Whither Anarchism, Or Who’s The Spook: Noam Chomsky Or James Corbett?

“Alternative” media producer and self-described anarchist James Corbet recently posted a video entitled “Meet Noam Chomsky, Academic Gatekeeper.”  And by gatekeeper he of course means undercover agent of some sort, although Corbett never does say for whom. I am writing about this for a few reasons, not the least is that there has been a debate within the Left about whether “conspiracy theories” serve our revolutionary purpose by exposing the lethal squalor at the heart of the capitalist order, or, on the other hand, deplete our energy and resources and avert our gaze from the proper course. Corbett is a “conspiracy theorist,” to use that awful phrase, and Chomsky is perhaps the most prominent conspiracy denier in the world. As you will read, I am an admirer of Chomsky, and I despise Corbett, but I am in agreement with the latter about the JFK assassination, and, to a lesser extent, the Federal Reserve, and have long been bewildered by Chomsky’s uncharacteristically peevish reluctance to yield to the ever-growing body of evidence, now monumental, insisting that he is wrong. Of greater weight and interest, however, is how one putative “anarchist truth-teller” like Corbett uses these conspiracies to discredit the man who is arguably the greatest anarchist voice of his time, a man who has been telling truth to power and anyone who will listen for decades.

Several matters of import to anarchists converge in Corbett’s video. There has been an attempt in the last few decades, accelerated by the popularity of the OccupyMovement, to conflate anarchism with (brace yourselves) capitalism. Non-statist free-marketeers like Corbet have already usurped the word “libertarian,” and now these anarcho-capitalists are calling themselves anarchists.

Through the centuries we have had any number of tendencies appropriating our name and revolutionary appeal. The worst were integral nationalism and national syndicalism, two distinctly authoritarian philosophies which claimed anarchist lineage and principles. The latest abuse of the term is national anarchism, which is, in the fancy of its delusional adherents, a fusion of anarchism and Third Position fascism.

And now we have capitalist anarchism, an old idea re-emerging from the reactionary muck.

I believe this to be a matter worthy of our attention as words, as somebody famously observed, control ideas and ideas control people. At issue here is what it means to be an anarchist. The battle for the appellation itself is a struggle for its meaning and legacy, a struggle for our heritage. What makes the “anarchist” Corbett’s shrieking harangue significant is that while it appears to be nothing more than a low-brow phillipic against Chomsky, it is in fact an attack on class struggle anarchism, real anarchism, from under its own banner. I have three purposes: to expose Corbett for the fraud he is; to examine propaganda techniques; and to rescue anarchism, in name and theory, from those like him whose aim it is to pervert it. There is no room in anarchism for capitalism.

Corbett says Chomsky is a spook. I do not dismiss this charge out of hand. Academia and the media are riven with people working for the state, as has been manifoldly attested and confirmed by countless FOIA disclosures, defector revelations, and even Agency and Bureau testimony in court and before Congress. That a champion of Left causes and fierce critic of American imperialism like Chomsky may in fact be working for the other side is not so far-fetched. Many a people’s tribune has turned out to be an imposter. “Gatekeeping” is at least as old as the American Revolution, wherein a number of purported revolutionaries aided the counterrevolutionary junta (aka the Founding Fathers) in imposing their Constitution by deliberately misrepresenting its contents. The toiling classes discovered the subterfuge only when it was too late to save their sovereign commoner’s assemblies, their non-profit land banks, their revolution.[1]

This is but one example, there are many, many others, so let’s keep an open mind.

There are four possibilities:

1) Corbett is not a spook who has correctly identified Chomsky as a spook.

2) Corbett is not a spook who has misidentified Chomsky as a spook.

3) Corbett is a spook who is targeting Chomsky in order to discredit him.

4) They are both spooks.

Do not dismiss this last, the “Mighty Wurlitzer” never ceases. Both of these men fit the bill, and are the kind of people intelligence agencies put in place or recruit. Certainly the Bureau would love to run Corbett and Chomsky, to occupy the space where these men have influence. And both men look as though they were straight from central casting; Corbett with his murine, cartoonish face and voice to match; Chomsky with his soft-spoken, avuncular demeanor, inexhaustible patience and elfish appearance. Whenever I see him on the screen I want to pour him a cup of coffee.

Both these men are perfect for the role of gatekeeper, but are they?

As we shall see, Corbett’s case against Chomsky is deeply flawed, absurdly so, but before we begin we should examine the two divergent, one might say antithetical, conceptions of anarchism espoused by our two principals.

