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OOPS! The Guardian Retracts Its Mock Interview with Noam Chomsky


This morning greeted me with the news (forwarded to me by multiple friends in the U.K.—thanks) that The Guardian not only has issued a formal retraction of Emma Brockes's deceitful Halloween-day interview with Noam Chomsky ("The Greatest Intellectual?" Oct. 31). A retraction which, in The Guardian's parlance, takes the form of "Corrections and clarifications." And though it seems to me that the correction side of the retraction could still benefit from a considerable amount of clarification—As in, for example, who put Emma Brockes up to the task of smearing Chomsky? And why did The Guardian let the Brockes smear fly in the first place?—my sense is that the three relatively minor complaints that The Guardian has "found in favor of Professor Chomsky" are better than nothing. (Now if only The Guardian would face up to the truth behind Norman Johnson's similar exercise five days later……..) But even more striking that this morning's "Corrections and clarifications," The Guardian has decided to remove Brockes's mock interview from its website—a fact that you can easily confirm, if you click-on any of the several links that I have been providing to it over the past 18 days. "Sorry," The Guardian's website now tells us's website now tells us, in place of the Brockes. "We haven't been able to serve the page you asked for." Unlike today's Guardian, however, I am far from confident that "Ms Brockes's misrepresentation of Prof Chomsky's views on Srebrenica stemmed from her misunderstanding of his support for Ms Johnstone." Not if this clarification is to be taken as stating that the Brockes smear stemmed only from suchandsuch. No way. No how. Both in terms of the politics behind the reception among the NATO-bloc powers of the fighting, dying, executions and massacres following the evacuation of the Srebrenica enclave in July, 1995, and, indeed, behind the NATO bloc's serial interventions in the wars over the breakup of Yugoslavia at least from 1991 onward, during which the phrase "taking sides" took on such immense moral import, the fact of the matter is that The Guardian consistently did take sides. And in the catechism of Good and Evil, woe unto anyone deemed insufficiently enthusiastic about the Good. Or, worse, siding with Evil. In enabling the Brockes smear, The Guardian betrayed the fact that it is still fighting this war—and on precisely which manichean terms. Still. By withdrawing the mock interview from its website, The Guardian has managed to address a mere symptom of this fact. Not the cause.

"Corrections and clarifications: The Guardian and Noam Chomsky," as posted to The Guardian, November 17, 2005 "Chomsky Answers Guardian," as posted to ZNet, November 13, 2005 Fools’ Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions, Diana Johnstone (Monthly Review Press, 2003) “Diana Johnstone on the Balkan Wars” (book review), Edward S. Herman, Monthly Review, February, 2003 How America Gets Away With Murder: Illegal Wars, Collateral Damage and Crimes Against Humanity, Michael Mandel (Pluto Press, 2004) “How America Gets Away With Murder” (book review), Edward S. Herman, Z Magazine, July/August, 2004 Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting—Journalism and Tragedy in Yugoslavia, Peter Brock (Graphics Management Books, 2005) "Good Versus Evil: How the Media Got It Wrong in Yugoslavia," Edward S. Herman, ColdType, 2006  "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre," Edward S. Herman, ZNet, July 7, 2005 "Morality's Avenging Angels," Edward S. Herman and David Peterson, ZNet, August 30, 2005 "Srebrenica Revisited: Using War as an Excuse for More War," Diana Johnstone, CounterPunch, October 12, 2005 "The Political Economy of Sham Justice: Carla Del Ponte Addresses Goldman Sachs on Justice and Profits," Edward S. Herman, MRZine, November 6, 2005 "Smearing Chomsky – The Guardian in the Gutter," MediaLens, November 4, 2005 "Smearing Chomsky – The Guardian Backs Down," MediaLens, November 21, 2005 "Storm Over Brockes' Fakery: Guardian Fabricates Chomsky Quotes in Bid to Smear World's Number One Intellectual," Alexander Cockburn, CounterPunch, November 5/6, 2005. [When reading this article, be sure to read the material from Diana Johnstone as well as Phillip Knightley, reproduced within the body of Cockburn's text.] "Kulturkrieg in Journalism: Using Emotion to Silence Analysis. The Origins of the Guardian Attack on Chomsky in Journalism: Using Emotion to Silence Analysis. The Origins of the Attack on Chomsky," Diana Johnstone, CounterPunch, November 14, 2005 "Counting Bodies at the World Tade Center," ZNet , June 14, 2004 "The Srebrenica Massacre," ZNet, July 10, 2005 "'Thick as Autumnal Leaves': The Guardian's Mock Interview with Noam Chomsky," ZNet, November 6, 2005 "'Serpents All': More on The Guardian's Mock Interview with Noam Chomsky," ZNet, November 12, 2005 "OOPS! The Guardian Retracts…," ZNet, November 17, 2005

