My old post criticizing Noam Chomsky's dense writing style has been garnering more attention, currently from a person calling himself (herself? itself?) "Izzard."
Izzard goes to great lengths to slam me for taking an "us vs. them" position - not saying a word, of course, about the initial Chomskyite who lit into me calling me a "moron" an an "idiot" even though I did nothing more than to note (in a very cursory manner) that Chomsky's clumsy overuse of rehtoric makes a lot of his writing dense and manipulative, especially for someone so revered as a great thinker. Then Izzard furiously types out a huge screed furthering the same "us vs. them" position - making assertions so incredibly uninformed as to be something out of Monty Python in their sheer randomness. Even in his initial posting here, Izzard was mostly polite, but then managed to heave a couple of really nasty insults in amongst it all. Basically, Izzard is trying to bait me. It's all very interesting, and funny too.
Izzard's MO lies in trying to be like Chomsky himself (whether consciously or unconciously), but like most fans of Chomsky he fails because he lacks Chomsky's truly fanatical convictions. Chomsky handles himself as a messiah on a mission - I suspect, part of what makes him so attractive to angry young men, who are in awe of someone who can channel his arrogant self-absorbtion so skillfully.
I'll grant Izzard this - my initial post was lazy, and what he said earlier about "preaching to the choir" was somewhat true. I used to be much more thorough in my political postings, but life has caught up with me in the past eight months and now, when I do post something political, it's more of an afterthought.
But at the same time, I don't keep this blog as a way to enlighten anyone or to change anyone's mind. This is a project for pure personal enjoyment. I'm no Noam Chomsky, setting myself out there as an intellectual messiah who is going to edutain the ignorant masses with pearls of wisdom from on high. I'm just a person who is looking for creative outlets and who happens to like blogging as one of those outlets. I've got a small number of regular readers, many of whom are close friends or acquaintances, and I have no desire to become the most widely-read blogger in the world. This blog is for me, period.
But on to Izzard's main points - he does have a few, amongst the angry ranting ...
He takes great pains to go over and over a "rogue's gallery" of absolute thugs like Hussein, Suharto, Marcos, Duvalier, Ceaucescu, and on and on, and what villians they are/were, before then going on to point out that these very criminals probably wouldn't have enjoyed the nice long abusive run they each did had the US, at the very LEAST, just left well enough alone and not supported, in numerous shady ways, these very dictators ...
We see here Chomsky's main premise - one stated over and over and over again for the past 35+ years by the kindly Prof. I've had this explained to me a trillion times over the years by people defending Chomsky ("See, you just don't understand what he's saying. He's saying ...") and by people who have never heard of him but who have heard the premise, and because it offers a simple solution to a bewildering world ("You obviously don't understand what's going on in the world. What's really going on is ...") they latch onto it and don't let go.
Let's talk a little more about "the morality of intervention", OK? In my view, there is no overriding "morality of intervention." There are situations, and then there are any number of actions that can be taken in response to and because of those situations. The world is one big, interconnected chain of action-->reaction. Basically, everything you do is some kind of intervention into something.
Now, most events/actions can be grouped, such as "this is good" or "this is bad" (the most base, simplest form) and the criteria used to establish this can be as complicated - or more complicated - as the chain of events themselves.
So a person can react two basic ways to this problem. They can establish a set of principles by which to judge each situation individually, and then draw on those principles to guide them in their reaction. They can establish a set of principles by which to judge every situation, and then draw on those principles to guide them in their reaction. Chomsky, and his supporters, do the latter. For them, whatever the western democracies do is bad, period, and that what other nations may do in response can be excused or at least rationalized.
I do the former - at least, I try to be consistent in doing the former; I try to be mindful that what might be beneficial in one situation may be catastrophic in another situation. I try to remember that what is "bad" for one person may be "good" for another; that the world is a complex place. That even though Mussolini made the trains run on time he also killed and tortured; that even though Bill Clinton is a sexual predator in his personal life, he actually was a decent President especially on the domestic side.
Now Izzard, you yourself stated that "you have to be on your toes historically" when dealing with Chomsky. To me, that's an admission that you understand that Chomsky lies. Not spins, not interprets, but lies. You may be fine with this. I am not. When I read an analysis of anything - not just world affairs - I like to feel that the commentator is being honest with me. Chomsky is manipulative, and transparently so. It distresses me that his manipulativeness isn't obvious to a lot of people - and that some people are aware of it but are fine with it.
As for the Monbiot article - the specific content is really irrelvent. It's the same old scenario re-enacted. Chomsky makes statements, waits for people to interpret them in the only possible way, then comes back and employes mindfucking doublespeak to try and discredit the person. It's an endless cycle of "Your interpretation is wrong. That's certainly not what I'm saying" leaving the impression that he is the misunderstood messiah. Yet, he never offers a real, solid, practical explanation of what he thinks the solution to all this is. This is the crucial reason for Chomsky's dishonesty and manipulation: what he's really getting at. He can't say it out loud, because he's trying to reach the mainstream, and he's shrewd enough to know that his ultimate message, if stated plainly, would immediately discredit him.
He's your basic utopianist of Marxist descent ("no he's not! he's an anarchist (or whatever)" who sees the world as a big class stuggle, unchanged since the 18th and 19th centuries ("no way! he's totally tuned in to the world as no one else is!"). The fact that technology and the rise of mass communications have broken down the age-old class system far more efficiently than anything Marx could have ever imagined is, in fact, an annoyance to Chomsky and those who think like him; because in their world, the "smart" folks, the ones who all agree with each other, need to be on top, with all the access to information and making the decisions for everyone else. A place for everyone and everyone in their places. All this silly stuff about republics and constitutions and freedom, it just can't work, these people believe; to them, their own superior intelligence puts them at the top of society's heap by default and they would like nothing more than to see a new class system established - one where the so-called "intellectuals" (their definition) places them as a new aristocracy.
The problem is, their worldview is a closed system, and if they state it out loud, people know it. So they work within this relatively open, scalable, controlled-capitalist constitutional republic to get their messages out using subterfuge and manipulation.
Now let's get to this part ...
This last bit always seems to stick in the craw of the aggressors, the flag-wavers, and the hawks. Sure, it's a slightly unsatisfying position to reiterate due to its lack of a "here's what we should do now..." bit at the end, as anyone watching the debacle in Iraq would now love to hear, but its a damn sight better than the jingoistic, intellectually vapid "dissent-is-treason" bullshit that Windschuttle is in grave danger of falling into by the end of the article.
Izzard admits that Chomsky and his followers won't openly outline a solution to the world's problems, and states that he finds it preferable to simply point out the problems rather than to actually do anything about them. To want to do something about the world's problems is "jingoistic" and makes you an "aggressor," a "flag-waver," and a "hawk." To disagree with Chomsky (and Izzard) is "intellectually vapid". There you have it in a nutshell, folks.
And what exactly is "treason"? It's a concept that is horribly offensive to one-world/one-people advocates - that is, utopianists. They're terribly sensitive about it, probably because the betrayal of honor and of one's neighbor that it represents causes cognitive dissonance when compared to starry-eyed dreams of a perfect society.
Reality is hard to face sometimes, isn't it, Izzard?