Chomsky not a holocaust denier

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2005-01-30

Dear Editor, [Chicago Sun-Times,]

In response to the comment by Neil Steinberg in his column on January 24 where Mr. Steinberg characterized Naom Chomsky as "holocaust denier," I would like to point out that that characterization is a complete falsehood, a fabrication that has been picked up and used by conservative critics of Mr. Chomsky to impugn the integrity and credibility of the momentous work Chomsky has done, in, among other things, speaking out vociferously against attacks on civil liberties and against undemocratic practices wherever he has found them.

The "holocaust-denier" charge stemmed originally from a controversy after the publication of a book by a French writer, Robert Faurisson, which purported to claim that the Nazi gas chambers did not exist. Faurisson was tried for "falsification of history" and Chomsky's position on this had been articulated years earlier in his book "American Power and the New Mandarins." In there he discussed Nazi apologists and people who deny Nazi crimes -- and he pointed out that to even enter into discussion or debate with such people is to lose your humanity, although sometimes you had to. Chomsky wrote a piece in defense of Faurisson's right to publish, and the issue for Chomsky was that the man was prosecuted for a fascist law; namely, punished for "falsification of history" -- which is standard fascist or Stalinist law doctrine. And as Chomsky said, since he happens to oppose Stalinism and fascism on this issue as well as many others, he may detest what was said, but if people want to publish their disgraceful lies, they had a right to do so (and should be forthrightly shown to be charlatans by factual published argument afterward.)

Chomsky would defend anyone's right to say publicly what they want. And in other situations people who were opposed to freedom of speech or who had their own motives for trying to silence critics often then would defame the speaker. Chomsky's position has been forthright and consistent to this day. And anyone familiar with any of Chomsky's many critically ground-breaking and eloquent books will know that the gratuitous charge by Mr. Steinberg is completely empty of meaning.