UPDATE (May 25, 2006):  

"Readers' editor right to publish apology, external review finds," The Guardian (unsigned), May 25, 2006
"
External Ombudsman Report," John Willis, May 8, 2006 (as posted to The Guardian, May 25, 2006)

 

Postscript (November 22): First, get a load of these two commentaries:

"Chomsky’s Srebrenica Shame – and The Guardian’s…," Marko Attila Hoare, The Henry Jackson Society, November 21, 2005 "Chomsky and that 'correction'," Oliver Kamm, November 22, 2005

Now get a load of the rats' nest that helped to spawn them:

The Henry Jackson Society, Cambridge University

As a friend of mine called to my attention earlier today, besides Oliver Kamm, the other signatories to this Jackson Society's Statement of Principles (March 11, 2005) include Richard Dearlove, Denis MacShane, and Jamie Shea. Furthermore, its complete list of "International Patrons" is Bruce Jackson, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Vytautas Landsbergis, Michael McFaul, Joshua Muravchik, Richard Perle, Jack Sheehan, and James Woolsey. All in all—a combination of cranks, madmen, and professional assassins whose common thread appears to be the care and nurturing of Great Power. My goodness. FYA ("For your archives"): Since The Guardian has removed Emma Brockes's mock interview with Noam Chomsky from its website, I've decided to post a copy of it here. (Apologies ahead of time, in case the formatting here fails to replicate perfectly the same formatting as the original.)

