6th January 2015
Chomsky invites us to peer into the functioning of the superpower and provides analyses and predictive descriptions of complex societal phenomena such as war, the US military economy, and continental-scale corporate predation.
Using institutional and media and geopolitical analyses, Chomsky illustrates golden rules such as that an organization will never work against itself and unravels relationships between domestic interests, class divisions, and global pillaging.
As a professor at MIT, is Chomsky an exception to the rule or does Chomsky work for the man?
Chomsky once challenged the US war machine at its root and went to jail for his activism, an activism tied to a strong campus anti-war movement. But after jail and after Vietnam, Chomsky became a non-activist intellectual engaged in analytical penetration of the monster.
In debating Chomsky in 1971, Foucault stated :
“One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.”
Chomsky, from his position of power within MIT, has not done this. One can say that it is a question of personal choice; that one needs to “choose one’s battles”. But is this choice informed, in terms of action that creates justice – which liberates, rather than reinforces the murderous machine that Chomsky describes?
No, it is not. Chomsky feeds our need for truth by providing analysis, an intellectual framework that resides in inaction. Chomsky appeases First World cerebral wanderers by giving them their fix, thereby locking them into either cynicism or a non-ending quest to mentalize it all while being disconnected from any real battle. Chomsky feeds the false notion that one can understand the world and one’s place in it and oneself by reading books.
While this may not be Chomsky’s intent, it is clear that the great majority of Chomsky readers have never put themselves at significant risk by confronting the madness that rules our lives and that is destroying every region of the planet. It is clear that most Chomsky readers don’t read Chomsky as part of a necessary reflection within a high-risk activist battle, within a praxis of change [2, 3, 4].
Among activist readers Chomsky mainly serves to deepen the pathological pacifism of neutralized mainstream movements. This is mainly because almost all First World activists are of the latter variety  but Chomsky does not challenge us to step out. Instead, Chomsky feeds the disconnected and ailing trapped intellectual, the lost soul who has been socialized to study as a “first step” rather than to first feel and stand based on primordial impulse.
Education as a “first step” constrains us to study and precludes action until an “understanding” is sufficiently complete, in a manner not unlike compulsory and self-imposed schooling as a holding pattern. When one cannot perceive or will not fight one’s own oppression  and when the problem is taken to be the intractable entire planet and the systems of exploitation that occupy it, the “first step” is a never-ending self-trapped cycle of intellectual isolation in which the brain is severed from the heart; the heart that is defined by solidarity in battle and in shared risk and shared consequences, and by inter-dependence.
The same scientific method that has alienated us from nature and from our own selves also defines the framework in which we interpret the new world and our place in it . It is a cold framework of measured consequences, weighed counter pressures, and legalistic morality, without the liberating impulse.
Chomsky is very careful to not provide any examples of how individuals can free themselves. At most, the prescription is to “organize” : Organizing as a “first step”, leaving out the individual’s primordial quest for freedom to influence. The individual’s impulse to free herself must be constrained behind organizing and education, to the extent that the realities of “survival” permit. Anarchy as anarchism, not anarchy from anarchy .
In reality, one must first act. The world cannot be correctly perceived from involuntary observation and thought. Only knowledge from action allows one to realistically evaluate the proposals of others. Action, reaction, communication, reflection, action… There is a natural sequence that cannot be adulterated without separating us from ourselves.
The intellectual as mentalizer is a service intellectual [2, 9], just as surely as cerebral wanderers are trapped intellectuals. Only through action have I come to understand Chomsky and his place in the world.
Let’s move on.
With courage and brutal honesty, polymath public intellectual Denis Rancourt turns his attention to racism and to its interactional, societal, psychological, and physiological basis.”—Publisher
Denis Rancourt has turned the entire notion of RACISM on its head and at the same time exposes racist acts committed by others to deflect that characterization from sticking at the highest levels of The Academy. North American civil rights defenders need this book at this time. Rancourt’s deeply incisive Fight Against Racism brings us back to the reality of the struggle, away from the manoeuvring for class advantage and away from the victim’s desire to create illusions of state-given justice.—Cynthia McKinney, First African-American woman elected to represent Georgia in the US Congressional House of Representatives and former US presidential candidate (Green Party)
I disagree with several of the positions that this book makes, but I agree that censorship does nothing to combat racism, and that is a very important point that almost nobody except Rancourt dares to say.—Jean Bricmont, Professor of physics at the Catholic University of Leuven and author of Humanitarian Imperialism.
