Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Why does Chomsky hate ants?

In the NY Times, Samantha Powers, liberal author of A Problem from Hell, reviews, among others, Talal Asad's On Suicide Bombing:
if you continue to believe (as I do) that there is a moral difference between setting out to destroy as many civilians as possible and killing civilians unintentionally and reluctantly in pursuit of a military objective, you will indeed find "On Suicide Bombing" disturbing, if not always in the way [the author] intends.
On his blog, Noam Chomsky responds:
Evidently, a crucial case is omitted, which is far more depraved than massacring civilians intentionally. Namely, knowing that you are massacring them but not doing so intentionally because you don't regard them as worthy of concern. That is, you don't even care enough about them to intend to kill them. Thus when I walk down the street, if I stop to think about it I know I'll probably kill lots of ants, but I don't intend to kill them, because in my mind they do not even rise to the level where it matters. There are many such examples. To take one of the very minor ones, when Clinton bombed the al-Shifa pharmaceutical facility in Sudan, he and the other perpetrators surely knew that the bombing would kill civilians (tens of thousands, apparently). But Clinton and associates did not intend to kill them, because by the standards of Western liberal humanitarian racism, they are no more significant than ants.

I've written about this repeatedly [...] And I've been intrigued to see how reviewers and commentators (Sam Harris, to pick one egregious example) simply cannot even see the comments, let alone comprehend them. Since it's all pretty obvious, it reveals, again, the remarkable successes of indoctrination under freedom, and the moral depravity and corruption of the dominant intellectual culture.


  1. It’s interesting to see how Francis Wheen massively misrepresents Chomsky in his book ‘How Mumbo-Jumbo Conquered the World’ by asserting that ‘Chomsky is a master of double-entry maths. After 11 September 2001 he decided that al-Qaeda’s murder of 3,000 people was less appalling than President Clinton’s missile strike three years earlier on a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudan (wrongly identified as a chemical weapons factory), which had claimed the life of a lone security guard.’ This misrepresents both the statistics and Chomsky’s attitude to terrorism. The fact that we don’t know exactly how many thousands died as a consequence of the destruction of that plant in the Sudan is itself significant and revealing.

  2. What makes you think Al Qaeda are behind 911, Ellis? And I don't mean that flippantly. One little interesting detail, for example, is the FBI homepage, & its description of Bin Laden here. You'll notice no mention of 911. Just because something is said often enough in the media doesn't make it true.

  3. Andrew, I think it's Francis Wheen doing the assuming as the words are quoted from the book in question.

  4. Fair nuff, Steve.



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