The Guardian (London) – Final Edition October 31, 2005 SECTION: Guardian Features Pages, Pg. 8 HEADLINE: G2: BYLINE: Emma Brockes Q: Do you regret supporting those who say the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated? A: My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough. Despite his belief that most journalists are unwitting upholders of western imperialism, Noam Chomsky, the radical's radical, agrees to see me at his office in Boston. He works here as a professor of linguistics, a sort of Clark Kent alter ego to his activist Superman, in a nubbly old jumper, big white trainers and a grandad jacket with pockets designed to accomodate a Thermos. There is a half-finished packet of fig rolls on the desk. Such is the effect of an hour spent with Chomsky that, writing this, I wonder: is it wrong to mention the fig rolls when there is undocumented suffering going on in El Salvador? Ostensibly I am here because Chomsky, 76, has been voted the world's top public intellectual by Prospect magazine, but he has no interest in that. He believes that there is a misconception about what it means to be smart. It is not a question of wit, as with no 5 on the list (Christopher Hitchens) or poetic dash like no 4 (Vaclev Havel), or the sort of articulacy that lends itself to television appearances, like no 37, the thinking girl's pin-up Michael Ignatieff, whom Chomsky calls an apologist for the establishment and dispenser of "garbage". Chomsky, by contrast, speaks in a barely audible croak and of his own, largely unsuccessful, television appearances has written dismissively: "The beauty of concision is that you can only repeat conventional thoughts." Being smart, he believes, is a function of a plodding, unsexy, application to the facts and "using your intelligence to decide what's right". This is, of course, what Chomsky has been doing for the last 35 years, and his conclusions remain controversial: that practically every US president since the second world war has been guilty of war crimes; that in the overall context of Cambodian history, the Khmer Rouge weren't as bad as everyone makes out; that during the Bosnian war the "massacre" at Srebrenica was probably overstated. (Chomsky uses quotations marks to undermine things he disagrees with and, in print at least, it can come across less as academic than as witheringly teenage; like, Srebrenica was so not a massacre.) While his critics regard him as an almost compulsive revisionist, Chomsky is more mainstream now than ever as disgust with the Bush government grows; the book he put out after the twin towers attacks, called 9-11, sold 300,000 copies. Given that until recently he worked full-time at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there remain suspicions over how he has managed to become an expert, seemingly, on every conflict since the second world war; it is assumed by his critics that he plugs the gaps in his knowledge with ideology. Chomsky says this is just laziness on their part and besides, "the best scientists aren't the ones who know the most data; they're the ones who know what they're looking for." Still, of all the intellectuals on the Prospect list, it is Chomsky who is most often accused of miring a debate in intellectual spam, what the writer Paul Berman calls his "customary blizzard of obscure sources". I ask if he has a photographic memory and Chomsky smiles. "It's the other way round. I can't remember names, can't remember faces. I don't have any particular talents that everybody else doesn't have." His daily news intake is the regular national press and he dips in and out of specialist journals. I imagine he is a fan of the internet, given his low opinion of the mainstream media (to summarise: it is undermined by a "systematic bias in terms of structural economic causes rather than a conspiracy of people". I would argue individual agency overrides this, but get into it with Chomsky and your allocated hour goes up in smoke). So I am surprised when he says he only goes online if he is "hunting for documents, or historical data. It's a hideous time-waster. One of the good things about the internet is you can put up anything you like, but that also means you can put up any kind of nonsense. If the intelligence agencies knew what they were doing, they would stimulate conspiracy theories just to drive people out of political life, to keep them from asking more serious questions . . . There's a kind of an assumption that if somebody wrote it on the internet, it's true." Is there? It's clear, suddenly, that Chomsky's opinion can be as flaky as the next person's; he just states it more forcefully. I tell him that most people I know don't believe anything they read on the internet and he says, seemlessly, "you see, that's dangerous, too." His responses to criticism vary from this sort of mild absorption to, during our subsequent ratty exchange about Bosnia, the childish habit of trashing his opponents whom he calls "hysterical", "fanatics" and "tantrum throwers". I suspect that being on the receiving end of lots "half-crazed" nut-mail, as he calls it (he gets at least four daily emails accusing him of being a Mossad agent, a CIA agent or a member of al-Qaida), has made his defensive position rather entrenched. Chomsky sighs and says that he has never claimed to have a monopoly on the truth, then looks merry for a moment and says that the only person who does is his wife, Carol. "My grandchildren call her Truth Teller. When I tease them and they're not sure if I'm telling the truth, they turn to her and say: 'Truth Teller, is it really true?'" Chomsky's activism has its roots in his childhood. He grew up in the depression of the 1930s, the son of William Chomsky and Elsie Simonofsky, Russian immigrants to Philadelphia. He describes the family as "working-class Jews", most of whom were unemployed, although his parents, both teachers, were lucky enough to work. There was no sense of America as the promised land: "It wasn't much of an opportunity-giver in my immediate family," he says, although it was an improvement on the pogroms of Russia, which none the less Chomsky can't help qualifying as "not very bad, by contemporary standards. In the worst of the major massacres, I think about 49 people were killed." The house in Philadelphia was crowded, full of aunts and cousins, many of them seamstresses who weathered the depression thanks to the help of the International Ladies Garment Union. Chomsky was four years old when he witnessed, from a passing trolley car, strikers outside a textile plant being beaten by the police. At 10 he wrote his first political pamphlet, against the rise of fascism in Spain. "It was all part of the atmosphere," he says. The Chomskys were one of the few Jewish families in an Irish and German neighbourhood, and Chomsky and his brother fought often in the street; he remembers there were celebrations when Paris fell to the Germans. His parents kept their heads down and until their deaths, he says, "never had an idea of what was going on outside". Chomsky had a choice of role models. There was his father's family in Baltimore, who were "super-orthodox". "They regressed back to the stage they were at even before they were in the shtetl , which is not uncommon among immigrant communities; a tendency to close in and go back to an exaggerated form of what you came from." He smiles. "It's a hostile world." Or there was his mother's family in New York, who crowded into a big government apartment and got by solely on the wages of a disabled uncle, who on the basis of his