Archive/File: people/c/cohn.werner/partners-in-hate/hidden-alliances.02 Last-Modified: 1996/12/05 [Archived with author's consent] [Partners in Hate: Page 42] Chomsky and the Neo-Nazis The name Robert Faurisson represents the most obvious (but not the most significant) connection between Chomsky and the neo-Nazis. Faurisson is a French hate-filled crank, a one- time lecturer in literature at the University of Lyon, right- wing, and deeply anti-Semitic.<17> As we shall see presently (and although he denies this heatedly), Chomsky seems to have taken to this gentleman and has, in any case, seen fit to keep political company with him. Faurisson says that he is proud that his writings are distributed by partisans of both the left (_La Vieille Taupe_) and the right wing (Ogmios). The fact is that, in each case, these are tiny sectarian groupings. Ogmios is a Parisian bookstore-cum-movement that belongs to the anti- Semitic, anti-foreign, extreme right wing of the French political spectrum. It is reported to have received financial aid from the government of Iran.<18> Far more important to Faurisson is_La Vieille Taupe_("The Old Mole") under the leadership of Pierre Guillaume, a small group of self-styled leftists who publish Faurisson's booklets and pamphlets, advertise them, publicize them, propagandize for them. It is they who are the friends of Chomsky, and it is through them that Chomsky was recruited to his present position as grand patron of the neo-Nazi movement. (At the time of this writing, Ogmios and_La Vieille Taupe_have joined forces to publish a new anti-Semitic review, Annales d'Histoire Revisionniste.) Since the 1960's, Faurisson says, he has devoted innumerable hours to what he considers a very deep study of the fate of the Jews during the Second World War. He has written some books and articles on the subject and summarizes his "findings" as follows: The alleged Hitlerite gas chambers and the alleged genocide of the Jews form one and the same historical lie, which opened the way to a gigantic political-financial swindle, the principal beneficiaries of which are the State of Israel and international Zionism, and the principal victims of which are the German people -- but not its leaders -- and the entire Palestinian people.<19> Faurisson and his associates on both sides of the Atlantic are pleased to call this Holocaust-denial their "revisionism." They urge, and I cannot disagree, that fair- minded persons in free countries must keep open minds when confronted with reasonable or at least reasoned challenges to conventional wisdom. Perhaps, who knows, Napoleon never existed, perhaps the earth is flat, perhaps the Jews persecuted Hitler rather than vice versa, perhaps there was no such thing as a Holocaust of European Jews. All these nice opinions have their advocates and we shall have occasion to look at some of them in due time. In theory all received truth can and must be constantly re-examined in the light of new evidence, and we should be thankful to scholars and other reasonable men when they can confront us with thoughtful skepticism. But when, on the other hand, an outrageous point is advanced without regard for its truthfulness or for any rule of logic or evidence, when it is made simply to injure and defame, in that case, surely, we are justified in being less than respectful to the would- be "revisionist." In my preparations for this essay on Noam Chomsky it fell upon me to read what Faurisson has to say and even to correspond with him. I can report that his challenge to our knowledge of the Holocaust does not meet any criteria of moral or intellectual honesty, of seriousness of purpose, of intellectual workmanship. All that is apparent is hatred of Jews and an effort to hoodwink his audience. No wonder he has not found a single scholar to take him seriously. Obviously I do not intend to argue against his thesis myself any more than I would argue with a man who says that he has been eaten by a wolf. But it is necessary to give an indication of the intellectual level of Faurisson's propaganda so that the reader can get some inkling of why he is ostracized by all decent men. The heart of Faurisson's argument is based on his assertion that Jewish witnesses to the Holocaust are simply liars and that they are liars because they are Jews. Professor Rudolf Vrba, a colleague of mine at the University of British Columbia, was a witness to the exterminations at Auschwitz and is one of the very few to have survived. Faurisson names him a liar and a Jew and asserts that all who have had anything to do with bringing the Auschwitz facts to light -- witnesses, investigators, magistrates, etc. -- are either Jews or, in one case, "probably a Jew."