Culture, Politics

Manufacturing Dissent: An Anti-Chomsky Guide

Noam Chomsky is the Godol Hador of the libertarian left, and his expertise as a linguist is recognized even by his detractors.  The problems start when he ventures into fields outside of his expertise.  Chomksy frequently ventures into history, usually modern history.  Most diehard Chomsky fans are not history students themselves, nor do they realize that Chomsky is usually sidelined by historians, even leftist post-modern historians, because of his frequent errors in both fact and historiography.  Alleged inaccuracies are detailed specifically in this litany of challenges to Chomsky’s veracity.

16 thoughts on “Manufacturing Dissent: An Anti-Chomsky Guide

  1. This is such crap. I stopped reading the document after a few items.
    Arguing with Chomsky is an honorable exercise, which he himself would welcome. But expressing disagreement with his positions as ‘truth vs. lie’ is, at least, as propagandistic as Chomsky’s own efforts.
    Example: the arguments over how destructive Amerian imperialism has been when contrasted with Communist tyranny. There is no ‘answer’ that isn’t biased, because people, including historians, will argue over how large a circle to draw. Peasants starved to death in China and the USSR. How many deaths were de facto executions, and how many were victims of policy errors, natural disasters, and war? On the other hand, in analyzing US guilt, do we include our mass murder in the Phillipines? The propping up of friendly dictators in Africa and elsewhere? The murder of hundreds of thousands in Indonesia, after a US backed coup? The savagery in Bangladesh, after Kissinger gave his approval to Pakistan’s leaders? Each of this points can be argued either way, for better or worse.
    The piece is a character assassination of Chomsky, not an argument with his challenging ideas. Interestlingly, Chomsky is fending off attacks from his left flank these days. Anti-Zionists are complaining that his analysis doesn’t do justice to the nefarious power of the pro Israel lobby in US affairs. He contends (and I agree) that the success of the Israel lobby derives from how well it fits in with overall US imperial policy, and not a result of, basically, Jews secretly controlling US foreign policy.

  2. He has had critics from the antiwar movement, but they aren’t necessarily leftwing. is right wing Liberatarian, and is known to publish pro David Duke stuff. Dissident Voice promoted that fraud Israel Shamir for a long time, so I consider them shaky lefties too. I don’t think the first exaple should be closely linked to the later two. are honest right wing liberatarians. The other two have sneaky agendas in my view.

  3. i tried to interview chomsky for jewschool. he refused to answer my questions on the grounds that they were “morally repugnant” (because they humanized settlers) and then refused to allow me to publish his remarks.

  4. He “refused to allow me to publish his remarks?”
    What, he had a gun to your head? Don’t be such a wuss – publish his remarks.

  5. Recently Chomsky claimed some huge amount, maybe a quarter, of the IAF is now stationed in Turkey. An acquaintance wrote to him where he got this fact. He took it from the work of another scholar, from a midwestern college. This scholar’s citation was from the Debka file. Chomsky’s defense was that the fault for relying on a dubious, unverfiable source lay with this midwestern scholar, and his colleagues who peer-reviewed it before publication.
    Mobius, he refused to let you publish his remarks, but can you say what your question was that provoked that response?

  6. Dameocrat, that Blankfort piece was originally published on Left Curve, not Uruknet. Blankfort has worked for left causes for years, including labor, and has a show on Pacifica.

  7. you commented on Uruknet, after I posted a link from it. i just wanted to make it clear that wasn’t where Blankfort published it. the article is an interesting read.

