"However scandalous are your ideas, if you have no right to express them, you loose what is the essence of democracy and freedom" (Chomsky in Le Monde, 1 Sept. 1998)
The unfailing solidarity of Noam Chomsky, the well-known linguist, with the Revisionists deals with one very specific issue: he claims for them, as for anyone else, the complete freedom of thinking and speaking out. Full stop.
It would seem to be a menial task, a kind of triviality which would not deserve further commentaries. In fact, his demand, uttered about twenty years ago, has not ceased to create a scandal. As a matter of fact, whenever Noam Chomsky, an activist involved in the critique of the State, with an anarchistic background, criticizing most of all the US State and its imperialist policies, starts a speech in front of an ever-growing audience, in North America, or in front of the medias, there is always a guy or a small group in the public to complain in a more or less bitter way about Chomsky's involvement with the revisionists, materialized by a text he has written and which has been used as a foreword to the pretrial defence tract issued by Faurisson in 1980, his Mémoire en défense. So that, Chomsky, after twenty years, has to repeat, every evening, that the freedom of expression is a whole, cannot be cut into pieces and that Revisionists, whatever their views that he does not share at all, have the same right as anybody else to talk freely without being victimized by a stupid repression. This question reappears in each of Chomsky's intervention in the press, TVs and elsewhere. We know how irritating the recurrence of these silly questions can be, launched by the Lobby spokespersons, the supporters of an aggressive Israel and the enemies of freedom. Day after day, in a thousand articles and interventions, Chomsky has to claim again and again his solidarity with our basic rights. We greet his constancy and we know that the bonds of friendship and solidarity which united us before the emergence of the revisionist question maintained themselves unadulterated because they are rooted in the same critique of the State, of its violence and its lies, of the classes and the groups that use its power to impose their private interest over the toiling people who feed them.
We'll return on the way Chomsky got involved in this matter because the tales that evoke this question in order to blame him are generally not fully accurate. We'll display our attempts to straighten up the record and the reception we met. We'll sort some of the commentaries that this affair triggered and we'll try to answer, if we have not done it already, to the least stupid of them. We'll pick up some rejoinders by Chomsky from the multitude of them.
But before going farther, it is useful to point out what are the political objectives of Noam Chomsky. He is trying, through his many interventions, to help to create in the public opinion a trend which would bear on the US foreign policy in order to stop expansion, exploitation, the support to dictatorships, the terror triggered by the role of world policeman that the US bestowed upon themselves and all by themselves. Chomsky considers that anything that would distract him from this line of action is of secondary importance and should be dismissed. This is exactly how he reacted when, in 1979, in one of his last trips to Paris, the revisionist question was explained to him by Serge Thion and Pierre Guillaume. This very fast and methodic mind did not blink nor outright reject the idea of a possible absence of the gas chamber in the archetypal image of the fate of the Jews in the Nazi camps. But he could not conceive either any link between this question and the continuation of his work of undermining the US foreign policy. He then decided not to involve himself in the study of this question and to keep as a working implement the views that he had acquired as a youth in the leftwing Zionist movements he had approached at the time. As we said at the start, no one is under the obligation to get involved in this affair. If those who do get involved are then under the control of rationality, those who stay outside cannot provide well-grounded opinions on the core of the question. We provide here an exemple of Chomsky's interventions, a speech he delivered last year in the heart of occupied Palestine, at Birzeit University, to a packed Palestinian audience. The title was "National Sovereignty and Democracy in the Third World".
As a starter we recommend the interview published by Le Monde on Sept. 1st. We consider as very significant the fact that this newspaper which in the last 15 years has exhibited the worst bad faith and the most violent hostility towards Chomsky, guilty of judging the Parisian intelligentsia as mediocre and deeply committed to Stalisnism, is now, all of a sudden, opening its columns to him. Something weird is happening in the wonderland of the journalists.
Then, to make everything clear, we display the text by Chomsky which started the prairie fire. We have it in English and in the French translation which was used as a foreword to the Faurisson defence tract. Look at what Christopher Hitchens has to say about it: "Chomsky's seven-page comment received more attention in the international press, as Paul Berman noted, than any other piece of work for which he had been responsible." We can see very well that twenty years later this text still raises hair on many bald heads. He later gave his reasons in a famous Nation article (Feb. 1981), "His Right to Say It". Its conclusion was: "It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers."
