Saturday, March 26, 2005

Hands on the Whip at Last

I recently received an email which expressed the not uncommon opinion that the erstwhile subject of this blog is simply insane. While I understand the sentiment, and I agree that it is difficult to explore Chomsky's worldview without concluding that it contains at least some measure of psychological paranoia, I nonetheless cannot agree; and its worth it to explain why, especially in the context of the previous post.

In my opinion, Chomsky is completely sane. Obviously, I don't know the man, nor am I a qualified psychiatrist, but his bizarre denials of reality and frequent distortions of history do not strike me as the products of a diseased mind, but rather as willful lies and exaggerations of which Chomsky is well aware. I don't think he really believes that the Cambodian genocide was invented by the American media, that the US tried to commit a "silent genocide" in Afghanistan, that Israel is reminiscent of Nazi Germany, or that the Bush administration will bring about the end of life on this planet. Nor, in my opinion, is he convinced that communist Cuba, Sandanista Nicaragua, or North Vietnam were anything other than immensely oppressive totalitarian dictatorships. Why Chomsky and his fellow travelers hold otherwise is not, in my view, a particularly difficult question, and the way to the answer is pointed out by George Orwell with his usual incisive prescience, when he remarked that the pro-communist intellectuals of his day desired not justice and equality as they claimed but rather a new hierarchical society in which "the intellectual can at last get his hands on the whip".

If one looks at the various movements Chomsky has supported, they are all more or less movements composed of radical ideologues, not much different from himself, who have simply taken the extra step of merging their intellectual stance with the gun. That is to say, with the power to enact their plans through cruelty and violence. The attractiveness of this to the average radical intellectual, especially in democratic societies, which always tend towards the mean, cannot be underestimated. It allows him to live out his fantasies of revolution vicariously while making sure that he never has to actually pull the trigger himself. It allows him to be, shall we say, a mandarin of sorts; someone who can taste the thrills of absolute power without having to pay the inevitable price of political crime. Thus, the intellectual can, through the act of mere support, or rhetorical succor, remain sanguine on such subjects as oppression and mass murder while still imagining himself morally pure and unsullied. Once this is coupled with the naked reality of one's self interest, this becomes a particularly intoxicating combination. Since a man of Chomsky's beliefs can never hope to achieve any real power except through imposing his ideas by violence upon the rest of us, the sight of men like Fidel Castro or Daniel Ortega actually doing so cannot possibly appear to be a brutal act of tyranny but rather a heroic and admirable assault on those who keep self-anointed prophets like Chomsky trapped in the purgatory of relative obscurity and powerlessness.

It strikes me, therefore, that Chomsky and is ilk are not motivated by madness, but rather by lust for power and a reasoned acceptance of what it would take to achieve it. This, coupled with an almost theological admiration for the capacities of political violence and the men who use it; on whom are easily projected impossible fantasies of domination and rule, the intoxicating capacity to simply say "Exterminate all the brutes!"; creates a mindset in which all facts or truths which stand in the way of seizing the heights must be done away with, by fair means or foul. Seen this way, the average Chomskyite's relentless confabulations appear not merely sane, but also sensible; as sensible, at least, as one can be when driven by such forces. It for us, therefore, not to simply dismiss such things as the ravings of madmen, but to do what we can to ensure that the whip does not fall easily into their hands.