Let me be totally amazing clear, I am not some right wing Dittohead Fox News viewer hopping between Hannity and talk radio for my daily Two Minutes Hate.
With that said, I think I might be the only person who, upon seeing that now-famous “Justice vs. Power” Chomsky-Foucault debate immediately realized how much of a charlatan and an anti-intellectual Chomsky actually was. I’ve since concluded that Foucault not only won that debate, but he went on to win pretty much the rest of the twentieth century that Baudrillard didn’t capture. And ol’ Baldy continues to rack up points well into the Ritalin-addled twenty-first century. Meanwhile, Chomsky contents himself with packing out the student union during meetings of the Socialist Student Union of every one of those private colleges that kids attend when they can’t get into to Ivies, Stanford, or one of the Seven Sisters.
On linguistics, Chomsky is unquestionably brilliant, but on politics, he has always sounded like a teenager.
What has drawn my ire this particular day is that Chomsky has written a mind-numbingly silly article titled “There is Much More To Say,” in which the guiding light of the I-hate-my-daddy contingent of the unemployable American left attempts to argue with sophomoric equivalency that the US should have been governed by standards of INTERNATIONAL LAW first established at the Nuremberg trials of the Nazis, and should have captured Osama Bin Laden and put him on trial. Furthermore, he asks, since Bush’s aggression in invading Iraq was much worse than bin Laden’s, would the US be comfortable if terrorists killed him?
Here’s the relevant section:
We are left with two choices: either Bush and associates are guilty of the “supreme international crime” including all the evils that follow, crimes that go vastly beyond anything attributed to bin Laden; or else we declare that the Nuremberg proceedings were a farce and that the allies were guilty of judicial murder. Again, that is entirely independent of the question of the guilt of those charged: established by the Nuremberg Tribunal in the case of the Nazi criminals, plausibly surmised from the outset in the case of bin Laden.
I actually don’t have a problem with the conclusion that we should have put Bin Laden on trial. Why not? We’re an empire, and an empire shouldn’t fear one man no matter how long his beard is. What infuriates me is the argument. Chomsky has made a form of the same argument his entire life: “The US says this is the rule. If this is the rule that the US applies to everyone else, then the US itself is breaking that rule.” It’s an argument that appeals to notions of fairness, justice, and hypocrisy that no one over the age of 17 takes seriously.
What frustrates me the most is how grossly anti-intellectual the argument is. The world should be fair and equal, and that’s that. It is not an argument, it is a belief, without foundation in evidence whatsoever.
Let me do you all a public service and give your minds a fairy-tale enema:
There is no such thing as “international law.” There is no universally acknowledged sense of anything save hunger and gravity. There is only one rule: the most powerful make the rules, and every nation has to follow those rules except the most powerful.
The exception is part of the rule. It’s the most important part of the rule. That’s the part of the rule that says when Shitty Country A invades Shitty Country B, the U.S. Marine Corps can take over both countries until Halliburton and Blackwater can get there and ensure that it won’t cost you $75 to drive your Japanese import to Wal-Mart for some quality goods made by the most skilled child-laborers global capitalism can provide.
Chomsky and many others on the left call this “exceptionalism.” Exceptionalism is bad, you see, because it’s unfair. Everyone should be held to the same standard. This is the rule, and everybody should have to follow the rules, including (and especially)
Dad the United States. But Chomsky and others only bring up the charge of exceptionalism when they can score some cheap points by crying “hypocrisy!”
You know what exceptionalism is? Exceptionalism is why the unemployment rate in the US, France, Germany, and Japan are between 6-9%, but in Spain and Greece–you know, where people are rioting–it’s approaching 15-20%. Exceptionalism is your country’s ability to catastrophically screw up the global economy while citizens of other countries bear the brunt.
If the United States were held to the same standard, i.e. if the world were fair, the conditions of most Americans–i.e. the 95% that think the top 5% should pay more in taxes–would revert to that of Eastern Europeans. Your condition, however bad you think it is, would be immeasurably worse if things were evened out. But if you think that fair is far and right is right, then I admire your philosophical integrity, and would tell you that all you have to do is wait. We’ll be sliding into mediocrity before you know it.
Let me rephrase and repeat the rule for you, the one and only rule of international law: Whoever has the guns and the money gets to make, break, and enforce the rules. That is not my opinion of what the rule should be. That’s what the rule is. It is a fact, a property of nature, an observation based on thousands of years of historical evidence. It is as immutable as the laws of physics. Failure to acknowledge that as the rule is a mark of insanity, like believing in ghosts or that the earth is flat.
But still Chomsky grinds on: “We should be treated like we treat others.” Chomsky prefers to play the “should” game. The world should be like this. The government should do that. Should should should. That’s why he’s so popular with the crowd that has nothing personally at stake. It’s easily to dictate terms when you aren’t accountable.
Chomsky could not come to terms with the reality. Foucault lived this reality. Foucault was very much about getting to the bottom of what is. And though he found the same state that Chomsky did–language and media as instruments of social control, Foucault found much more. He flourished in the idea of total dominance by power, he explored it, dissected it, and held up its organs for all to see.
FOUCAULT: The proletariat doesn’t wage war against the ruling class because it considers such a war to be just. The proletariat makes war with the ruling class because, for the first time in history, it wants to take power. And because it will overthrow the power of the ruling class it considers such a war to be just…One makes war to win, not because it is just…it seems to me that the idea of justice in itself is an idea which in effect has been invented and put to work in different types of societies as an instrument of a certain political and economic power or as a weapon against that power.
The trouble with Foucault is that he demands a brutal and total acceptance of reality, and a suspicion of everything else. After all, any illusion of what should be may simply be an internalized expression of the State’s control over you. So you must never say should. You must only see and, if possible, take some power for yourself.
Foucault died long before the world proved him right. Chomsky has lived long enough to have learned better. And yet still he persists. What’s that word for people who do the same thing over and over expecting a different result…