By Selywn Duke
Of all idiots, none is so useful as he who can masquerade as a genius.
MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky recently denounced Hugo Chavez, accusing the Venezuelan strongman of making an “assault” on his nation’s democracy and of cruelty with respect to a female judge he imprisoned for issuing an unwelcome ruling. The criticism made headlines, as the “renowned scholar” had long given aid and comfort to Ego-and-Mouth Chavez. In fact, when the leader denounced President Bush in an infamous 2006 U.N. address, it was Chomsky’s book Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance that he waved and used as a prop. And Chomsky often praises Venezuela’s socialist revolution, most recently saying, “It’s hard to judge how successful they [the Venezuelan socialists] are, but if they are successful they would be seeds of a better world.”
Well, socialism has only failed every time it’s been tried, but I guess Chomsky’s renowned intellect has finally figured out a way to do the same thing over and over again and achieve different results.
But some people never learn – and in our time they’re known as leftists. It’s bad enough when a starry-eyed teenager gloms onto a demagogue and then registers surprise when the scorpion acts in accordance with his nature, but it’s downright pathetic when an old man behaves as if he was born yesterday.
And Chomsky, it seems, is continually born again yesterday. In the late 1970s, he defended the Khmer Rouge at the very time that those Cambodian communists were in the midst of a genocidal campaign that ultimately claimed 30 percent of their nation’s population. He steadfastly refused to believe reports of Khmer Rouge atrocities, calling them part of a “disinformation” campaign targeting a group that, he said, could usher in not only “national liberation but also…a new era of economic development and social justice.”
Now, understand that the Khmer Rouge weren’t “just” genocidal maniacs – something not unusual in the annals of communism. They formed what was perhaps the most cruel, bizarre, twisted and incompetent government in history. Immediately upon taking power, they initiated their agrarian revolution, ordering the evacuation of Phnom Penh and other major urban centers; they even emptied hospitals and created a situation in which patients had to be pushed through the streets on hospital beds. They abolished the practice of religion; separated families; started history anew with their “Year Zero”; and murdered citizens who showed signs of Western influence, such as the wearing of eyeglasses. And this is just a small sampling of what was a complete rending of every Cambodian tradition and institution (for more, click here).
Of course, Chomsky didn’t “know” about this. Oh, if he had actually walked the Cambodian killing fields, stepped over the thousands of human skulls and retched at the stench of rotting flesh – and, most particularly, if he had found himself in a re-education camp – he would have “known.” But he was too busy rationalizing. After all, he understood the facts of life: Communists are nice, social justice-oriented people. And they were being targeted by the big bad United States, the source of all the world’s woes. So it was obvious that all the negative stories about them were Western propaganda. Renowned intellectuals know these things.
Admittedly, today Chomsky acknowledges reports of Khmer Rouge atrocities. He just denies reports of Chomsky Khmer Rouge support. He has his own Year Zero, I suppose, and it started when reality became sufficiently weighty to make rationalization seem like Holocaust denial. Hey, that fellow in 1977 was a different Chomsky. Renowned intellectuals just don’t make such mistakes.
Or, they don’t learn from them, anyway. And this brings us back to Chomsky on Chavez. Rory Carroll in The Guardian writes:
He [Chomsky]…faulted Chávez for adopting enabling powers to circumvent the national assembly. “Anywhere in Latin America there is a potential threat of the pathology of caudillismo [authoritarianism] and it has to be guarded against. Whether it’s over too far in that direction in Venezuela I’m not sure, but I think perhaps it is. A trend has developed towards the centralisation of power in the executive which I don’t think is a healthy development.”
Well, Noam, you let us know when you are sure. We’d like the heads-up.
Then there are Chomsky’s comments relating to the persecuted female judge, María Lourdes Afiuni. Carroll writes:
Chomsky said Chávez, who has been in power for 12 years, appeared to have intimidated the judicial system. “I’m sceptical that [Afiuni] could receive a fair trial. It’s striking that, as far as I understand, other judges have not come out in support of her … that suggests an atmosphere of intimidation.”
Interestingly, Chomsky was never this measured in his statements condemning the U.S. As with all leftists, the worse his judgments, the more sure of them he is.
The great Roman orator and statesman Cicero once said, “Any man is liable to err; only a fool persists in error.” Chomsky exhibits that seemingly irremediable leftist inability to discern good from evil, friend from foe. If he’d been a rabbit, he would have hopped into the fox’s lair well before getting so long in the tooth. And if he didn’t live in the West’s cocoon of safety and comfort, he would ages ago have been swept away in a whirlwind of his own design. He just doesn’t learn.
Of course, we all can learn. But it requires that you’re humble and sincere enough to admit error (at least to yourself) and are receptive to Truth. It also helps if you realize that, no matter how many people call you a “renowned” intellectual, you’re perhaps not all that smart.