"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Oct 31, 2011

Chomsky's Agonistes

Some people, apparently, take criticism of Chomsky personally. It's like he's a prophet, or something. It's like criticizing the Chompers is criticizing their own awakening to the banal venality of human endeavors.

This may come as a surprise, but it doesn't take ruling class terminology to figure out that rich people with lots of guns suck.

I know it seems like an epiphany to comfortable, well off technicians plodding along in academia and the suburbs, but it's really not. I don't recommend getting pistol whipped by a cop with a grudge, but it doesn't take a credentialing mill to figure our that the cop is manhandling your carcass because he's got the gun and the backing of the people with the money. It does, on the other hand, help to have comfortable white male skin, a suburban existence, and a college degree to treat with the proposition that "rich people suck hard, which is how they get rich, and then they hire a few poor people to fuck up the rest of the poor to protect their property" as some kind of world-shaking revelation.

Anyhow, I don't understand the impulse to personalize a defense of famous and wealthy people. They are famous and wealthy precisely because they're willing to make the compromises which most of us do not make. Men like Noam may understand the contradiction between writing about bad capitalists and doing so for profit. He may even feel a wee bit of the angst when it comes to staking out an anarchist position from the safety of a military-industrial institute with longstanding ties to the professional torture community. A man like Chomsky may harbor a little shame for regularly outlining the evils of the world order in the driest, most distancing, most academic, and elitist language possible, while routinely using resonant and ordinary idiom to persuade his alleged allies to end actions which might obstruct Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

Here's all you need to know about that man Chomsky, so-called anarchist, so-called radical:

"When teaching at MIT, he often receives undercover police protection."

Now I'm sure Chomsky's Internet Defense Brigade will argue something along the lines of, "But hey, dude, he's like been threatened with death."

To which one might reasonably reply, "And that's nothing like actually dying from an Israeli sniper's bullet, while attempting to cross the street on the way to buying basic foodstuffs at siege and sanctions prices. And besides, there's a fairly clear demarcation between anarchist and comfortable fucking academic who takes death money to teach dolled up Kant-on-the-Brain, all the while writing for-profit tomes about the evils of the profit system. On one side of that line are anarchists, who can be annoying and purist and all sorts of odd and corrosive. On the other side, there are wealthy professors who own more than one home, have investment portfolios and inheritance plans for their children, belong to the ruling class, and accept undercover police protection."

If you're on the side with the undercover police protection, your claims to "anarchism" and opposition to the concentration of power are suspect, at best.

So, what is Chomsky, then?

Chomsky is a gatekeeper. 

Like Elizabeth "I laid the foundation for OWS" Warren, Michael "OWS happened because of my movies" Moore or that  posturing fascist assclown, Zizek. Their purpose (and there's no coordinated conspiracy here; it's just what they do) is to misdirect outrage into runnels of sophistry and philosophizing, or into party politics. 

On the way to burning out the toll stations, perhaps it might be worth showing these gatekeepers the appropriate lengths of rope. Metaphorically, of course...

37 comments:

The Creator said...

Interesting claim, Mr. Crow. It is certainly consistent with Chomsky's employment, his economic status and his (if true) receipt of police protection.

The only thing it is inconsistent with, is pretty much everything that Chomsky has written and said. And, since I don't know Chomsky personally, don't live on the same continent as him, and don't have anything to do with American police or academic institutions, the writings are pretty much all I have to go on.

You may, of course, disagree with the writings. You may feel he is unsatisfactorily conservative in some way. However, he appears to have identified a large array of important grievances and suggested that the working class might wish to do something about them. This is not the activity of a gatekeeper.

Mark said...

Etheridge Knight, 1967:

A slim
young fascist
slid into me
murdered me
with his eyes
and said, "Man,
why ain't you
doing something?"

All night
I sat up
All night
Wrote 5,000 words
explaining how
I
was doing something

but the slim cat --
beautiful fascist
didn't buy
it -- nor
did I
completely.

Not calling anyone a fascist, and I don't know enough about Knight to say, but all appearances to the contrary I'm not sure he isn't more in sympathy with Chomsky there than with Jack.

If I'm right about that, it's for the same reason I get impatient with Jon Stewart fans who think he's really sticking it to whoever's in power. I bring that up because Stewart himself was once honest enough to point out (in response to being asked about "the effect his show was having") that historically, humor tends to blunt criticism rather than drive it home.

