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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grumblings in the Chomsky Cult

Misunderstood by his Master, unjustly rebuked for heresy by him, wrongfully scolded by him for disloyalty, what is the Disciple to do ?  This one tells us:  "I almost lost the will to live."

Who is this disciple ?  Is it perhaps one of the twelve whom Jesus rebuked in Mark 8:18 ("Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?") ?  Or is it perhaps Rudolf Hess, whose peace trip to England was so brutally condemned by his adored Führer ?  No, none of these.  It is rather one of Noam Chomsky's faithful followers, the Guardian's columnist George Monbiot, who reports this crushing experience in his relationship to Chomsky.  And another of Chomsky's disciples, the journalist Ben Cohen, upon hearing that Monbiot almost lost the will to live, chimes in:  "as a huge fan of Noam Chomsky, I almost did too".

The background to this bit of crisis in the Chomsky cult is the following:  Edward Herman and David Peterson, not only Disciples but actually Apostles in the Chomsky cult, published a book "The Politics of Genocide" in 2010.  The salient thesis of this book is that the 1994 genocide of the Rwandan Tutsi never happened;  that, if anybody, it is the Hutu who were the victims;  that, moreover, it is US imperialism that is at fault in the history of all true genocides (Vietnam, Korea, American Indians, etc.); and that the ostensible genocide of Tutsi is a story concocted by these self-same US imperialists.  Chomsky wrote an endorsing foreword to this book (as, indeed, he had contributed a preface to a book by the Holocaust-denier Robert Faurisson) and it is Chomsky's name that appears, together with the authors', in the same font and size, on the cover of this Herman-Peterson volume.  There are two thorough reviews of this book:  one by Gerald Caplan, the other by Martin Shaw.  Both agree in their description of the book, as follows (in Caplan's words):

Why they want to create such gratuitous hurt for the survivors of the genocide in Rwanda is impossible to fathom,  but their egregious views relegate them squarely to the lunatic fringe.

Now Monbiot, Chomsky's loyal follower up to this point, happens to be an expert on Africa, and, loyalty to Chomsky notwithstanding, cares about the Tutsi.   He wrote to Chomsky repeatedly but respectfully, even obsequiously,  asking the Master to distance himself from this lunatic-fringe view of the Rwandan tragedy.  (Monbiot published this correspondence here.)  But Chomsky would not budge.  In fact,  he sees fit to shower his erstwhile disciple with sarcasm and personal nastiness.  So now, it would seem, Monbiot is banished from the cult.

There is a bit of a moral here.  To be an accepted Disciple in the Chomsky cult, shed all vestiges of humanitarian concern. And never, ever, cross the Master.

See also

How Smart is Noam Chomsky ?

How Smart is Noam Chomsky ? II

Professor Chomsky's Veracity Problems

Tom Bartlett on the Chomsky cult in linguistics

Nicholas Evans and Stephen Levinson: The Myth of Language Universals
(a thorough debunking of Chomskyan linguistics)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Today's Pacifists Hate Israel

Despite their rhetoric of brotherly love, reconciliation, and sweet reasonableness, the pacifist organizations of today have enlisted in the propaganda war against Israel.  And that includes, to all intents and purposes, an endorsement of violence.

The groups I have looked at are

1) the American Friends Service Committee
2) the Fellowship of Reconciliation
3) the War Resisters League, and
4) the Christian Peacemaker Teams

In my article I show how these groups have turned their backs on historic pacifism to endorse hatreds and violence.

Here is the link to my article:

Speaking with Forked Tongues;  The New Pacifists' Doctrine of an Evil Israel

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Trotskyism, Chicago, 2012

The International Socialist Organization, one of the Trotskyist splinter groups and apparently the only one to have youthful members, finds that socialism as of 2012 means three things:  a disarmed police, death to Israel, and free abortion on demand.  But especially death to Israel:  intifada, intifada !

hat tip:  EAG

Doc Martyn, on another site, has suggested a companion piece (from the movie Cabaret):

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life Among the Fellow-Travelers -- Then and Now

Mr. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a bit of a sour face in this picture, and well he might.  His predecessor of sorts  -- Comrade Jos. Stalin of the late Soviet Union -- had many more, and infinitely more prestigious fellow-travelers in the West.

