Now, first of all, I do think Chomsky makes errors – and even some very bad errors in his political or economic thinking.
This, however, is mostly laughable.
Let’s take the accusations:
(1) “There is no social vision” in Chomsky’s work or thoughtIn short, this is a case of people seeing genuinely stupid and outrageous ideas on the left and needing a hate figure to blame for all this. Chomsky is not to blame, and the charges against him here are laughable ignorance.
Rubbish. Chomsky is a left libertarian. There is a clear social and economic vision in his thinking, but the problem is it is wrong, as I point out here. Chomsky’s anarcho-syndicalist libertarianism as a utopian fantasy, for the simple reason that a society without strong central government is unworkable – certainly in the modern world.
However, Chomsky has the great virtue of being pragmatic in his politics. In his various comments over the years, Chomsky has had the good sense to tacitly admit that his left libertarianism remains an unrealistic utopia.
The charge that Chomsky has never described or discussed solutions to the world’s problems is also absurd. When pressed about what economic policies he supports now, he invariably supports social democratic, Keynesian policies. That is correct.
(2) “America is sh*t and … the whole thing is a disaster and everything it does is a lie”
Again, rubbish. This is a caricature of Chomsky’s thought. Chomsky thinks America has done good in the world, such as fighting Nazism and helping to free East Timor from occupation. Furthermore, Chomsky praises America’s free speech and its constitutional protection of free speech, and even goes so far as to say that America’s protection of free speech is the “best in the world” (and that is his words as quoted in Mitchell and Schoeffel 2002: 268). That is sufficient in itself to damn the absurd and laughable caricature in this video.
A serious charge would be that Chomsky has often gone too far in his criticism of US foreign policy, where there would be a legitimate debate, but instead we have a silly straw man thrown up in this video.
(3) Nick Cohen refers to the “regressive left” as the “Chomskyan left”
The modern “regressive left” has very little to do with the thinking of Noam Chomsky. The “regressive left” is the outgrowth of French Poststructuralism, Postmodernism, Postcolonianism, moral relativism and cultural relativism.
Chomsky is a fierce critic of all these things. He is especially scathing about, and hostile to, Poststructuralism and Postmodernism, which he regards as rubbish. It is grossly unfair to blame Chomsky for the “regressive left.”
However, there are some good points in the video, and I do not deny this. It is true that some people on the left have a shameful inability to see how dangerous and extreme is the ideology of Islamism and how regressive even the non-political religious fundamentalism related to this is, and how incompatible it is with the best values of the West. It may be that Chomsky is guilty of failing to see this or failing to speak out about it. That could have been a legitimate criticism of him, but instead they focus on unfair straw man charges.
Mitchell, Peter R. and John Schoeffel (eds.). 2002. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. Scribe Publications, New York.