Tuesday, December 14, 2004

And To Think, I Used To Be a Big Fan of the Guy

A blogger got published on Front Page Magazine with an anti-Chomsky screed. Oh, how I used to love reading Chomsky! Back in 1990, when the first Gulf War was in prospect, I went to a Chomsky talk and cocktail reception. Nice, unassuming, shy, humble guy. Heaven help us if his ideas ever get implemented.


Bush won slightly more than 30% of the electorate, Kerry slightly under 30%…It is meaningless...The progressive left is very substantial in scale, and could be far larger, including the large majority of the population, judging by highly credible public opinion studies that the press scarcely mentions, presumably because they understand that it is much too dangerous to allow people to understand that they are not alone in their views.

Presumably, Chomsky is trying to claim that the "electorate" also includes those who did not vote, since, of those who did vote, Bush won north of 51%. Not a landslide, but nonetheless a respectable win, especially in today's polarized political moment, and one which, combined with historically groundbreaking Republican wins in the Congress, cannot be regarding as anything other than an outright and indisputable victory.

What we are really dealing with here is a classic trope which has been a sacred catechism of the Chomskyite Left since the landslide defeat of George McGovern in 1972: the myth of the silent Leftist majority; the idea that, somehow, the majority of the American electorate is, in fact, composed of radical Leftists who, if given the chance, would vote the capitalist system out of existence; the only reason they do not, the theory goes, is the sinister manipulations of the media/political class, who brainwash them into ignoring their true beliefs and interests and conspires through the electoral/media system to keep the Left a marginal electoral force.

This trope has been a popular one among Chomskyites for years, but there is no evidence whatsoever that such a silent majority exists. Most studies on the subject find that those who don't vote would likely vote along the same lines as those who do (though this is, admittedly, a difficult subject to quantify accurately) and considering the rather decisive regional and ethnic divisions in the country, this seems to be likely. Furthermore, the significance of the non-voter phenomenon itself is greatly exaggerated.

In purely statistical terms, the percentage of voters is routinely diminished by the overwhelming number of young voters who do not turn out (I think in this election, despite the best efforts of the entertainment industry, whose influence I have always felt to be vastly overstated, only 10% of under-25s actually went to the polls). Once one breaks the threshold of the age of 30, the number of voters climbs precipitously until one reaches senior citizens, whose turnout is routinely massive.

Thus, the issue of non-voting is not one of PR manipulation, or political non-representation, or the lack of viable alternatives, but simply one of age and maturity. Unfortunately for Chomsky, it appears that the further people are from the average age of his audience, the more they vote; unfortunate, perhaps, for him, and the source of much frustration, no doubt, but not entirely tragic for the future of the Republic.

I also notice that the blogger seemed to write his article in the stylistic tone that Chomsky uses in his own writings, only this time, the style is used against Chomsky!

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