A day after I celebrated my twenty-third birthday, on March 25 of 1949, Stalin's fellow-travelers in the United States  convened their Cultural and Scientific Conference for World Peace in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. [This link leads to a complete list of participants]. This "Waldorf Conference," not to put too fine a point on it, was organized to denounce the United States and to praise the Soviet Union and Stalin's dictatorship.  (William O'Neill has furnished an insightful description in his 1982 volume "A Better World. The Great Schism:  Stalinism and the American Intellectual."  [yes, one still has to go the library for important materials !])

The list of luminaries who allowed their names to appear as "sponsors" of the Waldorf Conference appears incredible to us now.  Some of them no doubt held crossed fingers behind their backs, and  at least one, Norman Mailer, used the conference to come out as an anti-Stalinist, much to the chagrin of his erstwhile comrades.  But for the rest of roughly six hundred -- what could they have been thinking ?  The facts of the Gulag, by and large, were known to anyone who cared to know.  

Among the most familiar of the Waldorf sponsors, here are some that are household names to this day:

Leonard Bernstein
Marlon Brando
Rudolf Carnap
Aaron Copland
W.E.B. DuBois
Albert Einstein   ---  yes, THE  Albert Einstein
Lillian Hellman  --  nor surprise here
Langston Hughes
Norman Mailer (but see above)
Thomas Mann  --  remember that when you're told about the wisdom of great writers
Clifford Odets
Eugene Ormandy
Paul Robeson
Artur Schnabel
Henry Wallace
Norbert Wiener
Frank Lloyd Wright

Notably absent from the list were the prominent open Communists of the time;  for example,  William Z. Foster, the CP boss, did not sign.  (Paul Robeson, a secret Communist, did sign.  He was outed as a Communist only after his death -- by his own comrades.  See my previous blog here.)  The idea was, in line with the well-known deviousness of the Stalinist movement, that this Conference was not at all a Communist enterprise -- no no no, not Communist at all !  Just a sincere, honest, peace-loving initiative by sincere, honest, peace-loving progressive human beings. 

But be that as it may, the list of celebrities was truly dazzling.  More sober American intellectuals like Dwight Macdonald and my erstwhile teacher Sidney Hook thought that this Waldorf group were dupes of totalitarianism (as did I, when I confronted a signer who was one of my CCNY teachers).  But the opponents could in no way match the prominence of the Waldorf supporters.

Now, compare this list of 1949 luminary Soviet enthusiasts with the tiny list of what are, by just about any standard, the  nonentities who make up  the Western supporters of the Iranian dictatorship.

Perhaps the best known is the British MP George Galloway.  Here is Wikipedia's take on his relationship to Ahmadinejad:
Galloway has attracted criticism from both the Left and the Right for his comments relating to the regime in Iran, and his work for the state-run satellite television channel, Press TV. Scott Long, writing in The Guardian, criticised Galloway's claim that "homosexuals are not executed in Iran, just rapists", pointing out that current law in the country stipulates that "Penetrative sex acts between men can bring death on the first conviction".[137] Long-time Gay Rightsactivist Peter Tatchell, also writing in The Guardian, accused Galloway of spouting "Iranian Propaganda", continuing: "His claim that lesbian and gay people are not at risk of execution in Iran is refuted by every reputable human rights organisation, including Amnesty InternationalHuman Rights Watch, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and the International Lesbian and Gay Association."[138] Galloway argued that Western governments should accept the election of the conservative President of the Islamic Republic of Iran,Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.[139]The Trotskyist Workers' Liberty group also condemns Galloway, largely on the basis of his support and work for the current Iranian regime. In "No vote for Galloway – an open letter to the left", he is quoted from his Press TVinterview with President Ahmadinejad as stating that he requires "police protection in London from the Iranian opposition because of my support for your election campaign. I mention this so you know where I’m coming from."[140]

On the other side of the Channel there is the African-French self-styled comedian known as Dieudonné, about whom I have blogged before.  Here is the latest news about Dieudonné:  a) last Sunday he was defeated in his run under the "Anti-Zionism" label for the French Assembly, receiving a score of 0.14% in his district;  and b) he has made an anti-Semitic movie called, appropriately, L'antisémite, for which he has received money and sponsorship from the Iranian government.  Robert Faurisson, dean of Holocaust deniers but perhaps best known as friend of Chomsky's, appears in the movie as himself.

