Let me give you the little exchange that led to this post:
My Friend: Do you Agree?
My reply: Is this a trick question?
Noam Chomsky is a scumbag. He lies even when he is asking questions.
He has always been a supporter of bloody dictatorships. The bloodier they were the more he supported them.
He is NOT a friend of freedom.
Which is not to say that I disagree, but the statement needs some serious corrections and explanations.
Maybe I answer your question in a blog post…………….
My friend’s reply: Zork,
No, it is not a trick question. It is my interest in your opinion on his statement.
I am not interested in your opinion about Noam Chomsky, but your opinion of his statement.
I am looking forward to your blog post.
= = = = ====== = = = =
So let me try to explain. I will also try to keep away from the ad hominem but it will be hard, as fundamental dishonesty is at the heart of what my problem is with the statement. It is difficult to separate this dishonesty from the person who is well known for this specific (dis)quality. But I will try. Before I start, I must say that I have worked for ‘huge’ corporations. I know exactly how screwed up they can be. Here is the quote again:
“It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism.”
My biggest problem with the statement is that it is full of sleazy assumptions, innuendos and insinuations.
First, you cannot really say that a ‘society’ is dominated by huge corporations. The economy maybe, but society? What does a society have to do with the size of a company? And what does the size of the company have to do with its legal status?
Chomsky is a master of pushing buttons. Words have emotional connotations. Freedom (good) – society (good) – huge (bad) – corporation (bad). Freedom in society – very good; huge corporation – very bad; domination – very, very bad.
What difference does it make what the internal structure and culture of a company is? What difference does it make to society, to the economy or to the products it is selling? We can talk about all of these, but they have nothing to do with each other. They don’t follow. They are non-sequitur.
Corporations do not exist in a vacuum. They have customers, employees and shareholders. Any member of those groups can ‘defect’ at any time. There is absolutely NOTHING in the basic structure, the basic idea, the basic concept of a corporation that can stop them. The bad corporations are the ones that are unable to keep a healthy balance between these three elements that their very existence depends on. On a free market, meaning free of heavy handed interference from the state, bad corporations die. No matter how ‘totalitarian’ (or democratic) they are ‘inside’.
Chomsky is a linguist. Could it be that he does not know what the word ‘totalitarian’ means? Mussolini, who coined the expression defined it saying “everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.” It is a term of politics. It cannot be used in any other sense. Totalitarian power means absolute power. No corporation can have that, or, to be precise, the ONLY ‘corporation’ that can be totalitarian is the state itself.
Can corporations be stupid, authoritarian, exploitative, dishonest, sleazy, and fraudulent? Absolutely. Can they co-opt the power of the state? Absolutely, as they can only get away with being bad with the help of the state. Without the state, the corporation does not have real power, no matter how big it is.
Large organization have to be structured to some extent. Some are structured to a large extent. Decisions have to be made, somebody have to make them and somebody have to be responsible for them but there is nothing inherently evil or ‘undemocratic’ in that. Eventually, the market decides what is the best corporate structure.
The most disgusting part of this Chomsky quote is the last sentence:
“There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism.”
The statement is a typical example of an often employed Chomsky tactic: claiming moral equivalence between a most reprehensible example of evil and the thing he wants to discredit.
Because the point of the quote is to discredit capitalism, the free market and democracy, not just ‘huge corporations’. Not only does he say that free market enterprises are evil, he insinuates that they are worse than communist dictatorships.
It is entirely possible to offer legitimate criticism of the corporation as an institution or the management practices of any particular one. (I am planning to do just that myself.)
Chomsky in this quote does not offer any legitimate criticism, he attacks free market capitalism in general by equating it morally with the worst dictatorship in history.
What is mildly amusing in his stance is that he is a Stalinist. All his life he was supporting the bloodiest communist dictatorships. The USSR, North Vietnam, Cambodia, Cuba, you name it.
In this letter he wrote in 1990, commenting on the UN speech of Vaclav Havel, he claims that “….in comparison to the conditions imposed by US tyranny and violence, East Europe under Russian rule was practically a paradise.”
In the end, there is no moral equivalence, just some cynical linguistic opportunism. Stalinism can be the stereotypical example of evil in one sentence and an image of the working people’s paradise in the next.
So to finally give an answer to your question, the content of the quote is just preposterously stupid and the (mostly insinuated) message is exceptionally sleazy. In two words: typical Chomsky.
Whenever I read anything from him, I have a gut level reaction of disgust and anger, because this is how he writes ALL THE TIME. I do not think that it is possible for anybody to give me two pages of Chomsky in which I cannot identify similar examples of sleaziness.
Since, unlike Chomsky, I do not sleaze and insinuate, I hope that my position is as clear to you as Chomsky’s immorality is to me.
I am grateful to my friend for ‘pushing’ me into writing this. I consider Chomsky the most dangerous, the most disgustingly dishonest intellectual alive. At some point I considered writing an extended essay analyzing the underhanded tactics of the Chomsky narratives. The problem with such analysis is the density of the BS and the effort needed to expose it. In this post it took me nearly a thousand words to analyze a 47 words quote and I did not do a particularly thorough job on it. More could be said but the question is what difference would it make? It would not make any difference to Chomsky’s target audience while people with a well-developed bullshitometer can see through his crap already.
There is a book out there – The Anti-Chomsky reader – doing a very good job at identifying Chomsky’s lies, self-contradictions and questionable politics, but it has nothing on his polemic style which I find the most objectionable in his work or an answer to the most waxing question: what motivates him?
He must know that he is a liar. How can he reconcile it with his righteously proclaimed morality?