Monbiot takes on “left” genocide deniers

May 22, 2012 at 3:31 pm (africa, apologists and collaborators, Bosnia, Chomsky, conspiracy theories, genocide, Guardian, Human rights, intellectuals, internationalism, Jim D, serbia, stalinism)

 “[T]he movement to which I thought I belonged has closed ranks: against attempts to challenge this revisionism, against the facts, in effect against the victims of these genocides. My attempts to pursue this question number among the most dispiriting experiences of my working life.”

In today’s Graun, George Monbiot notes that recent attempts to deny or downplay genocide (especially the massacre of Bosniaks at Srebrenica and of Tutsis by Hutu militias in Rwnada) have all too often come from the “left.” He’s obviously shocked and upset, especially at the reaction of his hero, Noam Chomsky who (typically) when challenged resorted to his usual trick of avoiding the question and accusing his questioner of being an agent of Washington. Also in Monbiot’s sights: the wretched, deranged Pilger and the antisemitic Counterpunch magazine.

This is an important piece, not because what it states is new (others, including  us at Shiraz and indeed, Monbiot himself, have made the same points many times before), but because it marks a partial political coming-of-age for this Chomsky fan (only partial: in the comments below the article Monbiot says he’s still an admirer of the slippery old charlatan), and he’s honest enough to admit how depressed it has made him. It’s also significant that it should appear in the Graun, several of whose leading figures (eg Milne and Steele) regularly sing from the Chomsky hymn-sheet.

Noam Chomsky 

Above: slippery old charlatan

If you don’t read anything else today, read this:

The term genocide conjures up attempts to kill an entire people: the German slaughter of the Jews or the Herero; the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians; the near-extermination of the Native Americans. But the identity of the crime does not depend on its scale or success: genocide means “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.

Though, in 1995, the women and children of Srebrenica were first removed from the killing grounds by Bosnian Serb troops, though the 8,000 men and boys they killed were a small proportion of the Bosnian Muslim population, it meets the definition. So the trial of Ratko Mladic, the troops’ commander, which began last week, matters. Whatever one thinks of the even-handedness of international law, and though it remains true that men who commissioned or caused the killing of greater numbers of people (George Bush and Tony Blair, for instance) have not been brought to justice and are unlikely to be, every prosecution of this kind makes the world a better place.

So attempts to downplay or dismiss this crime matter too – especially when they emerge from the unlikely setting of the internationalist left. I’m using this column to pursue a battle which might be hopeless, and which many of you might regard as obscure. Perhaps I have become obsessed, but it seems to me to be necessary. Tacitly on trial beside Mladic in The Hague is a set of ideas: in my view the left’s most disturbing case of denial and doublethink since the widespread refusal to accept that Stalin had engineered a famine in the Ukraine….

Read the rest here

All Monbiot’s references, and his correspondence with Chomsky, here


  1. representingthemambo said,

    You complete gang of shits I was just writing something about this myself! Still going to though……..

  2. Monbiot, Pilger and Chomsky « Representing the Mambo said,

    […] and disorienting effect on people, which is why I refuse to be as critical of such foolishness as some might be. The people who I and Monbiot are criticising invariably have their hearts in the right place. […]

  3. Andrew Coates said,

    I have loathed Chomsky since he defended the Holocaust deniers of La Taupe Rouge and ‘questioned’ figures about the murders in Kampuchea.
    What got me most in this article was not the stuff about the mass killings in Yugoslavia (a state whose break up I opposed for what it’s worth). I would give me life blood rather than agree with those denying any horror there, but what, to repeat, really got to me was that people can say, “that rather than 800,000 or more Tutsis being killed by Hutu militias in Rwanda, “the great majority of deaths were Hutu, with some estimates as high as two million”, while members of the Hutus’ Interahamwe militia were the “actual victims” of genocide. “

  4. modernity's ghost said,

    Chomsky is an incredibly flawed individual.

    Yet the class nature of societies mean that even the likes of Monbiot need someone to look up to.

