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Tilting at Windmills

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January 9, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

QUESTION OF THE DAY....Assertion: Roughly speaking, when it comes to questions of military force and foreign military interventions, Bill Kristol is about as far to the extreme right as Noam Chomsky is to the extreme left. What's more, they both have about the same affect (sober and clinical), they have clear ideologies that they follow consistently and predictably, and they both dress nicely. In fact, they are pretty close to being mirror images.

Question: Is this correct? Why or why not?

Kevin Drum 4:27 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (195)

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Comments


i hate to answer a question with a question...

but..

did anyone in power ever listen to chomsky?

the gop previously in power appeared to listen to kristol?

Posted by: mr. irony on January 9, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

this is correct. but the difference between them is that kristol has a very visible platform. chomsky took 30 years to build was he's got and he only has fringe lefties like me/us who read him.

Posted by: Marc on January 9, 2007 at 8:07 PM | PERMALINK

Don't know.

But I do know this:

Putting Bush in charge of anything is like putting screen doors on a submarine.

Question:

Why hasn't this no-good-nik been impeached?
WTF are you people waiting for?

This guy is a professional fuckup....

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on January 9, 2007 at 8:08 PM | PERMALINK

One might add that Chomsky is often right and Kristol is always, always wrong, and not only that, but recklessly, catastrophically wrong.

Posted by: captcrisis on January 9, 2007 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

Is this correct? Why or why not?

Close, but no. Chomsky actually seems to not like this country. The flipside would be someone that loves this country too much. Kristol loves war and talking about war. In fact, he probably loves it more than he loves his own children.

Chomsky isn't not completely anti-war in the sense that he will forgive the violence committed by America's enemies (see places like Cuba).

Also, Chomsky isn't on your TV everday. And Chomsky actually looks like a male.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on January 9, 2007 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

The difference is that Chomsky has contributed positively to our world and Kristol is a disingenuous bag of crap. Even if you ignore Chomsky's controversal politics, his Chomsky Hierarchy of phrase structured grammars is fundamental to modern computer science. Meanwhile, Kristol is useless.

Posted by: Monkey on January 9, 2007 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

A couple of differences. Chomsky has academic bona fides. He has developed perhaps the most important theory of language acquisition in history. It is rational, apolitical (as a matter of fact it goes against his politics) and cohesive. Kristol has done nothing to show this type of accomplishment. As a matter of fact Bill Kristol has accomplished pretty much nothing.

Second, Chomsky accepts that his political views are on the margin. He does not impose them on others. Bill Kriston tries to make the argument that his views are innately good and that they are part of mainstream thought.

Third Chomsky is consistent. He argues for his position and not for an individual. If the individual is not following his position he will abandon the individual.

Fourth Chomsky is rational. Read his positions - you might not agree, but they are not based in emotion they are based in rational thought. Kristol, while speaking in a sober fashion, often times resorts to emotional arguments and ad hominem attacks. People confuse style with substance too often.

Posted by: Wilbur on January 9, 2007 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

In fact, they are pretty close to being mirror images.

Yep. Have to agree with you on this one. Another mirror image: Kristol is usually right which Chomsky is usually wrong! Snicker.

Al

Posted by: Da Al on January 9, 2007 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

20,000 troops more...

Question:

Is there one reporter with balls enough to ask our resident shithole Fascist why his twins aren't in the vanguard?

Posted by: ROTFLMLiberalAO on January 9, 2007 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

No this is not correct.

Bill Kristol is treated with respect and listened to by politicians and media persons.

Noam Chomsky is treated as a clown and his opinions are automatically discounted. Chomsky's function to the right wing is to discredit liberals (Democrats) as a whole. Chomsky's function to the left is to be a convenient punching bag, easy to denounce, in order to prove that you're not a damn dirty hippie feminazi PC liberal.

Posted by: tweez on January 9, 2007 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

The big difference I see, Chomsky is a serious person and thinker. Kristol is an unserious, partisan, hack. Another case of the scion of an old-money, Northeastern "conservative", leading the country down a rat hole.

Posted by: bigcat on January 9, 2007 at 8:16 PM | PERMALINK

I think in degree that sounds about right.

Chomsky is the only person that I can think of that occupies the actual 'far left', as opposed to the imaginary 'far left' where John Kerry resides.

In terms of media representation, one of the odd things about living in Argentina was seeing what actual 'liberal media' looked like, as opposed to imaginary 'liberal media' where the NY Times resides.

Posted by: Saam Barrager on January 9, 2007 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, really!

This is the kind of thing lazy MSM pundits write. You should know better.

Posted by: tyronen on January 9, 2007 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I do not go back to school until the 17th, therefore I will not be participating in any non-credit compare and contrast exercises. Y'all enjoy, tho.

(But I did meet Noam Chomsky 20 years ago at a colloquium when I was a TA for Dr. Clay Robarchek, a pretty prominent anthropologist. He does not come across as a flake. He is a very thoughtful and rational person. My son is a grad student in linguisics, and Chomsky is one of the few people he doesn't snort at.)

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 9, 2007 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

LOL! Trying to compare Bill Kristol, one of the most revered thinkers in the country, with Gnome Chompsky - world class America hater and terrorist enabler. This guy would sell his own mother up the river if it meant he could destroy America.

I see a lot of you guys here praising Chompsky and denigrading Krisol. Says a lot.

Posted by: egbert on January 9, 2007 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol if fucking insane but always appears on TV.

Chomsky is rational and right and is never on TV.

Posted by: angryspittle on January 9, 2007 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Well, if you look at Iraq as Bill Kristol's biggest pet project, and Iraq as Chomsky's admonition of disaster, the answer is pretty easy.

Bill Kristol is an unpatriotic, anti-Constitution traitor, and wrong about the war.

Naom Chomsky is a realist, and right about the war.

Bill Kristol loves war.

Chomsky loves the truth

Let's face it, these are difficult time sfor weingnuts. The war just keeps showing how wrong they are on foreign policy.

Chomsky is smarter than any wingnut around.

That said, go on armchair generals and otherwise cowardly chickenhawks: have at it.

Posted by: maccabee on January 9, 2007 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Egbert you fuckwit,

Kristol has been fucking wrong about about every fucking thing under the goddamned fucking sun you stupid sonofabitch.

Are you fucking blind?

Posted by: angryspittle on January 9, 2007 at 8:25 PM | PERMALINK

It's not quite correct to put Chomsky on the far left of a one-dimensional line. He's a left-libertarian, distrustful of states in general.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 9, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Yep. Have to agree with you on this one. Another mirror image: Kristol is usually right which Chomsky is usually wrong! Snicker.
Al

Yeah, that's exactly how things have gone:

    2001: The events of 9/11 created a historic opportunity for Kristol and his editors. Within days of the attacks, the Standard had already identified Saddam Hussein as a principal culprit for the violence.

    On September 11, 2002, as the Bush administration began its sales campaign for the coming war, Kristol suggested that Saddam Hussein could do more harm to the United States than al Qaeda had: "we cannot afford to let Saddam Hussein inflict a worse 9/11 on us in the future."

    On September 15, 2002, he claimed that inspection and containment could not work with Saddam: "No one believes the inspections can work." Actually, UN inspectors believed they could work. So, too, did about half of congressional Democrats. They were right.

    On September 18, 2002, Kristol opined that a war in Iraq "could have terrifically good effects throughout the Middle East."


    On November 21, 2002, he maintained, "we can remove Saddam because that could start a chain reaction in the Arab world that would be very healthy."

    On February 2, 2003, he claimed that Secretary of State Colin Powell at an upcoming UN speech would "show that there are loaded guns throughout Iraq" regarding weapons of mass destruction. As it turned out, everything in Powell's speech was wrong. Kristol was uncritically echoing misleading information handed him by friends and allies within the Bush administration.

    On February 20, 2003, he summed up the argument for war against Saddam: "He's got weapons of mass destruction. At some point he will use them or give them to a terrorist group to use...Look, if we free the people of Iraq we will be respected in the Arab world....France and Germany don't have the courage to face up to the situation. That's too bad. Most of Europe is with us. And I think we will be respected around the world for helping the people of Iraq to be liberated."

    On March 1, 2003, Kristol dismissed concerns that sectarian conflict might arise following a US invasion of Iraq: "We talk here about Shiites and Sunnis as if they've never lived together. Most Arab countries have Shiites and Sunnis, and a lot of them live perfectly well together." He also said, "Very few wars in American history were prepared better or more thoroughly than this one by this president." And he maintained that the war would be a bargain at $100 to $200 billion. The running tab is now nearing half a trillion dollars.

    On March 5, 2003, Kristol said, "I think we'll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction and when we liberate the people of Iraq."

    Such vindication never came. Kristol was mistaken about the justification for the war, the costs of the war, the planning for the war, and the consequences of the war. That's a lot for a pundit to miss. In his columns and statements about Iraq, Kristol displayed little judgment or expertise. He was not informing the public; he was whipping it. He turned his wishes into pronouncements and helped move the country to a mismanaged and misguided war that has claimed the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians. That's not journalism.

    In an effectively functioning market of opinion-trading, Kristol's views would be relegated to the bargain basement. And he ought to be doing penance, not penning columns for Time. But -- fortunate for him -- the world of punditry is a rather imperfect marketplace.

Posted by: cyntax on January 9, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

To summarize most of the comments, differences are (independent of opinions of either guy)

1. visibility / access to decision-makers
2. academic accomplishments vs. family name

Personally, I would guess that most liberals would place Chomsky further to their extreme than conservatives would likewise do with Kristol.

I really don't understand why Kevin is asking this question. Is it a tease for an upcoming post? If so, could it be on any other topic than press visibilty?

Posted by: tokorode on January 9, 2007 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kristol has been profoundly and fundamentally wrong about the war from the very beginning.

Chomsky has been profoundly and fundamentally right about the war from the very beginning.

And Egbert if a fucking moron if he can't admit that.

Posted by: angryspittle on January 9, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Bush has succeeded in making Chomsky look good.

Posted by: John Emerson on January 9, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

I know Chomsky (slightly). Compared to Kristol, he is orders of magnitude more intelligent, informed about his subject matter and morally based in his arguments. He is also known to wear blue jeans.

Posted by: Joe on January 9, 2007 at 8:28 PM | PERMALINK

Chomsky is generally focused on reframing data into an alternative, radically skeptical and sometimes paranoid frame. His linguistics perspective seems to manifest itself in an awareness of how arbitrary are the connections between the terminology we employ and the underlying signifieds it claims to represent. I recall the first time I heard him speak, in the late '80s, was also the first time I heard anyone make the argument that Israel and the US were the world's chief practitioners of terrorism. It was an argument that for various reasons still seems frivolous and deeply wrong, but was interesting to hear for the first time, just to hear him rework the underlying data of directed political violence into an accusation against us, not them.

Kristol isn't a linguist; he's the kind of guy who has an almost obscene faith in the ability of labels to represent absolutely the things underlying them. Sunni insurgents = Al-Qaeda = Islamofascists = Hitler, hence withdrawal from Iraq = abandoning the Sudetenland. He represents the prickly, offended absolutist strain that responds with fury to the idea that its received ideas contain paradoxes or fail to fit the world.

If Chomsky predictably veers towards the most anti-business, anti-capitalist, anti-US government (which is NOT the same as anti-American) views, it's because he's in the habit of reflexively turning the dominant social narrative inside out. That's a different attitude towards the world than the one of the defensive, offended representative of the dominant order, which Kristol assumes.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 9, 2007 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

angryspittle nails it entirely.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on January 9, 2007 at 8:39 PM | PERMALINK

The difference is that Chomsky sustains his ideology with a continuous stream of falsehoods, distortions, deliberate omissions and unsubstantiated assertions, whereas Kristol does not need to do this.

Posted by: a on January 9, 2007 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

Chomsky is violently anti-American, whereas Kristol is basically patriotic. If liberals like Kevin Drum plan to position themselves between these two extremes, they are going to lose every election from now until the final destruction of the United States (which may be some time). That sort of moral equivalence between anti-Americanism and patriotism may be objectively true (if you believe in that objective truth stuff), it may be the will of God (if you believe in that will of God stuff), but it sure doesn't sell.

Posted by: sean on January 9, 2007 at 8:41 PM | PERMALINK

Chomsky is not nearly as far left as Kristol is right. Chomsky doesn't advocate nationalizing oil companies, does he? But Kristol advocates privatizing all kinds of publicly owned or operated things. Chomsky doesn't advocate confiscating the property of the rich, but Kristol advocates not taxing the rich or corporations.

But here is the big difference:

Kristol is on TV and other mainstream media all the time, Chomsky is banned. If you think banned is too strong a word, tell me why he is never, ever, ever, ever seen anywhere in the MSM.

Posted by: Dave Johnson on January 9, 2007 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

It has been said above but is worth restating, Chomsky has never had any real pull on the "realpolitik". But, somehow, Kristol has been publishing the Weekly Standard, chairmanning the PNACnuts, and promoting the AEI idiots, all with support from the Heritage Foundation, and appearing in print, radio and television with monotonous regularity.

Some liberal biased media, huh!

