Monday, September 04, 2006

Anti-Chomsky campaigns, and the lying liars who run them

In view of Oliver Kamm’s enduring commitment to factual accuracy I sent him this email on 24th August:

Mr Kamm,

I write to draw your attention to a number of factual errors and misrepresentations in your series of postings, “Chomsky Bamboozles on the Balkans”.

  1. You misrepresented Nicholas Wheeler's book, “Saving Strangers”, by suggesting that on page 269 he meant 500 Kosovars of unspecified ethnicity were killed before the bombing, when he was plainly referring to ethnic Albanian Kosovars. This misrepresentation was only plausible because you left out the preceding sentence of Wheeler's book. That is to say, you apparently went out of your way to “omit the context that allows reasoned conclusions to be drawn”.

  1. You misleadingly imply that Chomsky claimed Wheeler gave relative numbers of pre-bombing ethnic Serbian and Albanian casualties. Chomsky is quite explicit in “Hegemony or Survival” that he is relying on Wheeler for the 500 figure, not a relative estimate. “Talk about a straw man”.

  2. You falsely suggest that what Knightley “really said” about the LM libel trial was confined to war photography generalities, and did not support what Chomsky claimed. In fact what Chomsky said corresponded closely with what Knightley concluded. You finish by referring to “barbed wire enclosing” Trnopolje, when according to Knightley that barbed wire was “symbolic” and did not confine anybody. The entire posting was based on, if not ignorance, a “shameless distortion”.

  3. You misleadingly imply that Chomsky has habitually misattributed, or failed to source correctly, a quotation from Robin Cook regarding pre-bombing casualties in Kosovo. You base this implication on a single interview, yet you know that Chomsky correctly cited both the quotation source and the inquiry in “Hegemony or Survival” and “A New Generation Draws the Line” respectively. This is surely “deliberate misdirection designed to impress a personal following that evidences scant familiarity with the issues involved”.

  4. You misleadingly imply that Chomsky is habitually silent about the Racak massacre, specifically drawing attention to his silence on this subject in “Failed States”. You do this when you demonstrably know that he discussed it in on page 56 of “Hegemony or Survival”, and you demonstrably know that this page was cited by the section of “Failed States” under discussion. You also know that he discussed Racak in (at least) two other books, one of which you purport to have reviewed. Your failure to mention these facts is patently an “egregious omission”.

These issues are further detailed in my blog at I trust that you will be publishing a retraction, and an apology for these contraventions of your own scholarly standards.

Stuart A

I followed up on 28th August:

Mr Kamm,

This is the second time I have written to you about this issue. In the intervening time you have treated the world to your ruminations on the Truman Doctrine, German literature and Salman Rushdie, but not an apology for your misleading and incorrect statements. Allow me, therefore, to reiterate the situation. (In order to save time I have taken your words of 20th June 2003 as a template.)

Your “Chomsky Bamboozles on the Balkans” series of postings contained several serious errors. Those who read those postings in good faith supposing them to be a reliable source of information about Chomsky have therefore been misled. They have so far received no indication from you that that is the case.

Having put false claims in the public domain, you do need to issue a correction. I undertake to do all I can to assist you by referring to this episode repeatedly and often in my blog, but I cannot be certain of reaching all who might have read your original postings.

Stuart A

Sadly no reply has been received. This silence stands in contrast to Kamm’s public reader responses on several occasions, and to his reaction when I emailed previously on a different matter.

Based on Kamm’s record, I had thought he might simply delete the articles. Those who read his output in 2003 might recall what he did when his misquotation of the New York Times was exposed. He silently deleted the posting and never spoke of it again. The traces are extant, as is the article itself in the Wayback Machine. He was apparently unable to bear the irony that a piece accusing Chomsky of misrepresenting the New York Times itself misrepresented the New York Times more seriously. The same irony applies, of course, to his clownish efforts described below.