Noam Chomsky is a linguist and political philosopher of dubious repute, who remains, in spite of his errors and failed predictions, the Left’s “rabbi, our preacher, our rinpoche, our sensei.”
This week at CounterContempt, David Stein announced the release of letters he says shed harsh light on one of Chomsky’s most troubling associations: his literary relationship with a Holocaust denier.
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.
I should relate here that I share Chomsky’s disinterested, “absolute free speech” philosophy, which I would summarize artlessly as “let a thousand morons bloom.” (I don’t even believe in libel laws.)
As we learned to our dismay here in Canada, singling out Holocaust denial for special punishment not only turned obscure dingbats into household names; that same quasi-legal mechanism was eventually used by Muslims to persecute Jews and those with, shall we say, suspiciously Jewish-sounding names — such as Ezra Levant and Mark Steyn. (Had Steyn’s surname been “Smith,” I’m convinced his writings would never have attracted the attention of the Canadian Islamic Congress.)
In fact, Chomsky’s widely distributed condemnation of our “Human Rights Commissions” marked a turning point in our battle against state-sponsored, politically correct censorship.
However, Chomsky did more than just sign a petition defending a professor’s right to express questionable, controversial opinions back in 1979. (And who can blame him? That same freedom has made Chomsky himself relatively wealthy…)
Chomsky then wrote an essay explaining to his critics why he defended Faurisson’s right to free expression — again, understandable and defensible as an expression of abstract principles that reasonable men have disagreed upon for centuries.
It was after that, as CounterContempt’s backgrounder explains, that things got messy:
Chomsky’s essay was used by a [Holocaust] 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.’
Then CounterContempt drops the hammer:
…according to recently uncovered documents, that’s simply not true.
CounterContempt has released two letters which they say are a sampling of correspondence showing that Chomsky’s relationship with Holocaust deniers was more serious than he has let on.
These letters are between Chomsky and L.A. “Lou” Rollins, “a writer and contributing editor at the Institute for Historical Review (IHR), the North American headquarters of Holocaust denial and Nazi literature.”
CounterContempt opines that this is a “very friendly correspondence, complete with praise for the denier’s work, and an offer of assistance on Chomsky’s part.”
In one of the letters dated March 10, 1984, from Chomsky to Rollins, we read the following:
I’m very glad to hear that you are writing about Elie Wiesel, who is one of the major frauds of our time. His attitude towards Israel is essentially the same as that of the Communist party members towards the USSR, or of ‘good Germans’ towards the Nazis. (…)
Wiesel’s “shameful subservience to the State of Israel,” Chomsky continues, is a “stance” that is “all the more grotesque in his case because of the pretense of saintliness. It may be, however, that many people are aware of his exploitation of the Holocaust.”
The other letter released by CounterContempt today is dated June 14, 1992. Chomsky expresses contempt for those who, in the name of criminalizing Holocaust denial,
give maximum publicity to far-out nuts whose views are bitterly condemned with remarkable unanimity and fervour, and who would, in fact, be unknown if it were not for the vast attention lovingly lavished upon them.
I couldn’t agree more (see above.)
But the thing is: that seems like an odd sentiment to express in a letter to a man whom CounterContempt identifies as a Holocaust denier, (i.e., a “far out nut”).
I invite others to clear up my confusion.
Needless to say, the onus is on CounterContempt to reveal the origin of these letters and offer assurances of their authenticity.
After that, and after all the letters have been released and authenticated, Noam Chomsky may or may not wish to comment.
The comments beneath that CounterContempt blog post are already lively, to say the least.