Seriously, it is. But just when you are tempted to take Chomsky a bit seriously, you get a dialogue like this, filled with evasion and absolute double-talk:
You believe that the job of the intellectual is to dissent, to speak truth to power, and to wrestle with power. But there is a troubling way in which your single-minded emphasis on opposing power can lead to your having some very strange bedfellows. It’s still startling to me to see you at a Hezbollah rally in Lebanon. Hezbollah is not an outfit dedicated to the secular model of human freedom that you support. What were you doing there?
Notice that you don’t know what I did in Lebanon. You know what the propaganda system said I did.
That’s why I was asking. Why were you there?
I was invited to Lebanon by the secular left. Those were my associations and my meetings. This last trip but also my previous trip, I spent much more time with [Druze leader] Walid Jumblatt then with—
He’s a great talker.
You’ve met him?
Within the Lebanese spectrum he’s maybe the most open. But the only thing that gets mentioned is that I was involved with Hezbollah. Either you don’t go to southern Lebanon at all, or you go in connection with Hezbollah, because they run it. Furthermore, Hezbollah is regarded, even by people like Jumblatt, as a national liberation movement. The last trip I had—happened to be—I gave a talk on May 25 at the UNESCO building, a talk run by the secular left. May 25 is a national holiday. It’s liberation day. That’s the day when Israel is thrust out of Lebanon by Hezbollah.
Remember that Hezbollah happens to be the majority party.
Hezbollah is not the majority party in Lebanon.
It’s part of a coalition. They won the last election with 53 percent of the vote. Because of the method of distributing seats, they don’t get the majority of parliament. So we’re talking about basically a majority coalition, which runs the south almost entirely. You can like it or not like it.
I had been there before the war in 2006. It was a period of a lot of excitement. I met a lot of people, visited the southern Lebanon cultural centers. I wanted to see what had happened since. You want to go back, so you go under the guidance of Hezbollah. There’s no other way to visit.
Hezbollah is a highly militarized organization that runs South Lebanon in a way that is hardly reflective of secular democratic ideals.
It’s interesting that secular Lebanese would not take that attitude.
Most of them see Hezbollah as an extension of Iran.
No, they don’t.
They believe that the Iranians are trying to rip up their state.
Ultra-right-wing Lebanese think that. But the person who organized my trip was Fawwaz Trabulsi, the leading figure in the secular left. And he insisted we go through Hezbollah, and he didn’t look at it that way. If you read Rami Khouri, you can’t look at it that way. If you get to the ultra-nationalist right, they do look at it that way. But that’s not Lebanon.
Breaking through all the double-talk, apparently Chomsky does not believe that “Hezbollah is a highly militarized organization that runs South Lebanon in a way that is hardly reflective of secular democratic ideals.” [Update: Or at least he thinks it serves the interest of whatever cause he believes himself to be espousing, some version of leftist anti-Western-imperialism, to pretend he doesn’t believe that. Pointing out the barbarity of the West’s enemies, I suppose, would hardly serve his agenda.]
Jeez. I think I need to take a shower, and then read some Michael Totten.