Dedicated readers of Noam Chomsky, of whom I am one, have a valuable resource with which to keep track of the master’s opinions. The far-left Z magazine is a shrine to Chomsky. It is the host for his weblog (launched with much puffery but since apparently superseded by this less ambitious effort), publisher of many of his articles, and provider of an extensive online archive of his books and other writings.
Z magazine itself can always be counted on to review Chomsky's books with deference. One such review, published in the December 2000 edition, is of The New Military Humanism (2000), Chomsky's polemic against Nato’s intervention in Kosovo. I have observed before that Chomsky’s stance on an earlier Balkan conflict coincided with the reactionary and amoral stance propounded by the then Conservative government in the UK. His writings on Kosovo were no better, and the fulsome review in Z magazine inadvertently illustrated why.
The reviewer, Michael Hardesty, attacks in extravagant terms those of us on the Left who supported military intervention:
Unlike the mainstream media, Chomsky uniformly condemns atrocities, whether perpetrated by our official enemies or theirs. This is in refreshing contrast not only to the standard media/government line, but also much of what passes for the Left. Two distinct trends emerged on the left, there were the soft left social democrats such as Ian Williams and Christopher Hitchens who would accept at face value the most enormous tales of Serbian “genocide” and there were the old-line CP-COC types who labored to present Milosevic as a genuine socialist. Some of the pro-Serbian sentiment had a factual basis in the partisan warfare conducted by Marshall Tito and the Communist partisans against the Nazi occupiers of Yugoslavia (who were aided by large sectors of the Croatian population plus many Bosnian Muslims and Kosovar Albanians). Even though most historians estimate that anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000 Serbs, 30,000 to 60,000 Jews, and others were killed by the Nazi occupiers during WWII, some lefties have engaged in their own particular form of Holocaust denial on this matter. Once an entire people is demonized all the little nuances, truths, and complications of history go out the window. It wouldn’t do to see the Serbs as having been victims, even in the past, for that might give rise to historical perspective (such as who was the dominant group in Kosovo in 1940) and cramp the morale of our daily hate the enemy sessions. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times declared that we were at war with the entire Serbian nation and that we could pulverize them back to 1389. As Chomsky points out this sort of ethnic cleansing is an old American tradition.
It’s a drearily familiar argument, but no less repugnant and slanderous for that. Hardesty first scorns the reports of Serb atrocities, and then explicitly accuses left-wing interventionists of “Holocaust denial” themselves. He thereby exemplifies a theme that I have referred to many times with regard to this type of writing, and which was well-described by one of my regular correspondents (it was Eve Garrard, a philosopher at Keele University) whom I quoted in another post about Chomsky:
Don't you think that [Chomsky's] a particularly outrageous example of a more general inflation (and hence debasement) of the currency of moral condemnation (e.g. the Israelis are as bad as the Nazis, etc etc)? This often goes hand in hand with a deflationary line about other groups - militants instead of terrorists, and so forth. In fact the pattern of inflation and deflation can be very revealing about deep and often unacknowledged political sympathies.
The pattern is perhaps even more revealing than Eve realised. As it happens, Michael Hardesty wrote to me last week in response to my most recent post on Chomsky's intervention in the case of the Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson. Here is Hardesty's message in full (and as it is written):
I've known and corresponded with Chomsky for almost two decades and recently parted ways with him over his god complex, refusal to acknowledge any errors at all, his recent contortions on the nonexistent silent genocide in Afghanistan and the preposterous lie that thousands or millions may have died as a result of Clinton's bombing of the Sudan pharmaceutical factory in error. And many more issues where I have butted heads with him.
