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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)