What Chomsky wrote in self-defense

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Wed Oct 28 14:48:22 PST 1998

Bill, it was unnecessary to suggest that I was or am on drugs. Many of my friends don't want to spend any time with me because they find me only tolerable if I am on drugs, and I have just been saying no for a long time now. At any rate, my reply is tedious.

1. I saw Chomsky's name on the back of a book by Nicholas Guyatt on Palestine. Recently out from Zed Press. Read parts of it in the bookstore. Very helpful on why poverty and unemployment have grown since the Oslo Accords, how little land the Palestinians actually stand to gain, how their dispersion militates against trade and economic development, how much they have lost in Hebron. We'll see if Guyatt, a young Princeton grad student, gets some space on the New York Times editorial page.

2.Perhaps what I wrote was confused, but I am on no drugs. I just read Hitchen's piece. I share his criticism that Chomsky should not have characterized RF as an apolitical liberal sort; I ask again: is that an accurate characterization? To this I add that The Nation letter should have included *no* reference to RF's defense of the Warsaw Uprising and no mention that RF is not a war criminal or media mogul. That's the extent of my criticism. However, it is beyond contempt that Chomsky has received more attention for the Faurisson affair than for all his other writings combined, as Paul Berman is quoted as noting in Hitchen's essay. I am sorry to have contributed to this.

3. Just to get back to Chomsky and Herman: I think their four pronged propaganda model in Manufacturing Consent is a very important contribution. They note the following filters: corporate ownership; withdrawal of advertisers who demand that the media maintain more well-to- do audiences with purchasing power; cost cutting reliance on govt sources; right wing flak. Did I remember it?

4. I do agree with Norman Finkelstein that the Holocaust is often packaged, post 1967, to serve as propaganda for the State of Israel. And I feel confident that the slander to which Chomsky has been subjected is largely due to his criticisms of Israel. Brad should read Hitchen's destruction of the claim that Chomsky was an apologist for Pol Pot.

5. As for my past mentioned by Nathan:

I did join others in calling for the firing of Vincent Sarich. As a TA in ethnic studies classes, I had been approached by traumatized students who were then or who had been in his course. A black woman told me that Sarich had told her in office hours that her success at UCB was due to her white ancestery--she was only sort of light skinnded. I thought this was so slimy and unscholarly I may have wanted him terminated or at least prevented from teaching that required course of 500 people. I did read every single page of lecture notes more than once and the fact that he did not make such racial insults publically, clearly and systematically sent me through the roof.

Alone among the protestors, I prepared a brief against him. During the interruption of his class, I passed out a page with excerpts from that brief, did not chant during the interruption, challenged him to a debate there and then, and walked out as I noticed that he was enjoying the interruption. Later, I asked Sarich how he had defined Socio Economic Environment, which aspects of it he had considered, and how he came to eliminate SES as the cause of head start failures on black-white score gaps. His reply to me--in front of many witnesses--was that I was a Marxist. I responded that this was not a reply, and retorted that he was a McCarthyite.

Well, I became a Marxist, and I now consider my agreement to call for his termination a big mistake.

I was happy that a debate was organized later that semester, though I was prevented from participating. However, several very competent people were there. Too bad that Sarich's former colloborator Allen Wilson had passed away (their *very* important research is discussed in all up to date summaries, such as Ian Tattersal's but was at best marginal to the the positions he was staking out in class); he would have posed quite a few problems. At any rate check out how Arthur Jensen uses and distorts Luigi Cavalli-Sforza's research in his latest. Meanwhile Berkeley has hired Jonathan Marks whose Human Biodiversity I consider an illuminating introductory textbook.

Later one of the students who has asked me to write a statement against Sarich castigated me in the school's paper for not criticizing his comments on homosexuality. However, he had earlier sat with me as I explained that Sarich's arguments were too elliptical to quote and take issue with. He agreed then and then later attacked me. After a few years, it dawned on me that I may have been put up to the whole thing by student cops (one of the 'students' was very widely suspected by several students of being a cop). I lost a lot of sleep over how I may have contributed to making Sarich a martyr, a victim of poltical correctness, and ultimately a "heroic" defender of the destruction of affirmative action.

I learned my lesson in the most terrible way and now verge towards the most absolutist positions on free speech. At any rate, all I ever wanted was for him to state clearly and openly what his evidence was for black inferiority, the arrest of women in the evolutionary process and the un-naturalness of homosexuality and what his replies were to the most important critics so that his views could be subjected to criticism, though in even recognizing such positions one always risks his own humanity--as Chomsky has rightly put it.

best, rakesh

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list