Chomsky has never risen on my reading horizon, and most USians would think me pink, at least. Kristol continuously intrudes as an incompetent fake intellectual, one or two degrees below George Will, who I also rank fairly lowly, neither of whom have any grasp on the real world or the actual effect of their prescriptions.

The right basicaly live in their cacoon. I would compare that to France in 1780s, or Russia in 1910s.

I disclaim any desire to see blood.

But they are raking it all in right now.

Posted by: notthere on January 9, 2007 at 8:44 PM | PERMALINK

Correct.

Why? Neither one will ever waffle about what they think is right (whether they are, or not). They are mirror opposites in that Kristol believes that the U.S. can never use enough military power to achieve the objectives he perceives as best for our national security. The more, the better. More invasions, more air strikes, etc. Chomsky believes that less military intervention works better. Less, some disengagement, and then less.

Funny how the media is so much more warm to Billy. Billy wears a nice suit and is militant, and the Noamster passive and frumpy.

Posted by: FuzzFinger on January 9, 2007 at 8:48 PM | PERMALINK

Those who say Chomsky is anti-American, prove it.

Show me the I hate America quote from Chomsky or stop lying.

Posted by: AkaDad on January 9, 2007 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Most of what I know about Kristol comes indirectly from what filters through about him on lefty blogs, so my perspective may be biased, but he has always struck me as fundamentally a hack. He may be consistently more hawkish than anyone else around, but I can't recall him advocating hawkish policies that he thought would be electoral suicide for Republicans.

A more interesting comparison might be Chomsky and Cheney. Both exert a lot of intellectual energy developing and rationalizing ideas that fly in the face of common sense, and they share a preternatural blindness to countervailing arguments.

Posted by: Andy McLennan on January 9, 2007 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Wilbur hits it most comprehensively. Also the "scion" point is quite important; his dad Irving Kristol was one of a core of "New York intellectuals" who would become liberal hawks (and then neocons) over at the Partisan Review and later the Manhattan Institute. Thank goodness Chris Buckley only became a satirist, right? :)

Wilbur also notes important that Chomsky's structural linquistics, with which he made his bones at MIT, is in an important way divorced from his politics. Because it presupposes hardwired structures in the brain to learn language, it weighs on the rationalist side of the rationalist/empiricist debate, and undermines the Lockean idea of the mind as a blank slate -- an idea beloved of would-be world-changers across the political spectrum.

The weirdest usage of structural lingustics I've seen was in Leonard Bernstein's Harvard lectures, where he tried to use it to trash atonality and 12 tone systems of composition. Since every culture in the world has a folk music based on a tonal hierarchy, Bernstein tried to argue that tonality was hardwired into the brain the way languages are.

Agree or disagree -- that's a profoundly conservative argument.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 9, 2007 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

I doubt that any of the anti-Chomsky bots here know anything about him. They're mostly just recycling second-hand smears.

Posted by: John Emerson on January 9, 2007 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

The obvious difference that no one seems to have mentioned is that Chomsky became famous because of the linguistic theories he developed, while Kristol became well known because his mother is an interesting, if usually wrong, contrarian thinker. Reading Himmelfarb one not infrequently feels awkward about one's own easy assumptions, if seldom prepared to convert to her somewhat idiosyncratic point of view. Her son has nothing but an increasingly self-indulgent point of view. Also, Himmelfarb has had a serious academic career, while junior has only the resentment that comes from not having attempted a career that he probably didn't have the talent for but opting to think it was because his ideas were unpopular whereas they are in fact only sloppy.

Posted by: Gene O'Grady on January 9, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Friend of mine got her PhD in linguistics at UMass in the '80s. The enitire department from Chair on down would go to MIT every week to hear Chomsky lecture. As far as I can understand these these things, he is to linguistics what Heisenberg or Einstein were to physics.
Bill Kristol is the well-connected son of two prominent neo-conservatives.

Posted by: davids on January 9, 2007 at 9:01 PM | PERMALINK

Well, Noam is pretty predictable when it comes to America's foreign policy -- America is bad. Chomsky is more extreme than even his supporters realize. His ideal society is the anarchists' in Barcelona during the Spanish civil war. Way too far for me. Mine is more or less any western European country. Or Canada.

This pinko lefty is more into Krugman than Chomsky.

Posted by: abe on January 9, 2007 at 9:02 PM | PERMALINK

Also, Chomsky isn't on your TV everday.

One great and certainly unanticipated advantage of having Netflix is that one gets the opportunity to view a scad of non MSM documentaries and foreign films.

Having heard of but never read Chomsky, I decided to checkout one of his dvds. After a couple of discs I realized that it was totally impossible to doze on the sofa while listening to them, no matter how tired I was. His presentations were so packed with content, much of it revelatory, that within a couple minutes I always had to get up and start writing down arguments, his and mine.

This lead me to purchasing 'The Chomsky Reader', a series of essays from over the decades. The essays are sublime adventures in rationality and altered states of perspective. I am disappointed that Chomsky doesnt offer a utopian vision(Is that supreme rationality or cowardice?), but he certainly handles an intellectual scalpel well when attacking the positions of all major parties.

Posted by: Michael7843853 G-O in 08! on January 9, 2007 at 9:04 PM | PERMALINK

Sure they are similar in style and in the form of their thinking. But the better question is which ideological perspective is more sensible, more true or more moral. Keep in mind also that radical perspectives ought not be discounted for being as such, since seemingly unconventional ideas can sometimes capture a fuller picture of the world.

Posted by: babell on January 9, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

I have to disagree on the question of affect. Chomsky is reliably chilly, whereas Kristol is very easily rattled, and often shows fear or anger.

Kristol loves war and talking about war. In fact, he probably loves it more than he loves his own children.

Too bloody right. In fact, he's in the process of sending his firstborn off to the wars. Very Abrahamic of him, or it would be if Kristol weren't utterly secular -- which he's too much of a weasel to admit.

Posted by: penalcolony on January 9, 2007 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

This person:

http://www.paulbogdanor.com/100chomskylies.pdf

took the time to document one hundred of Chomsky's lies (definitely a subset).

Note that many of these lies are not small matters of interpretation or of fluffed footnoting. They are major lies, the refutation of which usually invalidates or even negates the main thesis which Chomsky is in the process of attempting to substantiate.

Posted by: am on January 9, 2007 at 9:17 PM | PERMALINK

Show me the I hate America quote from Chomsky or stop lying.

I've only read one Chomsky book myself, although I've seen him on TV and heard him on the radio. I actually liked the book, but toward the end I just got this feeling that he was bending himself in a pretzel trying to blame all the world's problems on this country. I don't think he hates this country...Just that he doesn't particularly like it all that much. There is a difference.

Bill Kristol is a squishy little man that dreams about raining bombs on other people's heads. His paeons to patriotism are just a cheap line designed to get in America's pants. Stroking wingnut egos is just a means to an end with slime like him.

Oh, and he is a closet homosexual. Sorry Mrs. Kristol.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on January 9, 2007 at 9:20 PM | PERMALINK

Michael-digits:

I think that's because, as others have noted, that Chomsky is at bottom (like so many intellectual critics of his generation) a radical (small-"l") libertarian who distrusts concentrations of power, whether they be the state or corporate institutions. An ideology like that's not amenable to utopian dreaming, at least not while staying on the left (libertarian utopian dreamers become radical anti-staters and Randian Libertarians).

In this sense, Chomsky's politics resemble Frank Zappa's or Thomas Pynchon's -- two of my favorite people of that generation in the arts world.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 9, 2007 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Isn't Chomsky the dude who Good Will Hunting respected, in the movie? Or was that Howard Zinn? Same guy, basically...

Posted by: nikkolai on January 9, 2007 at 9:24 PM | PERMALINK

nikkolai:

No, Howard Zinn is a social historian. Chomsky -- though steeped in historical arguments -- would be closer to a radical political scientist.

The dude who really systematizes Chomsky's ideas in Manufacturing Consent into a theory of state legitimation is the German postwar Frankfurt School sociologist, Jurgen Habermas.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 9, 2007 at 9:27 PM | PERMALINK

Or was that Howard Zinn?

Wasn't Howard Zinn a bombardier in WWII? And a civil rights activist/historian? Chomsky is an intellectual first and last, which makes him more like Kristol.

Posted by: enozinho (wetorture.com) on January 9, 2007 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

And Egbert if a fucking moron if he can't admit that.

Egbert is a troll. he says stupid annoying shit simply to get under your skin.

Posted by: cleek on January 9, 2007 at 9:35 PM | PERMALINK

cleek:

Egbert is also the name of a brain-damaged kitten my sister had when she was 12 when our cat gave birth.

Damn li'l sucker used to walk straight into walls ...

Which is why, of course, I supress a chuckle whenever I see an egbert post (he of "dignaty" and such).

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 9, 2007 at 9:37 PM | PERMALINK

There is a difference.

One has the ear of college students.

The other has the ear of presidents.

Posted by: Linus on January 9, 2007 at 9:38 PM | PERMALINK

The comments from the right-winger dittoheads here are pathetic. Not one of them has actually read anything Chomsky has written, nor listened to one of his lectures. Every single one of them is slavishly regurgitating what the right-wing propaganda machine has told them to think about Chomsky.

But that's what right-wing dittoheads do. That's all they ever do: slavishly regurgitate what they've been told to think. They are mental slaves.

Chomsky is not anti-American. That's a lie. Chomsky is opposed to abuses of power, and because he is an American he focuses on abuses of power committed by his own government, as we all should, since our government is paid for by us and is supposedly answerable to us. He is opposed to the powerful interests who manipulate the public through lies. Manufacturing Consent is one of the most important socio-political books ever written.

I think that some self-identified "leftists" or "liberals" who reject Chomsky as "extreme" either have themselves not paid much attention to what he actually says, or are simply not prepared to face up to the genuinely terrible things that various governments of the United States of America have done over the decades to serve the interests of the rich and powerful.


Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 9, 2007 at 9:39 PM | PERMALINK

wrong, IMO. For an unaffiliated, apolitical American, Chomsky will tell you that we are all at least partially complicit in policies that hurt people, and we're all responsible to try and get those policies stopped.

Kristol will tell you that you're wonderful, you're perfect just the way you are, you don't need to change, except maybe you're too nice and soft-hearted for your own good, and maybe you need to be willing to inflict a little more pain, pay less in taxes, and kick a little more butt. Oh, and consuming more electricity would be a good idea, too.

Posted by: roublen on January 9, 2007 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

Linus:

No, honestly, I think the sycophancy with Bush there flows entirely in one direction ...

Bush was already a politico by the time Kristol came on the scene as the editor-in-chief of The Weekly Standard. He was influenced by an earlier generation of thinkers, and by the time he got seriously into politics, his days of getting influenced by "intellectuals" were long since passed ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 9, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

Bob writes:

The weirdest usage of structural lingustics I've seen was in Leonard Bernstein's Harvard lectures, where he tried to use it to trash atonality and 12 tone systems of composition. Since every culture in the world has a folk music based on a tonal hierarchy, Bernstein tried to argue that tonality was hardwired into the brain the way languages are.

Agree or disagree -- that's a profoundly conservative argument.

It's a profoundly conservative argument, but one that's never struck me as accurate or correct in it's analysis of music from non-Western cultures.

This is obviously way, WAY off topic, but...

While Bernstein is correct that nearly every musical culture has some kind of tonal focus, there is virtually no culture other than Western music in which harmonic structures are so central. Most non-Western musical cultures throughout are modal, using scales and intervals between pitches, rather than chords and aggregates of pitches as a means of organizing music.

Consider music from Indonesia, China, Japan, Burma, India, most (& I use this word primarily because I don't assume I know much about more than a handful of the many African musical cultures) African music, Native American music on both North & South America, and most Eastern European (Hungarian, Czech, Slavic, etc. music. You won't find many instances of anything resembling the chord structures that are basic to music in the West.

& on top of all that, Western music is the only music to use an entirely artificial scale structure of 12 (nearly) equal tempered pitches in an octave. Most other musical cultures use something approaching just-intonation in which the distance (measured in ratio of cycles/second) between scale-tones may not even be consistent from octave to octave.

In other words, how most other cultures use tonal scales is significantly different from the way scales are used in Western music.

Posted by: Herb Levy on January 9, 2007 at 9:48 PM | PERMALINK

they both have about the same affect (sober and clinical)

Kevin! Have you ever looked at these two? I'm sorry, but Chomsky, while maintaining his cool, has a repertoire of expressions. Kristol has just one. Call it the shiteating grin or cut to the chase and call it the rictus, it's the face he pastes on in the morning and it glows radioactively until he creeps back into the closet at night.

As for this: they have clear ideologies that they follow consistently and predictably, and they both dress nicely. In fact, they are pretty close to being mirror images. You're right: Chomsky is always right, while Kristol is always wrong. Chomsky is willing and able to defend his positions, citing chapter and verse from an encyclopedic range of sources, while Kristol would rather not. Chomsky strives to tell the truth, while Kristol ... I think you see the pattern.

Posted by: Applepie on January 9, 2007 at 9:51 PM | PERMALINK

Aside from the fact that the "center" which puts Chomsky and Kristol equidistant from it in opposite directions is a center which is already well to the right, Kristol is a little spoiled pup and Chomsky is a thoughtful, hardworking contributor to thought and debate, whether you agree with him or not. It's bad enough to see them "equated."