Chomsky is an anarcho-syndicalist. This concept has been condensed as “the workplace replaces city hall.” That is non-authoritarian trade unions rise up, abolish the state and capitalism, and run production and work out distribution and exchange in federation with the unions in other industries. And whatever other social administration (what some might call governance), if any, is necessary, is conducted by these same federated bodies in conjunction with territorial entities–neighborhood assemblies, municipal councils, regional councils etc.; no state, no capital, no markets, no classes, no bosses, no inequality, no wage slavery. Voluntary cooperation replaces capitalist competition and state coercion. [2]

Anarchism, that is social or class struggle anarchism of the type endorsed by Chomsky, can be rendered as “without hierarchy,” and this principle may be best understood by what it is not.

If one wishes to gain wealth and hold power, to rule, one must control the labor of other human beings. Even if you were a superb widget-maker, the best in the world, you could only amass slightly more wealth than the world’s other widgeteers. In order to be lord, however, one must have vassals, there is no other way. In our time the way in which this is done is by hiring workers to produce at a fixed wage or salary, and selling the product of their labor for a sum greater than it cost to produce. That difference between cost and revenue, the profit, is kept by the owner of the widget factory. This system produces two classes: owners and workers, and the former dominate the latter, not only economically, but politically and socially as well. The profits thus derived are also called capital, hence the term capitalism.

This capitalist order where the lower class of people, workers, have no choice but to go hat in hand to some owner or his state, to sell their labor for a price less than what it is worth in order to make a living, is hierarchical and extractive and hence is anathema to anarchists. This is why just about all varieties of anarchism take workers’ control at the point of production as 1) its defining principle, the sina qua non of the social revolution; and 2) the best preventive of counterrevolution (i.e. the rise of a new ruling class as occurred in authoritarian socialist states like the USSR and Red China). Anarchism, with its insistence on freedom and equality, is infrangibly anti-capitalist.

James Corbett is an anarcho-capitalist who believes that the systemic collapse of ’08 was caused by government regulation of the economy.

And I can personally attest that James Corbett is a liar. I have listened to at least parts of a dozen or so of his podcasts, and I have heard him on more than one occasion say that he answers every e-mail which he receives. I have sent him at least three, and he hasn’t answered any of them. Corbett is a global warming denier. In one of his podcasts he risibly asserts that it is a hoax, and that this hoax was perpetrated by a vast environmentalist conspiracy. He insists that they “knew” the data supporting climate change was unreliable, but used it anyway in an effort to advance their agenda. He implores environmentalists to give up their mendacious ways.

In one email I asked him if this were so, how was it that these lying tree-huggers were able to gain the complicity of the Pentagon in their conspiracy, as it has made public a number of its own studies which confirm that the planet is heating up? I also pointed out that given that the greenhouse effect has been known to science for centuries now, climate deniers are going to have to come up with an explanation for why it would not be occurring in the atmosphere when we continue to pump hydrocarbons from under the ground into the air, and the sun continues to shine. No answer was forthcoming.

If, dear reader, you are asking yourself at this point why I am bothering with this dimwit and why you should continue reading, I cannot blame you. But Corbett is one of the more important players in this effort to syncretize anarchism and capitalism. And, as we shall see, Corbett has a surprise in store at the end of his diatribe.

The problem is that Corbett has become popular, and many of his listeners are being introduced to anarchism by his media. He has produced or participated in a number of broadcasts on the topic, all largely worthless. There has been a discussion on the subject of authority and the state going back at least to the ancient Greeks and reaching a crescendo in the nineteenth century with the debate between Marx and Bakunin, and none of this material has ever managed to intrude upon Corbett’s discourse on the subject. They are as facile and misleading as they could be. In one, he speaks favorably of corporations, and discusses how within an anarchist society people could freely unite to do something about homelessness. Thus in his anarchism private property and its attendant class divisions are retained, with its victims free to organize themselves to deal as best they can with its immiserating effects. There will be no emancipation of labor, no equality, no freedom from wage slavery.

In the same video he plays a clip of fellow psuedo-anarchist, Larkin Rose, who states that we bring the state into existence when we pay our taxes. And, even more absurdly, that we can defeat the state by withholding our payments.

Obviously, Corbett, Rose, Molineux et alia are unwilling or unable to discuss the subject of anarchism in a realistic and meaningful way. So then why have they garnered such a wide and growing audience? A pregnant question whose possible answers will be explored below, but in Corbett’s case his smarmy, bookish, nerd-next-door broadcast persona and his polished delivery have a kind of normative appeal, particularly to those not accustomed to subjecting what they hear to scrutiny. He has been well trained, and is effective at what he does. The argument he advances is farcical, embarrassing really, but it is presented with cunning and brio.

He begins his screed by saying that it would be “easy” to dismiss Chomsky as an “idiot or charlatan.” Would it? I imagine that trying to prove that Noam Chomsky is an idiot is a tall order indeed, even if we grant the use of the term is hyperbolic. He’s a seminal linguistic theorist, earned dozens of honorary degrees, won a number of prestigious prizes; he has even had a chimp named after him (although I wonder how he feels about that). Why would anybody begin a case against Chomsky by saying something as foolish as that? So that he can dismiss it in the next breath, thus persuading his audience that he is taking an even-handed, reasoned approach, thereby adding to his credibility. Corbett then insists that it would be “intellectually dishonest” to dismiss Chomsky in that fashion.

