Friday, May 21, 2004

Why This Blog.

Why begin an anti-Chomsky blog now? Essentially two reasons. The first is the phenomenon of the Chomskyite. While I'm not sure one can reasonably claim that Chomsky's ramshackle amalgam of conspiracy theories actually amounts to something one could call Chomskyism, there is most certainly a phenomenon one could term the Chomskyite. At the extreme there are the boot licking cultists who consider the man the sole arbitrator of justice, truth and reality; and more towards the center are the legions of more or less reputable intellectual figures who revere him as a great scholar and moral voice. The second reason is the overall effect that Chomsky's work is having on the American and international Left, an influence which I believe is nothing less than tragic and dangerous.

While there can be no doubt that Chomsky remains a semi-fringe figure on the American intellectual scene, he cannot be easily dismissed offhand. He is not in the same category of the likes of Jim Marrs or Lyndon LaRouche, who are universally acknowledged as paranoid lunatics. This is unfortunate, because he should be. For both ideological and historical reasons, he remains semi-legitimate in certain circles and one can clearly see his influence on two very important and influential groups.

The first are the American soixante-huitards. Those who came of age in the sixties and whose defining generational experience was the battle against the Vietnam War and their attendant rejection of the United States as a good or moral country. Some of these folks remain in the streets as activists, social workers, political operatives, etc. Others have gained important positions in government, in the media, and especially in the universities. All of them, even those who may not consider themselves directly influenced by him, and even those(such as Paul Berman) who have openly repudiated him, find it difficult to completely dismiss Chomsky's enormous influence on their politics.

The second group is of a younger generation, the disaffected bourgeosie who subscribe to the culture of youth rebellion, i.e. punk rock, "direct action" (read: "controlled riot"), internet activism, the anti-war movement, proto-anarchism etc. This culture, based on a worship of both rebellion and celebrity, has found in Chomsky an unlikely totem, but a totem nonetheless. To put it simply, Chomsky may be the only intellectual in America who can reasonably be called hip, at least in the sense that Rolling Stone defines the term, i.e. that young white kids know who he is and think he's kind of cool.

Both of these groups are important slices of America's elite, and wield disproportionate cultural and political influence. The fact that they are more and more influenced by Chomsky and his ideas should be deeply disturbing to all of us. At best, it promises weakness and abdication. At worst, outright treason.

On the question of Chomsky's influence on the Left, there is no doubt that the results of this influence have been nothing less than catastrophic. As an ex-Leftist who grew up in a very Leftwing family of Jewish Bostonians, I can testify to how degraded the Left has become even in my lifetime. It has gone from an engaged and optimistic movement to a bitter, conspiratorial, semi-deranged mass of the hateful and the disaffected. Anti-semitism has become not only acceptable but practically required. There is no attempt whatsoever to develop an engaged and democratic politics of compromise. There is only semi-apocalyptic condemnation and the demand of total destruction and revision, as if nothing in America or the world could be changed unless everything that now exists is annihilated. This descent is one of the primary reasons for my disaffection from Leftist politics, as I believe it has been for many others. The reason for it, in my opinion, is the growing intellectual and political domination of the Left by its Chomskyites.

Now I realize that this cannot define the entirety of the Left in America or the world. There are groups within the Left (most notably at Dissent magazine) who are trying to create a decent and involved Leftist politics that can accept democratic compromise. My point is simply that the Leftist masses (if the members of a fringe movement can be so characterized), the people who march in the streets, sign the petitions, make the posters, hold the signs, and, yes, buy the books and the videos and the ten-cent pamphlets, are overwhelmingly Chomskyite in their outlook. I consider this, even as someone disillusioned with the Left, to be a disaster. In a democracy a viable opposition which agitates in patriotic good faith is a necessity. One of the major reasons for Conservatism's rise over the last twenty years has been the Left's abdication of this essential role. The blame can be laid at many doors, but there is no question that Chomsky is one of the major culprits.

And lastly, there is my own view of the man himself. Some intellectuals are gadflys. A few are downright lunatics. Chomsky is a monster. A testament to the worst intellectual atrocities of the twentieth century, to the astonishing ease with which great minds can embrace the most horrifying of political evil. For this alone, I consider his ideas well worth fighting.