I think Tyronen (8:20 p) catches the flavor of what's going on here...

Posted by: PW on January 9, 2007 at 9:52 PM | PERMALINK

One's boss was Dan Potatoe Quayle.

The other is a well known language theorist at MIT.

Yeah. They are mirror images alright.


Just like Raosalyn Sussman Yalow and Paris Hilton are mirror images of each other.

Posted by: gregor on January 9, 2007 at 9:53 PM | PERMALINK

To me, Noam Chomsky seems like a moralizer, like Howard Zinn. For some reason I've always lost interest in his stuff. They're right in saying that we can do better, but their insights are often not about human nature--both of them are lecturing to us.

Neither are as far left as you could go. Things can get pretty fruity out there... Chomsky is your average frumpy professor. Passionate, but generally harmless.

I don't understand Bill Kristol. I find him frightening. Where is his sense of shame? Why does he want to invade Iran after things went so obviously badly in Iran? Does he still feel the same way he did when he did this weird-*ssed interview on Colbert?

Kristol is a suit. After all, his dad was one of the Reagan revolutionaries. Kristol is passionate, but somehow manages to pull off looking like a casual, nice guy. Like I said, I don't understand him and find him frightening, especially considering his influence over what has transpired recently...

Posted by: JJ on January 9, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

Well, this has been very interesting. My first reaction to Kevin's post was that it was, by far, the lamest paragraph and question he's ever put up.... and then I was treated to one of the best, informative comment thread I've read in a long time. hmmmmm

Posted by: garyb50 on January 9, 2007 at 9:59 PM | PERMALINK

I said: Why does he want to invade Iran after things went so obviously badly in Iran

It should be "Why does he want to invade Iran after things went so obviously badly in Iraq"

Posted by: JJ on January 9, 2007 at 10:01 PM | PERMALINK

There is NO comparison between Chomsky and Kristol.

Good doorknobs, Kevin.

And Lenny on music theory? Puhleeze.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on January 9, 2007 at 10:05 PM | PERMALINK

I usually agree with Kevin, but not on this one.

Here's the difference: Kristol crafts his message to appeal to the public. He reads everything by Will, Broder, Klein, Page, Kondracke, et al, and makes sure that whatever he says pushes the envelope a little bit from what the others are saying. He also is careful not to say anything that will bring immediate condemnation from the majority of Americans (that is, even people who don't care about politics).

Chomsky, on the other hand, reads books rather than columns. Some of the stuff he reads comes from sources other than the popular press. Further more, his goal is honesty rather than polity. He doesn't care if he says some things that the majority of Americans would strongly disagree with.

Therefore, the two are not mirror images. There are real differences between the two other than who appears on television.

Posted by: reino on January 9, 2007 at 10:11 PM | PERMALINK

Ha, ah, Kevin--interesting post.
Noam Chomsky is highly educated, with an illustrious career, has twenty five or so honorary degrees from prestigious universities, is a prolific writer on innumerable subjects,
clearly presents the leftist view, free of contradiction, and has a nice smile.

Bill Kristol is also highly educated but is a pompous propagandist of the bogus we report/you decide variety, who started out as a democrat but low and behold switched parities, co-founded the evil project for a new american century and brought us the current mal-administration. It was said he unethically accepted Enron money, exposed for this in 2002. And Bill Kristol has a smarmy smile.

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 9, 2007 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't mean to be harsh but this may be the most lame post you have had up in a while. I don't even want to dignify the question with a response, but it assumes (a) that there is some objective "middle" in terms of political positions regarding military matters, and (b) one can measure the degree to which an individual deviates "left" or "right" from this objective middle.

Sorry, but I won't go there.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on January 9, 2007 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

TCD--I enjoyed being able to deflate Kristol a little.

Posted by: consider wisely always on January 9, 2007 at 10:34 PM | PERMALINK

...they are pretty close to being mirror images.

Hardly.

Posted by: Apollo 13 on January 9, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

Socratic:

Hey, don't dis Lenny on music theory. Even (perhaps much) more than as a composer or conductor, Lenny the B. was one of the most important music educators this country ever produced. His Young Person's Concerts series and his music appreciation program on PBS in the 60s did an immense service in explaining how music works to the general public. Plus, the entire score of West Side Story kicks all kinds of incredible ass -- and I'm a personal fan of the critically panned Mass, because it anticipated so many idea in 70s progrock ...

Herb Levy:

Well, this topic is pretty whack to begin with -- an appples and oranges strawman comparison (who would ever link those two?) with zero relevance to anything in the news -- so I don't think the Comment Fairies are going to frown with displeasure at an off-topic tangent (or two, or three).

You are, of course, absolutely correct about the West's development of harmony. Functional tonality is not equivalent to modality, just because both imply tonal centers -- and you are also correct that our "well-tempered" scale system was a mathetmatical kludge developed to facilitate modulation and take the enharmonic nightmare out of building keyboards with separate sharp and flat tones for what today we consider the same notes (C# and Db, etc.).

Nonetheless, this doesn't, in itself, obviate Bernstein's thesis about the perceptual centrality of tonal hearing. Is polytonality perceptually possible -- or is there a gestalt problem, and we resolve it into one tonality interwoven with dissonance?

It strikes me as an empirical question, though -- and it certainly seems to be supported by the exhaustion of 12-tone and serial systems of composition. Everybody's a minimalist, post- or (neo- ) tonalist or postmodernist these days ...

What's really interesting is how the leftist music theorists (Theodor Adorno especially) tried to hijack music history to demonstrate the dialectical inevitablity of Schoenberg's system. A handing-off of batons was developed -- incorporating ever more notes into the scale from Bach to Beethoven to Brahms to Wagner -- the ultimate moment of tonal instability achieved in the Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde -- which led inevitably to "dodecaphonic democracy" of Schoenberg's system, where every note gets an equal hearing at last.

Thomas Pynchon has a great riff on this in Gravity's Rainbow.

Irony of ironies, though -- the stratosphere stuff was completely elitist and never caught on, while Peoples' Music mandated by the Socialist regimes was mostly cornball drek.

And so here we have Bernstein attempting to co-copt the radical Chomsky's linguistic ideas for aesthetically reactionary purposes (how composers howled at those lectures!) for the populist purpose of reconnecting academic music to the people ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 9, 2007 at 10:36 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, I don't mean to be harsh but this may be the most lame post you have had up in a while. I don't even want to dignify the question with a response, but it assumes (a) that there is some objective "middle" in terms of political positions regarding military matters, and (b) one can measure the degree to which an individual deviates "left" or "right" from this objective middle.

Seconded. To even offer the comparison suggests a staggering degree of ignorance on Kevin's part.

Posted by: Bill on January 9, 2007 at 10:42 PM | PERMALINK

(Apollo 13 - please email me, I need to ask you something. Thank you.:)

I gave you a hat tip, BTW.

Posted by: Global Citizen on January 9, 2007 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Is Noam Chomsky a mirror-image of Bill Kristol?

One crucial difference between Chomsky and Kristol, in my estimation, is that the latter is a wiley defender of the most inhumane and cruel aspects of our national ideology, whlie the former is the greatest surveyor of that very ideology, brining to light its most mundane, albeit insidious, qualities.

For instance, when you read Chomsky, you realize that while the Bush Administration is a wretched bunch who lied to the American public in order to manufacture a war, you also see that the Democrats under Lyndon B. Johnson did the same (Gulf of Tonkin), with equally disasterous results.

In other words, no political party seems to have a monopoly on state power, but rather each seems to react in a similar way when contronted by situations (for example, indigenous uprisings against corrupt U.S. puppet regimes) deemed anathema to our national interests (which unremarkably tend to dovetail nicely with the desires and interests of the corporate elite.)

Mirror image? Hardly. But I can see the motivation mainstream liberals have in attempting to create the illusion of symmetry between a Chomsky and a Kristol. It allows them to cavalierly dismiss his ideas -- and can there really be any confusion regarding the diametrically opposed positions each man takes on the most critical issues contronting the planet -- without having to confront the content of his thought.

Posted by: smedleybutler on January 9, 2007 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK
Chomsky, on the other hand, reads books rather than columns. Some of the stuff he reads comes from sources other than the popular press.

As someone who used to work for Noam, I can put my hand on the bible (or Thomas Jefferson's bank book, or a piece of wood coming from Noah's Arc) and attest that he reads Everything, books, yes, but especially journal and newspaper columns. His footnotes on his pieces are chock-full of mainstream references, and rarely newsletters from underground liberation movements of Balkin states, say. Though he reads those too. And in their own languages.

Further more, his goal is honesty rather than polity. He doesn't care if he says some things that the majority of Americans would strongly disagree with.

Yep, that's right. Honesty when he points out the certain US policies are being violated by US politicians. It took me some effort sometimes to read through some of things he wrote for publication, but not his letters to people. He answers everything that comes to him (at least he did before retiring). Also I much prefer to hear him speak because then you can't help but note his passion...for America. And you also can't help but note that he is the real deal. Buckley, Kristol, Klein, to name a few, are superficial charlatans who it seems are always up to no good.

Posted by: air betty on January 9, 2007 at 10:47 PM | PERMALINK

I always thought Chomsky just dressed like a normal college professor.

Posted by: Bryan on January 9, 2007 at 10:55 PM | PERMALINK

In fairness to Kevin The Fair, I think I understand his point -- which was actually quite clever and buried in the subtext of that post. What he's doing is giving Kristol the Chomsky treatment and saying that there's every bit as strong a case to dismiss him out of hand -- nay, a much stronger one -- than the case the right has made against Chomsky for years.

Chomsky, sadly enough, has been run out of American political discourse on a rail. None of our so-called educated trolls or contrarians have shown up yet (obviously I'm excluding egbert), but to rdw, Steve White, Mike K, Red State Mike, ex-liberal or minion -- a single mention of Noam Chomsky is enough to send them into paroxysms of snark. Noam *Chomsky* ? That arch-leftist America-hater? yada yada yada ...

Kristol and his perpetually smiling face and "gentle" demeanor, OTOH, is on Fox roundtables. He's the voice of the Principled Right on foreign policy. But his ideology, at core, is *extremely* repulsive, to the point of being so imperialistic as to be genuinely anti-American ...

And yet he's considered "reasonable" while Chomsky is not.

And that says several distressing mouthfuls about the state of political discourse in this allegedly open society of ours ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 9, 2007 at 10:59 PM | PERMALINK

"Chomsky is violently anti-American, whereas Kristol is basically patriotic."

i mean c'mon. i've heard some pretty bizarre wingnut lies about chomsky in my time, but that's a remarkable claim to be making about basically any 78-year-old professor, especially one who seems to tilt pacifist.

fwiw, i think tokorode fairly sums it up, although the interesting question is why it is that "most liberals would place Chomsky further to their extreme than conservatives would likewise do with Kristol," which i suspect is the point of kevin's post.

Posted by: snuh on January 9, 2007 at 11:02 PM | PERMALINK

At least Chomsky is a relatively consistent peacenik.

Kristol is a pro-war, draft-dodging, PUSSY, traitor, who is willing to risk the lives of other's people's children to advance (what he thinks)the interest of another country and to compensate for his lack of masculinity.

Posted by: Allen on January 9, 2007 at 11:03 PM | PERMALINK

I wrote a letter to Chomsky as an undergrad back in the late 70s and he took the time to respond -- thoughtfully, respectfully, intelligently. A class act. Compare and contrast, Sir Kevin.

Posted by: sunsetdawg on January 9, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

The marginalization of Chomsky's ideas over Kristols also stands as an object lesson for Chomsky's thesis in Manufacturing Consent ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 9, 2007 at 11:05 PM | PERMALINK

Um, no. Chomsky is evidence-based (in fact, part of what makes him difficult to digest is that he marshalls so much data), Kristol is ideology-based.

Posted by: thump on January 9, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

this post up the thread was exactly correct:

"A more interesting comparison might be Chomsky and Cheney. Both exert a lot of intellectual energy developing and rationalizing ideas that fly in the face of common sense, and they share a preternatural blindness to countervailing arguments."

look. Kristol is simply a dimwit hack (albeit neither of his parents were idiots).

Chomsky is the most significant linguist since Bloomfield (if not more more significant).

unfortunately, on politics he is batshit crazy. he really does hate America. (yes, I've read the Chomsky Reader.)

and he's most certainly not antiwar -- he's just against the use of force by westerners unless they're on the hard socialist end of the spectrum.

Posted by: Nathan on January 9, 2007 at 11:22 PM | PERMALINK

Cool. Do Olbermann and Coulter next.

Posted by: herbie on January 9, 2007 at 11:23 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, air betty. In one way, I stand corrected. In another, however, my point was that Kristol makes an effort to safely push the envelope in a way that advances his career, while Chomsky makes an effort to be intelligent, which it seems we agree on.

Posted by: reino on January 9, 2007 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

No thread that gets the citizens of the internets to seriously discuss Noam Chomsky can be considered wasted.

