After the Cataclysm, Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology

By Noam Chomsky; Edward S. Herman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2
Precedents

2.1 The Intelligentsia and the State

In considering the refraction of events in Indochina through the prism of western ideology, it is useful to bear in mind some relevant precedents. The first class of precedents has to do with the ways in which influential segments of the intelligentsia have responded in the past to abuses of state power; the second, with the record of treatment of former enemies after revolutionary, civil or other military conflicts.

Consider first the typical relations of the intelligentsia to state power. Quite commonly, intellectuals have a strong moral attachment to some favored state--usually their own --and have devoted themselves to lauding its alleged achievements (sometimes real) and concealing its abuses and crimes. At times, the "herd of independent minds" ( Harold Rosenberg's apt phrase) has succeeded in virtually stifling opposing views. One recalls, for example, the reaction to George Orwell Homage to Catalonia at a time when Stalinist loyalties were influential--one may also imagine how he would have reacted to its rediscovery and conversion to a cold war document when fashions changed. Similarly today, when "support for Israel" has taken on some of the characteristics of the earlier Stalinism of the intellectuals, it has been difficult for studies critical of one or another aspect of Israeli policies to find a publisher, or if published to receive an honest appraisal, in the United States. 1

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