disability was awarded a small newsstand by the state. Chomsky chose the latter and his radicalism grew out of the time he spent, from the age of 12, commuting to New York at weekends to help on the newsstand. "It became a kind of salon," he says. "My uncle had no formal education but he was an extremely intelligent man – he'd been through all the leftwing groups, from the Communists to the Trotskyists to the anti-Leninists; he was very much involved in psychoanalysis. There were a lot of German emigres in New York at the time and in the evening they would hang around the newsstand and talk. My uncle finally ended up being a pretty wealthy lay analyst on Riverside Drive." He bursts out laughing. It was a time, says Chomsky, when no one knew what was going to happen. They discussed the possibility of a socialist revolution, or of the country collapsing entirely. Anything seemed possible. Compared with these sorts of discussion, he found high school and, later, college, "dumb and stupid". He was thinking of dropping out of the University of Pennsylvania when he met his second mentor, Zellig Harris, a linguistics professor who encouraged him to pursue his own academic interests. Chomsky had grown up in a household where language was important; his parents spoke Yiddish and his father wrote a PhD on 14th-century Hebrew, which the young Chomsky read with interest. And so he pursued a study of linguistics and many years down the line formulated a ground-breaking theory, that of "universal grammar", the idea that the brain's facility for language is innate rather than a function of behaviourism.It sounds to me as if he was an arrogant young man who thought, with some justification, that he knew more than his teachers. Chomsky bridles at the word arrogant and says: "No. I assumed I was wrong and took for granted that the standard approach (to linguistics) was correct." Even though he went on to study at Harvard, he still, in a rare concession to the romance of outsidership, describes himself as "self-taught". There were only a couple of years in the mid- 1950s when he gave up activism altogether. He had met and married Carol Schatz, a fellow linguist, and they had three young children. Chomsky had to choose whether to commit himself to activism or to let it go. The Vietnam war protests were getting under way and, if he chose the former, there was a real danger of a jail sentence, so much so that Carol re-enrolled at college in case she had to become the sole breadwinner. But Chomsky was not, he says, the sort of person who could attend the occasional demo and then hope the world would fix itself. "Yeah, my wife tried to talk me out of it, just as she does now. But she knows I can be stubborn and that I'll carry on with it as long as I'm ambulatory or whatever." These days, Carol accompanies her husband to most of his public appearances. He is asked to lend his name to all sorts of crackpot causes and she tries to intervene to keep his schedule under control. As some see it, one ill-judged choice of cause was the accusation made by Living Marxism magazine that during the Bosnian war, shots used by ITN of a Serb-run detention camp were faked. The magazine folded after ITN sued, but the controversy flared up again in 2003 when a journalist called Diane Johnstone made similar allegations in a Swedish magazine, Ordfront, taking issue with the official number of victims of the Srebrenica massacre. (She said they were exaggerated.) In the ensuing outcry, Chomsky lent his name to a letter praising Johnstone's "outstanding work". Does he regret signing it? "No," he says indignantly. "It is outstanding. My only regret is that I didn't do it strongly enough. It may be wrong; but it is very careful and outstanding work." How, I wonder, can journalism be wrong and still outstanding? "Look," says Chomsky, "there was a hysterical fanaticism about Bosnia in western culture which was very much like a passionate religious conviction. It was like old- fashioned Stalinism: if you depart a couple of millimetres from the party line, you're a traitor, you're destroyed. It's totally irrational. And Diane Johnstone, whether you like it or not, has done serious, honest work. And in the case of Living Marxism, for a big corporation to put a small newspaper out of business because they think something they reported was false, is outrageous." They didn't "think" it was false; it was proven to be so in a court of law. But Chomsky insists that "LM was probably correct" and that, in any case, it is irrelevant. "It had nothing to do with whether LM or Diane Johnstone were right or wrong." It is a question, he says, of freedom of speech. "And if they were wrong, sure; but don't just scream well, if you say you're in favour of that you're in favour of putting Jews in gas chambers." Eh? Not everyone who disagrees with him is a "fanatic", I say. These are serious, trustworthy people. "Like who?" "Like my colleague, Ed Vulliamy." Vulliamy's reporting for the Guardian from the war in Bosnia won him the international reporter of the year award in 1993 and 1994. He was present when the ITN footage of the Bosnian Serb concentration camp was filmed and supported their case against LM magazine. "Ed Vulliamy is a very good journalist, but he happened to be caught up in a story which is probably not true." But Karadic's number two herself (Biljana Plavsic) pleaded guilty to crimes against humanity. "Well, she certainly did. But if you want critical work on the party line, General Lewis MacKenzie who was the Canadian general in charge, has written that most of the stories were complete nonsense." And so it goes on, Chomsky fairly vibrating with anger at Vulliamy and co's "tantrums" over his questioning of their account of the war. I suggest that if they are having tantrums it's because they have contact with the survivors of Srebrenica and witness the impact of the downplaying of their experiences. He fairly explodes. "That's such a western European position. We are used to having our jackboot on people's necks, so we don't see our victims. I've seen them: go to Laos, go to Haiti, go to El Salvador. You'll see people who are really suffering brutally. This does not give us the right to lie about that suffering." Which is, I imagine, why ITN went to court in the first place. You could pick any number of other conflicts over which to have a barney with Chomsky. Seeing as we have entered the bad-tempered part of the interview, I figure we may as well continue and ask if he finds it ironic that, given his views on the capitalist system, he is a beneficiary of it. "Well, what capitalist system? Do you use a computer? Do you use the internet? Do you take an aeroplane? That comes from the state sector of the economy. I'm certainly a beneficiary of this state-based, quasi-market system; does that mean that I shouldn't try to make it a better society?" OK, let's look at the non-state based, quasi-market system. Does he have a share portfolio? He looks cross. "You'd have to ask my wife about that. I'm sure she does. I don't see any reason why she shouldn't. Would it help people if I went to Montana and lived on a mountain? It's only rich, privileged westerners – who are well educated and therefore deeply irrational – in whose minds this idea could ever arise. When I visit peasants in southern Colombia, they don't ask me these questions." I suggest that people don't like being told off about their lives by someone they consider a hypocrite. "There's no element of hypocrisy." He suddenly smiles at me, benign again, and we end it there.