For those who can understand French, here is Monsieur Dieudonné in Teheran, praising the Iranian dictatorship:


(Here is a good article on Dieudonné by Tom Reiss in The New Yorker some years ago.)

Both Galloway and Dieudonné enjoy something of an international notoriety, something than can scarcely be said of the American retired sociologist James Petras.  More or less alone even among leftist anti-Israel activists, Petras supports the Ahmadinejad regime.  He calls Jewish dentists and doctors, whom he sees as prone to be active in AIPAC, as the main peril to America.  His difference from  Chomsky -- whom he criticizes for his "ethnicity" -- is that he sees the problem, frankly, with Jews as such, without bothering to employ code terms like Zionist.  His approval of Ahmadinejad has been criticized by fellow leftists.

No review of Western supporters of Ahmadinejad would be complete without a bit of comic relief.  The American Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke sees Teheran as his spiritual home, and has participated in Ahmadinejad's 2006 Holocaust-denial conference, as have some self-styled rabbis of the unfortunate Neturei Karta (about whom the less said the better).  

So here it is,  the story of the mighty fellow-travelers and how they have fallen -- from Einstein all the way to David Duke.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The One Percenters Against Israel

Hannah Arendt

Hannah Arendt, Jewish but as famous for her love affair with the Nazi philosopher Martin Heidegger as for her activities as a public intellectual, attended the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961.  She did not much like Israeli culture as she observed it in the court room.  This is what she wrote to Karl Jaspers as the time:
My first impression: On top, the judges, the best of German Jewry. Below them, the prosecuting attorneys, Galicians, but still Europeans. Everything is organized by a police force that gives me the creeps, speaks only Hebrew, and looks Arabic ... And outside the doors, the oriental mob, as if one were in Istanbul or some other half-Asiatic country.
The "Galicians," also known as the Ostjuden by the elegant sections of German Jewry, were of course not as gebildet, as "cultured" as those German Jews who could frequent the salons (and the beds) of German philosophers.  As for sephardim -- well, they're not even Europeans, let alone human beings ....

Ms. Arendt is dead and buried, but her spirit lives on.  Where ?

The New York Times of April 18 has a full page ad by the New Israel Fund (heretofore known mainly for its support of Arab attempts to dismantle Israel).  The ad solicits funds ("tax-deductible," i.e. partially financed by US taxpayers) to combat "EXTREMISM" (in letters 1 3/4" in height) in Israel.  What does this "extremism" consist of ?  Suicide bombers, stone throwing by Arab youngsters, missiles from the Gaza Strip ?  As they say among certain sophisticates of the Upper West Side:  don't be naive.  According to the ad, the great danger of "extremism" comes from the Yiddish-speaking Ostjuden in Bnei Brak and other Orthodox neighborhoods.   It seems that there is an "actual photograph" (displayed on 7.5" of the ad's 20")  of a billboard that has been "defaced" by "religious extremists" in Jerusalem.

Naomi Chazan, Pres., New Israel Fund

OK.  Let's be naive for a moment.  The "defacement" appears to consist of a partial ripping of a poster that contains a woman's face.   Is that the very worst example of "extremism" that one can think of ?  (In the American understanding of freedom of expression, even "defacing" the Stars and Stripes is protected -- see Texas v. Johnson (1989) ). And then, why is the American taxpayer asked to tell the people of Israel what to allow and what not to allow ?  While the photograph may very well be "actual," how do we know that it was "religious extremists" who perpetrated this heinous act ?  Finally, NIF is famous for demanding "freedom of expression."  Why demand such freedom for the enemies of Israel, but not for Orthodox Jews ?

