Archive/File: people/c/cohn.werner/partners-in-hate/hidden-alliances.05 Last-Modified: 1996/12/05 [Archived with author's consent] [Partners in Hate: Page 79] Freedom of Speech As we have seen, Chomsky boasts that he will defend the freedom of expression of anyone, any time, presumably regarding anything, and that he does not need to see disputed material in order to defend its right to be heard and published.<57> Bill Rubinstein has already pointed out that this proposition can hardly be taken seriously since there must be limits to freedom of speech in any society. An immediate example is the necessity for prohibiting commercial fraud. But Chomsky is completely mindless in his declarations for unrestricted freedom; neither fraud, nor defamation, nor public mischief of any sort can deter what he is pleased to call his Enlightenment values. Some of his more extravagant postures on these matters are reminiscent of extremist "libertarians" from Caligula to Charles Manson. We shall look into some of the antinomian sources of his political thought later in this essay. To Chomsky there is no question that the "revisionist" neo- Nazis should be given complete freedom of speech in Western countries (attempts to restrain them have so far been made only in West Germany, France, and Canada). He never tires of exclaiming that freedom of expression should know no limits, his citation of Voltaire settling the matter to his satisfaction. I myself have been less than happy with the prosecution of the neo-Nazis in Canada, and I am not convinced that the legal prosecution of Faurisson in France is justified. But the issue is a great deal more complex than Chomsky lets on because questions of both defamation and fraud must be addressed. Faurisson and his followers have engaged in an unbelievable campaign of libel and slander -- always couched in very personal terms -- against the scholars and the witnesses of the Holocaust. Furthermore, as the transcript of the Zundel trial in Canada has shown, it seems clear that the "revisionists" are motivated by malice and not by any historical conviction. I am fortunately not called upon to vote for or against a gag on these Nazis. But if I were, and if a study of all the details of a given individual case were to convince me that freedom of speech should prevail, I know that I would still be very far indeed from being a friend to the gentleman in question. As is generally the case when extremists face legal difficulties, the neo-Nazis today have two kinds of supporters: those who wish them well because they are sympathetic to their cause on the one hand, and civil libertarians on the other. Since nowadays nobody likes to be recognized as a Nazi sympathizer, just about everyone who supports the neo-Nazis today calls himself a civil libertarian. The trick is to tell who is who. There is of course no difficulty to this. We all know civil libertarians. We know who they are, what they do, how they do it. In America they are akin to the founders and leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union, and, like them or not, they are liberal by persuasion, liberal by style and culture. They have a record of defending various kinds of unpopular groups, not just one. They will give legal aid to Nazis but they will not associate with Nazis, will not collaborate with Nazis politically, will not publish their books with Nazi publishers, will not allow their articles to be printed in Nazi journals.<58> On these counts alone Chomsky is no civil libertarian. Chomsky misleads us when he tells how he was recruited to the Faurisson cause. He tries to create the impression that it was civil libertarians who recruited him: "In the fall of 1979, I was asked by Serge Thion, a libertarian socialist scholar with a record of opposition to all forms of totalitarianism, to sign a petition ... "<59> The plain truth is that Thion was already a partisan of Faurisson at the time, a man second only to Faurisson himself in the propaganda that declares the Holocaust to be a Jewish lie. Insofar as Chomsky is a political friend of Thion's, and this certainly seems to be the case at least as late as 1987,<60> Chomsky must be considered a political friend of these neo-Nazis and not the disinterested champion of free speech that he pretends to be. There is also the issue of Chomsky's relationships to the civil liberties of individuals and causes that he particularly dislikes: first those who have dared to criticize him, and second the Jews who are persecuted in Russia and in the Arab world. On these matters Chomsky's record is anything but civil libertarian. We have seen that the British linguist Geoffrey Sampson, having published some mildly critical remarks on Chomsky in a British work of reference, saw himself banned from the American edition of that work. Chomsky denies that he was instrumental in this ban, but his testimony is not convincing because he also argues in favor of censoring Sampson <61>: With regard to a book, readers can form their own conclusions. But an entry in a reference work is something