Sunday, September 26, 2004

Chomskyites vs. Bermanites

Democratic socialist Paul Berman attacks the Chomskyite romanticization of murder, oppression and totalitarianism personified in the death cult of leftist assassin/terrorist Che Guevara.
The present-day cult of Che—the T-shirts, the bars, the posters—has succeeded inobscuring this dreadful reality [of communist Cuba and Che's ideology]. And Walter Salles' movie The Motorcycle Diaries will now take its place at the heart of this cult. It has already received a standing ovation at Robert Redford's Sundance film festival (Redford is the executive producer of The Motorcycle Diaries) and glowing admiration in the press. Che was an enemy of freedom, and yet he has been erected into a symbol of freedom. He helped establish an unjust social system in Cuba and has been erected into a symbol of social justice. He stood for the ancient rigidities of Latin-American thought, in a Marxist-Leninist version, and he has been celebrated as a free-thinker and a rebel. And thus it is in Salles' Motorcycle Diaries.
I highly recommend Berman's book Terror and Liberalism, which is probably the finest document I have yet read in support of the War on Terror and the clearest elucidation of the nature and danger of radical Islam (and also contains an excellent critique of Chomsky's views on the War on Terror, although Berman still suffers from a touch of the dread deference to which so many otherwise intelligent leftists are prone when Chomsky is involved). Berman's thesis, greatly simplified, is that radical Islamic is, in fact, a manifestation of European totalitarianism. Not the whole story, perhaps, I think imperial tendencies indigenous to Islam (which, I might add, exist in all large and powerful faiths, not only Islam) are also a major factor here; but Berman's thesis is, in my view, correct in its essentials. I must say, that while I have heard almost nothing constructive on the War on Terror from John Kerry-style mainstream liberals, some of its most articulate supporters have come from Berman's brand of democratic socialism. They are the hope of a decent, democratic, involved left; which is probably why the Chomskyites hate them with such a passion. And no wonder, truth and clarity are always a threat to a catechism of lies. Indeed, to read Berman and Chomsky side by side only thows into the sharpest relief the base nature of Chomsky's work. Whereas Chomsky aggrandizes authoritarianism - under a skein of Orwellian hypocrisy - and specializes in what Vidal-Naquet called a "double discourse" so glaring that he saw fit to bestow upon Chomsky the title "Chomsky the Janus-faced", Berman's language is straightforward and his revulsion in the face of tyranny utterly genuine. Berman is what the Left might have been had Chomskyite fanatacism not proved such an irresistible temptation. More and more it seems that the Left is divided between those who embrace the worldview articulated by Chomsky and those who side with Berman's analysis. Unfortunately, on the radical Left at least, the Bermanites are very much outnumbered. A shame, and a tragedy.