<20> The Jewishness of a witness or writer, throughout Faurisson's opus, is enough to destroy his credibility in Faurisson's eyes. (He does make exception for Chomsky and the two or three other Jews who have rallied to him in a veritable paroxysm of self hatred.) Faurisson is a practitioner of what might be called the Method of Crucial Source, a favorite among cranks. The Method consists of seizing upon a phrase or sentence or sometimes a longer passage from no matter where, without regard to its provenance or reliability, to "prove" a whole novel theory of history or the universe. More often than not the Source in question is a newspaper item -- after all, what cannot be found in some newspaper somewhere, at some time. Among the many little booklets and leaflets which Faurisson and his left-wing publishers distribute by mail and in person, pride of place must go to a very pretentious pamphlet of twenty-four pages which contains the French translation of an interview -- a long text by Faurisson interspersed with a few helpful questions by the interviewer -- originally published in an Italian magazine in 1979.<21> This short pamphlet has 61 footnotes in very small print as well as a lengthy footnote to a footnote. Clearly it represents a major effort at presenting the gist of what Faurisson considers his proof that the Holocaust never happened. One of Faurisson's basic claims is that Hitler's actions against the Jews were of the same order as Jewish actions against Hitler, one provoking the other as it were (p. 15). To prove that there had been a Jewish "war" against Hitler as early as March of 1933, Faurisson devotes his one and only pictorial illustration in this pamphlet to a reproduction of the front page of the Daily Express of London, dated March 24, 1933, which indeed bore a main headline "Judea Declares War on Germany." Sub-heads read "Jews of All the World Unite -- Boycott of German Goods." Now Faurisson claims as his particular specialty the analysis of disputed documents and sources. (As Nadine Fresco has shown, these claims add a touch of lunacy to his malice.<22>) Here he uses the Daily Express as his Crucial Source, and, I suppose, the reader who is likely to be impressed by his propaganda may not ask about the nature of this newspaper in those days. In 1933, the Daily Express was a sensationalist mass circulation paper run by Lord Beaverbrook, a man of often eccentric views who felt no compunction about using his headlines to promote favorite causes or to denounce pet peeves.<23> During the early years of the Hitler regime he thought that Britain should avoid alliances with France and other threatened European countries. In a private letter in 1938, he expressed the fear that "The Jews may drive us into war."<24> But his most famous pronouncement of the period, delivered in the very same front-page headline style as the "Judea Declares War" item of 1933, came on September 30, 1938: "The Daily Express declares that Britain will not be involved in a European war this year, or next year either. Peace agreement signed at 12:30 a.m. today."<25> To Faurisson, nevertheless, Daily Express headlines represent the most weighty proof of what happened in history. And so important is this Crucial Source to the "revisionists" that Faurisson's California outlet, the "Institute for Historical Review," sees fit to use it with just a bit of embroidery of its own: "Is it true that Jewish circles `declared war on Germany?'Yes it did. The media the world over carried headlines such as `Judea Declares War on Germany.'"<26> Faurisson has been the object of legal challenges because of his strident, exhibitionist, unscrupulous defamations of Holocaust witnesses and respected scholars of the Holocaust. He has also been suspended from his post at the University of Lyon for similar reasons. The court cases, of which Faurisson and his accomplices are inordinately proud because of the tremendous publicity they derive from them,<27> are similar in nature to the Keegstra and Zundel trials in Canada. Here too neo-Nazi publicists have been brought to court under statutes that derive from the law of libel: freedom of speech is held to be no excuse when it can be shown that falsehood is spread deliberately for purposes of inflaming hatred. Faurisson has traveled to Toronto in the Zundel trial as an "expert witness" on matters of truth vs. falsehood, but the jury was not persuaded by him and convicted Zundel. When freedom of speech encroaches upon or is said to encroach upon other human rights, thoughtful civil libertarians will wish to look at the particulars of the case rather thoroughly. Chomsky says that he sees no need for such concerns, holding that "one who defends the right of free expression incurs no special responsibility to study or even be acquainted with the views expressed."<28> So presumably spreading deliberate falsehood -- say the representation of a consumer product as safe when in fact it is dangerous -- would enjoy Chomsky's enthusiastic defense. In any case it is a devotion to freedom of expression, he says, that has led Chomsky so frequently and so energetically to come to the defense of Faurisson. We shall have to examine this claim in more detail presently. The relationship between Chomsky and Faurisson's publisher, _La Vieille Taupe_ <29>(hereafter VT), has been chronicled in two remarkably revealing documents in 1986.