I used to admire Noam Chomsky. Since 9/11 he has been a douche. I'm going to try to demonstrate this, using Chomsky's commentary on the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

    Chomsky's theme, as you might expect, is that while the Paris killings were bad, the West does worse, and dash it all, nobody talks about these other crimes.

    Chomsky starts out by equating the Charlie Hebdo murders with the Nato air strike on a Serbian television station during the Kosovo War. Both were attacks on journalists.

    The attack on the tv station was a war crime, but it should not be compared to the Paris attack. It should be compared to the vastly worse crimes the Serbs committed, which Chomsky does not mention. If not for those crimes, no bombs would have fallen on Serbia. To talk about the Nato air strike without discussing the context strikes me as fundamentally dishonest. It is rather like comparing 9/11 to Hiroshima--and saying nothing more.

      I will examine some other statements Chomsky makes in this piece.

     "There are many other events that call for no inquiry into Western culture or history. For example, the worst single terrorist atrocity in recent years, in July, 2011, when Anders Brevik, a Christian ultra-Zionist extremist and Islamophobe, slaughtered seventy-seven people, mostly teenagers".

      There are sound reasons why Brevik's crime did not prompt the kind of finger pointing at Christianity or the West which is directed at Islam when jihadist atrocities occur. Brevik was a lone nut, not a member of an organization, and there aren't millions of people who applaud his act. Moreover, Christian-inspired massacres happen much less frequently than Islamic-inspired ones.

     "Also ignored in 'the war against terrorism' is the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times--Barack Obama's assassination campaign targeting people suspected of perhaps intending to harm us some day, and any unfortunates who happen to be nearby".

      Many of the drone attacks--not all--have been war crimes. To call them the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times means seriously underestimating the severity of Islamic terrorism. The Taliban have killed at least twice as many Afghan civilians as we have. 9/11 killed more innocents in one morning than the drones did in eight years. And Arab/Moslem terrorists have perpetrated many other massacres around the world. Although Chomsky considers himself sympathetic to Moslems, I haven't been able to find a comment from him regarding last year's slaughter of Pakistani schoolchildren(I grant that there could be one I missed).

     "Anyone with open eyes will quickly notice other rather striking omissions. Thus, prominent among those who face an 'enormous challenge' from brutal violence are Palestinians, once again during Israel's vicious assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, in which many journalists, sometimes in well-marked press cars, were killed, along with thousands of others".

     The butchery in Gaza was indeed monstrous. The claim that the media paid no attention to it seems to me to be untenable.

    "Also ignored was the assassination of three more journalists in Latin America in December, bringing the number for the year to thirty-one. There have been more than a dozen journalists killed in Honduras alone since the military coup of 2009 that was effectively recognized by the U.S.(but few others), probably according post-coup Honduras the per capita championship for murder of journalists. But again, not an assault on freedom of the press in living memory".

      UPDATE: Okay, my bad, U.S. aid to the Honduran military and police does indeed make us at least partly answerable for killings there. But France is certainly not answerable for Washington's actions in Honduras. Many of the killings of reporters in Latin America have been the work of  organized crime. If a dozen Latin American journalists were all killed in a few seconds, I would bet there would be considerable media coverage. Perhaps not quite as much, as Americans feel a greater connection to Western Europe than Latin  America, which may not be inherently unreasonable.


     Chomsky is right to call attention to the air strike in Syria that reportedly killed fifty civilians. This really has been ignored. But even here there are differences. The killing of those innocents was not intentional, and the United States did not bring the war to Syria, as the attackers in Paris brought terror to a place that was at peace.

     For these reasons and others, I don't think the professor should still be regarded as a light to international moralists--as once he certainly was. Where is the glory?


    Agree. Paris Muslims massacre journalists and French Jews, and Chomsky brings up the a bomb dropped on a Serbian TV station or the always available foil 'the drones'.

    Chomsky was best when he stuck to explaining war propaganda in Britain during WWI.

    Gore Vidal was a much more savvy observer and commentator on America, he has written many historical novels and commentaries on America. Often with discerning comments like this from The Enemy Within, October, 2002:

    ....Post-9/11, the American media were filled with pre-emptory denunciations of unpatriotic `conspiracy theorists', who not only are always with us but are usually easy for the media to discredit since it is an article of faith that there are no conspiracies in American life......When Mohamed Atta's plane struck the World Trade Centre's North Tower, George W. Bush and the child at the Florida elementary school were discussing her goat. By coincidence, our word `tragedy' comes from the Greek: for `goat' tragos plus oide for `song'. `Goat-song'. It is highly suitable that this lament, sung in ancient satyr plays, should have been heard again at the exact moment when we were struck by fire from heaven, and a tragedy whose end is nowhere in sight began for us.

    Chomsky, on the other hand, is a one trick pony, and a very rich one. He makes a living out of criticizing every war or conflict the US or 'the west' has ever engaged in from the founding of Jamestown.

    He makes a very good living out of it all with speeches, books and lecture CD's.

    There is no terrorist atrocity Chomsky cannot rationalize away and absolve the perpetrators of all responsibility for....killings, beheadings, genocide etc. Jihadi John, the Paris Muslim terrorist massacre and even Putin/Russian complicity in the Malaysian Air MH17 shootdown.