Toward the bottom of the ad, we are told that "your tax-deductible gift will be matched up to $500,000 ... thanks to the generosity of our donor Murray Koppelman."

As the current expression goes, Mr. Koppelman is part of the one percent.  No doubt he has a right to   express himself, but does he have the right to keep others from expressing themselves, especially others who live in another country ?

As it happens, Mr. Koppelman (in this NIF video) is disarmingly frank about what bothers him about Israel.  When he visits religious neighborhoods there, he says, he is distressed to see religious women walk behind their husbands.  He doesn't like it.   So what does he do ?  Well, like any self-respecting billionaire,  he wants to put an end to the practices that he doesn't like.

Now, just a bit more about those one percenters who want to remake the world in their own image.  Don't say that the New Israel Fund does nothing but cause mischief in Israel.  No, on the contrary:  it does something right here in the US.  According to the two-year old but last available report (Form 990) that it has submitted to the IRS, the NIF helps to create at least one more American one percenter.  In 2008, NIF payed its top official, Mr. Daniel Sokatch, the sum of $342,717, which puts Mr. Sokatch safely in the top one percent of individual income earners in the US.  But not to worry.  Even after paying Mr. Sokatch, NIF still has lots of money to pay for full-page ads in the NYT, where the rates range, depending on how much the Times likes you, from $100,000 to $200,000 a shot.

It may well be that some NIF money goes to worthwhile causes in Israel.  But in view of the documented millions that NIF spends on  Israel-hostile and frivolous pursuits, what do the NIF fat cats say to the truly disadvantaged ?   "Get lost," or some variant thereof, is what in fact they say to the social, educational, financial, and security needs of the Jewish people.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Trahison des Clercs at the University of Pennsylvania

Earlier this month a conference was held at the venerable University of Pennsylvania.  The purpose of the conference was to promote boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel -- BDS.  Not to put too fine a point on it,  it was a Hate Israel conclave.  (Cf. the report by Guy Herschmann)

This being a free country, people have a right to organize hatred of Israel;  that is as American as apple pie, or at least as American as Ku Klux Klan.  No complaint there.  

But the conference was not just an expression of free speech.  What was planned there, what was advocated in at least one of the sessions, was the subversion of the independence of scholarship and university teaching. 

Of course we know that in Soviet times the universities were told to preach the state doctrines, and we know that the Nazi universities were there to advance the truth according to Adolf Hitler. And there is also an older notion, in some quarters,  of religious faith as the supreme arbiter of  what is to be taught.  Against all these threats from various quarters, we want an independent profession of scholarship, one of free inquiry and free discussion, with a clear line separating it from propaganda and indoctrination.