  8. Sorry for delay. With a very relentless schedule, and 100 or so e-mails to answer every night, I have to put the huge flood of interview requests on the back burner. But, frankly, I can’t respond to these questions, even with time. Perhaps I can explain why with a few comments — not for publication.
    Noam Chomsky
    At 09:49 AM 12/6/2005, you wrote:
    > Thanks very much for getting back to me. I really do appreciate it.
    > My questions are kind of complex and I do think they would take some time to respond to. I don’t really want to rush you through an overseas telephone interview because I would like to get truly thoughtful answers from you. I understand you’re incredibly busy and I don’t want to take up too much of your time. But I think getting this out there — particularly through my publication specifically — could really do wonders for the present discourse on Israel within the Jewish community. Take your time as necessary. The questions follow. The first few are old hat, I’m sure, but for my audience, they’re still unanswered. Afterwards, they start to get progressively more interesting.
    > Whenever you have a chance to respond — if you can do a little at a time, even if it’s over the course of a month — that’s fine by me. Your undivided attention is worth waiting for — even if it’s in small divisions. 🙂
    > Thanks,
    > Dan Sieradski
    > 1) Your name cannot be mentioned in Jewish fora without at least one detractor claiming that you are a defender of Holocaust deniers. (I’m constantly having to refer my readers to a defense of you which I’ve published here: <>.) Having viewed the segment in the documentary “Manufacturing Consent” on the Robert Faurisson affair several times over, it seems obvious to me that you were in no way defending Faurisson’s work, but rather only his right to publish. While I ultimately agree with your defense of free speech, I wonder, do you think that the Faurisson affair was the best or wisest opportunity to stand for this cause? You have stated that those who deny the Holocaust lose their humanity. That being the case, why did you not choose to save your efforts for someone more humane and worthy, rather than risk the irreperable harm done to your reputation within, at least, the Jewish community?
    My total involvement in this was to join 500 others in a routine petition calling for defense of civil rights. I sign innumerable ones, mostly in far more contentious cases than this. When a collection of Paris intellectuals, who understand nothing about freedom of speech, claimed absurdly that this was a defense of F’s views, at the request of the originator of the petition (a well-known Southeast Asia scholar), I wrote a brief and embarrassingly trivial statement called “some elementary comments on the right of free expression.” After that, all I’ve done is respond, occasionally, to people who cannot comprehend truisms familiar since the Enlightenment, and who apparently believe that the way to honor the memory of the victims of the Holocaust is to adopt the doctrines of their murderers and of their Stalinist counterparts: that the State should have the right to determine Historical Truth and punish deviation from it. That’s precisely what was at stake, nothing more.
    As far as I was concerned, the affair was ended when I signed the petition, routinely. Period. The rest has been response to people who uphold the doctrines of Goebbels and Zhdanov, whether they understand it or not.
    There is, incidentally, another truism, familiar since the Enlightment, which I’ll quote from the famous Supreme Court case Near vs Minnesota: “”The rights of the best of men are secured only as the rights of the vilest and most abhorrent are protected.” Even Stalin and Hitler defended freedom of speech for views of which they approved.
    This has been said so often that I’m bored with trekking through these gutters.
    > 2) Another wretched remark often made by your Jewish detractors is that you are “self-hating.” In other words, it is implied that you are ashamed of being Jewish and therefore seek to appease the so-called “enemies of the Jewish people.” What is your Jewish identity and what do you consider to be your relationship to it? Are you in any way engaged with Judaism (religious study or observance) or Jewish culture in a way you would consider an expression of your identity? How do you feel, personally, when people make such remarks, and why do you believe they make them?
    Fortunately for me, I have a good Jewish education, so I’ve read the Bible, and know the origins of these remarks. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, it’s King Ahab, who denounced the Prophet Elijah as an “ocher Yisrael” (“hater of Israel”) because he condemned the acts of the evil king. I have no time to waste with people who choose to join the company of Ahab, the most vulgar Stalinist commissars (who condemned dissidents in the same terms), and others like them. Again, I’m not interested in trekking through these gutters.
    As for your questions, I’d respond to them in a civilized context; not this one.
    > 3) One of the criticisms levelled at you during your debate with Alan Dershowitz was that you “single Israel out.” Frankly, I saw this as Dershowitz’s way of making you a symbol of academia’s relative hostility towards Israel. To me, it is obvious that a Jewish man who was raised the son of a Hebraicist and a member of a Zionist youth movement would pay special attention to Israel. However, it is true also that this special focus makes much less sense for others who are neither Jewish, Israeli, Muslim nor Palestinian. What do you believe accounts for your focus on Israel? Do you think you neglect other areas which are more troubling than Israel, like Sudan presently, or is your gaze fixed where it ought to be? Also, what do you think accounts for the world’s obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
