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At the risk of keeping this debate about Chomsky alive one moment longer than it should last, allow me to make one more attempt at explaining why Richard Falk's impassioned defense of Noam Chomsky should be regarded with due skepticism. The objection that I and many others have to Chomsky does not rest on his views. Chomsky is not the first simplistic Marxist to criticize the United States, and in fact his analyses are pedestrian and predictable: big business owns America and reshapes the world to suit the interests of capital, etc etc. It's a common enough criticism on the extreme left, and there's nothing shocking or worth fighting over to be found in it. What many of us find objectionable, however, is Chomsky's fundamental hypocrisy and dishonesty. (There was, for example, an article this spring in the online version of the The New Criterion called "The Hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky.") Chomsky's writing is meant to mislead and to distort. (Saying he's big in Turkey, by the way, means nothing. Propaganda always finds an audience.) He is a practitioner of the Big Lie approach to political debate: if a falsehood is stated baldly and loudly enough, it'll get by. Let me present a few examples (out of many) and readers can judge for themselves. Here's a gem from the New Mandarins (1967): "Three times in a generation American technology has laid waste a helpless Asian country," that is, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. This is a statement that is so simplistic and dishonest one can only marvel at Chomsky's audacity in saying it. Imperial Japan, helpless? North Korea, rolling its tanks to the Pusan perimeter and coming within a whisker of conquering the peninsula, helpless? But Chomsky is smart enough to know one thing: if he puts it on the printed page, some less perceptive reader will assume it to be true, and the propaganda will have worked its purpose. Or this from World Orders Old and New (1996): "Understanding 'security' in more reasonable terms, we may ask to what extent it has been a genuine factor in policy formation. Consider again the three major military build-ups (Truman, Kennedy, Reagan), on pretexts that ranged from weak to fabricated, suggesting that different motives were at work under a security cover. The suggestion is reinforced by the fact that actual security threats were not addressed. Thus by 1950 there was indeed a potential threat to U.S. security: ICBMs with advanced nuclear warheads. But policy-makers undertook no efforts to inhibit the development of weapons that might, eventually, endanger American security. The history of weapons development follows this pattern right to the end of the Cold War." (Predictably, Chomsky's footnote here is two of his own previous works which contain, of course, the same unsubstantiated accusations--a device he uses repeatedly to lard up his writings with the appearance, but not the substance, of scholarship.) This one paragraph contains three errors, and Chomsky surely knows it. First, it unmoors Truman and Kennedy from any international context. (Truman's "buildup" might have had something to do with the Korean War.) Second, the Reagan buildup began under Carter--a fact that would have undermined Chomsky's rage and hatred against Reagan, but a fact nonetheless to which Chomsky himself has alluded elsewhere in his writings. The third is the greatest distortion. Chomsky is arguing that a putative American indifference to the danger of nuclear missiles in 1950 shows that Washington didn't really care about security threats, and only uses security as a whitewash to pursue the interests of business. But 1950 is *seven years before Sputnik*, and it is absurd, even laughable, to imagine what policymakers in 1950--again, a tad busy with Communist aggression proceeding apace in Asia--were supposed to do to "inhibit" the development of ICBMs. (Ask Stalin nicely, perhaps, not to build any?) But of course, Chomsky must realize this. His purpose, however, is not a constructive discussion of the choices faced by U.S. policymakers in 1950, but rather to shoehorn his argument into the framework of his pre-existing storyline about the sources of U.S. policy. This is the kind of paragraph that many of us have had to spend time untangling with an impressionable student who might read this and think that nuclear missiles existed in 1950 and that American leaders ignored their danger. Mr Falk finds brilliance in Chomsky, and notes his judgments stand the test of time. But how? Particularly regarding the Cold War, Chomsky's single-minded analysis--something one of his colleagues on the left called "tiresome" in a profile in the Boston Globe some year ago--in fact should be reason enough to dismiss him. He referred, for example, to NATO's decision to deploy new missiles thus: "NATO, under U.S. pressure, agreed to deploy new advanced missiles targeted against the Soviet Union." Well, yes...but there wasn't a lot of pressure needed since the Soviets had deployed the SS-20 in 1975 (what even the French termed "le grand menace") and, by the way, invaded Afghanistan. Either Chomsky is being dishonest, or he genuinely just doesn't know very much about international politics. As it turns out, the Pershings played an important part in unraveling Soviet diplomacy in the region and forcing Gorbachev to seek their removal. In 1980, Chomsky wrote: "Though their capacity to destroy grows steadily, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union now has the power it once was once able to wield in world affairs, and this process is not likely to be reversed." In the words of Hunter Thompson: res ipsa loquitur. And then there is Reagan. In 1992, Chomsky wrote: "It is quite unfair to assign to Ronald Reagan, the person, much responsibility for the policies enacted in his name...it was hardly a secret that Reagan had only the vaguest conception of the policies of his Administration and, if not properly programmed by his staff, regularly produced statements that would have been an embarrassment, were anyone to have taken them seriously." Again, written in the Big Lie format: just say boldly--"it was hardly a secret"--and hope it sticks. Of course, we now know that Reagan in fact was the motive force behind the policies of his administration. Chomsky is not stating a fact, making an argument, or providing any kind of evidence. He's propagandizing, and doing it in a way that less informed readers will accept as being true without a shred of evidence. There is plenty more, but cataloguing Chomsky's errors, distortions, and dishonest rhetoric could take volumes. Mr Falk suggests that to dismiss Chomsky is to exhibit condescension to his followers and readers. I will happily plead guilty; I believe that Chomsky's writings best succeed with a readership that is not informed enough to (a) challenge his misuse of facts, and (b) do not understand (or do not care about) his fundamental violation of the structure of a logical argument. I have to add that I have never heard anyone on the left argue that to dismiss a conservative thinker is to show condescension to his or her followers. Would anyone argue that Ann Coulter should be taken seriously in her call that liberals are probably traitors, just because her book sits in the lofty reaches of the NYT bestseller list and there are people who agree with her and read her? People like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly are among the highest-paid and most successful commentators in history, with large followings. Should this then be taken as evidence that such views must be treated with utmost respect lest we accidentally "condescend" to the millions of people with hard-right views? I do not dismiss Noam Chomsky's work because he is an extreme leftist, or even because he is intellectual dilettante writing far afield of his professed area of scholarly expertise. (Although one can only wonder what Chomsky would say if political scientists and other non-specialists started writing books on linguistics.) I criticize him because he warps facts and conducts propaganda in the service of what is an apparently very personal and obsessive hatred of the United States. That he has so many admirers and readers only means that the rest of us have a lot of work still ahead of us to undo the intellectual damage he continues to spread. Tom Nichols Naval War College