Noam Chomsky has won the 2011 Sydney Peace Prize over his legendary support for human rights and challenging power it all its forms. That makes him an enemy of a Murdoch empire that spends its entire time wanting to be intimate with government and business. The poor dears can’t understand why a man who opposes war is so feted. Why can’t war-mongers be given equal public billing?
Today’s editorial in the Australian is a classic example of a genre known as war lovers unite in fury/envy/bitterness/comedy:
Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky is the perfect choice for this year’s Sydney Peace Prize. Not only is he in step with previous winners such as journalist John Pilger and Palestinian activist Hanan Ashwari, but the intelligentsia who gave David Hicks a standing ovation at the Sydney Writers’ Festival will no doubt rise to the occasion again. Chomsky is an especially interesting choice for a peace prize in the 10th anniversary year of the World Trade Centre attacks — as an apologist for Osama Bin Laden.
The Sydney Peace Foundation has shown its true values and vision in honouring a man foundation director Stuart Rees describes as “inspiring” and whom he expects will attract thousands of admirers who will want to express their gratitude. Perhaps in some sort of Mexican wave of self-loathing.
Others share Professor Rees’s enthusiasm. In 2007, Osama Bin Laden praised the US academic for his “sober words of advice prior to the (Iraq) war” and said he was “among the most capable of those from your side”. Not to be outdone, Chomsky recently denounced the killing of bin Laden by US forces as the “political assassination” of an “unarmed victim”. Perhaps it’s hardly surprising that Chomsky also believes that the “crimes” of George W. Bush “vastly exceed bin Laden’s”, that he lamented the West’s treating Muammar Gadaffi’s Libya as a “punching bag” and erroneously described Ronald Reagan’s great legacy as that of a “scared bully”.
Sydneysiders might also like to honour Chomsky for his wit and wisdom in defining education as “imposed ignorance”, a concept he helped turn in to reality with his theories about “universal grammar”, which contributed to the erosion of English teaching in US and Australian schools from the 1960s onwards.
Unlike one of Chomsky’s acerbic US critics who recently branded him “a two-nickel crank”, we look forward to his Sydney speech, where he will be among friends collecting his $50,000 gong. But we hope he leaves the Hezbollah military cap he wore in Lebanon at home. If the Sydney Peace Foundation wants to turn its back on its usual puerility, it should consider awarding next year’s prize to The Australian’s Greg Sheridan, whose cogent case against continuing the war in Afghanistan made Chomsky’s rantings look pedestrian.