Establishing one’s objectivity and integrity when one is about to launch a partisan offensive is the first of many propaganda techniques Corbett will employ.

Indeed it would be dishonest. But it is his intention, lest we forget, to prove that Chomsky is a charlatan.

Corbett: “Let us not build a straw man, let us not devolve into mere name-calling or argument by labeling…” Stating that you do not plan to do precisely what you intend is a familiar propaganda technique. Again it assures a non-reflective audience that your intentions are noble and that you are going to abide by the rules of decency and fair play, even when, particularly when, it is not your object to do so.
Corbett then introduces an interview with one of Chomsky’s colleagues who provides a brief biography of Chomsky. Pinker says nothing of any analytical value, but his interview serves propaganda purposes: It introduces the notion that there are two kinds of anarchism, Left and Right (i.e. socialist and capitalist); that Chomsky is a “polarizing” figure; and that his linguistic theories are “needlessly complicated,” useful points if you are trying to undermine Chomsky.

Then Corbett introduces a compilation clip of Chomsky which he lauds again creating the false impression that Corbett’s critique is balanced. It also goes to Corbett’s bona fides as an “alternative” news and analysis source.

Corbett then introduces some Chomsky clips, the ones to which he objects by saying “The function of a gatekeeper is not to spout one-hundred-percent lies all the time or to be some kind of bumbling fool who doesn’t know what he is talking about. It is to be exceptionally smart, exceptionally good, exceptionally keen analyst on enough topics that people will buy into what your saying so that on those one or two topics that you have to skirt around and you have to get your audience to stop paying attention to you can do so with some credibility, building up the capital in order to spend it.”

Quite so! But is Corbett describing Chomsky or his own mission? Let’s see.

Before playing the clip, Corbett pointedly says “I do question the way in which his supporters tend to support him no matter what he is saying whether it is rational or evidence based or not.” Here Corbett is spinning Chomsky’s comments in advance of his audience’s hearing them. This is a another crucial propaganda technique as it preempts his listeners from forming their own opinions. It also suggests that what they will hear is irrational and unsupported by facts. Perhaps more importantly for his purpose, it depicts Chomsky supporters, Left anarchists according to Pinker’s characterization, as mindless, awe-struck thralls.

In addition to discrediting prominent anarchists, one of the objectives of those, like Corbett, now engaged in trying to imbue the word “anarchism” with a capitalist meaning is to distort the real nature and history of the movement. Does Chomsky have supporters? Is there any group, has there ever been any group of human beings in the history of our species, more independent of thought and deed, more aggressively non-conformist, less credulous, less sycophantic and more resistant to domination by a strong leader than the anarchists? Answer: no. Does our “comrade” James Corbett not share this opinion? Is he that ignorant of the history of the political philosophy which he himself espouses? Or is he attempting to deceive his listeners? Let’s continue.

It begins with a question from the audience. Somebody asks that given that the Federal Reserve Bank is owned by a bunch of private bankers “do you think it would remedy the situation at all to return the power of printing money and issuing currency to the people of the United States.”

Before moving on to Chomsky’s response, it should be noted that the question is itself specious as the power of issuing currency never belonged the people of the United States and never will so long as capitalism prevails, so it could not be “returned.” Before The Federal Reserve Act, it was done by the Treasury Department, and before that by private bankers without monopoly power.

Chomsky: “Frankly there is a lot of feeling about that, but I really think it is misguided. I don’t think the problem is printing fiat currency…if you eliminate capitalism then there are other options…but that’s not on the agenda, we have a state capitalist economy…Maybe in the long term it can be worn away maybe overthrown, I hope so, but the issue now is how do you function in a sensible state capitalist economy.” He goes on to say that given that we are in a capitalist economy, that there is a need for a central bank. He adds that the sensible thing to do for the economy would be to stimulate demand by government investment. In short, Chomsky says he wants to eliminate capitalism, but since this isn’t happening anytime soon that state capitalism with a central bank is better than without.

The clip ends and Corbett says “How illuminating…Noam Chomsky apparently has no real dispute with the Federal Reserve, which is an exceptionally interesting and seemingly contradictory position for a self-professed anarcho-syndicalist to be taking. Oh yes we…need a central bank in order to…have government investment in order to stimulate demand in the economy. That’s the sensible way to organize an economy according to this anarcho-syndicalist. It is a position that is rife with self-contradictions and innacuracies but one which I think does go some way toward showing…that Chomsky’s supporters obediently clap and applause [sic] and cheer every time they feel that their guru is winning over [sic] against the person who is asking that evil question with that hidden agenda. And I think there is [sic] a number of things we can point out about this video..as to why an anarcho-syndicalist like Chomsky would be interested in a central bank…”

How extraordinary. Here we have the truth stood on its head.

