Sometimes, Google Alerts turn up some real gems in one’s e-mail box. Take, for example, this lovely letter to the editors of the Arizona Republic:
Seeing Hugo Chavez holding and promoting a book by Noam Chomsky struck me as the blind leading the blind!
And then to learn that Amazon reported sales of Chomsky’s anti-American book had risen as a result of Chavez’s endorsement showed me that there are more than a few blind people among us.
Anyone who thinks Chomsky and Chavez and Co. are right is wrong in my book.
– Stephen Garfield, Prescott Valley
Granted, Arizona isn’t exactly a hotbed of progressive thought. This poor projecting simpleton is probably all too typical of his state, where lots of people are tapping around none too gently in the dark with sticks and often cracking the skulls of anyone who gets in their way. I’ll bet he hasn’t even read the book he’s disparaging in such boring, doctrinaire far-right terms. Most of the people who talk this way haven’t. In fact, I’d lay good odds that they are not terribly long on reading at all, let alone something so scary-ass challenging as a book. And most certainly not one by Noam Chomsky–that horrible anti-American thug!
But just what is so “anti-American” about Chomsky’s book?
Well, as luck would have it, I got my own copy of it months ago; this wasn’t the first time Hugo Chavez plugged it, you see. He’s been praising Chomsky to the heavens for a number of years now, particularly Hegemony or Survival. And when Chavez talks, I listen–and take it to heart. But not because I’m “blind” and easily led. I do it for the opposite reason: because I’m curious and have a mind of my own. Chavez appealed to that part of me from the moment I first heard him stand up to BushCo, two or three years ago. I found his feisty honesty and independence refreshing, amusing–even downright charming. And as I followed his progress, I’ve seen just how spot-on his observations on the whole tend to be. For those reasons, I’m especially keen to find out what Chavez sees in the books he cites. And my copy of Hegemony or Survival is already all marked-up with pencilled notations. So I guess that leaves me ideally situated to dissect this particular book and see what the gullible Mr. Garfield is so worked up about.
The front cover alone must ring all the alarm bells for the benighted souls in the “my country, never wrong” crowd, which seldom gets past that part of most books anyway, let alone a leftist one that challenges their myopic Weltanschauung. The full title is Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance. I’m guessing that our peevy Stevie objects to that on the grounds that the words “glorious” and “righteous” are nowhere in evidence. How dare Chomsky even leave open the prospect that American global dominance is maybe not such a good idea? Shame on him!
Then there’s the back cover. My copy reads:
AN IMMEDIATE NATIONAL BESTSELLER, HEGEMONY OR SURVIVAL DEMONSTRATES HOW, for more than half a century, the United States has been pursuing a grand imperial strategy with the aim of staking out the globe. Our leaders have shown themselves willing–as in the Cuban missile crisis–to follow the dream of dominance no matter how high the risks. World-renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky here investigates how we came to this perilous moment and why our rulers are willing to jeopardize the future of our species.
With the striking logic that is his trademark, Chomsky tracks the US government’s aggressive pursuit of “full spectrum dominance” and vividly lays out how the most recent manifestations of the politics of global control–from unilateralism to the dismantling of international agreements to state terrorism–cohere in a drive for hegemony that ultimately threatens our existence. Lucidly written, thoroughly documented, and featuring a new afterword about the war in Iraq, Hegemony or Survival is a definitive statement from one of today’s most influential thinkers.
Well. That just scared the McCarthyite shit right out of me!
I mean, what’s more threatening than an intellectual–and an influential thinker, at that–who’s renowned all over the world but never once interviewed on FOX News? If they won’t talk to him or plug his books, he must be a commie! Or a pinko, which is even worse because it doesn’t seem so bad–haven’t you heard of Useful Idiots and Fellow Travellers?