Yet here, in the halls of one of the most prestigious universities of the world, one of its full professors of English, Amy Kaplan, gave a seminar on how to press an hate-Israel message in the academic curriculum:
My question falls on Professor Norton's statement that Boycott may not be the most important part of BDS, and is kind of the closest to where we live as academics and also with Professor Kaplan's call to think about a positive program on BDS, a positive aspect of the Boycott [of Israel]....And that's um about teaching in the classroom about BDS and how, not just in our life as professional producers of knowledge, and scholars, but as teachers, how can that be formed in this pedagogy, especially I guess when the course is not dealing directly with material that has to do with Palestine"
Well I don't know how you can, how you can address the issue if you're not dealing with a course that has no content or relationship to it.... But I know that, I mean, you can make courses that have content. I mean, for example, I happen to know that you're interested in prisons, and the literature and culture about, you know, prisons, so you can teach a course on which you included prison as a really, really big thing, not only in the political life of Palestinians, but also in their literature and in their poetry, so that will be kind of an ideal way -- you take a thematic course, and you bring in themes from this issue, and literature is really a great way to teach students about what's going on -- students they think, they know they have an ideological line, a political line, and then they read, you know, they read darwish, they read, you know, The Pennoptimist and it opens up a whole new world -- so that's my answer to that.
This exchange was widely reported on the internet.  I myself wrote to the University president,  Amy Guttmann, that "it would seem that Professor Kaplan may need to be reminded that there is a line between propaganda and teaching, and that we really should try not to cross it , at least not in this deliberate,  blatant, and gross way.  What do you think ?"  And no, I did not receive a reply from the good President.  On the other hand the Chair of the English department at Penn, Nancy Bentley, has issued the following statement in response to a blog by Elder of Ziyon:
I can say I didn't agree with the way the blog characterized Professor Kaplan's comments on the recording. The blog stated the following: 
"At the Q&A session, another teacher asked Kaplan how to incorporate the BDS memes of demonizing Israel into college courses, even when the course has nothing to do with "Palestine." And Professor Kaplan answered him. Here we have a professor at an Ivy League university explicitly calling on like-minded educators to shoehorn hate of Israel into every one of their classes." 
This characterization is not accurate. Contrary to the claim that Professor Kaplan believes that political views on Israel-Palestine should be forced into college courses that have nothing to do with that subject, Kaplan explicitly said she didn't think that was feasible: "I don't know how you can address the issue if you're not dealing with a course that has no content or relationship to it." 
She took the position instead that certain kinds of thematic courses, such as prison literature or prison history, would have an inherent relation to the topic of Israel-Palestine (as one case among others). Prison writing is a well established area in literary studies, as is the history of prisons. Any search of data bases will reveal this neutral fact of academic history. And I fail to see how the case of the Israeli-Palistinian [sic] conflict would be inherently inappropriate as a case study for a thematic course of that sort, just as with courses like war literature or the literature of mourning and violence. If you can explain how this is not the case, I'd be happy to comment. 
"For these academics, college is not about teaching but it is merely a platform for them to spout their political views at their captive audience." This assertion on the blog does not seem accurate to me either, since Professor Kaplan expressed the idea that only courses in which Israel and Palestine were relevant to the advertised course theme would be logical candidates for discussing these questions. Such courses (prison writing, war and literature, etc.) are not required of English majors or SAS students, so discussions of the politics of the Israeli-Palestine conflict would never be forced on a "captive audience."
 So here, according the English Department of the University of Pennsylvania, the problem is solved.  We will not indoctrinate our English majors -- that would be bad -- but we will indoctrinate more specialized students, only those.

What the U. of Penn. should have said, but what is has failed to say so far, is simply that it will not indoctrinate.  That it will present controversial topics in a way to allow students to appreciate and to learn about various points of view.  Present the student with various points of view.  Let him judge.

But education in this sense -- in a sense that is clearly distinct from indoctrination -- is absent from the mental world of the zealot.  We can hardly blame Professor Kaplan for this problem.  A look at her resume confirms the primacy of her zealotry over scholarship, and zealotry, like thrall, is probably not something that can be abandoned by will power alone.  That is one of the reasons that we look to universities for institutional safeguards.  And, so far at least, the great University of Pennsylvania is clearly failing us.

So here is my challenge to the University of Pennsylvania:  when the Israel-Palestine conflict comes up in any course, for whatever reason, make sure that students will be informed, in an even-handed manner, that there is an Israeli point of view in addition to that of its detractors.  Can you commit to that, U. of Penn ?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Death of a Stalinist

Bill Mardo (1923-2012)

and his vozhd  1878-1953

It seems that a Mr. Bill Mardo, né William Bloom, died in New York on January 20 of this year.  Seven days later the New York Times ran a 750-word obituary on the gentleman which may well be the most mindless obit ever written.

It seems that this Mr. Mardo was one of three such comrades who wrote columns in the Daily Worker during the nineteen fifties in which they urged that African-American baseball players be hired by the major leagues.  Obviously, the failure of the baseball industry to accomplish integration so late was shameful.  But did this comrade have anything to do with the belated integration of black players ?  The NYT obit has no doubt that he played a leading part.  But the obit writer here, Richard Goldstein, seems blissfully ignorant of the actual role of the American Communist Party in mid twentieth century America.