Postscript (November 18): Some of our friends in the Comments section to this particular blog have been exploring the issues of cults, so-called Chomsky-fans and Chomsky-haters, and the like. For some concrete examples of cults as they translate into Chomsky-haters, see:

- FrontPageMag.com - The Anti-Chomsky Reader, Ed. Peter Collier and David Horowitz - Oliver Kamm

Of course, the actual total of cultish institutions and anti-Chomsky figures extend far, far beyond this minor sample. But these individuals and groups don't just feed off attacks on Chomsky. They also affirm certain principles as well. I think teasing these commonly held principles from the lot of them would be a worthwhile exercise to undertake. Here's where The Guardian also comes into play, I think. Notice that The Guardian went after Chomsky over questions about the former Yugoslavia. On every fundamental question about the breakup of Yugoslavia, The Guardian's mucky-mucks and principal reporters (Emma Brockes aside—her "interview" having been the work of a mere mercenary) share the version of history long in the process of codification by the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Namely, that the old Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia broke apart because the rise of ethnic Serb racists and fascists within the SFRY's political ranks, who sought to build a "Greater Serbia" in its place, and who therefore launched a series of wars of aggression against the ethnic non-Serb populations of the republics of Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia and, ultimately, Bosnia and Herzegovina, impelling these republics to defend themselves against the aggressor Serbs, to seek independence from the SFRY, and to seek international aid and protection along the way. If we could ask one of The Guardian's mucky-mucks, or one of the principals employed by the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICTY, or one of the former secretaries of state or UN ambassadors of the Clinton regime (1993-2000) to provide us with a thumbnail sketch of the breakup of Yugoslavia in 100-words or less, their response would read something like what I just gave you. Institutionally speaking, The Guardian is as wedded to this version of the SFRY's breakup as are the Office of the Prosecutor at the ICTY and the major policy architects during the Clinton years. Hence the fanaticism betrayed by the Brockes smear. Hence also The Guardian‘s lame effort to climb back down from it now. Postscript (November 24): Very little in circulation these days on the topic of body-counts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. But for two wire-service reports, see below. By the way, it might interest you to know that, to date (Nov. 24), the only mention of Mirsad Tokaca's claims that I've been able to find in the English-language print media was a blurb in the November 24 Irish Times. Based on the November 23 Reuters item that I've reproduced below, the Irish Times's blurb in its totality read as follows:

