Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Long Short War

Noam Chomsky: The “Apostates” preferred target?
Who is an apostate? And why Chomsky, the dedicated humanist, Marxist and anti US liberal capitalism is elevated as an icon by the most powerful capitalist Empire?
An apostate is one who changes sides: You can be a Democrat and jump train to the Republican Party, shift affiliation to another sect within a religion or join another religion, have particular ideological system at youth and “get reformed” with age, abide by a set of value system at a difining period and vehemently criticize the same value set at later periods…
Consequently, being labelled an apostate should not carry any negative connotation: Transforming to another life-style should be appreciated as a valiant and courageous attitude for changing “who we are, and what we believe in…” on the ground that we acquired more knowledge, travelled outside our limited boundaries of confinement,  and had the opportunity to communicate with various other communities and civilizations…
Negative connotation is attached to those who turn coats for the simple exigency of feeling attracted to centers of power in order to survive or enjoying opportunities and privileges carried by associating with the power-to-be.  Coat-turners, as they feel obligated to viciously attacking the “opposite” side in order to satisfying pre-conditions for being admitted in the new club, are heaped with all kinds of nasty labels on the ground that they didn’t actually change their line of thought, but cashing on the comfort of the “other side” dominant position…
In general, apostates are not convincing in their newer mental position: It smacks of cut and paste line of thinking. Mostly, they cash in by reminding everyone “who they were”, as if this line absolve them from developing on their current position. It is normal: The original position was due to time and energy invested before adopting an ideology, a political stand, a religious affiliation…
When we change side in later years, it is very difficult to believe that the apostate invested as much time and energy and zeal in acquiring the same level of conviction and engagement as when younger.  The kinds of proof the apostate delivers to the “new alliance” is taking pictures with the elite of the other side and playing the mouthpiece in critical events and election periods…

For example, late Christopher Hitchens, an atheist and “Marxist” changed political attitudes and sided with all of Bush Junior decisions, and said: “I’m occasionally asked whether I still consider myself a Marxist.  Even if my “faith” had lapsed, I wouldn’t advertise it, not from shame at having been wrong (although admittedly this would be a factor) but rather from fear of arousing even a faint suspicion of opportunism.  To borrow from the lingo of a former academic fad, if, in public life, the “signifier” is “I’m no longer a Marxist,” then the “signified” usually is, “I’m selling out.”  No doubt one can, in light of further study and life experience, come to repudiate past convictions.  One might also decide that youthful ideals, especially when the responsibilities of family kick in and the prospects for radical change dim while the certainty of one’s finitude sharpens, are too heavy a burden to bear.”

Norman G. Finkelstein wrote: “…Although it might be hoped that this accommodation (apostasy), however disappointingly understandable, were accomplished with candor and an appropriate degree of humility rather than scorn for those who keep plugging away.  It is when the phenomenon of political apostasy is accompanied by fanfare and fireworks that it becomes truly repellent.

“Depending on where along the political spectrum power is situated, apostates almost always make their corrective leap in that direction, discovering the virtues of the status quo. Thomas Mann wrote a convert to National Socialism right after Hitler’s seizure of power: “The last thing you can be accused of is having turned your coat. You always wore it the `right’ way around.”

“If apostasy weren’t conditioned by power considerations, one would anticipate roughly equal movements in both directions.  But that’s never been the case.  The would-be apostate almost always pulls towards power’s magnetic field, rarely away”.  However elaborate the testimonials on how one came to “see the light,” the impetus behind political apostasy is a fairly straightforward, uncomplicated affair: to cash in, or keep cashing in, on earthly pleasures.  Indeed, an apostate can even capitalize on the past to increase his or her current exchange value.

“Professional ex-radical Todd Gitlin never fails to mention, when denouncing those to his left, that he was a former head of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).  Never mind that this was four decades ago; although president of my sixth-grade class 40 years ago, I don’t keep bringing it up.  Shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations on the exploitation of one’s political past?  In any event, it’s hard to figure why an acknowledgment of former errors should enhance one’s current credibility”.

“If, by a person’s own admission, he had got it all wrong, why should anyone pay heed to his or her new opinions?  Doesn’t it make more sense attending to those who got there sooner rather than later?  A member of the Flat-Earth Society who suddenly discovers the world is round doesn’t get to keynote an astronomers’ convention.  Indeed, the prudent inference would seem to be, once an idiot, always an idiot.  It’s child’s play to assemble a lengthy list – Roger Garaudy, Boris Yeltsin, David Horowitz, Bernard Henri-Levy… – bearing out this common sensical wisdom.

“An apostate is usually astute enough to understand that, in order to catch the public eye and reap the attendant benefits, merely registering this or that doubt about one’s prior convictions, or nuanced disagreements with former comrades (which, after all, is how a reasoned change of heart would normally evolve), won’t suffice.  For, incremental change, or fundamental change by accretion, doesn’t get the buzz going: there must be a dramatic rupture with one’s past.

“The rejection of one’s core political beliefs can’t but entail a rejection of the person holding them: if the beliefs were wrong, then one’s whole being was wrong.  Repudiating one’s comrades must also be a sorrowful burden.  It is not by chance that “fraternity” is a prized value of the left: in the course of political struggle, one forges, if not always literally, then, at any rate, spiritually, blood bonds.  Yet, the élan with which Hitchens has shed his past and, spewing venom, the brio with which he savages former comrades is a genuine wonder to behold.  No doubt he imagines it is testament to the mettle of his conviction that past loyalties don’t in the slightest constrain him; in fact, it’s testament to the absence of any conviction at all.

