Scruton Smears Chomsky

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 Cambodia nonsense – claiming that Chomsky was a  supporter of the Khmer Rouge. As usual no source or quote is given with regard to this  accusation (since none exist). The Cambodia claim derives from the fact that Chomsky has  argued that the number of deaths attributed to the Khmer Rouge were inflated for  propaganda purposes, (which they were), and he also argued that the rise of the Khmer  Rouge was due in no small part to the US bombing of inner Cambodia (killing similar  numbers as are attributable to the Khmer Rouge). Presumably if the latter constitutes  support for the regime then historians of the twentieth century who argue that the  Versailles treaty was a significant factor in the rise of National Socialism in Germany  are in fact Nazi apologists.


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 America. And most of them would like to  be Americans. The Middle East seethes with such people, and Prof. Chomsky appeals  directly to their envious emotions, as well as to the resentments of leaders like  President Chavez who cannot abide the sight of a freedom that they haven’t the faintest  idea how to produce or the least real desire to emulate.”


Would this be the same President Chavez who was briefly toppled by a US backed military  coup? The same Hugo Chavez who has a popular mandate that puts the Bush regime to shame?  The same Hugo Chavez who has been encouraging democracy to move from the political sphere   – to the economic – by fostering workers cooperatives and various experiments in  self-management. The same Hugo Chavez who has established thousands of medical centres  for the poor? The same Hugo Chavez who has helped thousands of people achieve freedom  from want by subsiding food for the least well off?


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 Venezuela‘s social programs were dismantled and its  population again subjected to the tender mercies of a vicious US client regime.


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








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