I'm guessing Chomsky's never made a similar admission (or Maddow or Colbert for that matter). Not, given the level of fandom noted here, that it would matter.

If we can't have our bread, we still demand our circuses, three-ring, intellectual, or televised.

Mark S said...

The Creator:

I don't believe Jack was implying conscious intent on Chomsky's part, nor do I think Stewarts's self-awareness is par for the course. There may be every reason to believe Chomsky's intentions are earnest and good -- just as the reporter who queried Stewart about "the effect his show was having" had no reason to expect a self-aware reply.

It's a matter of the frame of reference from which you choose to look at things. From close up, good intentions are enough. Back off a frame or three however, and you can start to see that what individual actors may intend is not what is actually happening.

At that point, you can play the stupid-or-evil? game, but in terms of process and outcome, it doesn't really matter if Chomsky understands he's been co-opted or not. Stewart for instance clearly does seem to understand. And what has it gotten us?

Mark S said...

Well, crap. Didn't mean to leave out the line, "fresh from the Hole," that resonated with Jack's murdering eyes and his reference to getting pistol whipped by a cop with a grudge:

A slim
young fascist
fresh from the Hole
slid into me
murdered me
with his eyes

Mark S said...

And on the nexus of Stewart and Chomsky, from one @davidpoeppel just five hours ago:

I wish Noam Chomsky would sign up for the twitterverse. He is much much funnier than people think. "There is no such thing as London ..."

Mandos said...

*shrug* I can't criticize. I'm not nearly as well-off as Chomsky, but I'm pretty privileged, as, I think, are quite a few of us who read your blog. So any leftazoidal philosophizing I might do online doesn't have a much better status than what Chomsky does, which is why people defend him, I guess.

And that wouldn't change much for most people in Western countries even if they were to join OWS, for that matter.

So start measuring out that rope.

I think that Chomsky is quite well aware of his position of privilege, by the way...

This is in reference to something on TV? I have had no opportunity to see it, whatever it is.

Picador said...

And besides, there's a fairly clear demarcation between anarchist and comfortable fucking academic who takes death money to teach dolled up Kant-on-the-Brain, all the while writing for-profit tomes about the evils of the profit system.

Yeah, and there's a fairly clear demarcation between anarchist and comfortable blogger who uses "death money" from his job serving The System to buy computers manufactured by third-world slave labor to write his screeds online, where he tracks his readers using the corporate police state SiteMeter tool! Death to the anarcho-blogger gatekeepers!

Get a grip, Jack. If you don't lower your standards for ideological purity, your anarchist utopia is going to have a population of one, established on a pile of seven billion corpses. Which, I suppose, would solve the problem of how to prevent The State from reasserting itself...

Otherwise, what Mandos said above.

Jack Crow said...

My job, if it really interests you Picador, is Dad. I don't draw a wage. I have no personal income. I stay home and take care of my kids. Several years ago, my wife wanted to go back to work, and I needed a break for 75/80/100 hour work weeks.

Her money (which pays the bills and feeds us on the cheap), if it actually still continues to interest you, is charity obstetrics money. She works for doctors (almost all of them women) who take the ob/gyn cases that no one else will take.

And this isn't some quest for purity. BDR's dear friend Landru recently had an excellent post about complicity, just getting by, and the need to survive.

I've never once leveled a single argument about doing what it takes to feed oneself. Because, despite your plainly insipid misrepresentation, I'm not a utopian. In fact, if there's anything my anti-pacifist, pro-crime, non-idealist positions should demonstrate, it's a departure from utopianism.

I have no argument for or against utopian ideals. If that's what gets someone through the night, it's not for me to object. If refusing the consolations of a future perfect is how a person makes it from one tomorrow to the next, I still have no objection.

I think a reach ought to exceed the grasp, but I have no quarrel with those who cling to what's only within reach.

And this has exactly fuck all to do with Chomsky, who takes actual death money from an institution nestled deep in the bosom of the actual death state, who body of work (when it's not devoted to idealizing Kant in the language structures of the brain) doesn't immunize him from criticisms of hypocrisy and, shall we say, an ironic detachment from the contradictions between his pendantic arguments and his actual existence.

Chomsky is rich and famous and even powerful. That is precisely the reason he doesn't get a pass.

He's not a librarian just trying to keep his kids from falling into destitution, or being gobbled up by a clinical system.

