Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Chomsky Kicks a Dead Man

Another high point of Chomsky's blog, insulting the late Ronald Reagan shortly after his death:
I believe this is the first such extravaganza in the US...

There was something similar after the JFK assassination, but of course the assassination of a living president is quite different. I don't recall anything else remotely similar, perhaps since FDR, in the midst of a war, and of course he really was a significant figure, whatever one's judgment of him. Reagan is another story: mostly a PR creation in the first place, and massively so in recent years.

During his years in office, Reagan was not particularly popular. Gallup just published poll figures comparing him during office with other presidents. His average ratings during his years in office were below Kennedy, Johnson, Bush I, and Clinton; above Nixon, Ford, Carter. This is averages during their terms in office. By 1992 he was ranked just next to Nixon as the most unpopular living ex-president. Since then there has been an immense PR campaign to convert him into a revered and historic figure, if not semi-divine, and it's doubtless had an effect, radically shifting the rankings. Not on the basis of facts: rather, extremely effective marketing. The current performance is reminiscent of the death of Hirohito and Soviet leaders. One of the more depraved moments of US media. The lying is quite impressive, even by people who surely know better.
I will not bother to respond to Chomsky's ludicrous suggestion that Reagan was unpopular, except to note that unpopular presidents do not win two landslide elections, or his asinine (though typical) assertion that the "US media" (specificity apparently unnecessary) conspired to make Reagan a "semi-divine" figure, when, in fact, the mainstream media despised Reagan and did everything possible to denigrate his achievements in office and his qualities as a human being. Indeed, in the days following Reagan's death, I lost count of the number of times Reagan was described as blundering into the end of the Cold War, as though his policies had been irrelevent to the Soviet Union's collapse; or described as lacking compassion for the poor. I have no doubt that the eulogies of the "Free Press" will be far more generous towards Chomsky when he departs the world than they were towards the "semi-divine" Reagan. While it is a waste of time to analyze such obvious and desperate lies, I think it is worth commenting on the strangely personal animosity Chomsky obviously feels towards Reagan.

It seems to me that this otherwise inexplicable hostility stems directly from Chomsky's authoritarian socialist ideology. Despite his occasional claims to libertarianism (intended, I believe, for the benefit of American audiences who are culturally hostile to collectivist ideologies) Chomsky is, issue by issue, an absolute and uncompromising statist. Reagan, as the man who led the - successful - ideological/political assault on the statist economic model in favor of greater individual freedom and liberty and greater diffusion of power in the political and economic spheres, is therefore nothing less than the man responsible for the Fall from Chomsky's authoritarian Eden, the man who captured the commanding heights from Chomsky's ideological ilk and relegated their catechism to the ash heap of history.

Unwilling to admit, however, to the simple truism that failure and defeat are always due as much to the shortcomings of the defeated as the skills of the victorious, it behooves Chomsky to blame the collapse of statism on the machinations of a single, evil figure, created by "PR" and encapsulated into legend by the all-powerful media (ignoring, of course, the fact that most of the mainstream media is highly sympathetic to Chomsky's ideology). This is undeniably preferable to the horrifying - and, in Chomsky's mind, impossible - prospect that Reagan was right, Chomsky was wrong, and the American people for whom Chomsky claims to be advocating freely embraced Reagan and his ideology and considered him to be the great president which, viewed in purely objective terms of his success in office and influence on history, he unquestionably was.