It is difficult to believe that an apologist for Al Qaeda still exists beyond the caves of Bora Bora. Yet the American Left celebrates one such advocate as their own. Welcome to the world of Noam Chomsky.
In "The hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky," the lead article in the May *New Criterion*, Keith Windschuttle locates Chomsky within the American Left. Windschuttle writes that America’s well-known cultural critic (and critical export) "was the most conspicuous American intellectual to rationalize the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. The death toll, he argued, was minor compared to the list of Third World victims of the ’far more extreme terrorism’ of United States foreign policy. Despite its calculated affront to mainstream opinion, this sentiment went down very well with Chomsky’s own constituency. He has never been more popular among the academic and intellectual left than he is today. . . . Two books of interviews with him published since September 11, 2001 both went straight onto the bestseller lists."
The war in Iraq may be over. The case of Noam Chomsky proves that the culture wars within America’s elite are far from over. The May issue of The New Criterion is not to be missed.
* "Notes & Comments" (page 1). "The end of the line?" on top literary theorists admitting the inanity of their craft; "Annals of the BBC," on the Baghdad, er, British Broadcasting Corporation; "Farewell to PR," on the closing of Partisan Review.
* "The hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky" (page 4).
* "Minimalist fantasies" (page 14): Roger Kimball continues to find a maximum of theory (and Dia Foundation money) behind minimalism, the darling art movement of the 1960s, 1970s-and, for some big-name critics, today.
"At the center of minimalism, as Clement Greenberg noted, is the triumph of ideation over feeling and perception, over aesthetics. The artists Dia has supported form a disparate group. Not all are minimalists--Warhol, for example, or Chamberlain. But all specialize in art which flirts with what Greenberg called ’the look of non-art.’ They, too--or at least their supporters--thought that ’What is art?’ was ’the big question.’ In fact, it is the kind of question that, when pursued as a substitute for artistic practice, leads directly to rooms full of dirt and sad fellows living for years in a trailer in the Nevada desert. . . It leads to a view Andy Warhol is said to have endorsed, that ’art is what you can get away with.’ "
* "Can Europe happen?" (page 19). The great Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski looks for answers:
"Europe as a distinct cultural phenomenon began to emerge in the sixteenth century, partly in response to the Turkish threat. Erasmus, that wanderer without a tribe, was a European par excellence: he wanted to be, and was, a citizen of the world, like the ancient Stoics. It was his century that saw the emergence of the spiritual territory which proudly called itself the Republic of Letters--Res Publica Litterarum: that circle of scholars, lovers of ancient literature, who knew each other and corresponded with each other, and wrote in classical, not scholastic, Latin. . . . It might seem strange that there was once a common language used by the educated classes in Europe which then gradually died out, and a consciousness of being a citizen of Europe, a civis mundi, which died out with it. . . . The European consciousness, or European patriotism, [has become] stagnant and feeble, often powerless in the face of local interests."
* "Up from communism" (page 28). Think you had it bad? Anthony Daniels gives new meaning to teenage angst as he reflects on growing up in a communist household.
"My father was a communist. As is often the case, what attracted the father repelled the son. Of course, I don’t mean to imply that my anticommunism was merely the consequence of a conflict of generations: I read a fair bit and went to see for myself. The latter was something my father never did: reality didn’t interest him. Indeed, he resigned as a member of the British Board of Trade’s Anglo-Soviet committee when it became clear that, at some point, he would actually have to go to the Soviet Union, rather than merely pontificate about it. But the generational conflict gave the whole question of communism a personal edge that perhaps it didn’t have for others of my age and situation."
* New poems by Sarah Ruden (page 36).
* Theater: "Gurney on a gurney" (page 39). In "O Jerusalem," Mark Steyn declares playwright A. R. Gurney dead on arrival.
* Art: "The house gods of Elie Nadelman" (page 44). James Panero channels the mysterious twentieth-century sculptor, now at the Whitney museum.
--Exhibition notes: Nell Blaine at Tibor de Nagy, reviewed by James Panero; Titian in London, reviewed by Mario Naves.
* Music: "New York chronicle" (page 50). Jay Nordlinger reports on the ACO’s Dennis Russell Davies, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s "Point-Counterpoint: Bach’s Art of the Fugue;" the opera "love couple" Angela Gheorghiu (soprano) and Roberto Alagna (tenor), and Mstislav Rostropovich’s "Slava and Friends" at the New York Philharmonic (where the prolific canceller Martha Argerich was a no show).
* Music: "The rise of the vocal recital" (page 55). Patrick J. Smith comments on the ubiquity of one of the more interesting features of concert life in New York in the past decade.
* The media: "Superior to the truth" (page 58). James Bowman examines the case of Eason Jordan, the chief news executive of CNN who boasted to The New York Times of withholding news information in order to appease the former Iraqi regime.
* Fiction chronicle: "A safe preserve for sport" (page 63). Max Watman reviews THE INTERPRETER, by Suki Kim, COSMOPOLIS, by Don DeLillo, THE TIME OF OUR SINGING, by Richard Powers, THE COMMISSARIAT OF ENLIGHTENMENT, by Ken Kalfus, and THE HAZARDS OF GOOD BREEDING, by Jessica Shattuck.
* Books: Anne Applebaum GULAG: A HISTORY reviewed by Hilton Kramer (page 71);
--Patricia Fara NEWTON: THE MAKING OF GENIUS reviewed John Derbyshire (page 73);
--David Kovacs EURIPEDES. VOL. 5: HELEN, PHOENICIAN WOMEN, ORESTES. VOL. 6: THE BACCHAE, IPHIGENIA AT AULIS, RHESUS reviewed by Donald Lyons (page 76);
--A.C. Grayling LIFE, SEX, AND IDEAS: THE GOOD LIFE WITHOUT GOD reviewed by John Simon (page 78).
FORTHCOMING IN THE NEW CRITERION:
American empire? by Paul Johnson; Paul Taylor & Mark Morris, by Laura Jacobs; Salzburg at Easter, by Jay Nordlinger; The Achievement of Clive James, by Brooke Allen; Olympianism reconsidered, by Kenneth Minogue; Stefan George, by John Simon; How good was Theordore Dreiser? by Jeffrey Hart; Poetry chronicle, by William Logan.