Where to begin? Chomsky has no dispute with a central bank? He, unlike Corbett, has a problem with capitalism itself, as he made clear. He states that if you could eliminate capitalism you could eliminate the central bank–hardly an endorsement. Does Corbett not listen to the media he posts for his audience? Did he miss it? Is he just plain stupid? Or is it he who has a hidden agenda?

Chomsky does not say we need a central bank in order to have government investment, Corbett made that up. Chomsky does not say that that is a sensible economy, here and elsewhere he explicitly states that capitalist economies are not sensible. He states that capitalism cannot bring money, labor and prospective public projects together despite the abundance of all three.

There are no contradictions in anything Chomsky said, and nothing that could be called “inaccurate.” Corbet offers, and can offer, nothing in defense of these charges.

Absurd enough, but Corbett isn’t done: Ignoring for the moment whether one could determine solely by listening to applause whether it was the reflexive act of obedient supporters or the assent of rational, independently thinking people, is there anything in the clip which suggests the cultish devotion Corbett sees? This accusation is belied by the fact that the audience doesn‘t cheer every point Chomsky makes.

It is Corbett and not Chomsky who described the person asking the question as “evil”, and his being motivated by a “hidden agenda.” Chomsky characterized the respondent merely as “misguided,” not nefarious or disingenuous.

Here Corbett employs the mother of all straw man arguments. Usually the term is used to describe the process of taking an opponent’s argument to the extreme, and then criticizing it for its extremity. But here Corbett invents the straw man out of whole cloth by attributing positions to Chomsky which the latter did not take, and to which he does not adhere. Goebbels once said that the larger the lie is the more likely it is to be believed. I doubt that that is true, but apparently Corbet doesn’t.

Early on in the broadcast Corbett insisted that he wouldn’t resort to a straw man argument and wouldn’t name-call (guru). Clearly, he wasn’t telling us the truth.

Now we see why Corbett had to introduce the clip in question to prefigure the response, another common propaganda technique, as the things Chomsky says and Corbett’s interpretations of them are incompatible. Nobody listening to this clip without being herded to a specific point of view would conclude that Chomsky believed the person asking the question about the central bank was evil or had a hidden agenda. That requires the skillful manipulation of a liar like Corbett.

Finished with the Fed, Corbett moves onto the JFK assassination.

He cites an essay from a website which he does not identify. A search revealed that it was http://22november1963.org.uk. The “about this website” page is quite long and reveals nothing.

Corbett quotes:

A JFK assassination researcher, Raymond Marcus, attempted in 1969 to get a number of well–known activist academics, including Chomsky and Howard Zinn, interested in the assassination:

I had assembled a portfolio of evidence, primarily photographic, that I could present briefly but adequately in 30–60 minutes. …

I first met with Noam Chomsky. Soon after our discussions began, he asked his secretary to cancel his remaining appointments for the day. The scheduled one–hour meeting stretched to 3–4 hours. Chomsky showed great interest in the material. We mutually agreed to a follow–up session later in the week. …

Chomsky indicated he was very interested, but would not decide before giving the matter much careful consideration. …

It was clear that what Chomsky “won’t be able to decide” until he returned from England was not the question of whether or not there was a conspiracy — that he had given every indication of having already decided in the affirmative — but whether or not he wished to participate actively, even to assume a leading role, in the movement to reopen the case.

It is remarkable indeed that this alleged encounter between Marcus and Chomsky gets published on an obscure JFK website, by an unidentified publisher. Chomsky has been steadfast in his anti-conspiracy stance, and this is the only bit of information which suggests that he might not be sincere. What a shame we cannot confirm it because the alleged interviewer is dead. Marcus lived for decades after this alleged meeting with Chomsky and yet said nothing. Why did he not mention it after the publication of Chomsky’s Rethinking Camelot?

The implication, in concert with Corbett’s allegation, is that Chomsky is a spook who knows JFK got whacked by his own government but is doing what he can to protect the killers. There are many problems with this interpretation, as I will explore below, but it is difficult to put any stock in this specific allegation. One can only wonder why if Chomsky is working for the Bureau he would have given any sign that he was interested in Marcus’ evidence. Here even Corbett acknowledges that this account is suspect, “but if we take it at face value…”

Shameless. But if we take the Warren Commission’s report at face value…

Corbett quotes Chomsky from the article in question:

“History isn’t physics, and even in physics nothing is really ‘proven.’”

Corbett says “which I guess is some sort of grand statement to say that ‘we can never know what happened in history so why bother thinking about it.’ That would at least be my reading of that statement.”

