Monday, January 30, 2006

Bin Laden Recommends

In his latest recorded address to the infidel, Osama Bin Laden told Americans about a book they should read. Result? Rogue State by William Blum got to #32 in Amazon’s ‘Top Sellers’ list and, as expected, whackos from both ends of the much-vaunted “political spectrum” came out to leave their reviews. For example the one by Alan Rockman:

So Neo-Fats, do go out in droves and buy it. After all, you do hate America so - even those of you who live here and have the freedoms you'd never have under Binnie.

William Blum is a coward who has written a work of sheer propaganda, endorsed by who else? The Holocaust denier and self-loather Noam Chomsky

This reviewer’s problem is that he believes people who live in America should also love it. This sort of mindset (“Ask not what your country can do for you…” etc.) is precisely what allows fascist-lite governments like the Bush Administration to flourish: the good of the country above the good of the people (translation: the good of the thousand or so people in government above the good of those tens of millions of people who elected the government). Imagine buying a bullet-proof vest only to be told that you shouldn’t wear it or it might get damaged.

As for the second part, a little research seems to erase the assertion that the book is “propaganda”. Instead, it appears to be exhaustively referenced, attributed and footnoted, and those with a little self-acquired history will be familiar with many of the reported scenarios. I haven’t read it, of course, so am only going on the measured perspectives of others.

Finally, the argument that Chomsky is a “Holocaust denier” was long ago refuted. The so-called “Faurisson affair” came about when Chomsky was approached by Serge Thion, an alleged “French scholar”, to sign a petition defending Faurisson’s right to freedom of speech/freedom of expression. Chomsky then penned an essay, which he says was “banal”, called ‘Some Elementary Comments on the Rights of Freedom of Expression’, gave it to Thion, and told him he could do whatever he wanted with it. Thion used it as an introduction – in fact, he called it a “warning” – to French academic Robert Faurisson’s book Memoire En Defense. Academic circles being what they are (ie. cesspools of hysteria), the whole thing blew up from there, and Chomsky’s defense of freedom of speech became “Holocaust denial”.

As for Rogue State itself? As I say, I’ve not read it, but frankly I’m sufficiently intrigued to want to go out and pick it up later today. I have no real problem with America – all my favourite TV shows are from there, after all – but what I do have a problem with are rabid hegemonies, which is what America has become. And if Bin Laden’s hatred of the west in general and America in particular has been formed in part by the work of one American researcher, is it not then prudent for all right-minded democratic individuals to a least examine the source material and evolve hypothesis of their own?

Story from here.

Crossposted here.


At 9:06 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Interesting. Clearly, Osama bin Laden and Oprah Winfrey are the two most powerful influences on today's book market.

As for the whole "propaganda" thing, it strikes me that one of the big problems with political discourse at the moment is that any point of view that deviates from one's own can be dismissed with the p-word. It's the intellectual/cultural corollary to the "with us or against us" rhetoric of the present conflict. (Although of course it is not limited to the supporters of that conflict.)

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Tim said...

Amazon should introduce a new cross-marketing feature:

"Customers who shopped for this terrorist-recommended product also purchased..."

At 10:39 AM, Blogger JPW said...

"Clearly, Osama bin Laden and Oprah Winfrey are the two most powerful influences on today's book market."

Absolutely true, and isn't that just the sorriest state of affairs you can possibly imagine? The only thing worse would be if Germaine Greer were to shit out another volume - then we'd know that all is truly lost.

I'm of two minds about "propaganda". On the one hand, I find it despicable, worthy of nothing but derision. On the other hand, I know that it is inevitable, and as it is physically impossible for me to study every point of view on every subject, I know that, from time to time, I am being exposed to it, and am whatsmore accepting it.

The trick is, I'm not too perturbed about this, because if what I'm reading doesn't either make me angry or get me seriously thinking and questioning things, preferably both, then it isn't doing its job. I'd rather propaganda that keeps my blood hot than propaganda that renders me complacent and assured. I much prefer being pissed-off than being slack-jawed or, worse, neutrally ignorant.


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