SARAJEVO – The death toll from the Bosnian war, which ended 10 years ago this week, was half of the widely used figure of about 200,000, a leading Bosnian war crimes researcher has said. "This is still an extremely high figure but there is a big difference now that people cannot irresponsibly use inflated numbers for their political goals," said Mirsad Tokaca, who heads the Sarajevo-based Investigation and Documentation Centre. Mr Tokaca estimated the number of victims at between 100,000 and 150,000 a year ago.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur November 21, 2005, Monday Bosnian war "claimed 100,000 lives" The confirmed death toll in the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia appears to be closer to 100,000 dead than the often- quoted figure of 200,000, a Norwegian news agency reported Monday, quoting the head of the Sarajevo-based Research and Documentation Center (RDC). "In October we had 93,000 names on our lists and the numbers are increasing slightly. But the final tally will likely be around 100,000," Mirsad Tokaca was quoted as saying. The centre was set up in April 2004 "to investigate and gather facts, documents and data on genocide, war crimes and human rights violations, regardless of the ethnic, political, religious, social, or racial affiliation of the victims." It has received funding from among others the Norwegian government. A similar estimate has also been used by population statisticians at the United Nations war crimes tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY). The estimate published by researchers Ewa Tabeau and Jacub Biljak was 102,000. All of the casualties listed by Tokaca and his co-researchers have been identified by name. "Our research suggests that about 70 per cent of those killed were Bosniacs (Bosnian Moslems), 25 per cent of the killed were Bosnian Serbs and 5 per cent were Bosnian Croats," Tokaca said. Tokaca said the number of 250,000 or even 300,000 dead has "never been based on research". Reuters Wed Nov 23, 2005 12:07 PM ET Research halves Bosnia war death toll to 100,000 By Nedim Dervisbegovic SARAJEVO (Reuters) – The death toll from the Bosnian war, which ended 10 years ago this week, was half of the widely used figure of about 200,000, a leading Bosnian war crimes researcher said in an interview on Wednesday. "Let me be clear, this is still an extremely high figure but there is a big difference now that people cannot irresponsibly use inflated numbers for their political goals," said Mirsad Tokaca, who heads the Sarajevo-based Investigation and Documentation Center (IDC). He said work to establish the exact number of Muslims, Serbs and Croats killed in the 1992-95 war should be completed in early 2006. Tokaca estimated the number of victims at between 100,000 and 150,000 a year ago. "We are at 93,000 now and that should rise to 100,000, give or take," said the ethnic Muslim (Bosniak) who has headed the 450,000-euro project funded by the Norwegian government since early 2004. "We should come out with full preliminary results by March after which the number could be changed … but only slightly," he told Reuters. The ethnic breakdown of the victims of the war, for which the term "ethnic cleansing" was coined to describe large-scale killings and expulsions of members of other ethnic groups, remained unchanged from Tokaca's estimate a year ago. "It is about 70 percent Bosniaks, slightly under 25 percent Serbs, slightly under five percent Croats and about one percent of the others," he said. He said the multi-ethnic team of 12 professionals and several volunteers combed military, civilian, non-governmental and a number of other records and sources throughout Bosnia. The initial, computerized, database included about 300,000 names as many people appeared on several different records listed either as soldiers, police officers or civilians that were killed or missing. Once it has established the full database, which will be made available on the Web, Tokaca's team will produce an analysis with ethnic, regional, age, sex and time breakdown. "I can only say now that it will produce some stunning conclusions but it is too early for me to go into details," said Tokaca, who has investigated war crimes for 13 years and cooperated closely with U.N. investigators. Tokaca has said the project is of invaluable importance for the Balkan country's reconciliation process.

