The Useful Idiocy of Noam Chomsky and His Followers

by Lorna Salzman

SRL: Stark Raving Loonies, otherwise known as the American left. The counterculture counterpart of the Bush supporters, the TFMs (Total Fucking Morons).

"Useful Idiots": Lenin's description of communist sympathizers who were uninformed, kneejerk rather than slavish communists. Today this would apply to the Paleoliberals like Michael Moore and The Nation magazine and the post-modern academics.

Noam Chomsky's expertise in linguistics has not transferred over to his political analysis. I recall jokes some years ago about the attempts to teach chimpanzees "language", which completely failed and actually vindicated Chomsky's theories. The lab scientists named one of their chimps "Nim Chimpsky", which I thought quite funny. But folks, we are the chimps..the chumps. All these years Chomsky was swallowed whole, without the aid of digestive fluids, by the American left, who either never questioned what Chomsky actually wrote, or distorted it or reinterpreted it according to their marxist doctrine. But if you take the trouble to read what Chomsky actually wrote ( I read several of his books from the eighties and duly swooned at his brilliance), you will learn that this self-appointed champion of truth, human rights and social justice is one big hypocrite.

The biggest headache that Chomsky has created is the American left, or the SRLs, the Stark Raving Loonies. While he has never functioned as a political leader of the left, his writings and critique of the US have been picked up and disseminated as SRL doctrine, along with the hate and vitriol and most egregiously the championing of any and all tyrants who dared to oppose the US, no matter how violent and repressive they were on their home territory. Besides Nasrullah of Hezbollah, and Milosevic, the most prominent of these tyrants was Cambodia's Pol Pot, mastermind and master killer from the Khmer Rouge.

An Australian leftist upon whom Chomsky relied for much of his source material on southeast Asia, Ben Kiernan, used to write for the Maoist Melbourne Journal of Politics, but later recanted in an article in the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, after learning that in Cambodia, between 1975 and 1979, Pol Pot was responsible for the murder of 21% of the population, about 1.67 million out of a total of 7.89 million. Not even China or the Soviet Union came close to this, especially since many of the deaths under Mao and Stalin were not direct murders but were due to starvation and concentration camp mistreatment and hard labor.

Imagine the US government directly killing 55 million Americans and that will give you an idea of the scope of the Pol Pot atrocities. This was reported by Francois Ponchaud, from his personal experience there, in his book Cambodia Year Zero. But let's look at how Chomsky dealt with these widespread reports on Cambodian murders, both on their extent and their causes. Read this carefully so you can better appraise and get the full flavor of Chomsky's linguistic talents that have been mobilized in the interest of anti-American propaganda. In another time and place these talents would have served tyrants well.

In the Congressional Record of August 22, 1978, Sen. George McGovern, following up his congressional testimony urging intervention in Cambodia, referred to "genocidal conduct"by Cambodia leaders and several days later used the figure of two million murders. Chomsky then, in an very convoluted and hypothetical manner, in an attempt to discredit the claims of genocide and murder, made this comment regarding the intervention proposal:

"Nor would he have been likely to propose this extreme measure if the deaths in Cambodia were not the result of systematic slaughter and starvation organized 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 U.S war, or other such factors". (After the Cataclysm, Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman, page 139).

Understanding that Chomsky's most notable achievements are as a linguist, the reader needs to give this statement closer scrutiny. Chomsky is not claiming outright (for obvious reasons; he has no evidence) that the killings WERE due to the above explanations of peasants, the military, starvation, etc. However, he has taken pains to posit the possibility, if not likelihood, that these are alternate explanations in order to discredit McGovern.Indeed, his explanations are very creative, to the point of being so credible that many readers will in fact give them serious consideration as explanations, thus allowing incautious and credulous followers of Chomsky to utilize his hypothesis for their own purposes. Astute readers will readily identify and appreciate the clever use of hypothesis - as opposed to fact. Leftists will of course make no such distinction.

Just prior to this, in fact, Chomsky cast similarly clever doubt on the two million deaths mentioned by McGovern, using once again a hypothetical smaller figure of 25,000 and thus suggesting again that the official numbers of deaths might be much smaller.

A reading of this entire chapter on Cambodia, which is 259 pages long in the book, will make eyes glaze over, filled as it is with reams of details and conclusions about Cambodia that are, depending on one's political sympathies, utterly unprovable because of the impossibility of checking each statement, or a brilliant dissection of massive propaganda produced by the American mililtary to shore up the myth of huge Cambodian massacres. This technique is brilliant and unmatchable, worthy of a linguistic expert, but its utilization is deeply troubling because in effect it calls the reader's bluff: "Here are a thousand facts; I dare you to disprove them". Given that it would take one person months, even years, to track down each claim Chomsky makes and find an irrefutable rebuttal to them, Chomsky has won the game hands down.

Here's the clincher: Kiernan was a major source for Chomsky; however Kiernan recanted his views BEFORE the above quote appeared in After the Cataclysm, in the 1979 Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars ----a fact that Chomsky knew well because he often cited this journal. Ponchaud called these killings "probably the greatest mass killing ever inflicted by a government on its own people in recent times, probably in all history".

Now go back and look at the quote from After the Cataclysm. Does it sound familiar? Does it not sound eerily like the excuses that have come out from the Pentagon and the White House about the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib? Or about the rogue soldiers who have raped and killed Iraqis without consequence? So Chomsky is making the same rationalizations for Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge, and yet he is presenting himself as an impartial moral witness and judge. This is hypocrisy writ large.

Small wonder that Chomsky says nothing about islamic oppression of women, suppression of civil liberties, "honor killings" and other islamic atrocities preached and practiced by islamic governments and mullahs. He may have invented the slogan "The enemy of my enemy is my friend".

Chomsky was once interviewed about Vietnam and was asked if he thought terrorism was ever justified. This was his response: Yes; "if the consequences of not using it would be continued oppression of the Vietnam peasants, the use of terror would be justified". And with regard to the Serbs and Milosevic, this was his comment about reports of Serbian atrocities: "jingoist hysteria that was whipped up to demonize Serbs". For a different view of Milosevic and the Serbs, consult Tony Judt's "PostWar". Judt was left wing, a supporter of socialism, anti Israel and a respected European scholar and researcher of high acclaim. He promoted no political ideology in this book but acted as an historian and reporter. He has been widely published in leading liberal and academic journals here and abroad.

While SRLs swallow Chomsky without critical analysis - because he shares and justifies their hatred for the US - they are quick to discredit anyone who disputes or rebuts Chomsky, dismissing them as neocons and right wing liars. Yet they have no impartial or objective substantiation of their views, indeed no one beyond Chomsky himself, who picks and chooses his sources as they fit his biases, even after his sources such as Kiernan have recanted. As for other media sources, the SRLs also dismiss them as capitalist tools who distort, lie and suppress in the interests of the ruling class.

One of our presidents (I believe it was Richard Nixon) was told that by dealing with Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza, the US was dealing with a really evil bastard, to which he replied: He may be a bastard but he's OUR bastard. The same can be said of Chomsky's attitude and that of his slavish leftist followers, the Stark Raving Loonies: any murderous bastard guilty of genocide who defies the US is a hero deserving of support.

© 2002 Lorna Salzman. All rights reserved. Material may be quoted with permission.