    Like any American citizen who understands moral truisms, my focus is, primarily, on the US. For any such person, Israel would be a prime focus because of US government support for Israeli government policies, which is completely unprecedented in history or the world scene. But for me personally, I happen to care about Israel, and therefore there is a special reason. Again, I don’t even feel like responding to such question, because of the evident context from which they arise.
    “The world’s obsession with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is a paranoid fabrication of supporters of Israeli expansionism and crimes. Similarly, supporters of crimes of Serbia, Syria, etc., ask about the world’s obsession with them. What is remarkable is the extent to which Israel gets a free ride. True, there is plenty of coverage of Israel, much to its delight, overwhelmingly positive and overlooking its crimes, along with bitter condemnation of Palestinians. It takes real chutzpah to pose the issues this way.
    > 4) I will take for granted your belief in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. That, however, does not necessarily imply an automatic right to statehood. The Bund, for example, strongly supported the exercise of Jewish self-determination, though one which was delinked from territoriality and nationalism. Do you believe that ethnic nationalism of any form is justifiable? Ie., do you believe that any ethnic group has the right to statehood if they so determine? What about the Jewish people specifically? Is Israel a special case?
    As a Zionist youth leader in the 1940s, I was opposed to a Jewish state — a position well within the Zionist movement at the time. Since the state was established, I have taken for granted that it should have the rights of any state in the international system, no less, no more. As for your general question, I think the nation-state system is an abomination, which has caused enormous harm, and should be dissolved everywhere. But that is an entirely different matter. I don’t see any point even in raising the question of Israel in this connection.
    > 5) In terms of Israel, as it stands, the “ideal” — so far as it relates to human rights and international law — would be to have a bi-national state in which Jews and Arabs were equal citizens with full civil and democratic rights. (The ultimate ideal, obviously, would be to have full civil and democratic rights for all peoples in every nation of the world.) However, the looming spectre of antisemitism, both real and imagined, puts into play various demographic concerns. As is often stated, an Arab majority would jeopardize the Jewish character of Israel and thus the nation’s status as the “refuge and defender” of the Jewish people. Further, with years of bitter animosity between the Israelis and the Palestinians thoroughly engrained, the immediate security of both peoples would be jeopardized were “the walls” to come down now. Whether or not this perspective is one to which we adhere, it is the perspective of far too many Jews for it to be ignored. Thus, it would seem that Israel must exist if only to placate the fears of this sizeable majority. Is this why you support the two-state solution?
    Such questions simply evade the concrete and immediate reality of what Israel is doing, thanks to overwhelming US support, in the territories under military occupation — doing illegally, as by now should be uncontroversial, as well as horrifying. It isn’t attractive, to put it mildly, to evade those issues by raising questions about potential threats to those wearing the jackboots. In the right context, those questions could be raised. But the context isn’t here, so I can’t respond.
    I don’t understand why you ask whether I support the two-state solution — as I’ve been doing, very publicly, for over 30 years, and still do. The fact that the question is even raised reflects the very strange atmosphere that has been created by jingoist extremists, to whom easily verifiable facts are irrelevant.
    > 6) I believe you once remarked that the views you hold on Israel that have been deemed “anti-Zionist” were once considered part-and-parcel of “liberal Zionism.” What has changed in the last 60 years that has recast heartfelt concern for Israel’s behavior as attacks against Israel’s “right to exist?” Frankly my question is, how did the brownshirts win?
    The brownshirts didn’t win. Founding of Israel in 1948 was not an act of brownshirts. Not accepting the assumptions, I can’t respond to the question.
    > 7) In my travels throughout Israel, the most fascinating experiences I’ve had were the times I spent visiting Jewish settlements in the West Bank. I was awestruck to discover how anarchistically these communities operate — particularly the illegal outposts — and just how truly radical their inhabitants are. On both the local (neighborhood) and regional (council) level, community actions are decided upon through direct democratic participation and consensus-based decision making; there is effectively no burdern of government; civil services are independently contracted; and many of these communities have directed themselves towards becoming more self-sustaining and ecologically sound. For the most part, the settlers themselves (many of whom are American ex-pats and former hippies and activists) consider themselves to be anarchists, opposed to the actions (and even the very existence) of the state of Israel, and claim that their only desire is to live a Torah-observant life in the ancient biblical land of Israel. I’ve come to call them the “Jewjihadeen.” What do you make of these characters and the communities they’ve created? Do you at all see the spirit of the dearly departed kibbutz (z”tl) alive at all in these ventures, despite how politically incorrect (to say the very least) they might be?
