03 May 2008

But, who will justify my existence?

One of my great joys in life is holding forth, pontificating on issues with no expertise. (But you knew that, didn't you?) What follows is my attempt to defend Noam Chomsky's existence to a group of friends without actually getting my hands dirty.

What's truly sad is that, in this crowd, I'm the only one who could pass as both "far-left" and "intelligentsia". (Apologies to both groups.) As such, I should probably remind folks why Noam Chomsky exists. NC has one thing in common with the far-right nationalist intelligentsia in that he's willing to speak about American atrocities, both domestic and foreign, openly and without apology. The difference is that, crudely, NC says those actions were completely unjustified, whereas the FRNI says the opposite.

Now, clearly all actions by countries should be taken in context. But that kind of nuanced history just isn't mainstream. The nationalist, rosy-picture view of US actions is much more commonplace. Perhaps it's easier taught; hence our textbooks. But if someone like NC explodes a myth for you (no, Columbia isn't about US-backed-orderly-government good guys vs drug-dealing bad guys (including textbooks)), revealing truth that you had never heard, you tend to believe the rationales that he then presents for that truth. You might also hold suspect the various media sources that had not informed you of these truths before. This results in the creation of new myths or near-myths that are especially virulent memes, undermining trust in all governance systems and also spinning out conspiracy-prone media and characters like Reverend Wright.

We, as a people, have a nasty habit of over-simplifying history. The choices between Marxism, Great Man Theory, or Neo-Conservative Manifest Destiny are pretty paltry choices, all things considered. But given the white-washing slant of our media, perhaps NC has a place, as an iconoclast if nothing else. In that sense, we should deal with Noam Chomsky's actions in context, as well.

Incidentally, a couple of decent movies about other far-left intelligentsia "darlings" are: An Unreasonable Man (re: Ralph Nader) and You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train (re: Howard Zinn). I encourage everyone to watch them, if only to get a peek at the left's reasons for being upset. Summary: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

[Since writing this initially, it has come to my attention that the only iconoclastic extremists I'm displaying here are on the left.  In mentioning Rev. Wright, I should also hasten to note John Hagee (whose endorsement John McCain has actively pursued and treasured), and pillars of the right Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.  Why the media is giving white preachers a pass is beyond me.]
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