“Conversion and zealotry, just like revelation and apostasy, are flip sides of the same coin, the currency of a political culture having more in common with religion than rational discourse.  A rite of passage for apostates peculiar to U.S. political culture is bashing Noam Chomsky.  It’s the political equivalent of a ritual signaling that one has “grown up”  and grown out of one’s “childish” past.  It’s hard to pick up an article or book by ex-radicals – Gitlin’s Letters to a Young Activist, Paul Berman’s Terror and Liberalism… – that doesn’t include a hysterical attack on Chomsky.  Behind this venom there’s also a transparent psychological factor at play.

“Chomsky mirrors their idealistic past as well as sordid present, an obstinate reminder that they once had principles but no longer do, that they sold out but he didn’t.  Hating to be reminded, they keep trying to shatter the glass.  Chomsky is the demon from the past that, after recantation, no amount of incantation can exorcise.

“Two altogether opposed political stances can each draw an audience’s attention.  One is to be politically consistent, but nonetheless original in one’s insights; the other, an inchoate form of apostasy, is to bank on the shock value of an occasional, wildly inconsistent outburst.  The former approach, which Chomsky exemplifies, requires hard work, whereas the latter is a lazy substitute for it.

“Thus Nat Hentoff, the hip (heloves jazz) left-liberal writer, would jazz up his interminably dull Village Voice columns by suddenly coming out against abortion or endorsing Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court nomination.  The master at this pose of maverick unpredictability used to be Christopher Hitchens.  Amidst a fairly typical leftist politics, he would suddenly ambush unsuspecting readers with his opposition to abortion, admiration of the misogynist and juvenile lyrics of Two Live Crew (“I think that’s very funny”), or support for Columbus’s extermination of Native Americans (“deserving to be celebrated with great vim and gusto”).  Immediately the talk of the town became, “Did you read Hitchens this week?”

“Although a tacit assumption equates unpredictability with independence of mind, it might just as well signal lack of principle.  As if to bear out this point, Hitchens has now repackaged himself a full-fledged apostate.  For maximum pyrotechnic effect, he knew that the “awakening” had to be as abrupt as it was extreme: if yesterday he counted himself a Trotskyist and Chomsky a comrade, better now to announce that he supports Bush and counts Paul Wolfowitz a comrade.  Their fates crossed when Wolfowitz and Hitchens both immediately glimpsed in September 11 the long-awaited opportunity: for Wolfowitz, to get into Iraq, for Hitchens, to get out of the left.  While public display of angst doesn’t itself prove authenticity of feeling (sometimes it might prove the reverse), a sharp political break must, for one living a political life, be a wrenching emotional experience.

Freud once wrote: “To discover our true human nature, just reverse society’s moral exhortations: if the Commandment says not to commit adultery, it’s because we all want to”.  This simple game can be played with Hitchens as well: when he avows, “I attempt to write as if I did not care what reviewers said, what peers thought, or what prevailing opinion might be,” one should read, “My every word is calculated for its public effect.”

“It’s a standing question as to whether the power of words ultimately derives from their truth value or if a sufficiently nimble mind can endow words with comparable force regardless of whether they are bearers of truth or falsity.  Deriding Chomsky’s “very vulgar” harnessing of facts, Hitchens wants to go beyond this “empiricism of the crudest kind.”  His own preferred epistemology is on full display, for all to judge, in Long Short War.  To prove that, after supporting dictatorial regimes in the Middle East for 70 years, the U.S. has abruptly reversed itself and now wants to bring democracy there, he cites “conversations I have had on this subject in Washington…”

“To demonstrate the “glaringly apparent” fact that Saddam “infiltrated, or suborned, or both” the U.N. inspection teams in Iraq, Hitchens adduces the “incontrovertible case” of an inspector offered a bribe by an Iraqi official: “The man in question refused the money, but perhaps not everybody did.”  Citing “the brilliant film called Nada,” Hitchens proposes this radical redefinition of terrorism: “the tactic of demanding the impossible, and demanding it at gunpoint…”

“Hitchens resembles no one so much as the Polish émigré hoaxers, Jerzy Kosinski, who, shrewdly sizing up intellectual culture in America, used to give, before genuflecting Yale undergraduates, lectures on such topics as “The Art of the Self: the theory of `Le Moi Poetique’ (Binswanger).”  Translation: for this wanger it’s all about moi.  Kosinski no doubt had a good time of it until, outed as a fraud, he had enough good grace, which Hitchens plainly lacks, to commit suicide.  And for Hitchens it’s also lucrative nonsense that he’s peddling….

“It’s not exactly a martyr’s fate defecting from The Nation, a frills-free liberal magazine, toAtlantic Monthly, the well-heeled house organ of Zionist crazies.  Although Kissinger affected to be a “solitary, gaunt hero,” Hitchens says, in reality he was just a “corpulent opportunist.”

Note 1: Norman G. Finkelstein is an irreducible anti-Zionist, anti State of Israel apartheid policies in the Palestinian occupied land.  He is currently writing a political memoir, which will serve as the introduction to a new edition of his book, The Rise and Fall of Palestine, to be published by New Press next year.  




August 2022

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