Anyway, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it is better to be seen as patriotic and wrong than to be seen as unpatriotic and right. That basically sums up the impact of Kristol and Chomsky on American political discourse.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on January 9, 2007 at 11:33 PM | PERMALINK

I know very little of Kristol, but it strikes me that both he and Chomsky are guilty being ideologues. My major criticism of Chomsky, which many others have launched before me, is that he absolutely neglects the role of the individual in history. He despises all authority and his arguments seem to assume that all politicians are simply power hungry, and function as a result of grand political forces beyond their control or agency.

This is not to say that what he says is without merit, much of it is, much of it I agree with and I think his criticisms of American and Israeli governments are important. Nonetheless, people on this thread act as if Chomsky is a robotic truth seeker. He himself is a human being, privy to emotions and biases like all of us. It strikes me that Chomsky's positions are at this point nearly reflexively anti-American and anti-Israeli. I'm not sure why he has this animosity towards Israel, I would not be surprised if there is something psychological at work there, involving his father, the Jewish community he grew up in, etc. I say this not to denigrate him at all, but to try to understand why he says what he does.

Posted by: Darkwing on January 9, 2007 at 11:34 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan, it hardly makes sense to say of a man who has devoted the greater part of his intellectual life to documenting the often grim realities of modern U.S. foreign policy -- in order, of course, to hold these actions up to the ideals inscribed in our constitution and legal tradition and to dare ask the question: Do we practice what we preach? -- that he hates America. That's pure rubbish.

Unlike our fuckhead president, and the fuckhead presidents who preceeded this one, Chomsky seems to genuinely care about such things as freedom and democracy for all.

And Chomsky is the first to acknowledge that it is the very freedoms granted to him by the constitution that incubates his seemingly inexhautible campaign to shed the light of reason into every dark, souless corner of the political realm.

And outside America, for those who have grown weary of our unchecked pugnacity, Chomsky represents somehting America can still aspire to be -- a humane, peaceful, yet powerful ally in the sturggle to bring genuine stability into a tumultuous and increasingly fragile world.

Posted by: smedleybutler on January 9, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

Chomsky is cited in mathematics theory and software engineering textbooks.

I'm not sure Kristol is cited anywhere outside of LGF.

Posted by: Extradite Rumsfeld on January 9, 2007 at 11:59 PM | PERMALINK

Well, I'm late to the party, but the answer is yes. Although I'd argue that Chomsky has been right a heckuva lot more often than Kristol has been. I'd love to see Time offer alternating columns.

Kristol is not balanced by Klein and Kinsley.

Posted by: jayackroyd on January 10, 2007 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

I would say that Chomsky's political writings are far more rigorous, particularly his books (not interviews or interview books) such as "Deterring Democracy" or "Necessary Illusions," to pick two books. His analysis of American foreign policy, from his earliest days in the mid-1960s, have a depth that is missing from William Kristol's work. One does not have to agree with Chomsky, but I have a sense that most who criticize Chomsky have not really read him--or read him carefully.

There is really nobody on the Right that I see, other than perhaps Thomas Sowell, who offers the rigorous analysis that Chomsky does, again, in his non-interview political books.

Posted by: Mitchell Freedman on January 10, 2007 at 12:14 AM | PERMALINK

Darkwing, Chomsky is not anti-Israeli by any stretch. His own personal ties to Israel long ago solidified in his own mind the idea that for Israel to continue to exist, it needed to break away from the U.S. imperial axis and seek peaceful resolutions to the problem of Palestine, while cultivating its ties to the Arab world.

Unlike much of the extreme critics of Israel, Chomsky gives little weight to the supposed omnipotence of the "Israeli Lobby" but sees instead a U.S. foreign policy driving Israel toward ever greater degrees of isoloation, which in turn poses the greatest threat to Israel's long-term viability as a state.

For Chomsky, as for much of the extreme left in Israel, the Jewish state has staked too much on its relationship with the U.S. And should that support waver or be entirely widthdrawn, then what? (The fate of Saddam Husssein might offer a clue here.)

Posted by: smedleybutler on January 10, 2007 at 12:22 AM | PERMALINK

A buddy of mine is a huge fan of Miller High Life beer. Several years back he decided to get famous and semi-famous people to pose for pictures holding up a bottle of High Life for the camera. Being a Chomsky enthusiast, my buddy mailed the good professor a letter explaining his project, along with money to purchase the beer. A few weeks later, Mr. Chomsky replied to my friend with a nice note, as well as the picture(and change!). For that alone, he deserves the highest praise.

Posted by: drjimcooper on January 10, 2007 at 12:23 AM | PERMALINK

This is the kind of thing lazy MSM pundits write. You should know better.

Ditto - we know you're not as dumb as to equate the two in any meaningful way.

Posted by: chuck on January 10, 2007 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

So far, only a couple of people have figured out why I posted this question....

In any case, I should mention that I was asking this strictly as it relates to their roles as influencers of the public discourse. In other words, it's got nothing to do with Chomsky's linguistics work, Kristol's parents, or their respective academic accomplishments. Just their stated views and their impact as public intellectuals.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on January 10, 2007 at 12:40 AM | PERMALINK

When Hugo Chavez appeared before the U.N. General Assembly several months back, the very speech in which he called Bush the Devil, he began by holding up Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival" and recommended the book to everyone.

Just ask the CEOs of Verizon and AES today how irrelevant Chomsky is.

I mention this because several posters seem to think that Chomsky's influence doesn't range beyond the frustrated college Marxist, whereas Kristol has like this fucking bat phone connected right to the Oval Office.

Posted by: smedleybutler on January 10, 2007 at 12:45 AM | PERMALINK

On the separated at birth question,

Geraldo threatens to beat up Keith Olbermann,

http://blogs.orlandosentinel.com/news_local_namesblog/2007/01/geraldo_wants_t.html

Posted by: cld on January 10, 2007 at 12:47 AM | PERMALINK

If Kristol wants to publish a newsletter in which he picks stocks, I'll subscribe, do the opposite of what he says, and make a zillion dollars.

Posted by: craigie on January 10, 2007 at 12:48 AM | PERMALINK

Regardless of why the question was asked, it has generated some great comments. Great reading!

That said, I don't think you can divorce their history from their "stated views and their impact as public intellectuals"; IMHO that has a great deal to do with the populations they influence, and why.

Posted by: has407 on January 10, 2007 at 12:54 AM | PERMALINK

late to the party but just had to say this had me lmao:

"Chomsky Hierarchy of phrase structured grammars is fundamental to modern computer science. Meanwhile, Kristol is useless."

Posted by: tom on January 10, 2007 at 1:00 AM | PERMALINK

"In any case, I should mention that I was asking this strictly as it relates to their roles as influencers of the public discourse. In other words, it's got nothing to do with Chomsky's linguistics work, Kristol's parents, or their respective academic accomplishments. Just their stated views and their impact as public intellectuals."

But that's the problem, Kevin. You've created this formal framwork ("influencers of pubic opinion") within which to evaluate two men who represent extreme ends of the political spectrum; yet the subtle implication is that both represent two sides of basically the same radical ideological coin. Its like the reduction of Hitler into Stalin, and vice-versa, which is accomplished to show the uncanny similarities of two desposts who seem to hold contradictory ideological positions. At the extremes, they're all the same, right?

I say this because never before have I ever seen you post something that confronts anything Chomsky actually says. You seem more interested in a meta-discourse on the role of intellectuals in fomenting public opinion than in really delving into one of Chomsky's more salient theses, which many liberals tend to find disturbing and totally unacceptable anyways, although they rarely ever say why.

Posted by: smedleybutler on January 10, 2007 at 1:08 AM | PERMALINK

No, on many many many levels. Have you ever read or seen either one?

Posted by: B on January 10, 2007 at 1:13 AM | PERMALINK

Great thread! Which demonstrates that Kevin's question was not so dumb after all. Kristol could bite the dust tomorrow and there'd still be an army of smooth right wing hacks parroting the party line on tv to true believers. Chomsky is irreplaceable.

Posted by: fyreflye on January 10, 2007 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

Well, I noticed a number of our regular rightwing 'commentators' dissing Chomsky at the start of the thread , then the rest of the thread has basically been a thoughtful discussion of Chomsky's influence and theories by poeple who seem to have a level of respect for him.

It seems that once the conversation got interesting and/or challenging, or at least started focussing on the specifics of Chomsky's ideas and/or political views, our regular troll chorus vanished.

What does that say, i wonder?

Not interested in a debate beyond spouting slogans, or just too difficult a thread to follow?

Posted by: floopmeister on January 10, 2007 at 1:16 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol was one of the leading members of PNAC. And we all know the amount of death and destruction that PNAC has wrought.

There is no comparison.

Posted by: gregor on January 10, 2007 at 1:19 AM | PERMALINK

smedleybutler: You seem more interested in a meta-discourse on the role of intellectuals in fomenting public opinion than in really delving into one of Chomsky's more salient theses, which many liberals tend to find disturbing and totally unacceptable anyways, although they rarely ever say why.

The dillema... I can appreciate Chomsky's critical analysis and rigor on an intellectual level while not agreeing (or at being uncomfortable) with some of his conclusions on a less-than-intellectual level; Kristol is the opposite, although I must say that it is extremely rare that I find any point of agreement with Kristol at any level. In the clutch, I'll take Chomsky with a dash of my own--admittedly much much smaller--intellect.

Posted by: has407 on January 10, 2007 at 1:26 AM | PERMALINK

OK, I see you are trying to restrict this to military force and foreign military interventions. I guess you could go there, but you have to take into consideration that Chomsky is more an observer describing events from an alternative and somewhat international viewpoint. I think he imagines himself having a greater effect on history books than midterm elections.

The other guy is bit more of a player . . . set on creating new realities, if you will. BTW, where does the image of a consistent and intellectually honest/rigorous Kristol comes from?

Posted by: B on January 10, 2007 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

p.s. I should add a pinch of intuition or emotion to the above. And I'll be the first to admit that my position would stand a snowball's chance in hell when subject to a critical analysis by Chomsky, whereas with Kristol it would likely be more a food fight.

Posted by: has407 on January 10, 2007 at 1:43 AM | PERMALINK

If Chomsky had the same access to the media as Kristol America wouldn't be mired in Iraq.

Posted by: djg on January 10, 2007 at 1:51 AM | PERMALINK

C'mon, Kevin --

You seem like a nice guy: wise up! Comparing Chomsky to Kristol is like comparing the space shuttle to a bowling ball.

Posted by: abc on January 10, 2007 at 1:56 AM | PERMALINK

ps: Chomsky recently got a rousing ovation during a speech he made at West Point.

Posted by: abc on January 10, 2007 at 1:59 AM | PERMALINK

"Chomsky is a robotic truth seeker."

Darkwing, a truth seeker cannot be robotic, unless you are prepared to define down the very meaning of being human.

Posted by: Kenji on January 10, 2007 at 2:31 AM | PERMALINK

Chomsky is a better communicator, makes more incisive points, and is 100x more rigorous than Kristol.

Also speaks truth to power, while Kristol preaches truth with power.

Posted by: Jimm on January 10, 2007 at 2:39 AM | PERMALINK

It's simplistic. In short, dumb.

Posted by: E.R. Beardsley on January 10, 2007 at 3:10 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of simplistic, and therefore, dumb, I present the following:
Kristol appeals to our instinct that we, as persons, are good, therefore our country and its actions are good. Therefore, our country should do more Good!

Chomsky appeals to our knowledge that we, as persons, are flawed, therefore our country and its actions can be flawed. Therefore, our country should do less Bad!

There you have the reversal of the conservative and liberal in which we live today.

Posted by: foolishmortal on January 10, 2007 at 3:39 AM | PERMALINK

Well, don't take our trolls' word for it. Here's a three-hour interview with Chomsky on C-SPAN.

Book TV In-Depth: Noam Chomsky

Posted by: pseudonymous on January 10, 2007 at 3:55 AM | PERMALINK

Smedley, I have to respectfully disagree with you and say that Chomsky seems to display an irrational contempt for the Israeli government and the IDF that seems to me to be something of a personal vendetta.

I'll never forget when I saw him speak, and when he referred to Israeli helicopters, and then corrected himsely, purposely (not spontaneously, or so it seemed) and said: "Or I should say, American helicopters with Israeli pilots." To me, that kind of comment is made not only to show the linkage between the US and Israel, but really to get a rise out of people. It seems very mean-spirited.

Let me also say that I think Chomsky has made a lot of great contributions to political debates, but he's also been intellectually dishonest. There is debate about this, but good reason to suggest that he downplayed Polpot's crimes, as well as Milosovic's.

Also, he's been somewhat inconsistent on Israel.
Here's an article I wrote a while back on the the Harvard/MIT divestment campaign, and his inconsistency:

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=255842

Finallly, let me just briefly quote Leon Wieseltier, who was writing about Tony Judt but could easily have been writing about Chomsky or numerous others on the anti-Zionist left:

"No amount of sympathy for the interests of the Palestinians requires this amount of antipathy to the interests of the Israelis. There are more scrupulous, more humane, more complex, and more helpful things to do with one's freedom."
(Leon Wieseltier, "The Shahid," TNR, October 16, 2006)

Posted by: Darkwing on January 10, 2007 at 4:08 AM | PERMALINK

"Just their stated views and their impact as public intellectuals."

Chomksy works on a grass roots level. No serious presidential candidate would want to seen with him. He's largely on the outside and working his influence from the bottom up.