But your description of the Faurisson controversy is as intellectually dishonest as anything Chomsky has done.. From the beginning Faurissson's civil rights were the issue, why else was being PROSECUTED BY THE STATE FOR HIS DISSENTING VIEWS ON THE NAZI HOLOCAUST ?????????????????????????????? The very fact of the existence of these laws in many countries is evidence that the conventional story of the holocaust is a fraud. Why would you seek to legally proscribe "falsehoods" that are allegedly easily refuted ? In fact, Faurisson himself has refuted the very sources that you claim have refuted him. Many times over. His articles have been published for years in the Journal of Historical Review and have been devastating in his cogent, witty and merciless rebuttal of the conventional line. That the Nazis were evil criminals is not in doubt, even by many of the revisionists by the work by people like Berman, Lipstadt, et al, is laughable, a total joke. I think Chomsky's been able to coast because so many of his critics are either crackpot Zionists racists of Likudnik dimensions or goofy Holocaust hysterians of the Edwin Black [author of a book on IBM and the Holocaust] variety. There's much more I could say on this subject but you need to clean up your act, you just give the Chomsky cult ammo by such stupid rantings.
Whenever receiving a message of this type, as happens from time to time, I reason that it’s best to offer the most gracious possible speculative hypothesis; I thus replied:
I think you should be aware that a discharged lunatic has managed to gain access to your email account and is using it to send out absurd messages in your name in an attempt to discredit you. I am forwarding an example.
I should look into this if I were you.
I have since received a further message from Mr Hardesty, which reads in full:
Your [sic] an establishment buffoon incapable of thought or reason, thanks for more evidence of the intellectual bankruptcy and utter third-rate mindedeness of the neocons and their holohoax mythologists.
And there the matter rests.
In no circumstances would I dignify Hardesty’s deranged opinions with a rebuttal. The lies of pseudo-historians such as David Irving and cranks who are not historians at all such as Robert Faurisson have been well-covered in, among other sources, Denying History (2002) by Michael Shermer and Alex Grobman and Lying About Hitler (2001) by Richard Evans (on the David Irving libel action). My only factual point about Hardesty’s remarks, for those readers who may not be familiar with this organised campaign of fraud and bigotry, is that the publication Hardesty cites – the Journal of Historical Review – is not at all the scholarly journal its name suggests. It is the publication of the equally tendentiously-named Institute for Historical Review (IHR), of which the Anti-Defamation League observes:
One typical example of the rhetoric encouraged by [IHR] gatherings occurred at the 1983 conference, one of the best-attended in the organization's history; concluding his address, Keith Thompson, one of IHR's early stalwarts, urged supporters to "stand by the Third Reich" because, "if, in the end, the Holocaust did take place, then so much the better!" Thunderous applause greeted these remarks. In keeping with its duplicitous efforts to conjure an innocuous impression before the outside world, this statement was deleted from recordings of the speech sold through the IHR catalog.
Hardesty’s name, while deservedly obscure, was not totally unknown to me when he wrote, both because I read Z magazine and because I have read a certain amount of Holocaust denial literature (on the grounds that I wish to be aware when its adherents try to infiltrate such notions into conventional political debate). Among those writings are the prolific output of the movement’s founding father, Paul Rassinier. Rassinier – perversely a French former socialist and Resistance fighter who was actually interned in Buchenwald for a time – became after the war a fierce antisemite. His books are sustained diatribes against the Jews for supposedly starting WWII, and provide inspiration for Robert Faurisson’s own propaganda. Rassinier's collected writings were published in English in the 1970s by a neo-Nazi publishing house; the volume contained a foreword by Michael Hardesty.
Hardesty is not always open about being a Holocaust denier, but he is always openly an antisemite. In a letter to The Washington Post on 26 April 1973, he called for this ‘long-run’ solution to the Middle East conflict (evidently after deciding against his preferred adjective on grounds of diplomacy):
Until the only possible long-run solution is undertaken: full repossession by the Palestinians of their property, and a total ejection of the Zionist colonialists, there will be no permanent peace in the Middle East.
One disturbing theme that I have written about on this site is the increasing adoption of traditional antisemitic notions by those parts of the Left that have previously contented themselves with propagating more euphemistic modern counterparts, such as that Zionism is a form of racism. Examples include the Socialist Workers’ Party’s commendation of the “fearless tirades against Zionism” of a man who maintains that the notorious forgery the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion accurately portrays the state of modern America, and Counterpunch magazine’s belief that accusations of dual loyalty against Jews are a part of progressive politics.
In the circumstances, I ought not to be surprised that Z magazine welcomes the contributions of a man who for 30 years has hardly been reticent about his own Jew-hatred, but I thought it was worth remarking upon anyway.