    And that’s a wider problem once you’ve accept the notion of someone as your “political better” (not an uncommon trait found amongst Leninists, etc) then you are stuck.

    Chomsky is a hero because capitalism and class based societies promote heroes, someone to look up to, someone to duff your forelock to, someone to receive political wisdom from (even when it’s obviously mostly rhetorical and full of sophistry).

    Once you accept these heroes, then you’re left defending their questionable and all too human mistakes, which they will never admit…

    It’s not surprising that Monbiot is slightly disenchanted with Chomsky, rather that he and so many others were naive enough to follow Chomsky’s nonsense in the first place.

    • Roger said,

      Better men than you or I – IIRC even the sainted Hitchens – were fooled by Chomsky before the great simplification of 9.11.

      And all of us we were able to deal with the positively toxic nonsense he was spewing out more or less from the beginning by the well-worn leftist practice of compartmentalisation – yes he was ‘wrong’ about Cambodia and Bosnia and holocaust denial – but he was right on so much else.

      We didn’t defend those ‘mistakes’ – we just ignored them because they made us uncomfortable until finally reality changed us – but not him.

      As for heroes you really couldn’t be more wrong unless you are using ‘hero’ in its commercialised Hollywood sense.

      Rather Chomsky is a brand in himself – not just an example but in fact the original exemplar of what Thomas Frank calls the commodification of dissent.

      AFAIK he has never identified himself with any political movement and doesn’t even really write books – rather his devoted sales and marketing staff intermittently cobble together his musings into vaguely book-like products which like copies of Mein Kampf in the Third Reich are bought largely for display rather than use.

      And if his hipster fanbase ever were to crack open these poorly constructed tomes they’d learn nothing from them other than the corrosive nihilism which is the most potent tool in the capitalist’s locker.

      • modernity's ghost said,

        “even the sainted Hitchens”?

        Sainted? You mean the ex-Oxbridge bot that was fooled by David Irving too?

        Hardly a good example, but then again may be so, as people seem to worship him in a rather unhealthy manner too.

        Now I await Hitchen’s admirers to explain away his association with Irving…

      • Roger said,

        Irony doesn’t seem to be your strong point does it.

        Over the course of what was a long political life Hitchens was fooled by multiple people who he should have seen right through.

        Some of these people fooled me and in the case of Chomsky and Said many thousands of other people too.

        And as for Irving he did spend years in the archives and accumulated (and apparently supports himself and his activities by trading in) a huge collection of Nazi documents and memorabilia so his expertise was never completely fraudulent.

        So until Penguin Books funded Richard Evans and a whole team of researchers to check his references footnote by footnote a lot of otherwise sensible people – Raul Hilberg and John Keegan for instance – were fooled by him in exactly the same way that he fooled Hitchens (who was never a historian and AFAIK didn’t speak German so could only go by what people like Hilberg told him).

        What Hitchens should and AFAICT didn’t ever do was revise his opinion and end his personal association with Irving after the Lipstadt case revealed his systematic misuse and falsification of the documents he claimed to be such an authority.

        And this is one of several reasons why I was never a worshipper of the man.

      • modernity's ghost said,


        Indeed, it is ironical how Christopher Hitchens wined and dined the neofascist, David Irving.

        Hitchens only desisted after his wife remonstrated with him.

        “So until Penguin Books funded Richard Evans and a whole team of researchers to check his references footnote by footnote a lot of otherwise sensible people – Raul Hilberg and John Keegan for instance…. “

        Complete rubbish.

        If you are going to erect a defence for Hitchin and say he made the same mistake as everyone else, then you shouldn’t not play fast and loose with the facts, a habit which Chomsky has.

        Long before the Lipstadt trial, Irving’s shoddy methods were documented.

        Years before Richard Evans showed it, Irving’s association with the Extreme Right were well-known.

        Ages before that, reports of Irving giving speeches to neo-Nazis were in the press.

        Hitchens chose to ignore these facts, in much the same way that Chomsky ignores inconvenient evidence.

        Chomsky and Hitchens are both worshipped, both extremely fallible and both are (were, in Hitchens case) almost physically incapable of admitting that they could be wrong on any subject.