Kristol is practically part of the establishment. He can directly influence policies of the Whitehouse and Republicans and even have a noticable effect on Democratic policy. Chomsky has nowhere near that sort of inside influence.

Without Washington support, Kristol would be nothing. If he lost his job and was blackballed by the establishment for saying something politically inconvinient he would be a nobody overnight. Chomsky can tell almost anything to any person in the US and still have extremely widespread support.

Chomsky largely built his own audience through the power of his work. Kristol's influence comes from the fact that important people are listening to him.

Put it this way. If real Progressives, not just the DLC types, but the hardcore anti-Israel lefties had had as much political success as the nutcase right has for the past decade, Chomsky would be practically a living god, but no-one, anywhere would ever have heard of Kristol. The fact that Chomsky probably matches Kristol in overall influence during a time of conservative ascendcy says all you need to know.

Posted by: still working it out on January 10, 2007 at 4:41 AM | PERMALINK

Quoting Wieseltier writing for TNR when you want to shine the light of truth on the Israeli/Palestinan question. Very Interesting. You need to read more and write less.

Posted by: Harvard Blows on January 10, 2007 at 4:47 AM | PERMALINK

Sorry, but they did not offer a course in spelling at Yale.

Posted by: Dartmouth Swallows on January 10, 2007 at 4:50 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin Drum might be a mirror image of David Duke, except that Duke is a better dresser.

Really Kevin, this kind of ad hominum is not worthy of this site. You might not like Kristol, but he doesn't make things up the way your pals on the left and extreme left do.

Posted by: ex-minion on January 10, 2007 at 4:59 AM | PERMALINK

Chomsky is a rational thinker, Kristol is a conservative hack. Kristol is on Fox and now gets to right a column for Newsweek. Chomsky you virtually never see on TV or anywhere in the MSM. Chomsky questions power, Kristol is a faithful servant of Mammon.Kristol's policies have led America to the brink of fascism and disaster.Chomsky's policies would have made the world a better and safer place.

Posted by: proudleftists on January 10, 2007 at 6:10 AM | PERMALINK

Chomsky is a rational thinker, Kristol is a conservative hack. Kristol is on Fox and now gets to right a column for Newsweek. Chomsky you virtually never see on TV or anywhere in the MSM. Chomsky questions power, Kristol is a faithful servant of Mammon.Kristol's policies have led America to the brink of fascism and disaster.Chomsky's policies would have made the world a better and safer place.

Posted by: proudleftists on January 10, 2007 at 6:13 AM | PERMALINK

Here is another difference between Chomsky and Kristol, one that could prove that Chomsky is further to the Left than Kristol is to the Right:

People with Kristol's views have won elections. Look at Senators Hatch, Stevens, Kyl, McConnell, and a few others. Bush hid his views somewhat in 2000 (and probably lost anyways), but his views were well-known in 2004, and Cheney's were always well-known.

I can't think of a Senator or former President as far left as Chomsky. Senator Kennedy has been very outspoken against the war from the beginning, bless his heart, but I don't think a military budget written by Kennedy would have too much in common with a military budget written by Chomsky.

I don't think a single Senator would come close to Chomsky on a military budget, but Kristol and several Senators and the President would all agree that the military budget should be whatever AEI says it should be.

This proves that Kristol's views are electable, while Chomsky's are not. Therefore, Chomsky is further Left than Kristol is Right.

Posted by: reino on January 10, 2007 at 6:14 AM | PERMALINK

The essence of Chomsky's anti-Kristolian evil is that he wants words like "terrorist" to be applied according to what they do rather than which side they're on.

Posted by: Dan K. on January 10, 2007 at 6:30 AM | PERMALINK
I mention this because several posters seem to think that Chomsky's influence doesn't range beyond the frustrated college Marxist, whereas Kristol has like this fucking bat phone connected right to the Oval Office.

There is no doubt that Noam's influence within the US is lightweight, as he does not talk in sound bytes, and tends to argue more than a genteel. well-heeled Yale alum. However his impact on people in the rest of the world ranks up there with rock stars. People, media, foreign dignitaries from India, Italy, the UK, Brazil, France, Turkey, Japan, you name it, called, wrote him, showed up in the office. Also the foreign media was (at the time I was still working there) all over him. Not because he was anti-American and that they loved that about him - but that he pointed out if a country has certain stated rules and then violates their own rules and then accuses other countries of violating the same damn rules that country A should put its money where its mouth is.

I guess the argument quoted above is a little America isolationist just like the current Bush admin has been. A reflection that the US is the end all, be all.

Unfortunately I tend to think that Chomsky will be more widely revered when he dies, and his influence will grow exponentially afterwards, and Kristol will be a grease mark in history. But then neocons and their adherents don't care, do they...as they will be dead.

Posted by: air betty on January 10, 2007 at 6:44 AM | PERMALINK

Green colorless dreams sleep furiously. No one in the history of mankind ever uttered this phrase until Chomsky did. And you can understand that phrase even though it makes no sense. Pretty cool, huh. Take THAT B.F. Skinner!

OH, and Kristol never had a chimp named after him. Way to go, Nim Chimpsky!

Posted by: es on January 10, 2007 at 7:33 AM | PERMALINK

es:

Actually, Skinnerian behaviorism and Chomskian structural linguistics support each other quite well, as they both rely on hardwired concepts of learning rather than the subjective states of individuals. As has been noted on this thread previously, Chomsky turned to politics after he was granted tenure at MIT for his linguistic work (he's been out of that field for years), and his political views are quite divorced from the conservative, cogs-in-a-machine implications of his theory.

Meta-politically, you could say that Chomsky's notorious disinclination to share utopian notions with his fellow leftists might be traced to his belief that human responses are inherently constrained by neurobiology.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 10, 2007 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately I tend to think that Chomsky will be more widely revered when he dies, and his influence will grow exponentially afterwards, and Kristol will be a grease mark in history. But then neocons and their adherents don't care, do they...as they will be dead.

I think that's a pretty good way to sum it up. Another way to look at it might be that Chomsky will be more and more respected by history, while Kristol and his ilk will do their damnedest to make sure that that history never gets written.

Posted by: dr sardonicus on January 10, 2007 at 8:25 AM | PERMALINK

Allen: Kristol is a pro-war, draft-dodging, PUSSY, traitor,


you left out that he's also..

short..

Posted by: mr. irony on January 10, 2007 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks "Harvard Blows" for your substantive response. I'll wait for Smedley, who seems more capable of intelligent, respectful disagreement. Incidentally, your comment reminds a bit of Noam Chomsky himself, who simply resorts to insults when confronted with information he didn't like. In his email response to me when I asked him about his simple contradictions in regards to the divestment petition, he twice compared me to Soviet Commissars and Mullahs from Qom.

Posted by: Darkwing on January 10, 2007 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

"This proves that Kristol's views are electable, while Chomsky's are not. Therefore, Chomsky is further Left than Kristol is Right." No, it proves that the "center" in this country has been pushed ridiculously far rightward.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on January 10, 2007 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

Darkwing:

Maybe your "simple contradiction" was less simple than you're attempting to make it appear?

What exactly was your argument against Chomsky's position on divestiture? Until we know that, we can't judge the judiciousness of Chomsky's response. Maybe he had a point ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 10, 2007 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

angryspittle: Chomsky is rational and right and is never on TV.

Not so. I saw him "interviewed" by Ali G.

Posted by: anandine on January 10, 2007 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

Does Norm routinely say things that are clearly not true? After all, we know Bill does.

Posted by: pgl on January 10, 2007 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

In terms of political influence, I think a more appropriate comparison for Chomsky would be the guy who wrote "The Turner Diaries," i.e., Chomsky has inspired a small handful of zealous devotees, who can't be said to completely lack influence (blowing up a federal office building certainly influences something), but who do not have and will not have access to the genuine levers of power.

Regarding those who claim that our political discourse is skewed to the right, I want to say: Skewed compared to what? God's politics? This world is the only world that is, politically. There is no Archimedean point from which to find an objective center.

Posted by: sean on January 10, 2007 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

good reason to suggest that he downplayed Polpot's crimes, as well as Milosovic's

Darkwing,

I can understand why a lot of people can be hypersensitive about Chomsky's writings on Israel and his "aside" comments on well-known and well-covered totalitarian atrocities. However, I think his point is to enlighten people as to lesser known atrocities and injustices. If he had to interrupt himself every 3 minutes to condemn the acts of teenage assholes in Gaza he wouldn't be able to write a coherent book on stuff the NYT didn't print.

In the end he's not going to change anything about Israel. The worst that could happen is that you might accidentally read about alternative perspectives on US foreign policy and do something with them. Even if you don't buy a single one of his ideas, you might be able to use the experience to have more coherent discussions with people outside the US and Israel about the low grade conflicts that will affect the middle east through the forseeable future.

Posted by: B on January 10, 2007 at 9:18 AM | PERMALINK

McVeigh was a Chomsky devotee?

Posted by: B on January 10, 2007 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

rmck1:

Its been a long time (about 20+ years) since I read Chomsky's paper that I was referencing, but my understanding at the time was that it was a response to Skinner's ideas that language is learned in the same way that a rat learns to push a bar for food. Chomsky felt that language ability was hard-wired. His 'green colorless dreams sleep furiously' was his example that since people can understand a phrase that has never before been said, it *couldn't* be purely S-R (Stimulus-Response) learning. Of course, a la Woody Allen, I'm sure that if Chomsky was on this thread, he'd tear me a new one.

Posted by: es on January 10, 2007 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

I do not think Mr. Drum understands Prof. Chomsky. Chomsky opposes US militarism because he sees it as an imperial pursuit to provide economic support for the largest conglomerations of capital at the expense of the commonweal and the common man. He supports his assertions with historical and current examples. He opposes almost all US wars because they have nothing to do with national security and everything to do with other issues like technological capital investment and the securing of natural resources for those capitalist collectives that have the most influence on the government. I do not think ideology drives Prof. Chomsky, who is also a linguistic scholar.

Mr. Kristol is an ideologist, who thinks from a corporatist, geopolitical and Zionist point of view. He is also a propagandist who uses his weekly publication to influence political mass thinking. Mr. Kristol cares nothing for the common man.

Posted by: Brojo on January 10, 2007 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Sean wrote:
Skewed compared to what?


This seems an awfully odd question to me assuming that one has been paying attention to th political debate over this issue over the past 10 years or so. The point of saying that the political discourse is skewed to the right, whether one agrees with this position or not, is to point out that most of the public debate in this country begins by assuming the general correctness, or seriousness if you will, of the right wing position. From the perspective of our most visible public discourse for instance, only un-serious people would oppose war with Iraq. The leftmost flank of the public debate on this sort of issue ends up being some sort of lukewarm moral coward like Joe Klein. This is quite correctly understood to be a rightward skewing of the debate. Does any sentient human being - and the group over at LGF does not count - really disagree with this? What are you asking exactly?


Posted by: brent on January 10, 2007 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Chomsky's a pretentious prick.

Kristol's a frothing-at-the-mouth maniac.


I'll go with the prick.

Posted by: Tom on January 10, 2007 at 9:47 AM | PERMALINK

I can now see that I have been late to this thread, and I do find it interesting. So, let me add my two cents.

From the Anglo Perspective, Kristol, while sitting on the mirror, defecates. On the other hand, Chomsky, illuminates while polishing the mirror for others to see themselves.

From the Native American Perspective, both and advocate America's continuing Doctrine of Discovery.

However, James Baker is famously quoted for having said, "Fuck 'em. They didn't vote for us!" Given that African Americans were opposed to this sad war at 90%, Native Americans were opposed at 90%, and Chicanos at 73%, the differences between Kristol and Chomsky, are easily understandable, but with one caveat. That being said, are these two dudes willing to return my land to me in the pristine condition in which is was found? I think not.

Posted by: Jaango on January 10, 2007 at 9:48 AM | PERMALINK

Chomksy works on a grass roots level. No serious presidential candidate would want to seen with him. He's largely on the outside and working his influence from the bottom up.

Kristol is practically part of the establishment. He can directly influence policies of the Whitehouse and Republicans and even have a noticable effect on Democratic policy. Chomsky has nowhere near that sort of inside influence.

Chomksy works on a grass roots level. No serious presidential candidate would want to seen with him. He's largely on the outside and working his influence from the bottom up.

Kristol is practically part of the establishment. He can directly influence policies of the Whitehouse and Republicans and even have a noticable effect on Democratic policy. Chomsky has nowhere near that sort of inside influence.

Um, that's Kevin's point. Chomsky is as "radical" as Kristol is. Kristol gets a column in Time. Chomsky gets published by small presses and never gets reviewed in the MSM. Right wing loons like Kristol, who have been completely wrong, over and over again, are granted prominence in influencing public opinion. Left wing loons (as seen from the right) like Chomsky are not permitted any influence on broad public opinion. CNN has Bay Buchanan debate Paul Begala, not Tom Swan.

Posted by: jayackroyd on January 10, 2007 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

Noam Chomsky--as a analyst of international relations--is as big a fraud as Kristol, but obviously from the "other side."