Denis Rancourt is on a journey. In 1810, there was one billion people in the world, today seven billion people, technologically superior but biologically the same, we continue to dehumanize and demonize other people on the road to new wars. Denis Rancourt is asking questions that our youth need to hear.—Terrance Nelson, Co-Chair, American Indian Movement, Spokesman Okiijida Warrior Society, former five-term Chief of Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation
6 thoughts on “AGAINST CHOMSKY by Denis Rancourt”
Rancourt’s critique of Chomsky may be, taken on its own, apposite and on the mark. Chomsky has done some good work in the past but of late, maybe on account of his age, perhaps because of his commitment to his anarchist sentiments and faith, he has been less than helpful. So I’ll grant Rancourt’s skepticism toward Chomsky as being somewhat justified.
As for Rancourt, I wonder sometimes whether he himself isn’t working for the man.
For a while, as a tenured professor at the University of Ottawa, he hosted this thing called ‘Cinema Politica,’ a venue dedicated to the viewing and analyzing of politically independent documentaries.
The once every Friday evening event began over a period of months to attract a good many students and residents of the surrounding community, and it appeared as though it was about to become all the rage. As a formula for raising political awareness among an educated strata of people who might, on account of their education, have the wherewithal to turn what they were learning to account, it looked as if it was gaining good traction.
Then Rancourt fucked it all up. Deliberately? Unintentiaonally? I don’t know.
As the host of the evening, in that privileged position, he began to seize the occasion to rant on and on about the need to ‘act’ and to dispense with ‘all’ book study on political issues (though I notice that he himself has started to put things in print which presumably and a just a tad ironically he would want a good many to read). Oh yes, reading anything that anyone had written was a complete waste of time, he assured his audience, this, an audience primarily comprised of aspiring intellectuals.
What was needed above all else, according to Rancourt, was to confront people in power in as obnoxious and disruptive a way possible, especially university administrators, essentially to piss them off and rattle their cage. In doing this, according to Rancourt, others in increasing numbers, as oppressed as the activists who were now taking matters into their own hands, would take note of all of the brouhahas and begin to take actions of their own, in this way, by a process of social chain reaction, ‘spontaneously’ overturn the order of the ‘system’ — no, I’m absolutely not kidding, as jejune as the details of the tale I’m relating to you may sound to your ears.
True to his word, to his ‘untheorized’ praxis, Rancourt ‘acted’ without a plan or giving much thought to tactics that he most emphatically did not need, and ended up without a job or a pulpit from which he could ‘educate’ with effect, not to mention that a postgraduate student heavily under his influence got expelled. But more than this, the people who had begun to attend ‘Cinema Politica’ in earnest and in increasing numbers, not being entirely bereft of sense, put off and disoriented by what had now become Rancourt’s theatre of the absurd, simply stopped coming and the event died an unceremonious death, now thoroughly discredited on campus.
To help you get a better sense of who Rancourt might actually be, see, for example, this part of a cached email exchange between Neils Harrit et al. and Rancourt:
Worth the read, from start to finish. I may be wrong about Rancourt, of course. He may simply be confused about a lot of things. But I rather suspect not . . .
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That’s interesting, the link does not work. Yet only a month or so ago, it worked fine. See this link to an article on the website “American Everyman,” titled “(Another) Editor in Chief resigned over the Harrit et al. nanothermite paper:”
If you scroll down to the comment section, you will find an exchange between myself and Scott. The first comment of the exchange is dated “December 15, 2015 at 12:26 am.” Clearly, from Scott’s reply to me, the link then worked just fine. I’ll see if I can find an alternative link for you.
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This document appears to be a copy of the original exchange:
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The best and most complete record of the exchange that I could find is here:
Sorry about the mess that I’ve made, here, in the comment section, Vanessa. I just want to ensure my credibility as a witness.
I’m okay with it. Do let me know what his response was. You can email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you could delete my email address form this comment section, I’d appreciate it. I prefer not to receive unsolicited emails.
It would be nice to dispel whatever prejudice I harbor about him should it be unfounded.
Did you get my reply to your question, which flashed for a moment in my ‘reader’ and then was gone? See the forgoing comment.