<30> The first, by far the longer, is a narrative written by VT's leader, Pierre Guillaume; the second, much briefer, is a commentary on this narrative by Chomsky. Taken together, these documents tell us things that might well cause embarrassment among Chomsky's American supporters. Guillaume begins by telling us that he first met Chomsky some time in 1979, having been introduced by Serge Thion, another member of the VT group whom we shall encounter again. Guillaume told Chomsky about Faurisson at this meeting. Faurisson had begun to have various legal problems. Then, says Guillaume, several months later, and without any other contact having taken place between them, Chomsky signed and promoted the following petition (reproduced by Guillaume in its original English): Dr. Robert Faurisson has served as a respected professor of twentieth-century French literature and document criticism for over four years at the University of Lyon-2 in France. Since 1974 he has been conducting extensive historical research into the OHolocaustO question. Since he began making his findings public, Professor Faurisson has been subject to a vicious campaign of harassment, intimidation, slander and physical violence in a crude attempt to silence him. Fearful officials have even tried to stop him from further research by denying him access to public libraries and archives. We strongly protest these efforts to deprive Professor Faurisson of his freedom of speech and expression, and we condemn the shameful campaign to silence him. We strongly support Professor FaurissonOs just right of academic freedom and we demand that university and government officials do everything possible to ensure his safety and the free exercise of his legal rights. It is the publication of this petition in French newspapers, with Chomsky's name on top, that caused the first great consternation among Chomsky's left-wing supporters in France and elsewhere. The lamentable Alfred Lilienthal, the only other Jew of any notoriety with anti-Semitic connections, was also among the first signatories to the petition.<31> Many civil libertarian readers objected to the petition's use of the word "findings" to characterize Faurisson's propaganda, seeing it as an endorsement of Faurisson's work and thereby going beyond a defense of freedom of speech. Chomsky has tried to parry this objection by denying that "findings" means what it means.<32> But it might also be pointed out that the petition describes Faurisson as being, among other things, "respected" for his "document criticism." In fact Faurisson enjoys no such respect unless we count the anti-Semitic lunatic fringe.<33> In any case, according to Faurisson himself,<34> the petition was originally drawn up not by a neutral civil libertarian but by Mark Weber, an American one-time professor of German who changed careers to become an apparently full-time "revisionist" propagandist.<35> According to Guillaume, the petition played a decisive role in gaining public acceptance for the "revisionist" movement in France. And most of all, according to Guillaume, it was the prestige of Chomsky's name that helped the crusade of Holocaust-denial. Next, Guillaume proceeds to tell us how helpful Chomsky has been to the VT movement in other ways. At a time when the VT movement suffered from ostracism on all sides, when, moreover, Chomsky could have published a French version of his Political Economy of Human Rights (written with Edward Herman) with a French commercial firm, Chomsky nevertheless stood by his friends of the VT and published his book with them. He, Guillaume, would have understood had Chomsky wanted to keep his distance from the VT in public. But no, Chomsky proved steadfast. After the appearance of the petition, Guillaume tells us, Chomsky received a great many letters of complaint which he shared with Guillaume. Chomsky told Guillaume that the principle of freedom of expression was threatened by such letters and that he wished to reply to them in a public way. Consequently Chomsky composed a text of approximately 2,500 words, Quelques commentaires Elementaires sur le droit ˆ la liberte d'expression, "Some elementary comments concerning the right of free expression." In it he declared that everyone should have the right of free speech, including fascists and anti-Semites, but that, as it happens, Faurisson is neither one of these. Instead, according to Chomsky, Faurisson is best described as "a sort of apolitical liberal." For reasons that will become clear in a minute, this text later became known as "Chomsky's Preface."<36> According to Guillaume, Chomsky sent this text to Serge Thion, VT's writer and propagandist, asking him to make the best possible use of it. The text was dated October 11, 1980. On December 6 Chomsky seems to have had second thoughts and wrote a follow-up letter to Guillaume and complained that, the state of hysteria in the world being what it is, the whole fight against imperialism could be sabotaged by a campaign that would associate him with neo- Nazism. (Chomsky was never one to understate the importance of his own personality for the fate of the world.) Therefore, if it isn't too late, Chomsky strongly suggests that his text not be made part of a book by Faurisson. But, alas for Chomsky and the whole anti-imperialist movement, it was too late. The book by Faurisson, with Chomsky's text as preface, had already appeared. When Guillaume and Thion telephoned Chomsky on December 12, Chomsky's reaction -- all this according to Guillaume -- was firm, clear, and completely reassuring: he now stood by his preface and declared his letter of retrieval to be null and void.
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