Thursday, October 20, 2005

The J.D. Rockefeller of Hypocrisy

Tech Central Station has a terrific article up exposing the Good Professor’s utterly redolent hypocrisy and selfishness when it comes to capitalism and private property. Not only does the author give us an estimate of the Professor’s net worth (an astounding two million dollars) but also exposes Chomsky’s massive investments in tax-dodging trusts, corporate stocks, and high return investments in companies whose practices he claims to despise. Apparently, the best defense the self-anointed genius of the century can muster is: “Should I go live in a cabin in Montana?” The answer of course, is simple: if you expect people to take you seriously, yes. Especially interesting is the author’s insight into the fact that this faux-anarchist is, in fact, a talented capitalist entrepreneur who has reaped enormous benefits from American traditions of private property.
Chomsky is rich precisely because he has been such an enormously successful capitalist. Despite the anti-profit rhetoric, like any other corporate capitalist he has turned himself into a brand name…

Chomsky's business works something like this. He gives speeches on college campuses around the country at $12,000 a pop, often dozens of times a year.

Can't go and hear him in person? No problem: you can go online and download clips from earlier speeches-for a fee. You can hear Chomsky talk for one minute about "Property Rights"; it will cost you seventy-nine cents. You can also by a CD with clips from previous speeches for $12.99… It would not be advisable to download the audio from one of his speeches without paying the fee, warns his record company, Alternative Tentacles. (Did Andrei Sakharov have a licensing agreement with a record company?) And when it comes to his articles, you'd better keep your hands off. Go to the official Noam Chomsky website and the warning is clear: "Material on this site is copyrighted by Noam Chomsky and/or Noam Chomsky and his collaborators. No material on this site may be reprinted or posted on other web sites without written permission." However, the website does give you the opportunity to "sublicense" the material if you are interested…

But books are Chomsky's mainstay, and on the international market he has become a publishing phenomenon. The Chomsky brand means instant sales.

As publicist Dana O'Hare of Pluto Press explains: "All we have to do is put Chomsky's name on a book and it sells out immediately!"

Putting his name on a book should not be confused with writing a book, because his most recent volumes are mainly transcriptions of speeches, or interviews that he has conducted over the years, put between covers and sold to the general public. You might call it multi-level marketing for radicals. Chomsky has admitted as much: "If you look at the things I write -- articles for Z Magazine, or books for South End Press, or whatever -- they are mostly based on talks and meetings and that kind of thing. But I'm kind of a parasite. I mean, I'm living off the activism of others. I'm happy to do it." (emphasis mine, Benjamin – honesty at last!)

Chomsky's marketing efforts shortly after September 11 give new meaning to the term "war profiteer." In the days after the tragedy, he raised his speaking fee from $9,000 to $12,000 because he was suddenly in greater demand. He also cashed in by producing another instant book. Seven Stories Press, a small publisher, pulled together interviews conducted via email that Chomsky gave in the three weeks following the attack on the Twin Towers and rushed the book to press… The book made the bestseller list in the United States, Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand. It is safe to assume that he netted hundreds of thousands of dollars from this book alone.

Over the years, Chomsky has been particularly critical of private property rights, which he considers simply a tool of the rich, of no benefit to ordinary people. "When property rights are granted to power and privilege, it can be expected to be harmful to most," Chomsky wrote on a discussion board for the Washington Post. Intellectual property rights are equally despicable…But when it comes to Chomsky's own published work, this advocate of open intellectual property suddenly becomes very selfish.
None of this is particularly surprising, and it merely serves to solidify my conviction that Chomsky is (to use the phrase bestowed by Albert Camus on the French communists) the judge-penitent par excellence, because the judge-penitent believes he has the right to simultaneously sin and to judge the sinner. The judge-penitent is one who weeps over the crimes of his brethren even as he absolves himself and condemns all others. Chomsky has spent his life trying to destroy the American system of capitalist democracy, but considers himself exempt from any guilt accrued by his own ruthless and highly effective exploitation of the very system he claims is a crime. He revels in the very riches he has accumulated through posing as a defender of the poor and an enemy of capitalist exploitation. This is hypocrisy on an epic scale and it may well stand as Noam Chomsky’s only truly extraordinary accomplishment. Noam Chomsky, the J.D. Rockefeller of hypocrisy, the most titanic charlatan the United States has ever produced.