In reading his work, one notices very quickly how he cherry-picks from the mass media sources that he criticises in order to attempt to prove his preconceived thesis. This is poor graduate-student analysis, not the work of a respected academic. It is also not suprising, since he is not a professor of international relations, but of linguistics.

His response to factual criticism--as has been noted above, and that can be read in newspapers such as the Guardian--is, frankly, stalinist. His "theory" on the role of the United States in international relations has led him to very serious and public errors (denying genocide in Cambodia, for one), which he appears unable to admit to, and leads to him accusing the questioner's motives.

One can agree with his opinions, but he arrives at them in the same way that Kristol does. The one difference is that Chomsky can use his position as a respected--and tenured--academic to peddle them.

Posted by: Wombat on January 10, 2007 at 9:55 AM | PERMALINK

Whatever Kevin's motive, I thank him for an anodyne for all the times I've had to endure callers to the Washinton Journal call Hon. Sen. Clinton (or her spouse) members of the "ultra-left." It's a toss-up wether this demonstrates more clearly the ignorance of the speaker, or the uselessness of such one dimensional labels (except to polarize, or presuppose that mirror-image comparisons made of individuals).

To the many excellent posts I would only add that one should consider whose writing will be studied (or available for study) fifty or a hundred years hence. As an academic, Mr. Chomsky has had to deal with his ground breaking theory of universal grammar falling into disfavor, accepting and adjusting to this change. As an "opinion maker," Mr. Kristol will not adjust his ideology, mererly claim that its implementation wasn't pure enough, and that we need to have a purge (or maybe a surge, or other escalation). It is the sad fact that, while Mr. Kristol has honed his presentation to the rigors of television, Mr. Chomsky sees that complexities such as real life cannot be, and therefore avoids trying to present his arguments with brief slogans or polemics.

Posted by: jhm on January 10, 2007 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

That being said, are these two dudes willing to return my land to me in the pristine condition in which is was found? I think not.

After all the white folk are gone I'd appreciate it if all the Numic speakers would return our digging sticks and seed corn, erase their silly pornographic petroglyphs, and go back to Owens Valley where they belong,

Posted by: Pueblo on January 10, 2007 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

No, they are not mirror images.

Kristol is much more of a showman. Chomsky is primarily an academic who doesn't reduce complex policy issues to three-word phrases and catchy sound bites.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on January 10, 2007 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

denying genocide in Cambodia

Lazy or disingenuous?

http://blog.zmag.org/node/2890

Posted by: rewolfrats on January 10, 2007 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

Some important differences:

1) Chomsky is a bona fide genius, Kristol is a bona fide bonehead

2) Chomsky is often right and often recognizes real evidence that others want to sweep under the carpet. I'm not a Chomskyite on foreign affaits but he makes some good points.

Posted by: The Fool on January 10, 2007 at 10:28 AM | PERMALINK

"Noam Chomsky--as a analyst of international relations--is as big a fraud as Kristol, but obviously from the "other side."

In reading his work, one notices very quickly how he cherry-picks from the mass media sources that he criticises in order to attempt to prove his preconceived thesis. This is poor graduate-student analysis, not the work of a respected academic. It is also not suprising, since he is not a professor of international relations, but of linguistics."

Wombat nails it: I've never understood the worship of Chomsky on the US left when on . If you want to see, take a look at correspondence between Chomsky and Bogdan Denitch (an American with a Krajina Serbian background) in the Nation during the Kosovo war. Chomsky anti-imperialist knee twitched, but 'cos he didn't know much about the Balkans, his article diverged from Kosovo within one paragraph to waffle on about Columbia. Denitch, who knew vastly more about the Balkans and the runup to the conflict than Chomsky, responded with a respectful dissent, putting Chomsky right, and Chomsky's distainful reply was almost Hitchensque in its pompousness. Blech.

The problem with Chomsky, like all hyper-reductive Marxians, is that he sees proles and the non-Western nations as having no historical agency at all: just empty robots to be jerked around by superpowers and hyperpowers. (Harold Rosenberg took the piss out of this view in the "Pathos of the Proletariat" back in the 1950s.) A more nuanced view that a superpower has, at best, only partial influence over its clients would help, and that culture and nationalism have and will continue to be influential forces, just as the economics is.

Kristol, of course, is the Neocon equivalent of Jamie Lee Curtis: talentless, and cruising on the social capital of his dad and mom.

Posted by: Urinated State of America on January 10, 2007 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

es:

That's a very good point and I should've taken it into account (my acquaintence with Chomsky's grammar comes from an intro to cognitive science course I also took about 20 years ago). A Skinnerian would look at language acquisition as a matter of stimulus-response learning, with the raw materials absorbed from the environment. A Chomskian, however, looks to the intrinsically non-empirical nature of the sense of a phrase like "green colorless dreams sleep furiously" (a great name for an abstract instrumental composition :) to defeat that notion.

In both cases, however, nothing is left in a black box of the mysteries of poetry or subjective psychology. Whether it's material absorbed from the environment or the result of a hardwired neural code, each approach rests on a deterministic epistemology.

In this sense, Chomsky's notion of freedom is constrained. Before anyone draws a political conclusion from this, freedom vs determinism doesn't break down clearly along left/right ideological lines.

There's a progressive tradition from the natural rights Enlightenment writers, through the American and French revolutions, reaching its apotheosis in the ethical writings of Kant and continuing today in leftist civil libertarians, which holds freedom as the highest value -- the very meaning of being human. Conservatives of the early modern era through the mid-19th century valued freedom, but as a highly contingent quality, not to be attained by the mass of humanity.

Conversely, Marxism and the influence of 19th century deterministic science began to problematize the nature of freedom in the name of a lost sense of community spurred forward by the dislocations of industrialization. If human behavior is constrained by discoverable organic limits, "freedom" devolves into a mere illusory individualism, and the notion of social justice evaporates.

Right wingers today of course make "freedom" a veritable fetish -- but they're still prisoners of their earlier heritage as being conservators of a tradition inherently uncomfortable with it. Hence their freedom talk, when pushed to an extreme, rests on romanticized notions of the individual, like social darwinism. Lefties today have a more honestly doubleminded and conflicted view of freedom. We know that human nature is not infinitely malleable, and we value the community -- but we strive to expand the horizons of human action.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 10, 2007 at 10:57 AM | PERMALINK

I think people read in different ways. I don't generally pay attention to opinion and assertion and skim for actual information (and support/references). As such, I can read Chomsky. He eventually puts me to sleep and I have to actively skip ahead if I get in the middle of an ideology heavy section, but I can read him. As he is a bit of a contrarian you are bound to learn about something you haven't seen elsewhere. I don't have a huge tolerance for him. I'll pick up a book every couple years or so.

If I do the same for Kristol, I find myself at the end of his piece almost immediately. It's a little less satisfying. I don't have TIVO so his punditry is just painful. Yeah, you probably exercise your adrenal gland, but you don't learn anything and quite frankly most sitcom writers are better at developing purposely obtuse characters.

Posted by: B on January 10, 2007 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

One person advocates killing to further American goals and the other advocates not killing to further American goals. Mr. Drum, as a representative of American fair play, considers them equals.

One person actually lived in Israel and then turned against its territorial aggression when confronted with it, the other has lived a spoiled life of assumed elitest entitlement and supports sending billions of dollars in military aid to Israel every year. One is a scholar the other a polished hack.

Although Prof. Chomsky is predictable in his responses to US aggression, militarism and hegemony, it is not a result of ideology. Prof. Chomsky is predictable in his responses because he has explained himself very well and has been consistent in his crititcism of war for profit.

I do not always agree with Prof. Chomsky. I was a little put off by his dismissal of behaviorism, which I learned about as a freshman in college from Dr. Dalby in an experimental psychology class. I have always cherished that education, but Chomsky does not dismiss it ideologically, he criticizes behaviorism from an empirical point of view, as he does most US military adventures. I do not think anyone can say that Mr. Kristol bases his advocacy on empiricism.

Posted by: Brojo on January 10, 2007 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

Nathan, it hardly makes sense to say of a man who has devoted the greater part of his intellectual life to documenting the often grim realities of modern U.S. foreign policy -- in order, of course, to hold these actions up to the ideals inscribed in our constitution and legal tradition and to dare ask the question: Do we practice what we preach? -- that he hates America. That's pure rubbish.

Unfortunately, given Nathan's history of ascribing positions to individuals without regard to factual basis, and assorted other examples of intellectual dishonesty, it's par for the course.

Posted by: Gregory on January 10, 2007 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

wow,this is simply more of the "two sides to every question" journalistic horse manure. It is like comparing John Coltrane with Kenny G.

Posted by: kennedy connor on January 10, 2007 at 11:31 AM | PERMALINK

kennedy connor:

Or Allan Holdsworth to The Edge :)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 10, 2007 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

In terms of political influence, I think a more appropriate comparison for Chomsky would be the guy who wrote "The Turner Diaries,"

That's an interesting analogy. How many people have Chomsky inspired to blow up buildings with truck bombs?

Posted by: Gregory on January 10, 2007 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks for prompting an unusually substantive thread with that question, Kevin. Nice to see folks with varying opinions straining brains beyond the usual knee-jerk quips. Some really good posts, both agreeable and less so.

For whatever it is worth, I come down on the side seeing Chomsky and Kristol as being related only in their location near politically opposite poles. The similarity stops there, in that Kristol seems like an asshole straining against reality at every turn, while Chomsky is a rationally coherent empiricist. Chosmky has an enormous and coherent body of work and Kristol is a bundle of nerves.

I'm also not a Chomskyite, and feel torn about the guy. He does seem to have the egoistic and anti-social failings of an uber geek, and can be boring, pedantic, and occaisionally quite offensive and insensative. On the other hand, while he is largely ignored he continues to assemble one of the most comprehensive and coherent critiques of forces cannibalizing America and the world at a time when such a critique is badly needed. I often strain against his conclusions and assumptions, but often feel the metronome of his abrasive voice a balm in today's thoroughly unflective world.

Kristol is a spoiled asshole who would be a gleefully genocidal maniac if placed in the right context. The wrong kind of people are numbers to be erased. If you have a little fun in the erasing, well hey, what's wrong with that?

Chomsky, most of the time, is saying things that need to be said. If they were actually being considered in policy formation his voice would be less essential.

Posted by: Trypticon on January 10, 2007 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

In my experience, the most vehement anti-Chomsky material spews from those who have never read a single one of his books and who have already made up their minds that he's a dangerous anti-American before even considering doing so. I stopped reading him a number of years ago, not because I disagreed with him but because he had long since made his points and was simply repeating those points in the "new" contexts of US foreign interventions that had changed (e.g. Nicaragua to Iraq). The greatest difference between Chomsky and Kristol is that Chomsky substantiates his opinions with actual data (including those endless pages of notes at the back of every book) and that his opinions actually hold up to scrutiny. Pretty much everything Kristol has written has turned out to be wrong and demonstrably wrong, but he has never admitted to being wrong or adjusted his opinions based on reality.

Posted by: jfrane on January 10, 2007 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

The difference is in their ideology.

Take away ideology from Kristol, and you have nothing left at all except emotions, fantasies and daddy's famous name.

Take away ideology from Chomsky and you are left with a big pile of strong arguments based on actual historical events.

That is a very notable difference.

Posted by: Michael on January 10, 2007 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

I guess I do see a pretty significant similarity between Kristol and Chomsky when it comes to political matters, despite Chomsky's general brilliance and Kristol's intellectual mediocrity.

There's really an important lesson here: ideology corrupts, and absolute ideology corrupts absolutely.

I basically see Chomsky as an old-time Marxist who kind of has no real intellectual home now that Marxism as an intellectual movement has been pretty much refuted by history. There are actually a number of people in academe, particularly of Chomsky's generation, who have suffered this fate.

Chomsky, though, really is simply far too smart never to say something interesting, useful, and new. I think much of what he writes is worthwhile, even if you need an ocean of salt to consume with it.

Kristol, on the other hand, is worthless. He's shallow, arrogant, impervious to fact or reason, and wrong -- always and unconscionably wrong. He needs the right wing the way they need him, and for the same reason that Jehovah's Witnesses need other Jehovah's Witnesses: to provide the only possible affirmation of their own bizarre, crazy, incoherent, and manifestly false belief.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 10, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I do not think Mr. Drum received his memo from Disney. Chomsky is supposed to be compared to Glenn Beck this week.

Posted by: Brojo on January 10, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

In other words, how most other cultures use tonal scales is significantly different from the way scales are used in Western music.

True, but they are still tonal.

But just because we don't know what folk music sounded like before music had evolved into toanl systems doesn't mean that there is no precedent for atonality. The earliest music may have indeed been atonal, only how would we know?

Posted by: Horatio Parker on January 10, 2007 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Those who say Chomsky is anti-American, prove it.
Show me the I hate America quote from Chomsky or stop lying. Posted by: AkaDad on January 9, 2007 at 8:52 PM

Yeah DAD!!!
This is real Free Speech! Say whatever you want but you'd better be able to prove it!!!!!!!!!!!

Love. It.

Posted by: Zit on January 10, 2007 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Pretty much everything Kristol has written has turned out to be wrong and demonstrably wrong, but he has never admitted to being wrong or adjusted his opinions based on reality. Posted by: jfrane on January 10, 2007 at 12:54 PM

This is a nasty theme that seems to be claiming too many otherwise decent members of the GOP party these days, as if the adage "Make Your Own Reality" means making up your own reality.