He's an MIT professor, a Zionist and a hypocrite of the first rank.

It doesn't take an attachment to "purity" or a "utopia" to point that out.

All the same, I'm amused again by the deep emotional and personalized investment people make in the defense of yet another rich white dude with a platform and a disconnect between his "ideology" and his actual existence.

Jack Crow said...

I'm going to try to keep this to the plain saxon:

If some fucker is about to stab your kid in the eye, life doesn't boil down to just two choices. That one act he's about to do opens up into a countless choices, for you, your kid, other bystanders and the guy with the knife.

The utopian response demands the best outcome, with "best" left up to taste and belief.

My response is to try to kill dead the bastard about to hurt my kids. I trust this reply. It makes sense. Now, if I get stop him without corpsifying him, all the better. But, I'm not going to lose sleep if he gets dead and my kid stays alive.

I'm not thinking about abstracted justice, about the philosophy of might, or the proper balance between reconciliation and recompense. Dude is about to hurt someone I love. Dude's gotta be stopped.

Chomsky, Moore, Warren, Zizek, Kucinich, Paul - all the so-called critics of the guys with knives - prefer a different response. They want to develop theory. They want to philosophize, or get votes.

That's an untrustworthy response. Furthermore, they do it from positions of power, influence, comfort and complicity which cannot go unrecognized.

It's like going to stop the guy with the knife and having a man in an expensive dinner jacket chastise you for not having the correct ideology and theory before you do it, while he gets in your way, obstructs your path to your child, and generally attempts to command your attention so you can have a civilized discussion on his terms, and come to a consensus agreement, just in time to break free of him in order to find that the knife wielder has turned your child into a corpse.

Fuck that.

Fuck the gatekeepers.

If the ruling class is killing people you love, you'll probably need tactics and fellow travelers you can trust, but you don't need philosophy or the distractions provided by comfortable, affluent gatekeepers.

Their obstruction shows to what class they actually belong.


And

Slim Charles said...

Jack,

to get this out of the way: I'm sure we all loathe Zizek and his fellow theory jerkoffs and feel that those people can't even be put in the same category as Chomsky, but let's leave that aside for now.

And Disclosure: I'm not an anarchist. I believe in a well-funded public sector. So, the idea of a guy getting research funding by the state and being protected by cops, or firefighters, or having his kids educated by public schoolteachers, doesn't bother me (we can debate the "state" versus "anarchism" stuff some other time).

Ok, so now to the point: I fully agree with your statement that we don't need to be erecting anyone as a "vanguard" intellectual and setting up theories about what to do that are divorced from social experience.

But: Chomsky is actually disdains theories about what to do. He's far more interested in simply stating as many detailed facts as he can. And although, by deductive reasoning the fact that "powerful people with guns suck," requires no intellectual, Chomsky's work is inductive, not deductive. he's not trying to establish the tautological theory that powerful people are powerful; he's trying to inform us of the details of precisely how and in what ways those powerful people are doing what they are doing.

I don't think Chomsky is inherently smarter than people of the younger generation, but he has more _resources_ than people of the younger generation: his nearly free university education kept him from crippling debt, his pentagon funded work kept him from the neurotic careerism of most current academics, and more importantly, his privilege now gives him a certain wideness of social experience that academics like me don't have. he's able to meet activists all over the world, although admittedly the 'talk' setting in which he meets them is constricting, but still, he meets them, from Bolivia to Beijing to Detroit. Whereas people like me don't have the resources to gain that kind of experience meeting so many different kinds of activists.

So when you point out that everyday people know many of the same things Chomsky is saying, well, precisely: what everyday people know is _precisely_ what Chomsky knows, since he has learned it from them.

In short, I agree fully with your attack on setting up vanguards, and your attack on theory, but, I think there's a difference between the empty theory of Zizek, and the actual details I occasionally get from Chomsky.

And, what I admire about the generation that came before the boomers and the boomers, is not that they are superior people, but that they had resources that we no longer have: more resources, more funding, means the capacity for wider social experience, which makes for the kind of knowledge that Chomsky has but that people like me sitting at our computers don't have.

Slim Charles said...

p.s. sorry to post twice, but: I notice that in the haste of clacking away at the computer some of the formulations were repetitive and sloppy. i don't mean "what everyday people know is precisely what Chomsky knows." I rather meant to say, that Chomsky owes what he knows to his wide experience with many of those everyday people. That comes form his privilege, but it is a privilege that many of us post-boomers, in a society defunding all its public resources, want to fight to have.

