In the shell-shocked weeks after Sept. 11, we came to our television newscasts and print outlets with gratitude. As we struggled to accept such a damaging attack on our homeland, our nation's leading journalists tried to make sense of the senseless and displayed an all-too-rare sense of bonding with the audience, a feeling of common suffering and common resolve.
At that time, a very impolite cynic could have spoiled the moment by stating that all this rallying around our flag and our fellow Americans would eventually evaporate. The cynic would maintain that as memories faded, our resolve to fight the terrorist enemy would fade along with it, and the media elite would return to seeing America not as a beacon of freedom and democratic values, but as an arrogant cancer on the planet.
That cynic would be I-told-you-so'ing today. He could skip through the streets handing out copies of a Washington Post article on Noam Chomsky, a radical crank whose day job is linguistics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Post headline prepares the reader for a rare treat at the feet of a daring and different thinker: "An Eminence with No Shades of Gray."
What does Chomsky have that caused the Post to sound this note of distinction, this declaration of lofty superiority? In one endeavor Chomsky stands nearly unrivaled. He hates the United States of America with a fiendish passion. He has no shades of gray when it comes to declaring that it is our country that is the primary state sponsor of terrorism in the world and Sept. 11 is a small piece of comeuppance.
Post reporter Michael Powell lays the latest Chomsky screed right out there for the reader to absorb: The atrocities of Sept. 11 are unique only because the aggressor has been justifiably attacked. "The United States exterminated its indigenous population, conquered half of Mexico, and carried out depredations all over. Now, for the first time since the British burned the White House in [the War of] 1812, the guns have been directed the other way."
Powell doesn't find in these words a deadly serious slur, with an offensive undertone of smirky enjoyment. He thinks it's amusing: "Our professor is being a touch provocative here, no?" Here we go again. One of the nation's most prominent liberal newspapers is abandoning the noble cause of the war on terror and going back to sassy indifference.
Chomsky should properly be identified as the very definition of the lunatic fringe. But instead Powell reported without much resistance that the man is "a white-hot contrarian, a distinguished linguist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who 'tends to be quite conservative' and is devoted to 'simple moral truisms.'" One of these notions, Powell reports, is that Osama bin Laden's "call for the overthrow of brutal regimes of gangsters and torturers resonates, as does his indignation at the atrocities he attributes to the United States, hardly without reason."
Powell did not recoil at the thought that America is the world's Evil Empire -- hardly the theory of a man who's "quite conservative." He simply moved on to explore Chomsky's appeal: "And his course is not so unpopular as one might imagine right now." The editor of the Los Angeles Times book review laments his exclusion from major editorial pages. His latest pastiche of deep thoughts on Sept. 11 has sold 160,000 copies. Devotees record and transcribe his remarks wherever he goes. But the left-wing cult following isn't a menacing militia of haters. It's the proof that makes Chomsky an "eminence."
The only saving grace of the Post article is that if you read deep enough, Powell eventually abandons the promotional, unquestioning tone as the ugly Chomsky quotes continue. He casually compared the war on Afghanistan to the Holocaust: "Of course the U.S. claims it has reasons ... And the Nazis had reasons for gassing the Jews. Everyone has reasons. The question is whether they're justified."
Powell wrapped up by sharing his amazement at Chomsky's cockeyed comparisons. The loony linguist claimed Bill Clinton's bombing of a Sudanese drug factory killed not one security guard (a fact), but tens of thousands (a fantasy). Powell wondered: "Still, you ask, isn't there a moral difference between an act of terror that directly claims 3,000 lives and a mistake that directly claims one life? The Sudan bombing, Chomsky replies, was worse."
Shouldn't the Post's headline-writers have tried to read the article all the way to the end? Noam Chomsky is not an "eminence." He's a menace. The spread of his anti-American bile and lies is designed to sap our resolve and leave us like his unsurprisingly larger following in Europe -- morally rudderless and unable to fight for what's right.