." What do you mean? Let's try linguistics.

Let's see, "perspective" means viewpoint; "critique" means critical evaluation; "skepticism" means inclination to question; "epistomology" investigates origins, methods and limits of knowledge; "ethics" deals with questions of right and wrong. So you say Chomsky gives us a viewpoint on an evaluation of a question in an investigation of questions. Really?

To Chomsky & Leckie: Using words in place of thoughts is boring.
Bill Heuisler


Jonathan Burack - 5/4/2003

Just go here to the New Criterion Web site and read Windschuttle's essay.

http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/21/may03/chomsky.htm

You will find all the page references you need.


Jonathan Burack - 5/4/2003

For those who sense that Chomsky's linguistics are neither conservative nor radical, but simply unhinged, I recommend the articles on this site ...

http://log24.com/log03/0324.htm

Also, regarding Chomsky's shamless disregrad for basic truth in his political writing, see Keith Windschuttle's excellent essay in the New Criterion for May.

I believe what connects Chomskian "deep structure" linguistics with his malevolent leftist politics is one of the longest-lasting conceits of intellectuals in the modern age. The great disease of the intelligentsia since the Enlightenment at least is its restless search for the "deep structures" of reality in place of a focus on the "surface" appearances that supposedly beguile and deceive the rabble. Two such deep structures -- Marxism and Freudianism -- have been especially attractive to intellecutals. Transformational grammer is, I believe, just another of these. God or nature equips us humans to understand the surfaces, and we do it well. But we also love the siren song of mystery cults that admit us to the "real" truths of the universe. Intellectuals are the most susceptible to this siren song, since it reinforces their own status and power as those with a unique ability to reveal all. Millenia of chants, rituals, potions, tracts, and secret handshakes echo within Chomskyian claims to have unearthed the deep structure of language.


William H. Leckie, Jr. - 5/4/2003

I'm amazed--no, not really--that so far on this thread no one has delved into Chomsky's real contribution, his work in linguistics.

What that suggests is that our hip-shooting right-wing interlocutors are writing second-, thid-, maybe fourth-hand about the man. Dare I be so blunt? As usual, they write out of ignorance.

Say what they will about his political writing, Chomsky's contribution to linguistics and cognitive science has helped open up perspectives that can bring a genuinely conservative critique of philosophical skepticism--in epistemology and ethics--to bear on such things as historical theory and practice (see Michael L. Fitzhugh and William H. Leckie, Jr., "Agency, Postmodernism, and the Causes of Change," History and Theory Theme Issue 40 [December 2001], 59-81).

I'm more than happy to discuss Chomsky with the right-wingers, and even happier to elaborate on what I mean by the phrase "genuinely conservative." But before doing so, my suggestion to them: On this one, you better read a bit and think before you squall. On the other hand, maybe that's asking too much.


AC - 5/4/2003

Well, here's a profound and highly intellectual statement if ever there was one. It should even have an ISBN number!!!


Josh Greenland - 5/4/2003

"Read Chomsky. He's a persuasive, thoughtful, and decent resource. Few truly refute what he says, rather they spend most of their time trying to sully his character. This is as good a sign as any of the credibilty of his comments and importance of paying attention to what he says."

I think hanging out those Parisian renegade leftie holocaust deniers at the Old Mole Press and acting as an apologist for years for Pol Pot causes a lot of people to have problems with Chomsky.

Ignoring those things, I've done some research into his footnotes, and found that while most of them do refer to books that exist, his references to selected passages in them can be so carefully worded as to be deceptive, and I've found that information from a book that he's quoted from to make one point often contains information that refutes another point he's making. He isn't quite the Michael Bellesiles of far left political writers, but I found him to be unreliable and sleazy when making certain point. I was looking into his remarks in a few of his books about John Kennedy.

I've read a pamphlet by a conservative academic Israel supporter who went through Chomsky's expositions of Middle Eastern history, comparing them to those of some other writers, including Lenny Brenner, author of Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, and The Iron Wall. The author certainly didn't agree with Brenner's leftie politics and thoughts that he misinterpreted a few events but basically got the facts right in the history he wrote. But he faulted Chomsky for getting facts wrong, saying at one point Chomsky invented an event that had never happened. Unfortunately I don't have the pamphlet at hand but recall it had an ISBN number.

Chomsky writes persuasively, but I think his sourcing is a house of cards. His footnotes impress and intimidate people. I believe that if people put the scrutiny into his books that had been put into Michael Bellesiles' Arming America, just getting the books and articles Chomsky uses as sources and reading them, that his credibility on political matters will be greatly diminished.