Richard said...

Chomsky is clearly a gatekeeper when it comes to Israel, and uses his prestige to discourage progressives from participating in the BDS movement. He also uses it to discourage anyone from pushing anything other than a two state solution. He should be called on his Zionism.

Otherwise, Chomsky's anarchism is a dry, desiccated kind, although he does provide an intellectual defense of it, a place for it within the academy, as does David Graeber. Of course, if you don't care for the academy, you won't consider this very important.

My big problem with Chomsky is the personality cult built around him. I was in the studio for my KDVS show last Friday, and, as free speech radio news ended, there was a report, as if the Pope had descended the stairs to visit an orphanage, about Chomsky speaking to an occupation, probably Boston. Needless to say, I found the hagiography annoying, and I told my waiting guest how obnoxious it is. Now, that may not be Chomsky's fault, but I am just tired of him because I haven't heard him say anything I hadn't already figured out in years.

Compare Chomsky with someone like Tariq Ali and Chomsky comes off much the worse. Ali is still there on the frontlines, speaking out against imperialism in all of its manifestations, as forcefully as he did in the 1960s. He speaks the blunt truth about Obama with a quiet anger. There is still an intensity within that Chomsky lacks. For that, I can work with his Trotskyism.

fish said...

I can only give a personal perspective on this, which may in fact be distorted by my own compromises (that are more direct even than working at a place that also takes DOD money). But I am not sure about placing Chomsky in the gatekeeper role, at least not as I have come to understand the term. I was one of the small percentage of people that gives the illusion of upward mobility in the US, i.e. through luck and opportunity, I was able to make a big jump in earnings over what my parents made. Although never really "at risk" as a kid, I can breathe much easier than my parents ever could.
So it wasn't until I read Chomsky and Herman's "Manufacturing Consent" (after college) that I felt a veil lifted from my eyes. It was exactly the carefully documented and well laid-out thesis that made it possible for me to believe the argument that the corporate media is a tool of the state. I am a scientist by trade and while not science, his approach was necessary to convince me that he wasn't just writing opinion. He convinced me. So I guess I disagree with you that Chomsky is just stating the obvious (otherwise I have to deal with some rather unpleasant ramifications towards my own intellect and insight), and I believe that his level of analysis has value.
From what I have read by him since then, he is generally pretty careful about not stating what he thinks should be done other than "decide for yourself." This doesn't feel like gatekeeping although admittedly the results may be ineffectual or ultimately help the wrong people.
Finally, in regard to Israel, all I have seen of his commentary on that is pretty damning of Israel and supportive of Palestine. His original stance was not for the formation of Israel, but for a multiculturalism (left Zionist), since then, he is of the opinion that a two-state solution is now the only viable solution (pre-1967 boundaries). Perhaps you could expand how you think this has helped the Right Zionists.
Again, I don't see how this is gatekeeping. He seems pretty consistently outside the generally permissible boundaries of the debate. That he can't get traction in the discussion is more a demonstration of how effective the system is.

Jack Crow said...

Fish, Richard, Slim ~

I think this goes to my point. I concede that it's an ugly one. And I'm no more forgiving about it than I am the compromised and discredited term "empower."

Chomsky's appeal is to those people who can afford to dryly appreciate him.

Chomsky is a philosopher and technician of analysis for the upper middle class, and for the wealthy who fancy themselves as not-fascist.

None of this speaks at all to his accuracy, or to the fact that he writes truthfully.

I'm not suggesting he's a liar, or that hypocrisy itself is an act of deception. I detest coercion. I'm not above raising my voice at two rambunctious boys who don't respect my migraines, because I have a big stentorian voice and it shuts 'em up for a spell.

I'm not suggesting that Chomsky is a waste of time, or that his steaming pile of upper class hypocrisy negates his ability to present facts.

It's just that his usefulness is limited to those with the class membership to which he ultimately appeals. Not unlike that fascist assclown Zizek.

And that's where it gets ugly for me, and where I get ugly along with it: Chomsky is a class enemy. His portrait of the human universe may be precise, and even accurate. But his recommendations almost always support the status quo, a traitorous incrementalism, lesser evil electioneering and a disheartening refusal to treat with Israel honestly.

He's a gatekeeper.

