In 1977, Chomsky, and co-author Edward Herman, infamously dismissed charges of a Pol Pot-engineered genocide in Cambodia as a hoax suited for Western propaganda. “The ‘slaughter’ by the Khmer Rouge,” the pair announced in The Nation, “is a [Robert] Moss-New York Times creation.”
After the 1998 bombing of Sudan by the U.S., which confused a medicine factory for a weapons of mass destruction plant, Chomsky maintained that the attack resulted in “tens of thousands of immediate Sudanese victims.” Alas, the misguided strikes resulted in a handful of casualties. The medicine shortage highlighted by Chomsky simply escaped the notice of every credible aid organization. Pressed, Chomsky cited Human Rights Watch and the German embassy in Sudan as sources. The former denied making any such estimate and the latter never investigated the matter—instead making what the former ambassador termed as a “reasonable guess.”
“At this point,” Chomsky told a radio interviewer in the days following 9/11, “we are considering the possibility of a war that may destroy much of human civilization.” Repeatedly, the professor loosely charged that a war in Afghanistan would result in millions of deaths. One estimate of the expected carnage was as high as three to four million. As any good MIT student could have told Chomsky, his numbers were off by a factor of more than 100. As the NATO campaign in Afghanistan progressed, Chomsky observed: “Looks like what’s happening is some sort of silent genocide”—so silent, in fact, that even the Afganis haven’t heard about it.
One would think that Chomsky’s credibility would now be somewhere between Richard Heene in the wake of his “balloon boy” stunt and Geraldo Rivera’s after opening Al Capone’s vault. But if you shoot at the right target, frequent misses will not undermine your sharpshooter reputation. Fantastical charges against an unpopular target may actually increase one’s popularity.
Chomsky’s anti-U.S. broadsides have so inflated his reputation that more than three dozen institutions of higher learning have bestowed honorary degrees upon him. By one count the number of citations to his work in academic publications in the humanities stands higher than any other living source. As the UK’s Guardian noted in 2001, “Chomsky ranks with Marx, Shakespeare, and the Bible as one of the ten most quoted sources in the humanities—and is the only writer among them still alive.”
The namedroppers aren’t limited to academia. After Matt Damon’s “Will Hunting” touted Howard Zinn in the Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams, portraying the title character’s psychiatrist, played booster to Chomsky. And a foreign admirer remarked last year that “Noam Chomsky was correct when he compared the U.S. policies to those of the mafia.” The speaker? Osama bin Laden.
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). He writes a Monday column for Human Events and blogs at www.flynnfiles.com.
Pages: 1 2