Postscript (December 12): What The Guardian published today published today—by no means a retraction of its earlier "correction"—though just as befuddling—was to be expected, I'm afraid. The fact that the three individuals whom The Guardian's Readers Editor (or ombudsman), Ian Mayes, listed as David Aaronovitch, Francis Wheen, and Oliver Kamm were in the process of assembling their complaint had been tipped off by Oliver Kamm over his weblog in recent weeks. "The real problem," as Mayes summed up the affair, acknowledging that he now faced no choice but to refer the Aaronovitch-Wheen-Kamm complaints about The Guardian's earlier correction to its "external ombudsman," is that a "correction intended to resolve a complaint by dealing with specific points in one article has raised an extraordinary storm of opposing passions." Between ourselves, I strongly suspect that Oliver Kamm is the prime mover behind the effort to prolong the Guardian affair. "For reasons I shall write about very shortly, I have been giving a lot of attention in the past week to the writings of Noam Chomsky," Kamm wrote in his weblog on October 12 ("Chomsky's finest"). And though I've never been able to figure out exactly what these reasons really are—at least not based on Kamm's own testimony—I do have my suspicions. A very bad case of hatred for Noam Chomsky. But, by now, become pathologically obsessive. With Kamm’s fixation on various objects from within Chomsky's work now spilling into Diana Johnstone's. After Emma Brockes's mock-interview with Chomsky ("The Greatest Intellectual?") served to bring the overlap between Chomsky's work and Johnstone's work into singular focus for Kamm. (See, e.g., Chomsky's The New Military Humanism as well as his A New Generation Draws the Line; and Johnstone's Fools' Crusade.) Or about which Kamm possessed prior knowledge that Brockes et al. had set out to perform the hatchet job on Chomsky that they did. And from which Kamm himself gets such big personal jollies, he isn't about to let it go. Thus, for example, Kamm writes: "The relevant question in the case of Diana Johnstone’s writings is whether she systematically downplays the nature and extent of Serb atrocities in Bosnia. The relevant question about Chomsky’s attitude to Ms Johnstone is whether he endorses her conclusions." ("Chomsky and balance," Nov. 28.) Indeed. A cursory glance at Kamm's weblog reveals a pronounced—and contemptuous—obsession with Noam Chomsky. Thus, during the two month period between October 12 and today, December 12 (i.e., beginning with "Chomsky's finest" and extending through "Guardian and Chomsky – latest and Chomsky – latest"—though it's bound to keep right on rolling), Oliver Kamm's weblog has mentioned the name 'Chomsky' no less than 309 different times (i.e., within the weblog’s titles and text, and counting phrases such as "Chomskyite" and the like within the total). Also during the same period, Kamm has mentioned 'Johnstone' (referring to Diana) a total of 35 different times.

(Hell. For what it’s worth, I’ve even run a count of the number of times that Oliver Kamm has mentioned 'Chomsky' in his current weblog, since its inception back on August 24, 2003: 1,052 is the total I’ve come up with. (Acknowledging that this total is only good through today, December 12.) And though I haven’t run comparable searches for any other names from within the Ollie Kamm bête noire—the content of which is probably not much different from the David Horowitz bête noire—I think it’s a safe bet than no other single name has appeared anywhere near as frequently as Noam Chomsky's. And I’ll happily accept wagers on this. Without checking further.)

So Ollie Kamm's work suffers from a pronounced obsession with Noam Chomsky, and has dragged Diana Johnstone into its purview as a figure to be accused of "denying" atrocities committed by ethnic Serbs (and the like) in a manner that runs parallel with the kind of broader accusations that Kamm makes against Chomsky. Readers can see this for themselves simply by sticking to Kamm's weblog over the October – December period:

Oliver Kamm – October, 2005 Oliver Kamm – November, 2005 Oliver Kamm – December, 2005 (By the way, Kamm's current weblog has been online since August, 2003 ("Welcome," Aug. 24). Kamm's also posted comments to an earlier weblog, which ran from June through August, 2003.)

I guess the only question that remains unanswered at this stage is, How many other members of the World Wide Circle-Jerk will pick up on Ian Mayes's exasperated comments in this morning's Guardian, and get-off in the same manner as Ollie?

"Open Door: The readers' editor on … a complaint about a controversial correction," Ian Mayes, The Guardian, December 12, 2005 Oliver Kamm (Homepage) Anti-Totalitarianism: The Left-wing Case for a Neoconservative Foreign Policy, Oliver Kamm (Social Affairs Unit, 2005) The Henry Jackson Society (Homepage), Cambridge University

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