Richard said...

fish:

Your question about Chomsky and Israel is a fair one, so I will give you my perspective: The two state solution is the mainstream Zionist position, a situation where the Palestinians are granted the illusion of sovereignty while remaining fully under the control of the Israelis. Furthermore, because of "settlement", there is no territorial viability in regard to the contours of a Palestinian state. His position is really not very different than what President Clinton tried to impose upon the Palestinians just prior to leaving office.

Chomsky opposes any form of political organizing in support of the Palestinians outside of this framework, hence, his hostility to BDS. This is not a minor question of policy. BDS mobilizes people all around the world as well as Palestine in a way that strengthens the Palestinian sense of identity and purpose. That makes Chomsky uncomfortable, as it does most progressive Zionists.

But, the funny thing is, Chomsky continues to prattle on about how a single state solution is impractical in the current political climate, while failing to recognize that the two state solution that he advocates has proven itself to be impractical because the perpetual negotiations over it for the last 40 years have done nothing but intensify the Israeli stranglehood over the Palestinians.

So, is Chomsky just a reflexive Zionist when he says this, immune to the intrusion of any inconveninet facts, or is it worse than that, a conscious rhetorical approach on his part that privileges the survival of a Zionist state above all else?

Finally, I have had a personal experience similar to yours (neither of my parents attended college), but I didn't need Chomsky to reveal the world as it was to me, possibly because I grew up in the Vietnam War/Watergate period, and also because I had a mother who expressed a view of the world that was implicitly class conscious. Perhaps, you are younger and missed out on the revelatory aspects of a late 1960s, early 19670 childhood. Anyway, I do respect the fact that Chomsky has enlightened people in this way.

Anonymous said...

"
If the ruling class is killing people you love, you'll probably need tactics and fellow travelers you can trust, but you don't need philosophy or the distractions provided by comfortable, affluent gatekeepers."

Well said.

brutus said...

You have a serious case of verbal diarrhea, Jack...STFU and spend more time with the kids. Sheesh!

Pharrell said...

Eh, don't listen to Brutus Jack. We like the fact that you write a lot. What's a blog for if not for that?

What's the point of a "spare" blogger who writes very little?

Cabeza de Vaca said...

Jack, am I to understand that you consider anyone who writes "for the wealthy or those who fancy themselves as not-fascist," a "class enemy"?

But of course, Chomsky has many readers from income brackets well below the "upper middle class."

It seems to me, from your formulation, like your list of "class enemies" must be extremely long. What's the point of having such a long list? How is this strategic?

Jack Crow said...

Mark,

To answer your initial posts, you're right - I'm not arguing that Chomsky is deliberately painting a portrait of the world which fundamentally precludes access to changing it.

It's just how he writes. And it's who he writes for.

I know this is going to rub some people who are more well off than I the wrong way, but I've never once seen an actual member of the working class with Chomsky in hand.

Granted, I don't live in NYC or a large metropolis, but I've had hundreds of employees, and worked with hundreds more when I was one.

I've never had Chomsky quoted at me by the unions guys (Telecomm, Welders, Carpenters, Plumbers) who used to frequent the restaurant I ran. They knew a smattering of Marx, but most of their complaints were offered without the overlay of ruling class philosophical qualifications and context.

I've never had a waitress, cook, dishwasher, delivery driver, health inspector, bakery worker, dairy worker, stocker, itemizer, cahsier or facer frame a complaint a la Chomsky.

Chomsky - like Zizek and the rest of the folks who just had their little shindig at Cooper Union - writes for people who've passed through academia. That's what he's selling: an academic, dead letter "radicalism" which is safe precisely because you don't act on it.

Fuck that.

Cabeza,

Nope. I consider people who belong to the upper 25% class adversaries. It's not that they read Chomsky. It's that their material interests are their philosophical interests are their class interests.

Once I start encountering dozens, and then hundreds, of working class folks with the Indispensable Chomsky (or Zizek, for that matter) I'd be willing to reconsider.

You know, those working class people who can also afford to ship off to Israel to get themselves the Kibbutz experience...

Cabeza de Vaca said...

Jack:
OK, I follow that Chomsky isn't read by your typical lunch-bucket union member. He's a left-wing voice within a specific industry, academia, which severely constrains his usefulness. I'm with you 100% there.

What I'm not following is how you get from there to "Chomsky is a class enemy."

