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Is Noam Chomsky a monster?

Posted: August 26, 2012 at 2:00 pm   /   by

When I saw the headline Noam Chomsky: The last totalitarian (HT: HotAir), I had to look. When I took a quick glance at the article and realized that it was quite long, I had to read it nonetheless. Noam Chomsky and his ideas have done such damage, it’s almost like he forms an intellectual tear in the very fabric of reality—an ideological black hole from which no light can escape. An article referring to him as “The Last Totalitarian” demands to be read in full.

The piece is actually an interview by Michael J. Totten of Benjamin Kerstein, author of a book called Diary of an Anti-Chomskyite. The interview provides just a glimpse into what is no doubt a comprehensive—and rightfully damning—case against Chomsky. As such, it should be read and sent to others. Chomsky deserves to be discredited; this author appears to be doing yeoman’s work in service of that cause.

The foregoing is just a sample, but you should read the whole thing, and send it around.

MJT: In your book you describe him as a monster. Not a gadfly or a lunatic, but an actual monster. What would you say to people who reject Chomsky’s view of the world but who think monster is a bit much?

Benjamin Kerstein: It’s a good question, and I would only say that over the last hundred years or so we have been faced with a series of powerful secular ideologies that have done many good things but also many horrifying things. As a result, we’ve had to reckon with the role that intellectuals play in creating and supporting these ideologies. And especially with the extent of their responsibility for the things done by these ideologies, good or bad. Now there are many, many cases over the last century of intellectuals lending their minds or simply their names to dubious causes, and over time we’ve developed a certain sense of what the responsibility of the intellectual ought to be. It obviously isn’t an easy question. Was Jean Paul Sartre a monster, for example, because he was a Stalinist for a time? I would say no, though he did have an awful lot to answer for.

The most famous of these cases—and I mention it in my book—was Martin Heidegger. Now, there is no doubt that Heidegger was a brilliant philosopher, and most of his philosophy isn’t political at all; it’s a very esoteric exploration of the nature of existence and of the concept of existence. Nonetheless, I think history has reached the conclusion that there was something monstrous about him because he not only lent his name and his prestige to the Nazi party when it took power, but because he also used his skills to justify it philosophically. The strongest reason, though, is that after it was all over, when he was under no pressure politically or otherwise to do so, he continued to defend his actions and to minimize the Nazis’ crimes, including the Holocaust.

In the case of Chomsky, however, I think we have one of the most egregious cases. He didn’t just support an ideology, he essentially created it, or at least played a major—perhaps the decisive—role in doing so. And there isn’t just one case of lending his skills to justifying horrendous acts of political evil, there are many. And as I noted before, he has never owned up to any of them and as far as I can tell never will. What we’re looking at with Chomsky is a man who has dedicated essentially his entire public life to political evil. I think we are justified in calling such a person a monster.

Kerstein, it bears noting, is not a political conservative; he’s a centrist. Thus, he doesn’t have a simple “our team vs. their team” motive for attacking Chomsky, making his critique all the more striking.