    I cannot comment. I’ve watched the settlers — including those from Brooklyn — in Hebron and elsewhere. It’s a disgrace to all of us. If some foreign country were to conquer the US, devastate the society, carve up the country, and place settlements somewhere that happened to be anarchistic in internal structure, I wouldn’t applaud.
    > 8) On that note — and this is my final question — a recent thread on my personal website,, took an interesting turn when a gentleman named Yaakov posted the following remarks. His comments are followed by an excerpt from an essay which appeared in Green Anarchy, a journal of anti-civilizational anarchism. The basic theme is, if anarchism is truly for self-determination, then it should embrace tribalism. I was wondering if you could remark on this very provoking subject. In terms of the “imaginative ideas” demanded of you from the Zionist crowd at the Dershowitz debate, this seems like very interesting terrain. Essentially the question is — what might the no-state solution look like? Jewish and Arab tribal reservations?
    I don’t think it is interesting. There are very simple short-term solution: accept the international consensus of the past 30 years. A good approximation is the Taba negotiations that Israel called off, and the Geneva accord that followed. Not perfect, but certainly a good basis for a just short-term peace. Those who are calling for “imaginative ideas” are simply seeking to disguise their support for brutal and destructive policies that are utterly shameful. I don’t see any reason to play their game.
    The remainder is about different topics, worth discussing, but not in this context.
    > Yaakov wrote:
    > To call Jewish Nationalism a “religious nationalism” shows an inherent Western liberal (and inherently Christian) bias in your analysis of the socio-political realities of Jewish history. What you refer to as Jewish nationalism would more accurately be discussed in the framework of tribalism.
    > A true “Jewish nationalism,” as well as a Palestinian nationalism as put forth by organizations such as the ISM are equally inauthentic. Look at the problems in Iraq right now. It will never be governable, because the concept of Iraqi nationalism is inauthentic. Tribalism is much more organic in both Arab and Jewish contexts. Nationalism as a conceptual paradigm was imported from (or forced upon by) Europe.
    > You view Judaism as a religion. This is fine. You were probably raised in the Western world (as were most readers of this fine blog… no problem with that). Christianity introduced the concept of “religion” as such to the world: “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21) This idea of “religion” was made inherent in the Western liberal world-view. Religion is concept entirely foreign to traditional Judaism and Islam, and to most of the Middle East in general. Religion is what you do on Sundays. Religion governs your relationship with God. Judaism and Islam is what a Jew or Muslim does 24/7. The concept of “religion” is actually quite difficult to translate into Arabic.
    > The Western concept of nationalism governs the political/public sphere, and the concept of religion governs the spiritual sphere of individual and community life. Judaism and Islam are not divided in this sense. They govern the public/political sphere, the private sphere, the spiritual sphere, the economic, the food, the dress, the sex, etc…
    > Judaism, historically (and I’m not talking about a few generations of history in the ghettos of Europe, I’m talking about the entire spectrum, from Abraham to you and me) has exhibited tribalism. The Palestinians have as well. European introduction of the concept of nationalism has muddied the waters of the Middle East to no end, and the result is individuals who validate Palestinian nationalism and invalidate Jewish nationalism, when both are, in fact, tribalisms, and both are equally valid.
    > To suggest an “Israeli” nationality to replace Jewish and Palestinian tribalism stink of Western liberal imperialism. It would be to force a framework of social organization foreign to the region onto these two indigenous peoples.
    > From Green Anarchy:
    > Indigenous people in general and North American native people specifically have not taken too kindly to the term anarchist up until this point. There have been a few notable exceptions (Rob los Ricos, Zig Zag, and myself among them) but the general take is exemplified by Ward Churchill’s line “I share many anarchist values like opposition to the State but–” Which begs the question why aren’t more native people interested in anarchism?
    > The most obvious answer to this question is that anarchism is part of a European tradition so far outside of the mainstream that it isn’t generally interesting (or accessible) to non-westerners. This is largely true but is only part of the answer. Another part of an answer can be seen in the surprisingly large percentage of anarchists who hold that race doesn’t matter; that it is, at best, a tool used to divide us (by the Man) and at worst something that will devolve society into tribalism [sic]. Outside of whether there are any merits to these arguments (which I believe stand by themselves) is the violation of two principles that have not been discussed in detail up until this point – self-determination and radical decentralization.
    > Self-determination should be read as the desire for people who are self-organized (whether by tradition, individual choice, or inclination) to decide how they want to live with each other. This may seem like common sense, and it is, but it is also consistently violated by people who believe that their value system supersedes that of those around them. The question that anarchists of all stripes have to answer for themselves is whether they are capable of dealing with the consequences of other people living in ways they find reprehensible.
    > Radical decentralization is a probable outcome to most anarchist positions. There are very few anarchists (outside of Parecon) that believe that an anarchist society will have singular answers to politics, economy, or culture. More than a consequence, the principle of radical decentralization means it is preferable for there to be no center.
