Beware totalitarians among us 2

April 23, 2004

Emmanuel Todd accuses Noam Chomsky of being a "structural anti-American" and of saying that "everything about America is bad" ("Ear for the death rattle of an empire", April 16).

Chomsky has responded repeatedly to this facile accusation. For example: "The concept 'anti-American' is an interesting one. The counterpart is used only in totalitarian states or military dictatorships, something I wrote about many years ago (see my book Letters from Lexington ). Thus, in the old Soviet Union, dissidents were condemned as 'anti-Soviet'. That's a natural usage among people with deeply rooted totalitarian instincts, which identify state policy with the society, the people and the culture. In contrast, people with even the slightest concept of democracy treat such notions with ridicule and contempt."

As Todd would know if he read any of his books, Chomsky has often said that Americans enjoy unusual advantages and freedom compared with most of the world, and has called on his country's people to think carefully about the responsibilities this brings.

Raphael Salkie
Brighton University

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