Hidden alliances 2, Cohn Werner

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

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

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

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

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

Last-Modified: 1996/12/05

[Archived with author’s consent]

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