After she had decided - wrongly - to tell the world that campaigner and linguist Noam Chomsky had “promoted anti-Semitism”, Z-list sleb Rachel Riley, whose CV extends to doing the letters and numbers for Channel 4’s Countdown and little else, could have taken time out to do a little of that research which was so sadly missing from her earlier efforts. But it was a temptation that she was able to resist.
Instead, she has latched on to what is known as the Faurisson affair, which concerns the controversy surrounding a work by the academic Robert Faurisson, latterly a Holocaust denier. A piece he published in 1980 had an introduction by Chomsky, and Ms Riley has leapt on to this in order to justify her claims of “promoting anti-Semitism”.
“To all messaging outrage after recent thread re Antisemitism, not because of the AS I highlighted, but because I said one of their heroes (Chomsky) promoted Antisemitism. Here he is, supporting a Holocaust denier. If that doesn’t promote Antisemitism, I don’t know what does”. Sadly, this conclusion is plain flat wrong.
Chomsky said of his introduction - the text is available online with very little searching required - “I made it explicit that I would not discuss Faurisson’s work, having only limited familiarity with it (and, frankly, little interest in it). Rather, I restricted myself to the civil-liberties issues and the implications of the fact that it was even necessary to recall Voltaire’s famous words in a letter to M. le Riche: ‘I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write.’”
He went on “Faurisson’s conclusions are diametrically opposed to views I hold and have frequently expressed in print … But it is elementary that freedom of expression … is not to be restricted to views of which one approves, and that it is precisely in the case of views that are almost universally despised and condemned that this right must be most vigorously defended. It is easy enough to defend those who need no defense or to join in unanimous … condemnation of a violation of civil rights by some official enemy”.
The article in which Chomsky expounds these views, published in The Nation in February 1981, has a title which should put anyone unsure of the subject matter straight: “His Right To Say It”. Chomsky concludes by musing “It seems to me something of a scandal that it is even necessary to debate these issues two centuries after Voltaire defended the right of free expression for views he detested. It is a poor service to the memory of the victims of the holocaust to adopt a central doctrine of their murderers”.
Ms Riley has, it seems, not availed herself of Chomsky’s text. She condemns him for guilt-by-association, rather than bothering to read what he said. Chomsky had “little interest” in what Faurisson had to say: his concern was that the right to speak freely should not be subjected to censorship, or otherwise be abridged in any way.
Once again, Rachel Riley opts for the convenient smear, rather than undertake the less convenient alternative of five minutes’ searching, followed by ten minutes’ reading.
This field is, inevitably, more complex than doing a few sums. One can only imagine Channel 4 bosses willing her to stop digging herself in deeper.
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