Posted by: Zit on January 10, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Horatio Parker:

Theoretically possible, I suppose -- but not very likely. We in the West have encountered many cultures over the centuries we'd describe as primitive, and there's no reason to assume that their musical practices were any more advanced from the mists of time than the rest of their cultural practices.

Nowhere has there been found a natural, folk atonality.

This would make sense if you think about music developing from imitating bird calls, and/or from rhythmic chanting. The first thing that would get fixed would be the pitches. And once you have fixed pitches with repetition, there's no real need to go off from that and look for other pitches entirely different. The first other notes from the main pitches would come as harmonics, especially from the most primitive of wind instruments. And a harmonic series always implies a fundamental, central tone. That's where you get scales from.

The only culturally universal interval, btw, is the octave -- but the octave is the most important partial in the harmonic series. So from the very beginning, you have musical sounds revolving around a central pitch.

Also noteworthy is that, while much pre-Ars Nova early music (e.g. early motets) can be harmonically bizarre to modern ears, because the superimposed parts produce vertical dissonances with no conception of chords, there has been no case of finding manuscripts from a "mad composer" writing atonal music in some 12th century monastery/asylum somewhere. You'd figure that in all of pre-Schoenberg music history, there'd be at least one ...

So it would seem that atonality was a direct result of the Late Romantic crisis of functional tonality, and not because people have a natural hankering to hear notes plucked randomly out of a chromatic scale ...

Of course, when modernist ideas of dissonance become common currency in a noisy, chaotic urban environment, atonal-sounding free jazz becomes a natural response to that particular historic circumstance as well ...

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 10, 2007 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

The differences:

(a) Chomsky has an advanced degree. Kristol is advanced debris.
(b) Chomsky is well-regarded abroad. Kristol is well-degraded abroad.
(c) Chomsky is almost always right. Kristol is almost always on the right.

Posted by: Mortimer Snerd on January 10, 2007 at 3:29 PM | PERMALINK

Bob:
Theoretically possible, I suppose -- but not very likely. We in the West have encountered many cultures over the centuries we'd describe as primitive, and there's no reason to assume that their musical practices were any more advanced from the mists of time than the rest of their cultural practices.

That presupposes that atonality is an advanced development. Absence of tonality is atonality, at least to me. And that's entirely consistent with the notion of music that consists only of rhythm or mimicry. IE atonality is more primitive than tonality.

Nowhere has there been found a natural, folk atonality.

Doesn't mean it's never been out there. We know nothing about how the ancients sounded. And when I say "ancient" I'm even going back to pre-humans.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on January 10, 2007 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo said:

"I do not think Mr. Drum understands Prof. Chomsky. Chomsky opposes US militarism because he sees it as an imperial pursuit to provide economic support for the largest conglomerations of capital at the expense of the commonweal and the common man."

I can think of no major war in the history of the US that makes less sense than this Iraq adventure. The domino theory of communism in South East Asia gives kind of logic to the Vietnam war, however misguided. But I can find no reason or logic for the invasion of Iraq that makes sense to me outside of the overarching theory of militarism serving/subsidizing corporatism that has outlined over and over again by Chomsky (and others).

P.S. THANKS "drjimcooper" for the story about your friend and Chomsky sending back a picture of himself holding a Miller High Life for his collection. That and the other stories about Chomsky responding to correspondence tell us a lot about Chomsky, The Man, and illuminates his motives in his other work.

I haven't read any Chomsky in maybe 13 or 14 years because I often found it repetitive and felt like the core structures he was talking about were so entrenched that there was no way I or any political actors I could associate with could ever effect anything that deep. But I'm going to take another look.

Does he have any recent writings, cds, or DVDs connected with the Bush regime or Iraq?

THANKS KEVIN. I too thought this was one of your MSM-underpants-showing entries/questions, but the end result has included an inspiring eulogy-like retrospective on Chomsky. Whatever one thinks about the realpolitik usefulness of his political writing or opinions, Chomsky is a great American and a towering example of American intellect and rare American humility.

Posted by: mirror on January 10, 2007 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

Horatio Parker:

With all due respect, Horatio, I believe you're wrong. Atonality is not merely the absence of tonality. You don't call a drum solo "atonal" because there are no pitched tones in it. Atonality is the *defeat* of tonality -- and you can't defeat what hasn't been established.

It's the easiest thing in the world to establish tonality -- even if you're tone deaf. Blow across a beer bottle. Now -- without taking another sip -- do it again. Your little two-note extemporization is tonal, in the key of whatever note that beer bottle happens to be closest to.

Two notes of the same pitch, repeated in a rhythmic fashion, is all you need to be jammin' in a particular key ...

In contrast, the shortest possible atonal figure is three different notes (and limited to chromatically adjacent notes).

Tonality definitely predated atonality.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 10, 2007 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

It is utterly,entirely,completely, provably false. Here is the proof. If they were equally 'off-center' then our middle-ground, carefully-trained, unbiased, professionally objective media and "free" press would ask them to give commentary equally often. But since Kristol is asked roughly 5 billion times more often than Chomsky we can conclude that Kristol is very close to the center of the American political spectrum and say Biden or Lieberman (unbeknownst to us rubes) is actually the extreme left.

Posted by: della Rovere on January 10, 2007 at 6:58 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Chomksy and Cambodia:

I just read the site noted above where Chomsky discusses criticism of his take on Cambodia:

http://blog.zmag.org/node/2890

It's a good example of Chomsky density and how his single-minded gnawing at a topic can be painted as a denial of something that in fact he is making no statement about at all.


I remember in college in the early 80s getting into terrible trouble when I would talk about the connection between the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Gotterdamurung-level bombing of the country by the US. The kool-aid was out and drunk by even most leftists and liberals. Cambodia was to be viewed as an innocent agrarian paradise up to the arrival of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge at the gates of Phnom Penh. The extended bombing and destruction of Cambodia's rural areas and the US installation of the General Lon Nol by toppling the moderate (and relatively popular) Prince Sihanouk was never to be spoken of except in a kind of vague off-hand way, as if someone was talking about something that took place in 200 BC. It was very weird. I was accused of making light of genocide by suggesting that Cambodia had a history and it was relevant.

Posted by: mirror on January 10, 2007 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK

Horatio Parker:

With all due respect, Horatio, I believe you're wrong. Atonality is not merely the absence of tonality. You don't call a drum solo "atonal" because there are no pitched tones in it. Atonality is the *defeat* of tonality -- and you can't defeat what hasn't been established.

Quite allright, there's more than one way to skin a cat. For you, atonality can only exist within a tonal system. Not for me. My ears hear atonality all day all around.

Personally, IMO, language like "defeat" isn't appropriate in a discussion of tonality vs atonality. There's no war, except in the minds of certain academicians who perhaps have too much time on their hands.

I think that the serialists have to some degree hijacked the term atonal.

It's the easiest thing in the world to establish tonality -- even if you're tone deaf. Blow across a beer bottle. Now -- without taking another sip -- do it again. Your little two-note extemporization is tonal, in the key of whatever note that beer bottle happens to be closest to.

I think you need a little more repetition than two single notes, but whatever.


Tonality definitely predated atonality.

Close, but backwards.

Posted by: Horatio Parker on January 10, 2007 at 9:21 PM | PERMALINK

I'm a longtime lurker and it feels foolish to comment this late in a long, long thread, but I just can't help it. First: this has been, hands-down, one of the most interesting and substantive PA threads in quite a while, so thank you all for the absorbing debate.

Second, I have to point out one other parallel between Prof. Chomsky and Bill Kristol. A chimp with rudimentary language skills was once named after Prof. Chomsky (Nim Chimpsky, mentioned previously). Another chimp with rudimentary language skills is the foreign policy hero of Bill Kristol. That is all.

Posted by: Auntie Social on January 10, 2007 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

I too, read the Chomsky response in Zblog. It is dense, it questions the motives of the original critic, it creates a false dichotomy between what happened in Cambodia and in E. Timor (a Chomskyian trope: as if one could compare a bloody, long-term colonial counterinsurgency to killings of Maoist proportions), it has nothing to say about where the Khmer Rouge's ideology came from (those who think that the US bombing campaign in Cambodia turned the Khmer Rouge genocidal need their heads examined). Chomsky sticks very narrowly to the particular review questioned, notes that he questioned the extent of the "crimes" committed by the United States--whew, that makes me feel good--and comes up with the cop-out that there was not much reliable information about what was going on in Cambodia. (Would that he applied that skepticism to causes that he supports.)

The British have a term for what Chomsky is doing: "baffling...with bullshit."

Posted by: Wombat on January 10, 2007 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

For a detailed corrective of what happened in Cambodia in 1975, and how it was reported and responded to, read William Shawcross's "Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust, and Modern Conscience."

Those of us who are old enough will remember that Shawcross blew the cover off US involvement in Cambodia in his superb book "Sideshow."

Posted by: Wombat on January 10, 2007 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

Does [Chomsky] have any recent writings, cds, or DVDs connected with the Bush regime or Iraq?

His last book, Rogue State, was excellent and quite up to date. I liked it much more than his previous effort (which Chavez famously cited at the UN), Hegemony or Survival.

You can read excerpts and a lot of Chomsky's stuff online, via his 'official' site.

Posted by: Bill on January 10, 2007 at 11:09 PM | PERMALINK

I forgot to say that Kristol is the perfect example of a living Ellsworth Toohey.

Posted by: Brojo on January 11, 2007 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

I too, read the Chomsky response in Zblog. blah, blah, blah, blah

The point was not about his style, density, or comprehensibility.

The original question was whether he denies the existence of genocide in Cambodia as committed by the Khmer Rouge (as he has been accused by critics . . . and trolls early on in this thread). To believe that was the case you would have to rely solely on a selective reading of a narrow 1975 review paper largely addressing events prior to the Khmer Rouge's rise to power. Any familiarity with his later writings would have to bring to light his incessant and somewhat repetitive comparison of E. Timor and Cambodia. Wrong, false, idiotic, or whatever he is not saying that Cambodian genocide did not happen. He's saying a lot of people also died E. Timor and he thinks it is comparable.

Posted by: rewolfrats on January 11, 2007 at 1:48 AM | PERMALINK

Wombat:
Your ignorance of E. Timor history makes you particularly unqualified to spout on this subject.

E.Timor was Portuguese colony with a predominantly Catholic population abandoned by the Portugese government when it withdrew from its worldwide colonies in 1975. Before the E. Timorese could organize to gain full UN recognition as an independent state, they were invaded by the MUSLIM Indonesians with whom they had no political ties and little cultural connection.

There was NO long-term colonial counterinsurgency involving Indonesia with E. Timor prior to 1975. The Indonesians brutally repressed the resistance to their rule and did so right up to 1999. Indonesia's complete lack of any legal claim to E. Timor was finally recognized on the ground when international pressure force Indonesia withdraw and let the E. Timorese vote on independence and form their own state. Chomsky's opposition to the illegal and violent occupation of E. Timor has been wholly vindicated by history.

Furthermore, there isn't any debate about whether the US turned a blind eye to the illegal invasion and continued to supply arms to Indonesia during the process.

Posted by: mirror on January 11, 2007 at 5:13 AM | PERMALINK

Horatio Parker:

>> With all due respect, Horatio, I believe you're wrong. Atonality is
>> not merely the absence of tonality. You don't call a drum solo
>> "atonal" because there are no pitched tones in it. Atonality is the
>> *defeat* of tonality -- and you can't defeat what hasn't been
>> established.

> Quite allright, there's more than one way to skin a cat. For you,
> atonality can only exist within a tonal system. Not for me. My ears
> hear atonality all day all around.

No, not "for me." This is not we're all unique snowflakes here :)
Check Grove's Dictionary. Atonality has a general meaning, true, which
you might call "tuneless" or "non-musical," and which could apply to
the sounds of everyday life, like "the atonal clanging of factory
machines." But as a musical term, its meaning is quite specific.

> Personally, IMO, language like "defeat" isn't appropriate in a
> discussion of tonality vs atonality. There's no war, except in
> the minds of certain academicians who perhaps have too much
> time on their hands.

No no no, I didn't mean "defeat" the way a music historian or a critic
might, as in atonality "won out" over tonal music. I'm talking about
the way we perceive music (and this is Chomskian, because Bernstein
contended that this is similar to the way Chomsky says people pick
up grammar). Whether hardwired or conditioned (I take no position
on this), we *expect* music to be tonal. We identify a passage
or a composition as atonal because it defeats these expectations.

> I think that the serialists have to some
> degree hijacked the term atonal.

Well atonalism or free atonality has no necessary connection to
serialism or any other dodecaphonic technique. It could mean extreme
chromaticism to the point where you lose a sense of the tonic. Same
thing with playing "out" in a jazz context -- deliberately against the
key or outside the chords to create lots of tension in a solo. Is
this atonal? Polytonal? It's hard to tell sometimes. What's clear,
though, is that it has very little to do with Arnold Schoenberg :)

>> It's the easiest thing in the world to establish tonality --
>> even if you're tone deaf. Blow across a beer bottle. Now --
>> without taking another sip -- do it again. Your little two-note
>> extemporization is tonal, in the key of whatever note that
>> beer bottle happens to be closest to.

