Gnome

In his review of two new Noam Chomsky books, David Hawkes discusses the “Chomsky problem”—that Chomsky’s notable work in the fields of linguistics and political commentary “appear to contradict each other”. That may be the case. But the terms of Hawkes’ review seem guilty of the same charge.

Discussing Chomsky’s disdain for popular religion, Hawkes writes that Chomsky “cites the fact that ‘about 75% of the US population has a literal belief in the devil’ as the clearest possible example of American ignorance and stupidity”.

But is it really so different from his own beliefs? Throughout his career, Chomsky has depicted a world ruled by demonic forces of quite incredible malice and guile. Whatever is running the world Chomsky describes is undoubtedly a very greedy, violent and selfish entity—it would be hard not to call it “evil” or even Evil, were such tropes not sternly prohibited by the monochrome literalism of our age.

Well Said & Tru Dat. Indeed, the prevailing language of public discourse allows no room for going front spear into the Spirit World, or Mystik Tyger Danse (results guaranteed), or for the many totems that were until very recently very intelligible and for which we have found no serviceable replacements. I mean, moreso than Stephenie Meyer, wouldn’t it be more concise & accurate for the Wall Street Journal to speak of vampires?—were such tropes not sternly prohibited by the monochrome literalism of our age?

Agreed. And yet. In the next paragraph, Hawkes demeans Chomsky’s perennial characterization of the United States.

The America described here is a crazed, bloodthirsty monster, hell-bent on the destruction of humanity.

But… is it not a monster? What was the United States government in 2003 if not an eye-stung Cyclops, stomping the globe in wreckful reckless revenge, swinging wild blind limbs, crushing villages?

I mean, when the band of the same name appeared didn’t we all nod “mmhmm, yup”?

The USA is a Monster — “No More Forever”

[Brace yrself for terrible word play: If Yahweh means “I am” does it not follow that a strident atheist should be called “No am”? Chomp on that.]

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3 Responses to “Gnome”

  1. David Says:

    Nice critique. But why do you assume that Hawkes is disagreeing with Chomskys description of the USA…

  2. doomspirals Says:

    I don’t know for certain Mr. Hawkes personal views, but I inferred his disdain for Chomsky’s position from his distancing tone & word choice. (Perhaps I should’ve included the whole paragraph; copied below.) It could be the case that Hawkes’ position is more nuanced—after all Chomsky *is* a rather cartoonish polemicist!—and highlighting that feature doesn’t preclude agreeing/sympathizing with the assertion that Mr. USA is a Monster. But that conclusion is not presented to us in the text.

    “The incarnate, worldly identity of this terrifying power is less clear. Sometimes it is “the US government”, which Chomsky depicts as a cartoonish amalgamation of petty spite and cataclysmic violence, determined to crush the slightest remnant of human decency still cowering in any corner of its empire. “When the Mennonites tried to send pencils to Cambodia, the State Department tried to stop them”, while the CIA allegedly trained its Central American death squads by forcing recruits to bite the heads off live vultures. As Chomsky puts it, “no degree of cruelty is too great for Washington sadists”. The America described here is a crazed, bloodthirsty monster, hell-bent on the destruction of humanity.”

  3. David Says:

    I don´t know that there´s anything in that paragraph that suggests disagreement with Chomsky on the question of the USA´s monstrosity. The difference seems to arise over the causal explanation for that condition, with Hawkes suggesting that it is to be found in the nature of capital itself, rather than in the turpitude of any state, bloc or group of individuals.

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