Bill Maher - 5/3/2003



Interesting piece in The New Criterion - "The Hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky." That he worships the great gray cockaloonie bird flying overhead is certainly obvious to this writer. What is especially interesting, however, is the fact that rightist loonies are beginning to sound just like him. Interesting article about this a few weeks ago in National Review. Such is the order of things.


LM - 5/3/2003

Huh? Is that agreeing the subject heading or disagreeing?


Suetonius - 5/2/2003

IF Mr. Maher's comment is accurate, following his posting of the book and page number, how would you refute the quotation as evidence of Chomsky's being out of his depth?


Suetonius - 5/2/2003

Book and page reference, please....


MM - 5/2/2003

Read Chomsky. He's a persuasive, thoughtful, and decent resource. Few truly refute what he says, rather they spend most of their time trying to sully his character. This is as good a sign as any of the credibilty of his comments and importance of paying attention to what he says.


Bill Maher - 5/2/2003




Referring to the genocide in Cambodia, Chomsky wrote that "the deaths . . . were not the result of systematic slaughter and starvation by the state but rather attributable in large measure to peasant revenge, undisciplined military units out of government control, starvation and disease that are direct consequences of the US war, or other such factors." He worships, to borrow an image from Tennessee Williams, the great gray cockaloonie bird flying overhead. And when not doing so, like many on the left, he finds it difficult to acknowledge that the difference between reactionary repression and revolutionary repression is the difference between cat shit and dog shit.


MG - 5/2/2003

...if you live in Soviet Union.


HC Carey - 5/1/2003

Freedom would seem to mean the right ot be anti-American

Surely ALL of us are unhappy of SOME aspect of life in the US--taxes too high? Traffic too bad? Too many liberals? Does that make you "anti-American

As Estabrook points out, it's a stupid question


C. G. ESTABROOK - 5/1/2003

Chomsky talked about this notion in an interview last December:
“The concept ‘anti-American’ is an interesting one. The counterpart is used only in totalitarian states or military dictatorships, something I wrote about many years ago (see my book Letters from Lexington). Thus, in the old Soviet Union, dissidents were condemned as ‘anti-Soviet.’ That's a natural usage among people with deeply rooted totalitarian instincts, which identify state policy with the society, the people, the culture. In contrast, people with even the slightest concept of democracy treat such notions with ridicule and contempt. Suppose someone in Italy who criticizes Italian state policy were condemned as ‘anti-Italian.’ It would be regarded as too ridiculous even to merit laughter. Maybe under Mussolini, but surely not otherwise.
“Actually the concept has earlier origins. It was used in the Bible by King Ahab, the epitome of evil, to condemn those who sought justice as ‘anti-Israel’ (‘ocher Yisrael,’ in the original Hebrew, roughly ‘hater of Israel,’ or ‘disturber of Israel’). His specific target was Elijah…”

I think we should leave a chair at the history table for Chomsky, an American prophet, for the sake of our own bona fides. Unlike some historians of my acquaintance, he frequently insists that people not take his word for things but rather investigate them themselves; to this end he provides his writings with copious references. I think what makes him unclubbable is not so much his willingness to speak truth to power but rather his insistence on talking to people who might be dangerous to established power, as he says in his recent book, *Power and Terror*:
“First of all, power already knows the truth. They don't need to hear it from us. Secondly, it's a waste of time. Furthermore, it's the wrong audience. You have to speak truth to the people who will dismantle and overthrow and constrain power. Furthermore, I don't like the phrase ‘speak truth to.’ We don't know the truth. At least I don't. We should join with the kind of people who are willing to commit themselves to overthrow power, and listen to them. They often know a lot more than we do. And join with them to carry out the right kinds of activities.”


Stephen Kriz - 4/29/2003


I see Noam Chomsky as embodying one of the traits of a true American - openly questioning his government when it is even detrimental to do so. In reading his work, I have found that he doles out criticism to both Democratic and Republican politicians and most particularly to that most unAmerican of governmental bodies - the CIA.

George W. Bush and his government, on the other hand, typify the unAmerican brand of neoconservatism that Chomsky (and I) find so repugnant - cowardly when faced with the chance to really prove their patriotism (Bush went AWOL, after all), favoring property rights over human rights, looting the US treasury to pay off rich benefactors, exploiting the American military as a tool of foreign policy and wrapping yourself in the flag in a self-preening display of mock patriotism when it serves your political ends.

No. Chomsky is a true patriot.

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