Dead Men Left

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Noam Chomsky is Bad and Wrong

Away for a few days, and look at all this stuff going on... first, you'll probably have seen Noam Chomsky apparently interviewed by the egregious Emma Brockes. A reminder of the teeth-grinding ahead:

Despite his belief that most journalists are unwitting upholders of western imperialism, Noam Chomsky, the radical's radical, agrees to see me at his office in Boston. He works here as a professor of linguistics, a sort of Clark Kent alter ego to his activist Superman, in a nubbly old jumper, big white trainers and a grandad jacket with pockets designed to accomodate a Thermos. There is a half-finished packet of fig rolls on the desk. Such is the effect of an hour spent with Chomsky that, writing this, I wonder: is it wrong to mention the fig rolls when there is undocumented suffering going on in El Salvador?

...and that's the first paragraph - it gets worse, if anything, from there on: the brazen gaucherie Brockes displays, the utter lack of self-reflection upon her own left-liberal Truths, and the bloody-minded arrogance she brings to proceedings reminded me of Johann Hari's attempts to deal with another radical professor, Eric Hobsbawm. Brockes and Hari share rather similar backgrounds, of course, and the shared tone of (ill-placed) left-liberal condescension is unmistakable.

Chomsky defends himself rather splendidly against this ill-bidden liberal in the letters page:

Emma Brockes's report of her interview with me (G2, October 31), opens with the following headline:
"Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated? A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough"

I did express my regret: namely, that I did not support Diana Johnstone's right to publish strongly enough when her book was withdrawn by the publisher after dishonest press attacks, which I reviewed in an open letter that any reporter could have easily discovered. The remainder of Brockes's report continues in the same vein. Even when the words attributed to me have some resemblance to accuracy, I take no responsibility for them, because of the invented contexts in which they appear.

As for her personal opinions, interpretations and distortions, she is of course free to publish them, and I would, of course, support her right to do so, on grounds that she makes quite clear she does not understand.

...whilst here are Lenin and interbreeding on the same.