During the whole period of Mardo's tenure at the Daily Worker, the Communists constituted a small conspiratorial group totally devoted to the interests of the Soviet Union and to Stalin.  Any interest they had in African Americans was consistently subordinated to their devotion to the Soviets. The details of the Communist stance of "the Negro question" has been documented by a number of historians;  a very convenient source is Maurice Isserman's Which Side Were you On ? (1982).  Mr. Goldstein has either never read these sources or has chosen to disregard them.

Mr. Goldstein does furnish some details of Mardo's life that should have aroused at least some curiosity.   But no, to Goldstein everything appears to be as normal and American as apple pie.

On Mardo's name change, this is what Goldstein writes:  
Mr. Mardo was born William Bloom in Manhattan on Oct. 24, 1923 .... He changed his name to Mardo as a tribute to his sisters Marion and Doris when he began his career in journalism ...
As a tribute to his sisters !  What could be more natural than that ?  What loving brother could possibly do less than change his last name to honor his sisters ?  The fact that Communists in that era took on "party names" for conspiratorial reasons does not seem to be known by Mr. Goldstein.  In the case of Jewish Communists, the party names were almost invariably "Americanized" to hide the Jewish origins of these comrades.

And then, somewhat later, 
He left the newspaper to work as a Washington reporter for the Soviet news agency Tass in the early 1950's ..
Again, what could be more normal, more American, than to have a young American reporter (who by the way never went to college and never learned other languages, as far as we know) to work for the Soviets in Washington ?  And no, Mr. Goldstein has never heard of just what the Soviets were up to in those days of the Cold War.  Why mention a thing like that, anyway ?

But it does seem that this generation of readers needs to be reminded of just what the CPUSA was doing in those days, especially in regard to the civil rights of African Americans.  An African American sociologist of the time, Horace Cayton Jr., put it most succinctly:
... the record shows that where and when the Communists seemed to be fighting for Negro rights, their objective was simply to strengthen the hand of Russia.  When this was accomplished, they abandoned the fight and turned to somethings else ...  (cited in Maurice Isserman, Which Side Were you On ? 1982)
While the CP gave verbal support to civil rights issues before 1941, such support was  muted after the Soviet Union was attacked by Germany on June 22 of that year.  Overnight,  support for the war became the overriding issue. The Communists throughout were antagonistic to the  Civil Rights movement of A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin.  Just before June of 1941, these two leaders were denounced by the CP as "war mongers" because they were sympathetic to the cause of the Allies while Stalin was in a pact with Hitler.  After June of 1941, these Black leaders were denounced by the comrades as insufficiently pro-war.

And, obviously, neither the Daily Worker, nor its Comrade Mardo, could find any fault whatever in the Soviet Gulag, nor in the Soviet oppression of Jews.  In this they were in stark opposition to the whole Civil Rights movement of the 20th century.   The last words have to go to Martin Luther King, who wrote in support of the Soviet Jewry movement:

The New York Times 
January 16, 1965
I am profoundly shocked by the treatment of the Jewish people in the Soviet Union. I would like strongly to endorse the moral protest and appeal of conscience to the Soviet Union published as an advertisement in The Times Jan. 14.I should like to add my voice to the list of distinguished Americans of all faiths who have called the injustices perpetrated against the Jewish community in the Soviet Union to the attention of the world.
The struggle of the Negro people for freedom is inextricably interwoven with the universal struggle of all peoples to be free from discrimination and oppression. The Jewish people must be given their full rights as Soviet citizens as guaranteed by the Constitution of the U.S.S.R. itself.
The anti-Jewish tone of the economic trials must cease. The free functioning of synagogues should be permitted. There should be no interference with the performance of sacred rites. The religious and cultural freedom of this old Jewish community should be re-established.
In the name of humanity, I urge that the Soviet Government end all the discriminatory measures against its Jewish community. I will not remain silent in the face of injustice.
Martin Luther King Jr.Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 14, 1965