You mention waitresses -- I think this depends on what town you're in. From where I sit, I see plenty of underemployed college grads bouncing around from job to job -- such as waitering. I think there's a good chance some of these kids know some Chomsky, though I'm sure they're into other stuff as well, since the kids born after '89 or so seem pretty immune from fetishization of intellectuals.

brutus said...

The Jack Crow vs. Noam Chomsky blatherings I find infinitely tedious. It's the Jack Crow, "I stay home and take care of my kids" petard that wants quantifying. Can I presume that this also entails doing the laundry, the ironing, the house cleaning, the shopping and the cooking? Day in, day out?

Certainly maintaining a blog requires numerous hours. The writing, researching, and replying are understandably time consuming. When all of this time and energy is expended for a very limited audience and for a dubious return, well, one has to wonder.

Perhaps you should consider contributing some time down at the local soup kitchen.

Justin said...

NEXT!

Mr. W. Kasper said...

In his defence, Chomsky does his job. He's a linguist, a very good one who's contributed a lot to the field. His scientific theories underpin his political attitudes ie. that no society is inherently superior to another, because human intelligence is equally complex wherever it is. Following that, no society has the right to tell another how it should run itself. Sadly, that's still quite rare to hear from someone of his status.

He's a very well-paid academic, sure, and MIT is 'the establishment' in spades. But there's hardly any other places where you could do that kind of work, except academia. How it relates to his political attitudes is by example - that intellectual workers should demonstrate some political responsibility, speak the truth to power. He's had more integrity in this than the vast majority of his peers.

I'm not sure about him writing for academic types. One reason he makes a shitload of money is because his books are very direct, informative, accessible to the 'layman' and translate well. If an unquestioning cult has built around him - well, that's the nature of public personality under capitalism. Unhappy the land that needs heroes and all that. He's not always right, but he's a damn sight more right than the sea of corporate op-eds and state-boosters that form public opinion. Frankly, if I could make that kind of living from scientific expertise plus political knowledge, I'd be happy to escape constant financial worries; and not feel all that politically compromised for doing so. I've took 'death money' - I worked for Tony Blair's government for a decade, in a job that was nominally 'community work' but was basically a form of urban colonialism. I did my best when I could, but I was still very constrained by institutional requirements.

Chomsky's nowhere near as bullshitty or corrupt as Zizek (fascist assclown indeed!). Unlike Zizek, he actually believes in telling the truth, and not bullying the disempowered. There's inherent compromises challenging power 'from within' but he's never called for anyone to be bombed, starved, marginalised or executed. He's also nowhere near as egotistical, sanctimonious and hype-ridden as Obama shill Michael Moore. As for Ron Paul - he's a pea-brained Jimmy Stewart wannabe. His fanbase are the kind of people who imagine life could be a Capra movie where plain-speaking God-fearing country boys rescue democracy from oligarchs (and the uppity darkies) overnight.

As for two-state solution - I'm not commenting on that because its one part of the Palestine issue I'm a bit unsure about (not the overall BDS campaign though, which I fully support).

ms_xeno said...

[shrug]

Cabeza de Vaca may have a point or two here. I've certainly read Chomsky, but I don't consider myself a "fetishist."

On the other hand, Michael Berube can't stand him, so that ought to count as one of Chomsky's redeeming qualities.

I also have a hard time understanding what "working class" even means in this context. Hell, most plumbers and electricians make more money than I do even during those increasingly brief periods where I manage to draw a wage. And my last foray into a college was over two decades ago.

Enron said...

It is conceivable that many readers of this blog would not be doing so were it not for Chomsky. One can criticize his Labour Zionism, his position in the military-industrial complex (of which he is quite aware), being Amy Goodman's oracle, his apologia for the Democracy, and the fact that he has written the same book for the last ten years. It can also be argued that he has done more good from his privilege than most. The tone of this post is reminiscent of the spirit of the Cultural Revolution, however.

Anonymous said...

Jack's point is made by the spirit of the replies.

Noam Chomsky is a "famous and wealthy" and half the replies give in to the impulse to personalise a defence.

Anatole David said...

He has published well argued and weighty tomes exposing the evils of American hegemony. His analysis has never deigned to offer impetus for change. His Kantianism stresses formal criticism and goes no further. He believes the faith of a well informed few can mobilize and guide the masses.

In other words, he's a harmless ideologue. Liberal societies abound with such ineffectual fauna. Their faith sates their needs. It's a conceit that keeps giving. He is, like them, safe and sheltered from the death machine.

