I argued in a post earlier this month that Noam Chomsky ought properly to be considered a conspiracy theorist rather than a political thinker. The particular example I gave was a comment about the terrorist Abu Nidal, from Chomsky's book Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians, 1983, p. 78:
The PLO has charged that he [Abu Nidal] is an Israeli agent, noting that his operations "frequently serve Israeli interests indirectly," a charge that is "one of the assumptions you bear in mind" according to a French secret service specialist. It is generally assumed that he is supported by Iraq, sometimes Syria, where his offices are located and where he appears to have access to considerable funding.
One of my regular academic correspondents has kindly drawn my attention to a reference on this subject that I wasn't familiar with and am glad to pass on to my readers.
The notion that Abu Nidal was in reality an Israeli agent is devoid of empirical support. It rests entirely on the assertions of PLO spokesmen (i.e. Abu Nidal's enemies) and on the supposition that, because his actions were so conspicuously brutal (e.g. the Rome and Vienna airport atroicities) and hence counterproductive to winning sympathy for the Palestinian cause, they can only have been committed at the behest of the Israelis. It is, in short, pure conspiracy theory of a familiar form.
This conspiracy theory overlooks the obvious and plausible explanation that Abu Nidal committed horrific acts because he was a bloodthirsty, sadistic killer. He was, after all, unstable enough to destroy his own organisation, the Fatah Revolutionary Council, in 1987 through bloody purges and mass executions of its cadres in Libya. My correspondent points to a book by Yezid Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949-1993, 1999, pp. 600-01, as reference to this episode. More generally, it's an object lesson in the difference between scholarly research in international politics and the type of groundless insinuations that are the staple of Professor Chomsky's writings in the field.