The media and public intellectuals: Fred Halliday vs Noam Chomsky

By Ian Sinclair

If the media lionises one and demonises the other, the favoured man must surely have been right on the big issues of the last 15 years. Right?

Flickr/Ministerio de Cultura de la Nacion, CC BY-SA 2.0

Compare and contrast the different responses by the media
and academia to two of the most prominent public intellectuals who have
focussed on the Middle East – Professor Fred
Halliday, who died in 2010, and Professor Noam Chomsky.

one would assume world events have repeatedly proved Halliday right, and
Chomsky to have been consistently off the markAs Al-Akhbar newspaper notes, Halliday, a Professor
of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political
Science for 20 years, “received wide acclaim in his lifetime, and after his
death.” In his obituary in the Guardian
his friend Professor Sami Zubaida noted:
“Fred made an enormous impact in both academia and the media. He always spoke
with a sure and lucid voice, backed by extensive knowledge, and knew many
languages… Arabic, Persian, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, French,
German and Russian.” Writing in the left-leaning Nation magazine, Susie Linfield was even more effusive in her praise: “In
his scholarship and research, in his outspokenness and courtesy, in the
complexity of his thinking, he was the model of a public intellectual. It is
Halliday’s writing – not those of Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Alexander
Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens or Tariq Ali – that can elucidate the meaning of
today’s most virulent conflicts.”

In contrast, Chomsky is
repeatedly smeared and attacked by the mainstream media, receiving particular
ire from liberal journalists and intellectuals. Chomsky, the author of tens of
books and speaker at hundreds of sold out public events, is often labelled as “controversial”,
and “simplistic”.
Chomsky is keenly aware
of this phenomenon, comparing the reception he receives from the …read more

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Another ‘Dodgy Dossier’ for war

By Timmon Wallis

Fallujah, 2007.

Undeterred by the disastrous results of ‘regime change’ in
Iraq and Libya, western powers have for four years been determinedly trying to
help regime change in Syria along.

Fallujah, 2007. Flickr/ Arlo Ringsmuth. Some rights reserved.The British Prime Minister presented his case in parliament today
(26 November, 2015) for launching attacks against ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/Islamic State
in Syria. Two years ago, a similar request was unexpectedly defeated in the
House of Commons and David Cameron has said he will not put it to a vote again
unless he is ‘confident of enough votes to win’.

The 36-page memorandum which outlines the Prime Minister’s
case for war starts by acknowledging that the decision to use force is “not to
be taken lightly” and is “one of the most significant decisions that any
government takes”. Many pages are then devoted to the threat posed by ISIL and
the need to defeat it. Yet nowhere does it explain how dropping more bombs on
them will lessen or eliminate this threat. In fact, Cameron himself freely
admits in the conclusion of the memorandum that “air strikes alone cannot
defeat ISIL”. In purely military terms, the only way to uproot ISIL from its
strongholds in Syria is by chasing them out with ground forces, and David
Cameron knows that very well.

This is where the miraculous 70,000 “fighters who do not
belong to extremist groups” comes into the picture. Many Syrian analysts have
expressed surprise and even astonishment at this number, since most assume the
‘moderate’ military opposition to Assad is much smaller as well as divided against
itself and largely ineffectual except in a few small areas currently under
their control.

Among the 70,000 are presumably the Kurdish fighters, who
are not only fighting Assad and ISIL but also Turkey, one of our allies currently
crowding the skies over Syria with their military aircraft. …read more

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