Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chomsky and Horowitz, 2gether 4ever!

Those on the left will be dismayed to hear that I have long been a fan of David Horowitz, albeit with some severe misgivings. Those on the right will be dismayed to hear that I have, of recent, developed (not without some kicking and screaming) a similar attitude toward Noam Chomsky. I'm trying to keep up with both, as I feel that, between the two, I can get a decent sense of the lay of the land. My most recent foray has been into Chomsky and Achcar's Perilous Power and David Horowitz's Unholy Alliance; unsurprisingly, the two books stake out positions about as different as any two books can. In keeping with my general attitude towards the two authors,* I agree with large swathes of both books, and think that both suffer from parallel problems where they go wrong.

In a nutshell: Chomsky does a fine job of highlighting some of the United States' serious moral defects, and ably exposes the hypocrisy of some of our country's uncritical defenders. Horowitz does an equally fine job of highlighting some of the serious moral defects of the United States' enemies, and equally ably exposes the hypocrisy of some of our country's uncritical critics. Both, however, suffer from Manichean excesses; hence, their appearances in one another's books. The truth is not always to be found in middle ground, but here is a case where I think it is so: there is, in the world, more than enough corruption and idiocy to go around. One ought to be able to acknowledge the checkered moral histories and current policies of all countries and all ideologies, one's own favorites included. The most powerful country in the world has, perhaps, the most opportunity to unleash its corruption and idiocy on the rest of the world, but this does not make the rest of the world any less corrupt or idiotic in its own right; the only difference is between those who, through cruelty or indifference, step on others to lift themselves up, and those who would do so, if only they had the power. Truly, there is no one innocent. Without this recognition, without perceiving the need to fight on all fronts at once, there is no hope—either we will be overrun by enemies, or we will conquer all foes and lose ourselves in the process.

* What about Achcar, you ask? He lost me in the first chapter; those who (like me) have had their opinions of Chomsky primed by people like Horowitz will be surprised to see Chomsky slapping down Achcar repeatedly in the first chapter for his forays into true nuttiness.

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