        So let’s have less hero worship and excuses for either of them.

      • Roger said,


        I almost certainly know much more about the Third Reich and the David Irving case than you do.

        The fact is that Hilberg (arguably the first serious historian of the holocaust) and Keegan (one of our foremost military historians) plus multiple other people who literally should have known better did defend Irving’s abilities as a researcher and a historian in print.

        As I said Hitchens was a complete dick about Irving – being fooled is one thing – refusing to admit that you were a fool when it has been exhaustively proved at vast expense that you fell for a liar and a fascist is another.

        In fact if I had to track my own progressive disenchantment with him this would be one of the major turning points.

        But this is what being a professional contrarian in the most literal sense means of making a very good living indeed out of it means.

        Much of what he thought and wrote and said was utter bollocks but much of it was brilliant and true and will be remembered and quoted long after we’ve forgotten who most of his targets actually were.

        Why do you want everyone to be only a hero or a villain – is the unconquerable messiness of reality so hard to bear?

      • modernity's ghost said,

        “I almost certainly know much more about the Third Reich and the David Irving case than you do.”


        I am sure you know absolutely everything, but even you must realize that appealing to your own authority is both excessively arrogant, illogical and a fallacy.

        Far better that we concentrate on the issue at hand, Hitchens & David Irving.

        “The fact is that Hilberg (arguably the first serious historian of the holocaust) “

        Hilberg is a politician scientist, who wrote history. I am sure you’ll appreciate the difference.

        Again, he and Keegan are not gods and appealing to their authority is silly.

        If you are saying in mitigation that others made mistakes about Irving, then that is partly true, but….

        But (and this is a big but), they did NOT wine and dine Irving in the US as Hitchens chose to do.

        Hitchens entertained Irving at various locations, including his apartment.

        As I wrote previously:

        “Hitchens wined and dined Irving several times, paying the bill.

        He lied about Irving’s views (Charles Taylor show the linkages here, )

        He gave Irving a “last chance” in 2000.

        Still, in 2006 Hitchens was in denial about Irving’s views.

        So you have to ask, why ?

        And asking why, proves that you truly wish to think for yourself… but that’s where we came in.

  5. Julian said,

    Modernity darling – “Yet the class nature of societies mean that even the likes of Monbiot need someone to look up to.”

    So what you’re saying is, that in the post-class society that you know exists beyond that mountain range which is regretably at the current conjuncture obscured by mist, only temporary of course, lies a country where Monbiots or Chomskys do not exist?

    Is that the idea you’re struggling to express? And is it a place which you think will be a better place than the one we’re in already? Really? Where there is no place for conflict, passion, difference? Where we all bathe in the bright sunlight of enlightenment, constant & unchanging? Blissful?

    Fuck off. I need people like Chomsky to remind me that I know more than a bloke with an IQ of 8K. I might be thick, but I’m not cabbage-looking in other words.

  6. modernity's ghost said,

    “So what you’re saying is, that in the post-class society that you know exists…”

    Obviously, I’m not saying that.

    I’m saying what I’m saying, sadly unlike Julian I have no gift for fortune telling.

    Please spare me the political trick of putting words in my mouth.

    I don’t know what will happen in future societies but if you take the trouble to analyse contemporary societies and past ones, then you have to critique the nature of hierarchy, irrationality and why some people feel the need to follow others, however flawed they might be.

    That is my point.

    • blerergg ococmementrarayrer said,


  7. Roger said,

    I distinctly remember seeing the Moonbat sucking up to Pilger at a public meeting in Bloomsbury c. 2000 (pretty sure it was before 9.11 as I wouldn’t have been at an event featuring either after that).

    But he really has been talking a surprising amount of sense recently,

    As for Chomsky the only justification for the existence of Oliver Kamm was the detailed takedowns he did back before he disappeared behind the Times paywall e.g.

  8. butimbeautiful said,

    That’s a bit sad. I didn’t know that Chomsky was an apologist for massacres. You’ve changed my view – at least, introduced some scepticism.

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