    > If anarchists are not able to apply the principles of self-determination to the fact that real living and breathing people do identify within racial and cultural categories and that this identification has consequences in terms of dealing with one another can we be shocked that native people (or so-called people of color) lack any interest in cohabitating? Furthermore if anarchists are unable to see that the consequence of their own politic includes the creation of social norms and cultures that they would not feel comfortable in, in a truly decentralized social environment, what hope do they have to deal with the people with whom they don’t feel comfortable today?
    > The answer is that these anarchists do not expect to deal with anyone outside of their understanding of reality. They expect reality to conform to their subjective understanding of it.
    > This problem extends to the third reason that native people lack interest in anarchism. Like most political tendencies anarchism has come up with a distinct language, cadence, and set of priorities. The tradition of these distinctions is what continues to bridge the gap between many of the anarchist factions that have very little else in common. This tradition is not a recruiting tradition. There is only a small evangelical tradition within anarchism. It is largely an inscrutable tradition outside of itself.
    > This isn’t a problem outside of itself. The problem is that it is coupled with the arrogance of the educated along with the worst of radical politics’ excesses. This is best seen in the distinction that continues to be made of a discrete tradition of anarchism from actions that are anarchistic. Anarchists would like to have it both ways. They would like to see their tradition as being both a growing and vital one along with being uncompromising and deeply radical. Since an anarchist society would be such a break from what we experience in this world, it would be truly different. It is impossible to perceive any scenario that leads from here to there. There is no path.
    > The anarchist analysis of the Zapatistas is a case in point. Anarchists have understood that it was an indigenous struggle, that it was armed and decentralized but habitually temper their enthusiasm with warnings about a) valorizing Subcommandante Marcos, b) the differences between social democracy and anarchism, c) the problems with negotiating with the State for reforms, etc. etc. These points are valid and criticism is not particularly the problem. What is the problem is that anarchist criticism is generally more repetitive than it is inspired or influential. Repetitive criticisms are useful in getting every member of a political tendency on the same page. Criticism helps us understand the difference between illusion and reality. But the form that anarchist criticism has taken about events in the world is more useful in shaping an understanding of what real anarchists believe than what the world is.
    > As long as the arbiters of anarchism continue to be the wielders of the Most Appropriate CritiqueTM then anarchism will continue to be an isolated sect far removed from any particularly anarchistic events that happen in the world. This will continue to make the tendency irrelevant for those people who are interested in participating in anarchistic events.
    I can’t even respond to these questions. They are based on presuppositions that I do not accept, and that beg all sorts of questions. Take the first words: that I mix the ideal with the practical. So does every sane person, on every topic. Take the second: that I am not against Israel specifically. What on earth is that supposed to mean? The rest is the same. What stage do I share? Etc. I might expect questions like these from some fanatic supporter of Syria or Iran, but I don’t have time to waste in such circles.
    The second one might be discussed, but not in this context, which is simply morally depraved.
    At 04:50 PM 12/6/2005, you wrote:
    > Hi Professor Chomsky,
    > My friend Jay publishes a Jewish journal called Zeek which is interested in carrying the story in print. He looked over my questions, raised some valid points, and brought up two questions of his own which I think are also very relevant and was hoping you could respond to as well.
    > Again, take your time, and thanks very much.
    > 1) It’s been suggested that one reason your critics respond as they do is that
    > you mix the ideal with the practical. On the one hand, you’ve said that
    > you’re not against Israel specifically, your against nation-states
    > generally. This is fine, but then you share a stage with people who really
    > are against Israel specifically, for political or ideological reasons. Do
    > you think you really have common cause with people like ANSWER, and doesn’t
    > your participation in such forums legitimate the criticism against you?
    > Moreover, even if anarchism should happen somewhere, surely Israel is not
    > the best laboratory for it, given the conflict in the region and the recent
    > history of the Jews. I understand that you support a two-state solution.
    > But to many, it seems that your policy recommendations stem not from that
    > underlying premise but from your true foundational belief that nationalism
    > and statehood is wrong, no matter where it is practices. Why should anyone
    > who does believe that states are generally good, and that Israel is
    > specifically good, listen to what you have to say, given such divergent
    > fundamental premises?
    > 2) I’m wondering if there was any moment in your education/childhood when, like
    > when Huck Finn decides he’ll go to hell rather than betray Jim, you had a
    > birth of conscience, when you suddenly saw that the ethical system you’d
    > been brought up in was itself unethical.

