Noam Chomsky's Internal Contradiction

Nima Kazemi
Noam Chomsky exempts himself from his relativistic philosophy when criticizing the US for its "imperial" foreign policy.  I was reading a piece by Noam Chomsky today on HuffingtonPost. The article is rather long, but there's a section devoted to the 2006 elections in Palestine that led to Hamas gaining power, which was of course opposed by the US and much of the West. In that section, Chomsky says:

Similar considerations carry over directly to the second major concern addressed in the issue of Foreign Affairs cited in part one of this piece: the Israel-Palestine conflict.   Fear of democracy could hardly be more clearly exhibited than in this case.  In January 2006, an election took place in Palestine, pronounced free and fair by international monitors.  The instant reaction of the U.S. (and of course Israel), with Europe following along politely, was to impose harsh penalties on Palestinians for voting the wrong way.

One could fear Democracy for two reasons: a) the collective will expressed in Democracy is opposed to one's interest, or b) the collective will is objectively bad. Chomsky clearly believes that the US was concerned about the free and fair election in Palestine solely due to (a). But that still does not rule out the possibility of (b), that is, the possibility that Palestinians, objectively, made a stupid decision to elect Hamas as their leaders. Chomsky does not even attempt to prove that the decision was objectively good, but why? There are three possibilities: a) he is afraid to do so because the result may contradict his thesis  that the US rejected the outcome out of self interest only; b) the outcome of a free and fair election is always right; c) it's impossible for any person to be an impartial judge regarding the collective will of a people.

But Chomsky is a scholar, and one should grant him the benefit of the doubt that he would not be so dogmatic as to avoid objective analysis if it turned out to refute his thesis, so we can eliminate (a). Option (b) is also unbecoming of a scholar because it would be plainly absurd that any Democratic decision automatically be good: just imagine Americans via a fair and fair election deciding to reinstate slavery in the US; Chomsky would be the first to object, and with good reasons. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that Chomsky believes that reason has no way of knowing whether the outcome of an election is good or bad. But Chomsky has a right to this conclusion if he either believes reason can only have scientific knowledge and that it is incompetent to make any moral judgments, or that the categories "good" and "bad" differ from one nation to another. In the former case, Chomsky has been contradicting himself from time immemorial, since his books are filled with value judgments about good and bad.

Thus we can safely conclude that Chomsky believes that knowledge is essentially cultural or ethnocentric, that every culture makes decisions based on values that are only meaningful to that culture.  But wouldn't this mean that Mr. Chomsky himself has no right to render value judgments on the actions of the US Empire, given that he believes the notions of "good" and "bad" vary from one culture to another? Moreover, would not his analysis of world politics be only the perspective of a Western man, armed with Western notions of good and bad, which are not universally valid?

We have every right to conclude that Chomsky is a walking contradiction.

Noam Chomsky exempts himself from his relativistic philosophy when criticizing the US for its "imperial" foreign policy.  I was reading a piece by Noam Chomsky today on HuffingtonPost. The article is rather long, but there's a section devoted to the 2006 elections in Palestine that led to Hamas gaining power, which was of course opposed by the US and much of the West. In that section, Chomsky says:

Similar considerations carry over directly to the second major concern addressed in the issue of Foreign Affairs cited in part one of this piece: the Israel-Palestine conflict.   Fear of democracy could hardly be more clearly exhibited than in this case.  In January 2006, an election took place in Palestine, pronounced free and fair by international monitors.  The instant reaction of the U.S. (and of course Israel), with Europe following along politely, was to impose harsh penalties on Palestinians for voting the wrong way.

One could fear Democracy for two reasons: a) the collective will expressed in Democracy is opposed to one's interest, or b) the collective will is objectively bad. Chomsky clearly believes that the US was concerned about the free and fair election in Palestine solely due to (a). But that still does not rule out the possibility of (b), that is, the possibility that Palestinians, objectively, made a stupid decision to elect Hamas as their leaders. Chomsky does not even attempt to prove that the decision was objectively good, but why? There are three possibilities: a) he is afraid to do so because the result may contradict his thesis  that the US rejected the outcome out of self interest only; b) the outcome of a free and fair election is always right; c) it's impossible for any person to be an impartial judge regarding the collective will of a people.

But Chomsky is a scholar, and one should grant him the benefit of the doubt that he would not be so dogmatic as to avoid objective analysis if it turned out to refute his thesis, so we can eliminate (a). Option (b) is also unbecoming of a scholar because it would be plainly absurd that any Democratic decision automatically be good: just imagine Americans via a fair and fair election deciding to reinstate slavery in the US; Chomsky would be the first to object, and with good reasons. Therefore, we can reasonably conclude that Chomsky believes that reason has no way of knowing whether the outcome of an election is good or bad. But Chomsky has a right to this conclusion if he either believes reason can only have scientific knowledge and that it is incompetent to make any moral judgments, or that the categories "good" and "bad" differ from one nation to another. In the former case, Chomsky has been contradicting himself from time immemorial, since his books are filled with value judgments about good and bad.

Thus we can safely conclude that Chomsky believes that knowledge is essentially cultural or ethnocentric, that every culture makes decisions based on values that are only meaningful to that culture.  But wouldn't this mean that Mr. Chomsky himself has no right to render value judgments on the actions of the US Empire, given that he believes the notions of "good" and "bad" vary from one culture to another? Moreover, would not his analysis of world politics be only the perspective of a Western man, armed with Western notions of good and bad, which are not universally valid?

We have every right to conclude that Chomsky is a walking contradiction.