Chomsky and Chavez
It appears that a Hugo Chavez endorsement of a book carries the same weight as an endorsement by Oprah. As you may know, Chavez made reference to Chomsky's 2003 book,"Hegemony or Survival" in his UN speech recently. My understanding is that the book went to the top of Amazon.com's best seller list back in 2003, dropped down significantly, but on being mentioned by President Chavez of Venezuela shot back up to the top. In that speech, Chavez also called President Bush "the devil" and held up the book and suggested that people may want to read it. Since then, Chomsky's publisher has printed 50,000 copies according to the N. Y. Times. Maybe Chomsky can get the leader of Iran to do the same thing when sales decline.
The subtitle of the book is "America's Quest for Global Dominance," which illustrates Chomsky's disposition to overstate what he can prove. Let me be perfectly honest: I am not now nor am I ever going to read this book so you may want to dismiss what I have to say about the title of this book, or, rather, the subtitle. The term "hegemony" is arguably not overly dramatic since it can be interpreted, say, as "hegemony over the Middle East" or over some other subset of the globe but "global" has, well, global reach. If Chomsky thinks that even our very misguided and error-prone Administration actually has the ambition to dominate the globe then he either doesn't understand the phrase "global dominance" or he is tying to hype his sales by using overly dramatic language.
Surely Chomsky does not think that Bush is stupid enough to think we can dominate China. The big problem we are going to have with China is stopping them from dominating us economically. I will be dead by that time but a lot of you will live to see this happen, I fear, unless we shape up our school systems and generate a lot more well educated scientists, engineers, etc. and start working on rebuilding our domestic manufacturing base.
My most recent experiences of Chomsky were in a long TV interview and a New Yorker magazine article based on interviews with him, among other things. In both one hears/reads extravagant language being used by Chomsky of a sort I began hearing when a student at MIT in the mid-1960's. Usually, one can interpret his more extravagant claims so they actually sound plausible but you lose the drama.
In my blog, Terrorism, I noted that he had claimed (as I recalled) that America was the greatest terrorist nation in the world. That, of course, is an incendiary claim. But we may be sure that he doesn't mean by "terrorist" what most people do. Most people say that an action is terrorist if it deliberately targets civilians. Does anyone really think that the US deliberately tries to kill civilians wherever it drops bombs or fires off Tomahawk missiles? I didn't think you did. However, the US does terrify the living crap out of people (in Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, most recently) where it uses such weapons and also does sometimes inadvertently kill civilians. Chomsky seems to mean by "a terrorist nation/group" as one that scares the living crap out of noncombatants and sometimes kills them inadvertently. On this understanding it would be hard to disagree with him. But, if he is saying that the U. S. is just like Al Queda but uses better uniforms, he is a fool. And he isn't that.
Chavez didn't tell us whether he meant the "d" in "devil" to be capitalized. He was, after all talking not writing. The New York times used a lower case "d" in its report on book sales. With the "d" capitalized the claim would definitely be much too religious in tone for me to accept. I think I shall also balk at the less explicitly religious interpretation suggested by a small "d." That is too metaphorical for me to take seriously. I am, however, studying a claim by an old colleague of mine that Bush is "evil." I am wondering if that claim can be defended. I think though that we have here just another case of leftist rhetoric as a surrogate for argument. Please don't think I don't think that right-wingers don't do the same thing. Of course they do. That's the only way an extreme position can be maintained.