> I think you need a little more repetition than
> two single notes, but whatever.

Well in practical terms, sure. You'd hardly call two notes
a tune. But imagine if one of those notes were a tritone
(flatted fifth/sharped fourth) apart -- say, C to F#. You
*wouldn't* be able to tell what key it's in, and this would
annoy you (or tickle you, depending on how weird you are :)
You'd probably want that damned F# to resolve to a G
(making the two notes part of a dominant 7th in G major)
-- and the melodic phrase to become "The Simp-sons" :)

Or "Mar-i-a" from West Side Story, for that matter.

Although melodically, that might actually be
a lydian sonority in C -- but *anyway* ...

The (insufferably pedagogical) point here is that we hear tones always
in relation to each other. If your beer bottle was more basso -- say,
a wine bottle instead -- and one of your buddies started singing over
it, you'd judge his notes according how they related to your bottom
one there. Which -- unless he was doing an impromptu Eric Dolphy
imitation -- people would call the keynote of your little duet.

> Tonality definitely predated atonality.

> Close, but backwards.

Well, if you *really* wanted to get pedantic (which, at the
bottom of this message, would be pretty goddamned pedantic),
you could say that noisemaking preceeded music making in
human culture, and since noisemaking is "atonal" in the
general definition I gave above, you'd be right, I suppose.

But atonality on musical instruments, with defined
pitches, came after tonality, as a reaction to it.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 11, 2007 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

If Kristol is a living Ellsworth Toohey, then Chomsky is a living John Galt. Chomsky has made a remarkable discovery about grammar and he makes a moral argument against war for profit, which he seemingly makes standing alone against national opinion.

Who is Noam Chomsky?

Posted by: Brojo on January 11, 2007 at 10:55 AM | PERMALINK

Gosh, and I hadn't even read Bruce Sharp's lengthy dismantling of Chomsky's writing on Cambodia when I was criticising him last night.

Does Mirror deny that Indonesia carried out a bloody and long-term colonial counterinsurgency in East Timor from 1975-99? If not, who is displaying ignorance?

Posted by: Wombat on January 11, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

Kristol is revealed in John Pilger's film, Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror. In an interview, he challenges Pilger on the existence of US intervention in other countries. Pilger is ready for him, citing 70 interventions since WWII. Kristol loses it and the interview is over. Chomsky bothers many Americans for the same reason--he forces us to look in the mirror. Many of our rightist friends cannot process that.

Posted by: Owl on January 11, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Gosh, and I hadn't even read . . .

I'm not sure that it matters what you haven't read if your apparent reading comprehension (as displayed here) is representative of your mental faculty.

Posted by: falintil on January 11, 2007 at 12:09 PM | PERMALINK

Wombat:
Sure, I will agree that "Indonesia carried out a bloody and long-term colonial counterinsurgency in East Timor from 1975-99" (with the US supplying the arms), if by that you mean the same thing as "Nazi Germany carried out a bloody and long-term colonial counterinsurgency in the Ukraine from 1940-45."

I was confused about the values distinction you seemed to be putting forward suggesting that somehow killing or causing the death of significant portions of a population is MORE acceptable when done by a foreign entity than it is when done by a domestic entity. [Sounds kind of like the Bush position on Iraq?]

Actually, I'm still confused.

(And stop defaming the mascot of my high school alma mater! You're not a real Wombat!)

Posted by: mirror on January 11, 2007 at 12:29 PM | PERMALINK

Mirror:

To me, Chomsky sounds like the former Soviet officials who responded to revelations of Soviet State repression/terror during Stalinist times by criticizng segregation and lynching in the US south.

Chomsky believes (and amasses a great deal of data--usually from the same media sources that he derides and castigates--and often out of context and ignoring evidence to the contrary) that the United States and everything it stands for is the fount of everything that is wrong in the world, and that the US knowingly and deliberately seeks to continue doing so. This assumes a degree of competence and omnipotence that exactly mirrors the right's image of communism--and now radical Islam.

To me, Chomsky is not an analyst (incisive, respected or otherwise) of international affairs; he is a polemicist who hammers on the same theme, bends facts to fit them, and ignores nuance and contradictions.

Those who read him and agree with his polemics at the expense of real intellectual curiosity seem to be in serious danger of becoming like the mindless sheep on the right that we all deride and disdain.

Sorry that I use your high school's mascot as my monicker..and I am not even Australian!

Posted by: Wombat on January 11, 2007 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Wombat:
I'm not Australian either. My high school just wanted to find the least competitive, least aggressive animal they could think of.

Posted by: mirror on January 11, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

It is true that other countries commit mass murder. That is wrong. Citizens, though, have a first responsibility to prevent or stop their nations from committing atrocities. After one's nation is stopped from committing these crimes, then, and only then, can they look abroad and attempt to stop others from committing similar crimes. Unfortunately, the US knowingly and deliberately seeks to continue committing these types of crimes, which horrifies Prof. Chomsky and prompts him to criticism.

Posted by: Brojo on January 11, 2007 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

There do seem to be times when Chomsky seems to be polemical when laying bare the interests of corporatists and American hegemons in particular contexts, while failing to mention certain odious practices of the "victims." I'm not a Chomsky scholar by any means, really just a tourist here, so I could be generalizing his views from too small a sample, but the Sandanistas come to mind. It's typical of the American Left to glamorize the Sandanistas in light of the horror Yanks were up to their eyeballs in throughout the region at the time. But as bad as the Yanks were, the Sandanistas were a nasty bunch too. Like any complex civil war there were heros, humanity, and victims on all sides, and it seemed to me like a very complex, hardly binary type situation. I'm sympathetic with bashing the Yanks for our misdeeds in Nicauragua and environs sure, and it certinaly is a minority view that deserves a coherent champion like Chomsky. And yet, don't forget that Ortega was literally quite close to the forced nationalization of children at a time when his power was such as to make that seem possible and practible. I know families who stayed down there and tried to survive who were not entirely unsympathetic with some of the aims of the revolution who were bracing themselves for the state to try and seize their kids. That is the sort of thing that Chomsky is likely not to say when connecting the dots of global oppression. And it is occaisionally annoying and glaring. Still, I sort of see him as a pain in the ass national treasure, an irritant most needed.

Kristol is just a spoiled, frustrated, sadist, with a limited grasp of reality.

The sad thing is that our culture elevates the savage and savages the elevator.

Posted by: Trypticon on January 11, 2007 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

Chomsky believes (and amasses a great deal of data--usually from the same media sources that he derides and castigates--and often out of context and ignoring evidence to the contrary) that the United States and everything it stands for is the fount of everything that is wrong in the world, and that the US knowingly and deliberately seeks to continue doing so. This assumes a degree of competence and omnipotence that exactly mirrors the right's image of communism--and now radical Islam.

With respect to your statement "knowningly and deliberately", I don't that really is a fair reading. In Chomsky's writings he argues that the public, the mass media, intellectuals, and politicians are in fact largely blind to the actual consequences of US foreign policy. Even those who orchestrate policy and distribute "propaganda" (about WMD, democracy promotion, etc.) can believe they are doing so for a moral reason. Chomsky argues that Orwell's fears have simply come true. In his words:

In our society, intellectual elites are deeply indoctrinated, a point that Orwell noted in his (unpublished) introduction to Animal Farm on how self-censorship works in free societies. A large part of the reason, he plausibly concluded, is a good education, which instills the understanding that there are certain things "it wouldn't do to say" -- or more accurately, even to think.

Posted by: B on January 11, 2007 at 3:23 PM | PERMALINK

Brojo:

It strikes me--and others of the thinking left--that Chomsky is far more horrified by "crimes" committed by the United States than by others. He seems to have trouble recognizing that others may commit "crimes" as well, and that they may do so with less US input/causation than he might wish.

Posted by: Wombat on January 11, 2007 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

By the way, Wombat, the Guardian has apologized and retracted their interview with Chomsky and their juxtaposition of a letter from him and a letter from a Omarska surivor. The published interview placed Chomsky's answers next to questions that were not asked at the time of the interview. The resulting effect was to state plainly that Chomsky believes the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated and imply that he thought it did not occur. The reporter was apparently an idiot.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/corrections/story/0,,1644017,00.html

Posted by: B on January 11, 2007 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Cambodia is a great example of the self-censorship of the intelligensia, that there are certain things that one is not allowed "even to think."

When the bombing of Cambodia is discussed in the United States, if it is spoken of as being negative, it is because it was an "illegal" expansion of the war by Nixon contrary to the will of the US congress.

But, only very rarely is the direct connection made between the WWII level of munitions dropped on Cambodia by the US Air Force and the mass misery it caused. Without this wholesale destruction of Cambodian rural economy and society, Pol Pot and his handful of fringe Paris-educated ultra-Maoists playing revolutionary in the mountains would have been unable to gain a following of any size in Cambodia. The extensive bombing of non-combatants and non-military targets in Cambodia was a war crime by any international standard. And in this case Evil led to more Evil. We in the US always speak of the Khmer Rouge as if they arose based purely on the deceptively misleading and pursuasive rhetoric of their commie ideology, when in fact much of their previously ineffectual argument for the need for a Maoist-type rural-based revolt was made by the US bombs. This link is not vague or abstract.

No link is ever allowed to be made in the US media between the US acts and the rise of the Khmer Rouge. On the other hand, as Chomsky points out, "[T]he atrocities were exploited ... to provide a depraved form of retrospective justification for the US wars in Indochina (including the crimes that were instrumental in creating the KR)"

Even today, to suggest that the US had any connection with the rise of Pol Pot quickly leads to the accusation that one is a Maoist red who will justify anything to move forward the Cultural Revolution, or as by Trypticon above, the accusation that one supports the taking of children by the State. (Sounds like Elders of Zion doesn't it?] But this rarely happens because people don't even allow themselves to think about the connection.

If there is a civil or regional war with hundreds of thousands or millions killed as a result of the Iraq adventure, it may be a little harder to sweep under the rug that the US set the stage. But many people will still say "It's not our fault if those crazy Muslims kill each other. They chose sectarian violence over the democratic peace we handed them on a silver platter."

Posted by: mirror on January 11, 2007 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

P.S. I've gone on way beyond anything I normally say in comment sections, but this Cambodia question was a source of personal confusion and interpersonal tension for me as a young person interested in Asian history when I would try to tie in all threads together as a whole.

Posted by: mirror on January 11, 2007 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

Wombat, I also am more horrified by the crimes my country commits than I am by crimes other countries commit. When my country commits crimes, they do it in my, and your, name, implicating both of us. When another country commits crimes, I have no personal complicity, unless those crimes were committed at the behest of my country. I am thinking of Saddam's invasion of Iran, which was done at the asking of President Reagan, so you and I are partly to blame for that, too.

I do not take any responsibility for the Darfur killings, although deplorable and something I condemn. The crimes the US is committing in Iraq are much worse because they are being done in my name. Just as the Sudanese must take responsibility for their government's crimes, so to must Americans bear the responsibility of their government's crimes. You seem to think Prof. Chomsky and me should care more about the victims in Darfur rather than the people in Iraq our soldiers are killing.

Posted by: Brojo on January 11, 2007 at 4:38 PM | PERMALINK


Hey Mirror, I've been digging much of your posts, but you either mistakenly or willfully misread my last post. In one fell swoop you link me with an argument I don't support, namely that there can be no connection between US action in Cambodia and the rise of Pol Pot, suggest that I accuse people such as yourself of advocating the State's appropriation of children when I clearly attributed that fact based on personal knowledge narrowly to Ortega to illustrate a point you seemed to miss entirely, and for good measure you lump me in with Troglodyte anti-Semites. It is a typical failure of the left to eat itself, and I think your knee-jerk assault based most probably on poor application of reading comprehension and analytical skills highlight that. Your need to make a point is more important than awareness of your context, and more importantly, recognition of compatible networks. Let's not turn this into some kind of colonization of the oppressed, where those used to being out of power replicate the pathologies of the oppressor, often with less sophistication. I think many of us are trying to articulate a measured admiration for Chomsky. We shouldn't have our tone and reasoning infected by Kristolite.

Posted by: Trypticon on January 12, 2007 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

Hey Mirror, I've been digging much of your posts, but you either mistakenly or willfully misread my last post. In one fell swoop you link me with an argument I don't support, namely that there can be no connection between US action in Cambodia and the rise of Pol Pot, suggest that I accuse people such as yourself of advocating the State's appropriation of children when I clearly attributed that fact based on personal knowledge narrowly to Ortega to illustrate a point you seemed to miss entirely, and for good measure you lump me in with Troglodyte anti-Semites. It is a typical failure of the left to eat itself, and I think your knee-jerk assault based most probably on poor application of reading comprehension and analytical skills highlight that. Your need to make a point is more important than awareness of your context, and more importantly, recognition of compatible networks. Let's not turn this into some kind of colonization of the oppressed, where those used to being out of power replicate the pathologies of the oppressor, often with less sophistication. I think many of us are trying to articulate a measured admiration for Chomsky. We shouldn't have our tone and reasoning infected by Kristolite.

Posted by: Trypticon on January 12, 2007 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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