I like Chomsky. He's a Liberal in the line of sceptic reformers like Montesquieu, Hume, Kant, and Heine. Sadly, he's also a man out of time. Books and speeches are powerless in the face of globalized full spectrum violence.

Western Liberalism's worship of ideals spurring democratic, and enlightened reform has failed again and again. It is nearing it's last folly. The pipe dreams of the comfortable sceptic are no longer recipes the starving and brutalized masses can afford to have faith in. We can appreciate Dr. Chomksy's contributions to the field of Linguistics and much of his published and broadcast political views while also noting he represents the Anachronistic pipe dreams of Western Liberalism.

Anatole David said...

its last folly. oops

Amusing someone begins a lukewarm defense of Chomsky with the comment "Chomsky does his job." --- So do Policemen, Bankers, Drone Bomb techs etc Pride in one vocation is one of the most damning and alienating facets of "Liberal Civilization"--he's renowned, publishes books, and earns a nice wage! Comforted and Honored by his Masters. If he was a threat to the PTB's they'd have shit-canned him years ago.

Mr. W. Kasper said...

I meant Chomsky does his job well. I'm not expecting him to unleash his M-16 at City Hall to keep it real. He's a product of western liberalism and educational hierarchies, but then so was Castro and Pol Pot. We all serve the military industrial complex in one way or the other, especially if you're employed by government. Most of the western 'social contract' was funded by imperial spoils and/or part of Cold War strategy (and a fair degree of protest - which Chomsky participated in). Mass murder paid for all our welfare.

And 'liberal' moves ever further to the right the more it lets right-wingers drag it there. Obama's way to the right of Richard Nixon, but a 'liberal' by today's standards. Chomsky's remained pretty consistent in his leftism since the 60s. If the main diss is that he's not working class - well, he's a professor. That's an issue of the class system, not personal integrity. We have to get our facts from somewhere. Due to his position, NC has the access to the sources and uses them the 'right' way. And if he's Amy Goodman's mentor - so what? It's a small mercy stuff like Democracy Now exists, otherwise it would be a choice between network news, Fox, Saudi Royal-funded Al-Jazeera, or scattered Youtube clips.

I think Enron could be on to something citing the Cultural revolution here.

Slim Charles said...

I gotta agree with W. Kasper here, and the issue now is about something a little larger than Chomsky.

The point is: I ain't down with the anarchist position that takes such a stance of "purity" that it essentially demonizes anyone with a job. This idea that Chomsky's compromised because he's got a university job that was partly publicly funded (and therefore was in the pocket of "death money"), the Wisconsin workers are mere agents of "state capture," or whatever...yeah, well, suddenly this anarchist position is starting to sound pretty anti-labor! Anyone with a job is "suspect," since the job is compromised in some way. And in this case we're not attacking the sources of the power, no, we've decided to go after the workers themselves! In such a condition, only an unemployed blogger that writes for free is "pure" enough for the movement.

Eh: that kind of "anarchism" sounds like it's a way of consenting to our own joblessness. Fuck that.

Jack, you yourself said that "opting out" is no longer a way of resisting political power, since, first of all, all of us are compromised in some way or the other (the computer that bloggers type on was made possible by that same MIT death money!), and second because the elites are only too happy to have us "opt out" since they no longer need our labor anymore!

Jack Crow said...

Anonymous was a tad indelicate, and Anatole has the fervor I should have given the original - but they seem to understand better what I was trying to say, perhaps because I didn't write it as well as I could have.

I'm not taking aim at Chomsky per se. I've had it with progressive, liberals and comfortable leftists who mistake their refusal to become honest corporate tools or fascists with actually being in opposition to the Thing Which Kills Us. The title up above is not Chomsky Agonistes. It's Chomsky's Agonistes.

Chomsky is a symptom, no less, perhaps no more.

Chomsky, as I've taken pains to mention more than once, is quite often accurate and precise.

But the end result of Chomsky's work is more work from Chomsky.

Chomsky changes nothing, and that's good for good liberals and leftists. Because they're comfortable.

I'm not.

I'm desperate for work. I'm trying to get a job that will allow me to (a) take care of my kids (b) not fuck with my wife's work schedule, which is non-negotiable (c) get at least two hours of sleep each day.