    Even Amy Goodman at Democracy Now evinces some amazement at his position on the terror organization HAMAS:

    AMY GOODMAN: But you hear repeatedly, Hamas has in its charter a call for the destruction of Israel. And how do you guarantee that these thousands of rockets that threaten the people of Israel don’t continue?

    NOAM CHOMSKY: Very simple. First of all, Hamas charter means practically nothing. The only people who pay attention to it are Israeli propagandists, who love it...

    One suspects if guys with guns were popping out of Chomsky's back yard trying to kill him, Noam would have a different viewpoint on what they are up to.

    He is definitely someone who gives those who have a liberal perspective a bad name. A conservative can just trot his stuff and say, "Look, this how liberals (progressives, leftist, etc) view the world and geo-politics."

    I give up. 

    You've actually written a piece arguing that Serbia created a context for the bombing of the TV station... but you genuinely seem unable to see a similar context to the argry acts of Muslims.

    I honestly don't know what to say to this. 

    The United States of America has twice gone into Iraq, and each time has slaughtered the shit out of everyday Muslims, and you apparently can't see that as relevant "context."

    Then, we see that Breivik is a lone nut, whom, apparently, no one applauded. I'm not sure where I should begin with the history of the Far Right in our Western societies, but I assure you, there are bits of their history that are quite nasty, and nonetheless, they have millions of followers today.

    And Christian-inspired massacres happen far less often? Errm, unless, of course you count in all the frigging massacres we've initiated over the last 500 years or so. You know. Like the ones in Iraq I just mentioned.

    And Honduras? Holy shit. That's all, just holy shit. 

    This just feels to me like you wanted to out a piece out, so, even if you hadn't thought for ten seconds on some of these issues, you just trotted down "Why Noam Chomsky is dumb."

    You'd be better off sending the man apology after stuff like this.


    I don't think Q understands what I was saying. I was not addressing the question of whether Moslems have reason to hate us, or whether the two wars with Iraq were immoral(I think they were). I was talking about whether the comparisons and analogies Chomsky was making hold up.

     Chomsky was not talking about the history of the far right; he was talking about one specific incident--the massacre in Norway--and arguing that it should raise the same questions about Christianity and the West that Islamic craziness raises about the state of the Moslem world. I think I offered sound reasons for doubting that.

     I don't think our wars in Iraq were "Christian-inspired". Sure, the first Bush invoked God, but neither Bush said these were wars to promote Christianity or overthrow Islam. Not all the massacres that the West perpetrated in the past were inspired by Christianity, and anyway, comparing things that are happening now to things that  happened a century or more ago is phony.  If we are going to do that, why not bring up the Armenian genocide too? I'd stick with  more current stuff, if you want to show how bad we are. It may not be that relevant, but I myself would compare Desert Storm not to international terrorism, but to the things Saddam Hussein did--not that his acts make Desert Storm moral; they don't.

    I don't know how to answer "holy shit".

    Americans are very good at ignoring the Christian/religious ramifications of its foreign policy and the brazen flying Christianness of every mainstream politician. It was required that Obama be seen as a Christian and not some heathen Kenyan Muslimness, and of course George's brand was built on repentant born-again tea-totaller and Bill's the southern Christian yokel. Then there are the Christian generals and Beck/Limbaugh preaching Christian nation and of course our suck-uppiness to Israel is all a whackadoo tribute to our Old Testament heritage coming soon to a rapture near you, something Reagan publicly suggested would happen in his lifetime. We frame everything in Christian & Muslim terms and then feign surprise when others don't believe our feigned ignorance bullshit. We're playing Domino Theory across the region, we have no-fly lists focused on only Muslim names, and so on. How stupid are Muslims supposed to be? How self-deluded are we? It's like the bear joke - "you didn't come here for the hunting, didya?" As for the Norwegian dude, he may have been a loner, but he's a perfect stereotype fit for the guns and anti-liberal and anti-Muslim patriot freakout that the right has been building for decades, from the survivalists whacking the Denver DJ to the Koresh ranch to the Tim McVee and so on. The loner patriot is part of the image - they don't need to be organized, they just need to be disgruntled and have a gun/explosives and rail against queers, ay-rabs, immigrants and librul oppressive guvmint. We drone-killed Awlaki for the kind of ahit-disturbing hate speech we pipe in from Limbaugh to our troops. Look at the recent quandary the right ran into when they didn't know whether to shit on government troops as King George-style repressive government or worship them as potential Brevik/McVee warriors to one day turn on the heretic Commander-in-Chief and blast our way to liberty. The right considers all the military as natural armed neocon fellow travellers supporting its narrow-minded bigoted Christian view.

    In answer to the question posed in the ultimate paragraph: There is no doubt in my mind that Noam Chomsky is a great humanitarian.

    Here's my question to the author of this piece:  If you invariably distinguish killings by Christians and Jews (and the odd Western atheist) as morally less reprehensible than killings by Muslims, are you a douche?

    I haven't argued that killings are less reprehensible because they are committed by Christians or Jews. I'd appreciate it if you would not misrepresent me.