Once again we are confronted with the unnavigable abyss between what Chomsky said and what Corbett says about it. Chomsky is channeling Karl Popper whose view it was a century ago, then controversial now widely accepted, that we cannot say that any theorem is proven. We can only say that it hasn’t been disproved yet. Popper cites Newton whose ideas were uncontested for centuries until Einstein’s ideas supplanted them. This is, at least, how I interpret Chomsky’s observation. In any case, the quote above does in no way support Corbett’s characterization. Moreover, suggesting that Chomsky believes that we can never know what happened is a grotesque distortion of his life’s work, given that he has spent most of it debunking official state narratives. Either Corbett is unfamiliar with Chomsky’s views on the subject, about which the latter has written extensively, or he’s lying again.

Like the Fed deception, this is a very big lie. Chomsky is incredibly prolific. There is a great corpus of work–articles, speeches, books, documentaries–which disproves Corbett’s assertion that Chomsky thinks history is not worth examining. This would seem a precarious position for Corbett as he could so easily be discredited, but the point of propaganda is to distort and that requires taking some risks. Anyone familiar with Chomsky will recognize Corbett’s video for the craven dissimulation it is. But if he eventually is exposed, there will be somebody else to take his place. Perception management is an important task for the ruling class. If people ever learn the truth, then it will be over for the oligarchs. Capital never rests, because it can’t.

Corbett makes much hay over Chomsky’s notorious “Who cares! What difference does it make [if 9/11 were an inside job].” Corbett clips the tape in the middle of Chomsky’s response so we don’t know what follows. I will not presume to speak for Chomsky, but other Lefties who have expressed similar sentiments have indicated that if JFK’s assassins were uncovered they would just be brought forward, reviled from sea to shining sea, tried and executed. The empire would roll on without a so much as a hiccup. Again, I do not know if that is what Chomsky said after he was cut off by Corbett, but he has said that these conspiracy theories are a distraction. Nineteen embittered Muslims with box-cutters or the domestic state goons, capital still rules.

Corbett characterizing his view of Chomsky’s opinion: “Why do these crazy conspiracy theorists waste their time and their political energies on these side issues of no importance whatsoever when there are really serious things to be concerned about like establishing a decent minimum wage for the U.S. working class, that has to be facilitated of course by a central bank…stimulating the economy…[this is] one of those arrow-through-the-brain moments when you realize that Chomsky isn’t being honest with himself let alone with the audience, well perhaps is being honest with himself and just lying to the audience…again he contradicts himself by saying ‘what would it matter if 9/11 were an inside job’ even as he goes on to say that even if it came out it would mean the destruction of the Republican Party.”

How illuminating (to borrow Corbett’s phrase)! His comments speak to the heart of this struggle for the soul of anarchism. Our “anarchist” comrade cannot contain his contempt for the working class. What difference does it make to the mother who cannot buy the medicine her child needs because her employer doesn’t provide insurance, or the pensioner who has to eat cat food because her SS check just isn’t sufficient, what difference does it make to them whether it was a lone gunmen or a team of state assassins who shot Kennedy? The difference between Chomsky and Corbett, between anarchism and anarcho-capitalism, comes into the light here. Providing relief for those people whose labor is so undercompensated that they cannot make ends meet is of less importance to Comrade Corbett than DNAing Kennedy’s killers. How obscene.

How revealing that Comrade Corbett introduces the minimum wage. Chomsky doesn’t mention it (at least not in the clip provided), it is in fact a non-sequitir! (No straw-man argument?) How telling that as efforts to raise the minimum wage to a livable standard spread across the country, Agent Corbett inserts this issue dismissively in a critique of America’s most famous anarchist. It is of no relevance, yet Corbett conjures the subject from oblivion and imputes it to a man whom he is insisting is a gatekeeper. Remember, dear reader, we are trying to determine whether either, neither, or both of these men are spooks. Is Corbett a proletariat-hating, corporation-loving anarchist or an agent of “the powers that should not be,” as he calls them?

An arrow-through-the-brain moment indeed!

The destruction of the Republican Party: Chomsky said that he didn’t believe that 9/11 could be an inside job because (among other reasons) if the plot were leaked it would mean its demise (i.e. that the well being of the Republican Party was important to its membership, hence he doesn’t believe they would engage in such a conspiracy). He does not say that the end of the GOP would matter either to him or to American polity. And indeed the destruction of the Republican Party would not alter anything. A new party would emerge from its ashes calling itself the Tax the Poor Party, or the Outsource, Deregulate, Privatize and Invade Party, or maybe just the Conservative Party. Nothing would change.

Corbett concludes that it is obvious that Chomsky is avoiding talking about certain issues (despite Corbett’s having critiqued Chomsky’s responses upon the issues Corbett claims Chomsky isn’t talking about) and asks why? He then brings on James Tracey who says nothing of note about Chomsky but again we see the word “polarizing” affixed to him.