  9. and his expertise as a linguist is recognized even by his detractors.
    Actually, Linguistics theorists are frequently divided between Chomskyites, who think he’s the greatest thing since vocal chords, and Anti-Chomskyites, who think everything he’s ever said is a load of poo.

  10. His responses are kind of weird in some places. Like when you ask why the discourse on Zionism has shifted to exclude his former position – that’s clearly a sympathetic framing of the question, but he dodged it by making your creative phrasing into a premise with which he disagreed. He also wrote that he didn’t understand why you were asking him “whether” he supported the two-state solution when in fact you were asking him “why” he did. Weird.

  11. Still I don’t think the exchange was testy as you made it out to be. Sure he has no appreciations of the anarchism of the settlers because of their role in oppressing the Palestinians, but very few on left do.
    I think he simply assumed you were a right winger, once you started talking about them. Your view is unusual. I have observed before that you are between the satmars and the chabad. Maybe you should have explained this to him.
    Also, I confess to being sick of hippies turned apocalyptics. In this country they are definately a major force in the evangelical right and it appears they are a major presents in the settlements. I think this is the unfortunate consequence of their escapist tendencies, and it isn’t sustainable view. I don’t want the driver to be a drunk, and I don’t want my leaders to be apocalyptics.

  12. Still I don’t think the exchange was testy as you made it out to be. Sure he has no appreciation of the anarchism of the settlers because of their role in oppressing the Palestinians, but very few on left do.
    I think he simply assumed you were a right winger, once you started talking about them. Your view is unusual. I have observed before that you are between the satmars and the chabad. Maybe you should have explained this to him.
    Also, I confess to being sick of hippies turned apocalyptics. In this country they are definately a major force in the evangelical right and it appears they are a major force in the settlements. I think this is the unfortunate consequence of their escapist tendencies, and it isn’t sustainable view. I don’t want the driver to be a drunk, and I don’t want my leaders to be apocalyptics.

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