Now, one of these deeply intellectual books is After the Cataclysm, which seemed to expose the lie that Pol Pot’s communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia was responsible for the deaths of millions of people.
Except that it wasn’t a lie.
When all was said and done — which was just about the time the book was published, 1979 — the Khmer Rouge had, both directly and through policy, exterminated a quarter of their nation’s population. They targeted the bourgeoisie and educated classes, who were often identified by signs of Western influence, such as wearing eyeglasses (yes, really). All this was scoffed at by Chomsky, who, being a great “intellectual,” would have been the first in Pol Pot’s crosshairs. But he didn’t have to worry about that — he was safely ensconced in his MIT ivory tower in Cambridge at the time.
Now, when pondering the myth that Chomsky perpetrated, some may wonder if he is a liar. But I don’t say he stepped over the corpses and then defended the executioners; I don’t say he was a malevolent genius, as this gives him both too little and too much credit. I say the last thing a man swelled with intellectual pride wants to hear: He was a useful idiot. He was willing to rationalize away reality until it grabbed him by the scruff of the neck and stuck his face in the bones of the killing fields, motivated as he was by a desire to defend a creed for which he had a sick, twisted affinity. He never had the sense to realize that godless, relativistic people — the Khmer Rouge embraced the belief of intellectual Jean-Paul Sartre that without God, all things are possible — would find killing millions entirely possible. He was never intellectual enough to understand that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior and to judge the Khmer under the light of history — that of their Soviet and Red Chinese philosophical forebears.
But Chomsky is not alone. The left has always been the excitement-craving woman who chooses bad boys, gets burned, and then continues seeking them out — all the while dismissing the nice guys as too square. For instance, New York Times Moscow bureau chief Walter Duranty carried water for the nascent Soviet Union, writing lines such as “Any report of a famine in Russia is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda,” while the communists were starving millions of peasants to death. Providing some more examples in his review of the book The Forsaken, Richard Pipes writes:
[There is] the incredible naïveté of Franklin Roosevelt, who lacked even elementary knowledge of the Communist regime: He is quoted as asking, "How could Stalin afford to buy all these factories?" There are vignettes of the no less naïve vice president, Henry Wallace, who visited the concentration camp at Magadan and found nothing amiss, as well as of the despicable American ambassador to Moscow, the multimillionaire Joseph Davies, who liked everything in the Soviet Union and even took Stalin's show trials at face value.
And the greater the “intellectual,” the greater the rationalization. British playwright George Bernard Shaw visited the Soviet Union in 1931, reported that the gulag was a kind of luxury vacation spa, and upon departing Russia said “Today I leave this land of hope and return to our Western countries of despair.” Two years later, he labeled reportage of Stalin’s Terror Famine as a “lie” and a “slander” and said in a lecture before the Fabian Society in London, “Hitler is a very remarkable man, a very able man.”
It was because of the fictional narrative painted by such intellectuals that thousands of depression-era Americans — the useful idiots’ useful idiots, I guess you could say — immigrated to the Soviet Union seeking a better life.
What they got was a worse death.
After the rude awakening of living Soviet reality, Stalin couldn’t let them remain among the Russian population and foment discontent or return to the U.S. and reveal Russia’s dark underbelly, so he sent them to the luxury-vacation-spa gulags. Few emerged alive. It’s hard to say if this bothered Shaw, however, as the American émigrés were working-class men. You see, Shaw was also a proponent of eugenics and once wrote, “[I]f we desire a certain type of civilization and culture we must exterminate the sort of people who do not fit into it.” As to who these were, note that Shaw ultimately took issue with how Hitler was killing people — because Hitler was killing the wrong people. He shouldn’t exterminate human beings based on race and ethnicity, said Shaw, but based on class.
Returning to Chomsky, he is every bit the intellectual Shaw was. Yet, if he were not merely an intellectual but that far rarer person, a wise man, there are some things he would understand.
He is right to draw parallels between today’s America and Weimar Germany.
The problem is that he has little idea what they are.
It’s sloppy to lump Nazis and Tea Partiers together under the label “right-wing.” And it isn’t just that Nazi stands for “National Socialist Workers Party,” a point leftists consider profoundly un-intellectual; it’s also that those who actually fought the Nazis — figures such as Pope Pius XII — understood them to be “left-wing” extremists. But, then, when the hot war ended and the cold one for the history books began, the Nazis somehow metamorphosed into right-wingers.
Yet even this misses the point. The political terms “right” and “left” originated with the French Revolution, with rightists seeking to preserve the monarchy and leftists to overthrow it. The terms no longer are thus defined, of course, but what do they denote? Their meanings change from time to time and place to place, and some definitions are truly nonsensical. For instance, while we hear that rightists are characterized by nationalism, the communist Soviets, Chinese and North Koreans are/were case studies in nationalism.
But sloppy definitions benefit those who are damned by accurate ones. As for accuracy, the Nazis actually were anti-Christian neo-pagans. They aimed to destroy the faith and in this endeavor would co-opt it, claiming that their version of Christianity was the correct one. And Hitler favored not just paganism but also Islam over Christianity, and his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, tried to discredit the Catholic Church in 1937 by blowing sexual abuse (which occurs in all institutions) among clerics out of proportion.
Seem familiar? Does it sound more like today’s “right” or today’s “left”?
Ask an intellectual and you’ll get one answer. Ask a wise man and you’ll get another.
Selwyn Duke is a columnist and public speaker whose work has been published widely online and in print, on both the local and national levels. He has been featured on the Rush Limbaugh Show, at WorldNetDaily.com, in American Conservative magazine, is a contributor to AmericanThinker.com and appears regularly as a guest on the award-winning, nationally-syndicated Michael Savage Show. Visit his Website.