quite different. Readers rely on the reputation of the editors to guarantee that what is presented is accurate, not fabrication and mere slander as in this case; and the editors surely have a responsibility to justify this trust. Chomsky does not revoke his principle of absolute freedom of expression of everyone. It's just a matter of a little exception that he finds necessary: general books may enjoy freedom, certainly, but books of reference, well, that's an entirely different story. Chomsky is fond of making up obfuscating little rules like that. But who is fooled by that? The record here is very clear: Chomsky will gladly violate his professed principles if it is a matter of silencing his critics. Are there any other limits to Chomsky's generosity on the matter of civil rights? Chomsky says that he has been privately active on behalf of individual dissidents in the Soviet Union, but he has never, insofar as I have been able to find out, endorsed or aided the movement to allow the emigration of Soviet Jews. I have written to him about that, and I have also most particularly asked him to intervene on behalf of the Jews of Syria.<62> I was rewarded by a number of vituperative letters from him, but on the matter of the oppressed Jews he has remained absolutely obdurate. So when he tells us that he never refuses to sign petitions on behalf of civil rights48 he forgets to mention that he does make a tiny little exception when it comes to the rights of oppressed Jews, his own people. To round out the picture of Chomsky's relationship to Faurisson and the neo-Nazi movement, something needs to be said about Chomsky's repeated assurances that he disagrees "diametrically" with Faurisson, that in his opinion the Holocaust did occur. In fact Chomsky has very few words to say about the subject, but they are words that he uses often. He allowed, by way of an obiter dictum in an earlier book Peace in the Middle East, that the Holocasut had been "the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history." Now, whenever his relationship to the neo-Nazis is in any way challenged, he trots out these very same words, quoting himself verbatim, neither adding nor subtracting from this ten-word formula. The abracadabra nature of this declaration carries little evidence of conviction and certainly lacks in persuasive power. Nevertheless, with respect to the historical reality of the Holocaust and when writing for an American audience, Chomsky does not wish to be counted among the neo-Nazis. On the other hand, as we have learned from Guillaume above and from the published record as well, Chomsky is also very careful not to let this little disagreement with the neo- Nazis spoil his good relationship with them. He wrote to Rubinstein that there is nothing anti-Semitic about Holocaust-denial; he agreed with Guillaume that belief on his part in the historical reality of the Holocaust is a purely personal opinion -- a sort of quirk -- and is not to be regarded as implying criticism of the "scholarly" work done by Faurisson. Chomsky has a well-earned reputation as a vituperative political polemicist. He has a ready store of invective and he is not stingy with it when attacking the state of Israel and anyone to whom that state is dear. But aside from the ten-word self-exculpatory formula that I have shown, Chomsky has never, to my knowledge, seen fit to criticize Faurisson or any other neo-Nazi. His "diametric" disagreement with such people is obviously not something that occupies him very seriously. Now that we have seen some of the ways in which Chomsky has embroiled himself with the neo-Nazi movement I would like to consider why and how this could have happened. I do not propose to speculate, in the manner of the ineffable Doctor Stein, about unconscious psychological quirks or motives. The public record alone is quite explicit and suggests two roots of Chomsky's current neo-Nazism: A) There is an old ultra-left doctrine of malign equivalence according to which all worldly government is equally evil. Chomsky and his friends, under cover of this neutralist faith, have gone beyond it to suggest that government and society in the West are in fact the most evil of all. B) Certain embittered assimilationist Jewish individuals have long held that the Jews as a group -- their religion, their society, their leadership -- are in every way despicable, are authors of their own misfortune, constitute a danger to the peoples of the world. This set of opinions is technically known as "self-hatred" and we shall have to return to it below. These two tendencies, the self-hatred of some Western intellectuals and the self-hatred of certain Jews, are perhaps unexceptionable when moderate and separate. But Chomsky -- it is said that he is a brilliant man -- has combined them, twisted them into new forms of absurdity, invested them with all of his academic prestige and all of his physical and mental energy, and he has rarely shrunk from embracing the most extreme and the most hateful consequences.
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