Corbett: “This brings us back to that question which is the…starting point of any investigation into the gatekeeperness [sic] of any gatekeeper like Chomsky,” then he adds that he “will not presume to answer for you the listener…but I will share my own thinking on this matter…I am not going to come to any grand conclusions about Noam Chomsky’s affiliations and who [sic] he may or may not be working for…”

Oh I think he has come to a conclusion, don’t you?

After associating Chomsky with the Pentagon because he works at MIT (guilt by association, another propaganda technique), Corbett says that Chomsky “won’t look into any of these…underlying areas that would really destabilize the entire political order as we know it, even as he himself admits with such things as ‘who cares'”

Another oft-used propaganda technique is to assert the opposite, as Corbett does here. Chomsky does not “admit” that the revelation of a high-level JFK assassination conspiracy would destabilize the state, in fact the entire thrust of his “who cares” argument (whatever one thinks of it) as it is presented here is that such efforts will come to nothing, as he states explicitly in the clip Corbett provides. Here again we see Corbett standing the truth on its head.

Would such a revelation destabilize the political order? Indeed it would. That’s why we had another revolution after it was revealed that the government knew that Spain was not responsible for the bombing of the Maine. That’s why we had another revolution after FOIA requests revealed that FDR asked Cordell Hull to come up with a plan to induce Japan to attack the US so we could enter the war, and another when it was revealed that our government knew in advance about Pearl Harbor.

We have had it revealed that a sitting president was running a gang of thugs out of the basement of the White House ordering them to break into the offices of the rival political party and this did nothing to destabilize the political order. Nixon just resigned and left and business went on as usual. None of these events destabilized anything. Would identifying JFK’s killers? Not likely. The elusive alchemy of revolution has been the subject of endless discourse, I do not claim to understand it, but Corbett’s confidence is ahistorical.

Watergate didn’t roil the populace, but Vietnam did, the war against which Chomsky campaigned. Perhaps he is right and Corbett is wrong?

Corbett then berates Chomsky, not without cause, for not answering the specific Federal Reserve question which was put to him. But then Corbett slips up. He says that the questioner “is asking about taking that power of printing money back to the people via the treasury.”

How illuminating that this anti-statist conflates the government with the people. For all his blather about Chomsky’s allegedly contradictory statements it is Corbett himself who issues the only real faux pas.

Corbett: “Chomsky is doing, he’s functioning as if he were working hand in hand with the very elite which he proclaims to be fighting against”

Is he? Is Corbett? Both? Neither?

Corbett ends by saying that we don’t need to speculate as to on who behalf Chomsky guards those gates. So crescendo yields to anti-climax. No doubt some of his regular listeners were left crestfallen, but prevarication of this type is an essential part of the propagandist’s art as if he were to offer a specific accusation then it could be measured against the facts. The unfalsifiable thesis would become commensurable, and that just will not do. It might be useful in determining whether Chomsky is in fact a wolf in sheep’s clothing by testing each possibility–he works for the FBI or Mossad etc.–but either Corbett hasn’t done this or his efforts have been in vain. Either way it undermines his case.
Is Corbett an anarchist? Fuck no. Is he a spook? The case he makes against Chomsky is long on innuendo and deception and utterly lacking in heft, but does that mean Corbett is a spook? Not necessarily. It is fairly common trait in our species to lash out at people who disagree with you, particularly if the subject is important to the aggrieved. That he possesses substantial propaganda skills and employs them unscrupulously against Chomsky does not in and of itself prove that he’s a spook.

Nor does the malicious and infantile nature of his case mean that its fundamental thrust is incorrect.

Is Chomsky a spook? His arguments against the JFK conspiracy theory and 9/11 are impossible to understand. He seems to think that 19 guys with box-cutters could keep the 9/11 plot a secret but trained, professional spooks whose careers and lives depend on it could not. I don’t get it. He has defended the Warren Commission Report which suggests that one man, Oswald, fired three shots from the sixth floor of an adjacent building in less than six seconds which caused all the wounds in Kennedy and Connolly. Yet the manufacturer of the weapon in question, a Mannlicher Carcano, stated under oath that his rifle could not have caused the damage attributed to it; Oswald was tested and was found not to have fired a rifle that day; the weight of the fragments removed from Connolly far exceed the mass missing from the bullet which was deemed to have caused all his injuries; and that bullet was tested and was shown not to have been fired by the Mannlicher Carcano; how can anybody believe this shit? Yet Chomsky does, or claims to. If Oswald had survived and was charged the case against him would be laughed out of court, yet Chomsky will not relent.

