Episode 68: Chomsky on Ukraine, and the Universal Grammar of Whataboutism (with Bill Weinberg)
The co-hosts and Bill Weinberg––the noted journalist, podcaster, and anarchist raconteur––engage in a wide-ranging critique of Noam Chomsky’s statements about the Putin regime’s war against the Ukrainian people, and of Chomsky’s ideology and political activity over the last several decades. They discuss Weinberg’s recent CountervVortex podcast episode, “Against Chomsky’s Genocide Complicity,” Chomsky’s statements on the war against Ukraine in recent interviews in Current Affairs and Truthout, and the open letter in which Chomsky’s Ukrainian translator called him out. Weinberg provides a synopsis of Chomsky’s most sordid political interventions during the last 45 years. He and the co-hosts also discuss Chomsky’s top-down “realist” orientation to world affairs, centered on struggles between “great powers,” and whether it has anything in common with either anarchism or Marxism. Finally, they discuss the so-called “Chomsky rule,” which is meant to justify centering one’s politics around opposition to the violence perpetrated by “one’s own” state. What is the logic of this “rule,” what are its ethics, and what accounts for its widespread appeal?
During the segment, Weinberg recommends the English-language website of the Ukrainian socialist group Sotsyalnyi Rukh (Social Movement): https://rev.org.ua/english/ .
Plus current-events segment: “SCOTUS Abrogates Right to Abortion and …?”: on Alito’s draft decision eliminating the Constitutional protection against forced childbirth and its implications for our remaining rights.
Radio Free Humanity is a podcast covering news, politics and philosophy from a Marxist-Humanist perspective. It is co-hosted by Brendan Cooney and Andrew Kliman. We intend to release new episodes every two weeks. Radio Free Humanity is sponsored by MHI, but the views expressed by the co-hosts and guests of Radio Free Humanity are their own. They do not necessarily reflect the views and positions of MHI.
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Why is the Chomsky-rule appealing to many?
My view is that, in addition to having a kernel of truth to it, there is also the issue that many find it hard to challenge. The rule looks sophisticated, and looks true, at the surface. And in today’s climate, where many people just consume without thinking critically, well, there you have it, IMO. Not thinking critically is a mental shortcut, which is itself appealing because it is convenient.
Your guest is skipping one small detail when crying about Putin’s devilish Crimean autonomy take-down – their declaration of independence in 1992, Ukrainian opposition to it and final abolishment of Crimean constitution by Kiev. Of course, emotion-based history of starting with expulsion of Tatars in 1944 (interesting year) – fast-forward to 2014, is more marketable. There could also be a few sentences about how Kiev treated Crimea afterwards, but that level of intellectual honesty is unattainable to anyone who speaks like a traveling salesman when trying to push history lessons. If this is the state of American marxism – low-brow, easily digestible, vulgar swill that doesn’t oppose American establishment in literally any way – and tankies are your enemies, I’ll take their side any time. Doesn’t matter how idiotic they may be.