We then proceed to the way a recent biographer accounts for Chomsky's involvement in what he calls the Faurisson Affair and the Pol Pot Affair. There is a great need here for corrections. Then we'll see how Serge Thion, as an actor at the time, explains how things happened. Other versions will be displayed, including the one given in 1985 by the British effete essay writer Christopher Hitchens who tried to save Chomsky from his old daemons, i.e. his own very principles. Hitchens was to meet more Revisionists later, in the flesh.
It is necesseray, at this stage, to refer to the pamphlet broiled in the dark recesses of ultra-Zionism under the pen of Werner Cohn. This is a typical police approach of politics which we consider as mainly farcical.
We are adding another pamphlet which has been widely seen as mythic because it was difficult to find. And there is no English version for it: "Réponses inédites à mes détracteurs parisiens", or "Unpublished replies to my Parisians detractors", in fact letters to newspapers which strangely failed to publish them. The standard of French journalism is among the lowest on this planet, we are sad to report. After that, the French press and the French "intellectuals" built a wall of silence around Chomsky. This wall broke down only last month with the Le Monde interview, and we do not know for sure why it broke down.
These questions have been taken up in a recent biography of Chomsky which is not entirely devoid of mistakes. We can considere now as classical: for instance, the mistake attributing to Thion or the Vieille Taupe Group the initiative of a petition, signed by Chomsky, to demand the respect of the right of Professor Faurisson. Even Chomsky himself seems to believe this! It was the doing of Mark Weber, who later rose to become the present-day director of the Institute of Historiacl Review. This petition reached Paris only later. As for the rest, this biography, written with a kind of tired sadness, brings forth some factual elements. We have extracted the pages dealing with the Faurisson and Pol Pot affairs, as well as some considerations on the French intellectuals, in particular those producing these heaps of crap that are ponderously called "postmodernism". We find them ludicrous. The choice is there between the original English version and a (rather poor) French translation.
What we always found stricking was the need in which Chomsky's opponents found themselves to invent and lend him opinions they found thus easier to fight.. It has been the case of a particularly disgusting underdog called Claude Roy who, as a former royalist, fascist, stalinian, socialist, turned liberal,was an usual writer in Le Nouvel Observateur. In 1980, Serge Thion had to vigorously intervene to dismantle his castle of lies and deceptions. In a more general way, he had analyzed the attacks against Chomsky published in the French press in an article published in a monthly called Esprit. This issue of September 1980 was something of a monument: The opening was the attack, now a classic of sorts, by Vidal-Naquet against Faurisson andt the Vieille Taupe Group: A Paper Eichmann, an article Vidal had refused to communicate in advance to Thion because he was fearing a reply (We have it now in English). The issue then proceeded with some Jew-licking papers, then a rather critical assessment of Elie Wiesel by a Wladirmir Rabi, the article by Thion on Cambodia and Chomsky and an attack against this very article by Paul Thibaud, the then editor of the journal. Thion was thus caught in a kind of sandwich and prevented, in that position, to reply to the attacks against him at the beginning and the end of the issue. These perverse games soon stopped as Thion was not allowed to reply anyway. At the same time, Thion felt compelled to reply to a particularly debased article written by Leopold Labedz in the London based Encounter, a journal which had been used to receive CIA funds. This reply was titled: A Strange Revisitor.
The Vieille Taupe (Old Mole) group had played a decisive role in inducing Chomsky in the defense of revisionists -- who badly needed it at the time. The Vieille Taupe consistently tried to push newspapers to face facts. Vainly. But as fall-outs of these efforts we still have a number of unpublished letters which have been ignored by journalists, for whom ignorance is a cult.
-- Letter by Pierre Guillaume to Le Monde (15 Feb. 1993) on an aborted tentative which had been foiled by a Chomsky file...
-- Letter by Pierre Guillaume to Le Monde about a movie dedicated to a movie on Chomsky called Manufacturing Consent (30 Nov. 1993).