Why? He has concluded, quite incorrectly in my view, that there would be no motive for the ruling class to kill Kennedy, and thus they did not, regardless of the facts. In support of this theory he adds that no policy changes occurred as a result of his death, an assertion which is demonstrably false. Internationally, America’s policies vis-a-vis Cuba, Israel, Yemen, Egypt, Vietnam, and most importantly, the USSR, underwent substantial adjustment. Israel got the bomb, which Kennedy denied them, and began planning the 1967 military operation in January of 1964, two months after Kennedy died. Domestically his policies were even more threatening to the ruling class. Racism was and is the cornerstone of the class war, capital’s primary weapon. The elite have employed a two-tier scheme to keep the working class divided going back at least to the 16th century. In what was to become the United States, the division got racialized in the 17th century. Since then the American proletariat has been bifurcated and paralyzed by racism. It does not matter how indifferent Kennedy was to the Civil Rights Movement initially, or how reluctantly he might have come to its banner, or that he was driven to it more by necessity than conviction, rally to it he did. This not only menaced the bourgeoisie with the prospect of interracial working class solidarity, it also jeopardized the long-standing detente between northern and southern capital. The CRM shook this country to its foundation, and the hardliners did not appreciate Kennedy’s dovish approach.

And this is not to mention all the government contract money the plutocrats lost when Kennedy unilaterally initiated a ban on atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons…

And there is much, much more, yet Chomsky remains obstinate.

So now it’s time to answer the questions posed at the beginning:

Is Corbett a spook? Yes. I have little doubt. I am not so much the megalomaniac to think that I could not be wrong, I am merely reporting the strength of my conviction. The case against Corbett:

This video (and his others on the topic) could function as an instruction manual for students of propaganda. Let’s see, we have guilt by association, prefiguring responses, asserting the opposite, straw-manning, name-calling, attributing one’s unethical intentions to your target, and of course distorting your target’s message. I think Corbett hit all the bases. This is instructive enough, but that he inserts one of the ruling class’ hot talking point issues–the minimum wage– into a discussion in which it has no bearing is telling. What are the chances that this was an honest mistake?

Does Corbett believe the case he makes? Is he making an honest attempt to unearth the truth? At one point he says that the CIA recently stated that they have been monitoring Chomsky. Corbett then says that this was done by the Agency to bolster Chomsky’s credibility, to give him street creds. Surely anyone looking at this objectively could hardly fail to recognize that this fact has no probative value. If Chomsky is a spook, then indeed this would enhance his status. However, if he is what he purports to be then the state security apparat would be spying on him as it does all revolutionaries. Since the fact fits both theses, it is of no analytical use. Is Corbett not intelligent enough to understand this? Or is he just tarring Chomsky with any feather he can and hoping that his listenership won’t recognize the incongruity? The latter is considerably more likely, but either way it discredits him.

Corbett has said that he believes, quite rightly, that JFK was killed in part because he was going to withdraw troops from Vietnam. If this is so, does it not disprove his charge against Chomsky?

Chomsky was part of the successful effort to force the imperialist class out of Vietnam. If it is true that he works for those state forces who killed Kennedy, why would they have their man spearheading the effort to end the war? If the Bureau was running Chomsky, why would they not use him here to gatekeep? If Chomsky had exhorted people to resist the war then did a volte face and urged radicals to support it, then the gatekeeper argument might have some validity, but as it is if one believes Chomsky is a spook then one has to conclude that the oligarchs didn’t consider the war important enough to risk exposing their asset. Anyone, like me, who lived through that era will find this interpretation hard to believe. Corbett’s JFK-killed-to-escalate-war and Chomsky-is-a-spook theories are in hopeless conflict. Again, is he just not clever enough to see it? Or is it he who is the spook?

Who benefits from Corbett’s views? The ruling class. He wants to eliminate the state but not capital. He insists that global warming is a hoax, thereby protecting the oil and coal industries. Corbett contends that what Chomsky says and does supports the powers that be as if he were working for them whether or not he is, but that shoe fits Corbett better than Chomsky. Much better!

Is Chomsky a spook? My guess is no.

There is no defense for his defense of the Warren or 9/11 Commissions’ reports. They are ugly statecraft; inhumane, cynical deceptions; abominations easily debunked, yet Chomsky will not denounce them. I don’t understand it, but is it evidence that he is gatekeeping? Chomsky does not deny that the state assassinates. As Corbett notes, He is willing to entertain that MLK was executed by state goons because, as he has stated on more than one occasion, MLK was a threat to the elite, so it is plausible that they should want to eliminate him. The core of Chomsky’s argument against the Kennedy conspiracy theory is that there was no reason for the ruling class to fear Kennedy. The merits of this stance should not concern us here as the issue of whether Chomsky is an agent of the state hinges upon its sincerity, not its veracity.

As I am not clairvoyant, there will be no attempt to read his mind. So let’s approach this question as we would the assassinations themselves and put the “yes” and “no” hypotheses to the test.