A million, billion Chomsky analyses don't, won't, can't dislodge the wealthy, or change my conditions. Because Chomsky writes as one of the wealthy. And because his actual prescriptions for change - which aren't the same as his analyses - can only result in the status quo.

He's got a dozen or more recent books taking on the grand military order. And he will eat well tonight.

We're going to try to feed four of us on a four dollar box of fish sticks. And some carrots.

Chomsky won't change that. He's going to eat very, very well tonight.

We're going to have to change our conditions. Not the you and I we of weblogger and occasional readers. We, the people I actually know. Hungry, desperate people.

Go fuck yourselves if you don't like how we do it. Go fuck yourselves hard and then die already.

*

Before another fucking shit lackwit mentions the computer, let's settle this for all future objections: I have an agreement with my ex- to provide her with internet access to my oldest. I'm doing that from a six year old computer cobbled together out of something I got on clearance from Best Buy, and parts my brother gave me. For years we used the cheap and reliable GWI service, based in Maine. Until Fairpoint communications took over Verizon's hardware and punished all its new customers with price increases, fees, horrible service, service interruption, and a refusal to work with GWI at the switching location.

So we had to get the only alternative in the region: Comcast. According to the pleasant GWI rep, we were not the only people canceling because Fairpoint refused to update or service GWI's equipment at Fairpoint's location.

Because, though my ex- rarely avails herself of the opportunity to interact with her child, I have an agreement with her to provide it.

Anatole David said...

It's never about Purity. The focus is realism.

Critique is easily ignored, or even subsumed. Capital only respects force. Thereby I, once again, stress Chomsky's anachronism. he's fighting "Battel of the Bookes" in the 21st Century.

The physical resistance of the Vietnamese ended the Vietnam war--not pronouncements from Chomsky arguing Buckley on TV to gratify "purist" Liberals. In fact, the purity test always surface against those who demand concrete results! Liberalism's way of raging against the Light they're warmed by.

So fuck the purity argument. It actually inoculates any effort to produce change in the terror of upsetting treasured comforts. It values the comforting illusions of ideological rebels while daring not to encroach upon the privileged repose.

Richard said...

"It is conceivable that many readers of this blog would not be doing so were it not for Chomsky."

This is pure nonsense, and indicative of the personality cult that has been built around him. If there is anything redolent of the Cultural Revolution in this discussion, it is this attitude, as if Chomsky is the Great Helmsman of the American left.

Even so, I'm not as harsh as Jack is about Chomsky, Chomsky is a representative of the sort of innocuous academic leftism that, if anything, empowers capitalism by providing critiques that it is able to incorporate into its practice, but you can't blame Chomsky for that. What's he supposed to do, gag himself?

It is also forgotten that Chomsky engaged in direct action during the Vietnam War during the 1970 attempt to shut down Washington, D. C. There was a time when he did put himself on the line. My guess is that his Zionism, and, conversely, the movement of the left away from it, explains his retreat into passive analysis, which periodically displays an explicit intention to undermine non-Zionist resistance to Israel, which is, as I have said, objectionable and he should be called on it at every opportunity. He wouldn't be the first leftist to retreat from activism when he realized that he could no longer avoid confronting Zionism.

But this absurd stuff that most people wouldn't have any comprehension of left, anti-authoritarian or anarchist perspectives on society absent Chomsky is ludicrous. I, for one, haven't relied on Chomsky much in my political evolution and it is doubtful that I will in the future. No doubt Chomsky acolytes will dismiss me as some sort of ideological primitive.

Solar Hero said...

Yeah, I'll take the bait.

Met Chomsky, 1991, Cornell Linguistics Lab. I'd already been "radicalized" from my Appalachian roots, knew a lot of his writings.

He was sort-of anti-social and I remember him telling one of the graduate students that it gets hard for him to keep looking at a computer screen after "18 hours or so," and he wasn't joking.

Chomsky's just a nerd, bro, with all the quirks of personality/outlook that come from that kind of nerdiness. Don't think he's a gatekeeper, just a nerd. You're just a bully!

WORD VERIFICATION: bulti

Soma said...

We can't give a pass to those who we're sure wouldn't stand up when the chips are really down.

Anonymous said...

"This is pure nonsense, and indicative of the personality cult that has been built around him."

It may be nonsense for you but I wouldn't be reading this blog or other political blogs like it if it weren't for Chomsky. It's nothing to do with a cult of personality, it's just a fact.