Noam Chomsky, who for better or worse is one of the most influential thinkers of the past five decades, has inspired an entire industry of genocide denial. His influence has schooled tens of thousands in the political methods of libertarianism, handed Assad propagandists & Stalinists justification for their reactionary politics, & politically disoriented millions so that they cannot distinguish between the oppressors & the oppressed.Chomsky’s method, devised in collaboration with Edward Herman, was elaborated in the 2010 book “The Politics of Genocide” written by Herman & David Peterson with an introduction by Chomsky.
The book would more appropriately be titled ‘the politics of genocide denial’. Their formulaic method is: the US & its allies are responsible for all the wars & evils in the world & manufacture fake ‘genocides’ to justify military interventions. In this charade, the mainstream media is an adjunct by reducing itself to a propaganda apparatus & nothing it says can be trusted. Their conclusion is genocide denial & the authors go on to deny the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia (1975-79), the Rwanda genocide (1994), & the Bosnian genocide (1995).
Using that libertarian, if not also infantile, political method, the political progeny of Chomsky & Herman have gone on to deny the Rohingya genocide, deny the Uyghur genocide, support the Assad dictatorship, oppose the Arab Spring uprisings as US-orchestrated, oppose the Hong Kong democracy movement as US-orchestrated, ignore the Kashmiri struggle–all under the rubric of opposing “US regime-change operations’. Excoriating the politics of “The Politics of Genocide” is not to deny the dominant role of US militarism in world politics–it would be idiotic to deny the cynical manipulations by the US & its allies to justify military intervention or the role of media in, to use Chomsky & Herman’s term, ‘manufacturing consent’.
The purpose of criticizing their book is to show the tendentious & faulty character of their method in determining what is political reality. It is not a method that can handle contradictions or complex reality & thus has become a method used to support repressive regimes against popular democratic movements. Scholars & journalists, most notably George Monbiot from the Guardian, Adam Jones, Michael Deibert, & countless others have interrogated Chomsky & done exegeses of his work to understand his views, how he understands the character of genocide, & why his methods have inspired an entire industry of genocide denial so that his method dominates political debate today. It’s apparently a seductive method because even people like David Barsamian, a radio broadcaster & political commentator of Armenian ancestry who has spoken often on the Armenian genocide, endorsed “The Politics of Genocide”.Chomsky is a master of obfuscation & blithering when he is challenged on his views.
But in exchanges between Chomsky & George Monbiot & with David Barsamian, he is quite straightforward in revealing why he refuses to acknowledge genocides & why he thinks the term should be discarded as having no political value. In his obfuscations & evasions, the only genocides Chomsky will acknowledge are the extermination of Native Americans from Canada to the southern tip of Latin America & the Nazi Holocaust where he includes Jews & Roma. Does the entire history of US & European colonialism in Africa, Asia, the Pacific escape his intellectual grasp? Does the Atlantic slave trade get lost in his obfuscations (an estimated 6 million Africans died in Africa after capture & on board ships)?
The Nazi Holocaust was US & European colonialism brought home to the metropolitan center. It was monstrous in its savagery & violence–it was genocide–but regrettably for humanity it was not sui generis. However, Chomsky is quite direct with Monbiot & Barsamian in saying that he will not use the term genocide because to his mind that would cheapen the meaning of the Nazi Holocaust. When Chomsky holds the Nazi Holocaust as sui generis in human history, he does not distinguish himself from Zionists of the most rabid sort who go ballistic every time some one just makes a comparison of massacres & slaughter to the Holocaust.
A pivotal rubric of Zionism, used to justify the settler-colonial project of Israel, is that no one has or ever will suffer like the Jews. Unfortunately, Chomsky’s method has boomeranged & brought thousands of Holocaust deniers out from under their rocks when in fact Jews not only suffered the Holocaust but generations of persecution, pogroms, extermination campaigns. It’s a cruel irony that Stalinists who justify Stalin’s persecution of Jews are among the most ardent practitioners of Chomsky’s methods.
Chomsky began his political life as part of the Zionist movement. At the age of 92, he still holds steadfast to the delusion of a two-state solution. It can no longer be called a bantustate solution for Palestinians since it is crystal clear now that Israel has genocide on its mind, not separate & fragmented entities for Palestinians.
Chomsky believes in a Jewish-only state & rejects a democratic secular state for Jews & Palestinians. Whether anyone likes it or not, that puts hims squarely within the rubrics of Zionism. His adherence to the exceptionalism & supremacist views of Zionism are the primary force driving his genocide denial. We can try to be balanced or nuanced or ‘fair’ in assessing Chomsky’s contributions to politics since so many middle-class students learned basic politics from him. But why should he be privileged over the voices of the Cambodians, Bosnian Muslims, Rwandans who were murdered in genocides that he denies? Is it possible to measure the value of his works against the harm he has done?
The opinions expressed in this piece don’t necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Ink Bind, and this piece was published with the permission from the author.
Marry Scully is an American activist in labor, socialist, & social movements (including antiwar, Palestinian solidarity, civil rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, disability rights, animal rights), and a vociferous supporter of progressive rights movements around the world. She writes at Marry Scully Reports.