    Pick your examples of death and destruction and quibble. The examples aren't particularly relevant. Chomsky's are just the topical ones. The essential truth, found at the end of Chomsky's piece, is that there are two types of terror, "their's and our's"."

    There are often double standards, but I feel my points were relevant. Anyway, Chomsky has a double standard; his lack of indignation over 9/11, Paris, and other crimes that can't be laid at the door of the West is hard to miss. In his exchange with Leo Casey in 2001, Chomsky tried to blame the United States for the genocide in Sudan(or at least for its continuation); it's a pretty remarkable performance.

    You can feel that your points were relevant, they were not.  If you truly want to argue that we are somehow "different" and superior because, e.g., our drones have only killed 2,400 and 3,800+ died in 9/11, how do you rationalize the war on the people of Iraq which left 500,000 to a million dead and millions more displaced?  Any claim that it seemed like a good idea at the time is absurd.  http://halginsberg.com/latest-media-fail-on-operation-iraqi-liberation-c...

    Invoking Hiroshima and ignoring Nagasaki disingenuous.  There remain legitimate arguments, in my view, that dropping the first A-bomb had a military purpose.  Nagasaki on the other hand was massacre.

    In every case where you compare American/Western killings with killings by Muslims you do indeed attempt to distinguish the former as morally less reprehensible.  For example, in your acknowledgement that Israel's treatment of Gazans has been "monstrous", you cannot forbear to claim that our media did indeed pay "attention to it".

    Finally, you accuse Chomsky of doing what you do, that is to minimize and rationalize the crimes of "one side" while amplifying the crimes of the other.  But Chomsky has explained persuasively why he focuses on the culpability of American bad actors:

    My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it. So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one's actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.

    What's your excuse for doing the opposite?

    I rationalized the war in Iraq? Rubbish. I said both wars in Iraq were immoral. If we do the comparison thing(and if you think comparisons are irrelevant, you should tell Chomsky to stop doing it) I would pair America's killing of Iraqi civilians with the killing of Iraqi civilians by the Sunni insurgents.  Then I would throw in the other jihadist massacres around the world(Lockerbie, Madrid, Luxor, Indonesia, etc.) This next point is minor, but Hal brought it up: The Bureau for Investigative Journalism's estimate of 2,400(minimum) deaths from drone strikes into Pakistan includes both civilians and combatants. The dead combatants shouldn't be equated with the people killed on 9/11.

     I think the jihadists are worse than we are(although the difference isn't great enough for me to support the killing we do), but my point wasn't about who is worse; it was that the specific comparisons Chomsky was making are flawed.

      I mentioned that the media paid attention to the slaughter in Gaza because Chomsky suggested that it didn't. I don't know why Hal finds this objectionable, and to say that I think the slaughter of Gazans is less reprehensible because the media reported it is batshit crazy.

     Chomsky's rule that we should spend most of our time talking about the evil our side does is only valid up to a point. If during World War II, we had spent most of our time criticizing the Allies rather than the Axis, that would have been unreasonable. When much of the world, including the Moslem world, is under attack by jihadists, who are at least as great a threat to peace as the U.S. is, it is a problem that Chomsky spends one percent of his time criticizing jihadism--and even when he does, he blames it on America.

    I think a lot of the debate over whose has more blood on their hands is people still desire some clear demarcation between the "good guys" from the "bad guys." Really just about everyone has some blood on their hands. People who use computers and other technologies are supporting large corporations and multi-national corporations. As long as you are on the grid, you are part of the problem. Yet it is also the only way to be part of solution. Seems to me that a lot of people approach geo-politics with this notion: the first group has a gallon of blood on their hands and this other group has a gallon and half on their hands, therefore, I will ignore the blood on the first group's hands.

    Trope's words are wise.

    8 classic Chomsky quotes:

    “in comparison to the conditions imposed by US tyranny and violence, East
    Europe under Russian rule was practically a paradise.”

    “[Regarding] Chinas actions in Tibet... it is a bit too simple to say that
    China did indeed take over a country that did not want to be taken over.’
    This is by no means the general view of Western scholarship.”

    “The United States and Britain fought the war, of course, but not primarily
    against Nazi Germany. The war against Nazi Germany was fought by the Russians."

    “Do we celebrate Pearl Harbor Day every year? It’s well understood that the
    Japanese attack on the colonial outposts of the United States, England, and Holland was in some respects highly beneficial to the people of Asia."

    “If there had been no resistance to the Japanese attack, they might not have
    turned to the horrifying atrocities that did ultimately turn many Asians against

    " For what it is worth, I think that he is right, and that the bombing of Nagasaki,
    in particular, was history’s most abominable experiment.” (channels Hal on this!)

    “[In Bosnia] there was one famous incident which has completely reshaped
    the Western opinion and that was the photograph of the thin man behind the barb-wire [at theTrnopolje camp]... the place was ugly, but it was a refugee camp, I mean, people could leave if they wanted...”

    Last but not least (drum roll).....:

    “MIT pays only thirty or forty per cent of my salary. The rest comes from other sources most of it from the Defense Department"

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