In Tuesdays Wall Street Journal(1) Roger Scruton – Philosopher and hired hand of the tobacco industry launched a feeble attack on Noam Chomsky. Entitled ‘Who Is Noam Chomsky’ the piece runs through the usual litany of lies and half truths with even less skill than is usual in this type of ad hominem assault.
Scruton begins by claiming that Chomsky long ago abandoned his academic career:
“For Prof. Chomsky long ago cast off his academic gown and donned the mantle of the prophet. For several decades now he has been devoting his energies to denouncing his native country, usually before packed halls of fans who couldn’t care a fig about the theory of syntax.”
This accusation is simply false – Chomsky’s political activism and work in linguistics have run concurrently since the 1960’s, (and Scruton must surely be aware of the possibilities of multi-tasking since he manages to be both an academic and a tobacco lobbyist). Presumably this fabrication is designed to portray Chomsky as a man who was once a sensible and valuable intellectual who has sadly succumbed to hubris – abandoning academe for delusions of grandeur. It would not aid Scruton’s depiction of Chomsky as a great mind that has gone off the rails if he were to acknowledge that Chomsky in fact never did “cast off his academic gown”.
Scruton then accuses Chomsky of being angry, of being a “ranter” – when as anyone who has ever seen Chomsky speak will know there are few less rhetorical and more restrained speakers around. Calling someone “angry” or a “ranter” is of course the polite intellectual’s way of labelling someone as a lunatic. This is a common tactic when depicting leftists who must not be allowed to be seen as calm and rational – rather leftists are always “ranters” who “vent their rage” and “vent spleen” etc.
Scruton goes onto dredge up the familiar
Having done with lying about his subject Scruton moves onto attacking Hugo Chavez as part of his rather bizarre explanation of Chomsky’s popularity:
“For it is his ability to excite not just contempt for American foreign policy but a lively sense that it is guided by some kind of criminal conspiracy that provides the motive for Prof. Chomsky’s unceasing diatribes and the explanation of his influence. The world is full of people who wish to think ill of
Would this be the same President Chavez who was briefly toppled by a
Counter-intuitive though it may seem it appears that the genuinely freedom loving thing for Chavez to have done would have been to welcome the military junta and perhaps applauded from exile whilst
What is perhaps most striking about Scruton’s article is the childish and half-hearted nature of the attack. One finishes it thinking ‘God I could have done a better hatchet job than that!’ No attempt is made to substantiate any of the claims – since of course the author knows full well that the supine Anglo/American media will spare him any difficult questions.
In an email leaked in 2002 Scruton asked his paymasters at Japan Tobacco if they could raise his payments from £4,500 monthly to £5,500.(2) Presumably they are getting rather better value for money than the Wall Street Journal if this pitiful attempt at character assassination is anything to go by.
Alex Doherty is a member of the UK Watch collective