-- Letter by Pierre Guillaume to Le Monde Diplomatique (14 Feb 1994) on the same subject, but with more details.
-- Letter by Pierre Guillaume to NC (7 Jan. 1996) announcing the issue of Garaud'ys book.
-- Letter by Pierre Guillaume to NC (25 Feb. 1996) asking with humor if NC would care to write a short foreword to Garaudy's book.
See also Mutatis Mutandis, a text circulated in the Palais de Justice at the first Garaudy trial in January 98.
There is a last point on which we wish to draw the attention of the observers. Chomsky has stated many times that he had exprssed once for all his feekings about what some people want to call the "holocaust". He has quoted times and again THE sentence he had written long before the Revisionist affair had broken loose, a sentence he hoped would exonerate him from any lingering suspicion: the sentence is a warrant of his orthodoxy in the acceptance of the official version of the said Holocaust. Let's consider it once again: "[...] savage persecution culminating in the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history [...]" The reference: Peace in the Middle East? Reflections on Justice and Nationhood, , Vintage Book, 1974, p. 57-58. We should note, first, that it is only a fragment of a sentence, that the whole book is devoted to the Middle East and does not deal with events of WW2. It belongs to a chapter titled "Nationalism and Conflict in Palestine". Reading the whole paragraph indicates the presence of a rhetorical ploy: there are two sets of arguments, he says, one Arabic, the other Jewish; but the other, when he unveils the content, he calls Zionist. And it is in the middle of the Zionist set of arguments that one can find the famouc fragment of sentence. If we put it in another way, we see that these considerations about Holocaust are those of the Zionists, anxious to justify their military occupation of Palestine, and certainly not of Chomsky who does not share their views. As a consequence, the extraction of this sentence fragment from its context and its portraying it as a justification of a behavior willing to ignore everything about revisionism, is akin to a leger-de-main. The critiques of Chomsky could have realized that, if only they'd read the texts. What conclusions can we draw from this trick? First, Chomsky never expressed the bottom of his mind on the "Holocaust". He never had the opportunity to deal with the historical question, to really deal with what happened to certain Jewish communities in Europe under the Nazi rule. He has consistently evaded the question because he knows that he does know much on the subject, that he has not done the minimum of research into the subject to obtain at least an educated understanding of the basics of the question. This is a correct attitude for someone who knows what learning is about. (This is the reverse of the Parisian intelligentsia for whom the rule is to always talk about sujects on which you know nothing about.) Chomsky always maintained the possibility of having the revisionist thesis verified by the facts. He repeatedly said the same thing we have beeen saying all along: even if the gas chambers have not existed, this does not change at all our condemnation of Nazism as a particularly inhumane policy. As he refrained to judge the orthodox thesis on this subjet, he also refrains to judge the revisionist thesis. But if, by hyopthesis, he would start to work on this question, who can say today to what conclusions he would arrive, what side he would take in the conflict betwwen rationalists and materialist who lead the revisionist crowd and crazy mystics like Elie Wiesel, meandering rabbis like Berenbaum, silent historians like Rousso, mind-consensus readers like Hilberg, document destroyers like Lanzmann, leading the anti-revisionist hordes. We are committed to publish here those who would want to take up the challenge.
Those who would like to carry further their research should of course start by reading Chomsky's books, of which there is a lot. Some of them are to be found at the bookshop on the next block. The movie Necessary Illusions has got a website: you can have a quick glance there at MM. Faurisson, Guillaume and Thion. There is an Archive for the latests linguistic publications and another one for the political articles, including some books. Radio Free Maine has audio and video documents on Chomsky. The web archives of Z Magazine have articles by and on Chomsky. Discussion occur at <alt.fan.noam-chomsky newsgroup>. If you want to contact Chomsky, do so by ordinary mail and write to: MIT, E39-219, 77 Massachussetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
The latest book by Noam Chomsky ? In
Great-Britain, it is Profits Over People -- Neoliberalism and
the Global Order, October 1998, Seven Stories Press. A collection
of essays. What is democracy? Is it government for the people,
by the people? Or is it government for those who seize the opportunity?
After all, Chomsky must realize that the questions solved in the
18. century should be raised again and again.
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