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October 24, 2003

Does Noam Chomsky Hate America?


Nah. Just imperialism.

by Anthony Gancarski

It's said that you can judge a man by who his enemies are and what they're willing to say about him to shut him down. With that in mind, it might be instructive to examine what the political enemies of Massachusetts Institute of Technology Linguistics professor Noam Chomsky have said about him.

David Horowitz, reformed leftist turned Likudnik shill, describes Chomsky as "a pathological ayatollah of anti-American hate – and the leader of the treacherous fifth-column Left." Werner Cohn put his poison-pen to work, crafting the subtly titled Partners in Hate: Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers, a 1995 book which trafficked in hysterical innuendo and specious speculation. Todd Gitlin, who never lets anyone impeach his leftist credentials by forgetting that he was President of Students for a Democratic Society a few decades back, claimed that Chomsky was "irritable" in the wake of 9/11/01; to Gitlin, Chomsky "wasted little time on the attacks themselves before launching into a wooden recitation of atrocities carried out by the American government and its allies."

For his part, Chomsky would support the right of those worthies and a thousand others to heap calumnies on his aging bones. Chomsky, like few men still alive, understands the singular promise of America well enough to write, time and time again, that "if we don't believe in freedom of speech for those we despise, then we don't believe in it at all." A simple idea, yet one conspicuously absent from America's mass media discourse over the last few years. Moreover, freedom of speech for Chomsky is a non-negotiable point; this in spite of the constant assertions from professional politicians and their hangers-on that "9/11 changed everything" and that, in the parlance of departed White House flak Ari Fleischer, we should all "watch what we say."

Of course, Chomsky would be the first to agree that, in terms of effecting real political change, it doesn't matter what we say. At a press conference October 22 to promote his Gainesville reading of his Le Monde article "Dilemmas of Dominance", Chomsky outlined his adherence to the "investment theory" of politics, which holds that all meaningful, high-stakes political action amounts to battles between ever-shifting "coalitions of investors competing to control the state" and its "monopoly of violence."

Chomsky, who has never shied away from describing the US role in world affairs as that of the "chief Mafia don", has justifiable doubt that even Greenish Democratic Presidential candidates like Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich will gain any measure of viability in the 2004 race. "If anyone hears [Kucinich's message], he might get large-scale support. But who will hear it?" Such a lacerating dismissal of Kucinich's quixotic bid may well disappoint Gainesville Democratic activists [who, judging from t-shirts and bumper stickers near the University of Florida campus, have taken the formerly pro-life Clevelander to their collective bosom], but history says Chomsky's view is correct. Outsiders don't win insider games like Presidential nomination contests, especially in times like these.

Chomsky demurred from making specific predictions of impending doom for the United States, but he did speak on the unserviceable national debt, a product of elites who have "agreed that the point is to drive the country into fiscal disaster." In his reckoning, the "statist reactionaries" currently running the Executive branch are engineering a "fiscal train wreck" designed to "starve the beast"; the beast, of course, is the social welfare system that Americans have come to rely on ever-increasingly since FDR's New Deal. The MIT Linguist believes that most debt – that of our national government and of well-connected corporations – would be forgiven by the world at large. "But as far as your personal debt, goes", he added, "tough luck."

Does Noam Chomsky hate America, as Fox News personality Sean Hannity might put it? It depends on what your definition of America is. If America is defined by its global military presence, then Chomsky despises it to its core. He's been around long enough to see "full-spectrum dominance" for the sucker bet it is; an enrichment scheme for those who benefit from US dominance of "mineral-rich" states.

But if you define America as the sum of its people, their aspirations, their hopes for the future, then Chomsky can't be said to hate America. The thousands who heard him speak on a balmy Tuesday evening at Gainesville's O'Connell Center would attest, in fact, to Chomsky's love for America and its people, as embodied by his unsparing quest for truth in the briar patch of lies that is Washington politics.

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Anthony Gancarski, the author of Unfortunate Incidents, writes for The American Conservative, CounterPunch, and LewRockwell.com. His web journalism was recognized by Utne Reader Online as "Best of the Web." A writer for the local Folio Weekly, he lives in Jacksonville, Florida.

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