If the Bureau is running Chomsky, would they use him to support the lone gunman theory? Chomsky is probably the highest profile anti-capitalist in the country, and certainly the best known anarchist. If the Bureau can occupy that space, would they risk this capital on the JFK assassination? I doubt it. The ruling class control the government, it’s theirs, they can/do control prosecutions all the time (Watergate, Iran-Contra etc.), so it seems extremely unlikely that they would jeopardize this asset to protect the conspirators. They would have no need. Even more damaging to the “yes” proposition is that Chomsky is not in denial of Cointelpro, the possibility that MLK was a state target etc. Given that it is extremely probable that the savages who ordered the hits on Fred Hampton, MLK etc. are the same state brutes who ordered the JFK assassination (and, according to the theory espoused by Corbett, the same folks who wanted to escalate the war in Vietnam), Chomsky’s position then does not shield anybody. He does not deny that the state kills as befits its interests, he is arguing in favor of some assassination theories and against others. In light of this, the “no” proposition seems to me the more likely.

Moreover, if Chomsky were being used to protect Kennedy’s murderers, would they have him saying “who cares!”? Is this an admonition calculated by him and/or his handlers to deflect attention from the controversy? Or is it a spontaneous sigh of exasperation by a man who has long ago tired of this topic? I think that if one were trying to stoke interest in the JFK assassination one would say “who cares!”.

I have heard Chomsky say that we do not “know” that the Nazis set the Reichstag fire, is Corbett now willing to assert that Chomsky is working for the fascists?

If Chomsky is a spook, he isn’t very good at it, is he?

If the Bureau were running Chomsky (and, according to Corbett’s implication, have been so at least as far back as his interview with Marcus), why have they denied him a platform? What is the point of running somebody to deliver a message and then suppressing it? For decades Chomsky was denied access to television audiences (Save for the rare appearance on public television shows like Firing Line in which he was aggressively challenged); his books went unreviewed by major print media; the average American would not recognize him if his image appeared on their milk cartons. For years he was relegated to addressing small audiences at university events and the like. He was persona non grata to the mainstream. It was only since the advent of the internet that he has become widely known. If Chomsky were the Bureau’s man, would they not have used him more effectively? Consider, for instance, how ubiquitous author Gerald Posner, who has admitted receiving CIA funding for his book, is in TV documentaries dealing with the JFK assassination. Chomsky too has written a book on the topic, if he were a spook, why has they not used him as they have Posner (and others)?

One might well argue that by censuring him, his handlers establish his bona fides as a revolutionary and they are saving him for the revolutionary moment. If this is so it demolishes Corbett’s case, but again here the “no” hypothesis holds more water. Despite what Corbett would have you believe, anarchists are not followers and do not have supporters. We are not lemmings. Should the Glorious Day come during Chomsky’s lifetime, and should he on that day reverse himself and urge the risen masses not to smash the state and capital and emancipate ourselves, he would have no effect. Anarchists are, in the main, very independent people. Anyone attempting to block the revolution will quickly be dismissed. Keeping Chomsky off the mainstream media prevents him from establishing himself with the general public, the only people who might succumb to a counterrevolutionary message. If we are to accept that Chomsky is a gatekeeper, it then follows that he would have a mission message, and a target demographic. If the state were running him, they could not believe he could turn the radical Left, just about the only people who would be familiar with him. They must have a different target in mind, but it is precisely this wider audience which they have denied him.

So it seems that if he were a spook, both he and his handlers are bungling the job, and that seems quite unlikely. So it is my guess that the charge that Chomsky is a spook is false.

My guess is that Chomsky’s saying that he hoped we can overthrow the state, as he does in the clip Corbett provides, and that that statement received a round of applause, is the genesis of Corbett’s slander. The powers that should not be cannot be indifferent to such open challenges to their supremacy, particularly when they are well received. So they set one of their media assets, Comrade Corbett, this task.

However, pseudo-anarchist Corbett is of no consequence, nor for that matter is the real anarchist Chomsky. What does matter is keeping the vision of a world without domination, coercion, and exploitation alive. It doesn’t matter whether Corbett is right about Chomsky or I about Corbett; only the march through capitalism and to emancipation, freedom and equality should concern us. Which, as I understand it, is the meaning of Chomsky’s “who cares.”

This ends this self-indulgence. If anyone is still reading at this point–I thank you. And I would be interested in your thoughts. My e-mail address is in the right column of the blog.


[1] Terry Bouton’s Taming Democracy

[2] The best exposition with which I am familiar is Rudolf Rocker’s Anarcho-syndicalism, a book endorsed by Chomsky

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1 Response to Whither Anarchism, Or Who’s The Spook: Noam Chomsky Or James Corbett?

  1. Pingback: CorbettWatch Alert: A Day In The Life Of A Media Gatekeeper | saveourcola

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