May 05, 2015

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Source: Shutterstock

Everyone’s just gonna have to take my word for this:

I started writing this column before Gavin McInnes put out this (delightful) video.

No, something purely coincidental prompted me this week: An excerpt from a new book by Andrew Hartman, called A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars, appearing in a publication I was previously unfamiliar with.

Because normally, I wouldn”€™t go anywhere near a magazine called Jacobin.

Certainly not close enough to learn that it is “€” according to itself “€” “€œa leading voice of the American left, offering socialist perspectives on politics, economics, and culture.”€

Oh, and that it’s also “€œa bright light in dark times,”€ even, if a pride-of-place blurb from Noam Chomsky is to be credited.

“€œThe only people who envision God as “€œa bearded old man in the sky”€ are atheists who insist that’s what believers do.”€

And that’s a tough one, given that Chomsky has variously been accused of

a) indulging in Khmer Rouge apologetics long past their best-before date, while”€¨”€¨

b) simultaneously tax-sheltering his estimated $2 million net worth, yet”€¨”€¨

c) earning said millions by presenting himself as a sworn enemy of (what passes for) America’s capitalist system, but
d) he is permitted to indulge in suchlike bourgeois table magic because, you see, he is “€œtrying to help suffering people.”€

But stick an article in front of me called “€œThe Neoconservative Counterrevolution”€ and I”€™m willing to overlook its unappealing setting.

Refreshingly for an author writing about the right from the left, Hartman spells his subjects”€™ names correctly, quotes them without feeling obligated to plant an ellipsis every fifth word (Ellipses: the “€œsuspicious-looking package”€ of punctuation…), and gets his facts, er, right.

Even more impressively, Hartman neglects to mention Leo Strauss a single solitary time.

The only people who envision God as “€œa bearded old man in the sky”€ are atheists who insist that’s what believers do. Likewise, during my going-on 15 years as an “€œout”€ conservative, I have only ever heard tell of this “€œleostrauss”€ creature from smirking young libertarians and scowling old paleos, for whom he is boogeyman figure of shadowy origin, the Thinker From the Black Lagoon. (“€œIf you stand in front of a mirror and say “€˜Leo Strauss”€™ three times, you”€™ll vote for Bush,”€ I think it goes.)

That said, Hartman, while admirably even-handed and objective for the most part, can”€™t quite help himself: like a stooped old man in Chinatown, Hartman can”€™t go more than ten blocks (or in this case, paragraphs) without hoarking up a glob of lefty snark.

Such as:

“In this sense, class resentment aimed at academics made sense, in a misplaced sort of way, since they indeed held the levers to any given individual’s future economic success.”€

So… why is it “€œmisplaced”€ if it is so damned “€œindeed”€?

Luckily, Hartman stumbles so infrequently that his piece could serve as an imaginary encyclopedia’s entry on “€œneo-conservatives”€ with just a couple of tweaks.

Hartman does, of course, note that the first “€œneo-cons,”€ back in the 1960s, were overwhelmingly Jewish New York intellectuals and often ex-Trotskyites.


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