In the late 1970s and early ‘80s, leftist author, professor, and anti-Israel activist Noam Chomsky became embroiled in what would become known as “The Faurisson Affair.” In 1979, a professor of literature at the University of Lyon, Robert Faurisson, was fined by a French court for claiming in Le Monde that the Holocaust was a hoax.
Chomsky, a rabid critic of Israel, was asked by a friend of Faurisson’s to sign a petition supporting Faurisson’s right to free speech. The petition did not mention Faurisson’s views; it merely defended his right to express them.
Chomsky signed the petition. In the ensuing uproar, he explained his reasons in an October 1980 essay. He claimed to be completely uninterested in Holocaust denial. Faurisson’s views, he wrote, were irrelevant. All that mattered is that people have the right to express political or historical views – however unpopular – free from government prosecution. Regarding Faurisson, Chomsky wrote, “As far as I can determine, he (Faurisson) is a relatively apolitical liberal of some sort.” This was patently false, as Faurisson’s anti-Semitism was well-documented. However, Chomsky continued to claim ignorance of Faurisson’s views (and of Holocaust denial in general).
Chomsky’s essay was used by a denial publishing house as a preface for a book about Faurisson. Chomsky admitted that he had issued the essay with no restrictions regarding how it could be used, but he claimed to have asked the deniers to refrain from using it in their book. According to Chomsky, his request arrived too late, and the book (with the Chomsky preface) was published.
And that was that. Chomsky has continued, for the past thirty years, to defend his role in L’Affaire Faurisson. His defense always consists of the same points: His lack of knowledge of Faurisson’s work, and (more importantly) his absolute, total lack of interest in Holocaust denial. Chomsky has stressed, time and again, that the subject doesn’t interest him, and that he doesn’t care about, nor does he have knowledge of, anything the deniers say or write.
In short, Chomsky’s defense can be paraphrased as, “Look, I helped a guy out because I don’t believe in government censorship. I don’t care who he was; I’d have helped anyone in the same way. And now it’s done and I have no interest in knowing anything about who this guy is or what he believes in.”
But, according to recently uncovered documents, that’s simply not true.
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