Only problem with that idea is, Chomsky’s no fellow traveller; he’s quite independent, which is why FUX Snooze never interviews him. He’s also nobody’s idiot, and I’ve yet to see him used by an actual tyrant or dictator to bolster his evil, imperialistic ambitions. As this cover blurb intimates, Chomsky stands as an antidote to all that. He lays bare not only what’s behind imperialism, but also its methods. The more people see through all that, the more they’ll be inclined to protest–and the less inclined they’ll be to just lie down and let the steamroller of Empire run over them.
Certainly this is the effect it’s had on Chavez. This past week showed him to be THE stand-up guy at the UN, and I’m not just talking about his comedic schtick. All aimed-for giggling aside, Chavez was serious as a heart attack when he called Bush an imperialist. The “devil” bit was a joke, but the truth behind it is that Bush is acting downright satanic, scaring the shit out of American so that he can literally get away with murder. And worse, the Black Mass is still ongoing; it is mandatory for those in attendance to kiss the Devil’s buttocks as a token of unquestioning fealty. You don’t dare poop this orgy unless you want to face a full-on savaging on FUX, as Bill Clinton manfully did, or receive an anthrax threat by mail, as recently happened to Keith Olbermann. No wonder all the pundits and politicians were falling over one another in their haste to denounce Chavez’s perfectly acceptable conduct; he was not acting childish, unless perhaps you consider that he was imitating that little kid in the fable who dared to point out that the emperor was stark-ass naked. Which is the very kind of childlike behavior they don’t want to encourage. Obedience to the Big King Daddy, yes; anything else–no, no, NOOOOOOO!!! And anyone who says otherwise is anti-American! So there!
Only it’s not so pat at all. Nowhere in the book does Chomsky say that the United States are inherently evil and must be destroyed. If he did, it wouldn’t be safe for him to go on living there. According to the back cover of the book, he makes his home in Lexington, Massachusetts. And if his frequent appearances on Democracy Now (and the various US bestseller lists!) are any indication, this prophet is not without honor in his own land. Strange, is it not, that someone so “anti-American” should be alive and well and published and acclaimed…in America? Now why do you suppose that is?
My educated guess is that it’s because Chomsky isn’t anti-American. On the contrary, he is quintessentially American, in that he takes the First Amendment seriously. You know, the one that guarantees freedom of speech and says it shall not be infringed? The same one Pete Seeger so famously invoked when anyone else accused by HUAC would have taken the Fifth? The very one that guarantees Noam Chomsky the right to say, among other things, this:
Those who want to face their responsibilities with a genuine commitment to democracy and freedom –even to decent survival–should recognize the barriers that stand in the way. In violent states, these are not concealed. In more democratic societies barriers are more subtle. While methods differ sharply from more brutal to more free societies, the goals are in many ways similar: to ensure that the “great beast”, as Alexander Hamilton called te people, does not stray from its proper confines. b>
Recognition that control of opinion is the foundation of government, from the most despotic to the most free, goes back at least to David Hume, but a qualification should be added. It is far more important in the more free societies, where obedience cannot be maintained by the lash. It is only natural that the modern institutions of thought control–frankly called propaganda before the word became unfashionable because of totalitarian associations–should have originated in the most free societies.
Or, heaven forfend, this:
Destroying hope is a critically important project. And when it is achieved, formal democracy is allowed–even preferred, if only for public-relations purposes. In more honest circles, much of this is conceded. Of course, it is understood much more profoundly by the beasts in men’s shapes who endure the consequences of challenging the imperatives of stability and order.
These are all matters that the second superpower, world public opinion, should make every effort to understand if it hopes to escape the containment to which it is subjected and to take seriously the ideals of justice and freedom that come easily to the lips but are harder to defend and advance.
And all of that is just from the first chapter! Now, does any of that sound anti-American to you? It couldn’t possibly…unless you are either a dirty rotten imperialist who hates freedom–or one of the imperialists’ useful idiots: the blatting sheep who are too afraid to actually read Chomsky, but who are just brave enough to write ignorant letters to the editor extolling and defending what any real American should find utterly indefensible.
Steve, ol’ boy, do yourself and your country a favor: Read Chomsky. Take what he says to heart.
And don’t be so fucking afraid.