Thursday, July 13, 2006

Habermas On Web 2.0//Chomsky in Iran//Hardt & Negri on Cuba

The Great Seduction: JURGEN HABERMAS ON WEB 2.0
via ~C4Chaos: Jurgen Habermas On Web 2.0
"Use of the Internet has both broadened and fragmented the contexts of communication. This is why the Internet can have a subversive effect on intellectual life in authoritarian regimes. But at the same time, the less formal, horizontal cross-linking of communication channels weakens the achievements of traditional media. This focuses the attention of an anonymous and dispersed public on select topics and information, allowing citizens to concentrate on the same critically filtered issues and journalistic pieces at any given time. The price we pay for the growth in egalitarianism offered by the Internet is the decentralised access to unedited stories. In this medium, contributions by intellectuals lose their power to create a focus."
Not sure what I think of this. Is it refuted by the fact that intellectuals like Big Norm and Noam Chomsky are popular bloggers? My main problem is Habermas' usual obsession with "intellectuals" - which he shares/d with other leading successors of the liberal Enlightenment like Edward Said and Chomsky. What's so good about "intellectuals"? Or, in other words, why aren't the plebs' voices just as valid?

While I'm on the subject of intellectuals, big thumbs up for Iranian dissident Akbar Ganji. Except he's decided to hang out with Noam Chomsky, as well as the above-mentioned Habermas.
While Mr.Ganji was on hunger strike last summer, Mr. Chomsky signed a petition urging his release. Mr. Chomsky then traveled to Lebanon this spring to meet with leaders of the Syrian-funded terrorist group Hezbollah, which Iran created in the early 1980s. The areas of southern Lebanon ruled by Hezbollah resemble the Shariah state Mr. Ganji is now dedicated to overturning in his native Iran.

Yesterday, one New York-based Iranian-American activist, Banafsheh Zand Bonazzi, said she was disappointed that Mr. Ganji was meeting with Mr. Chomsky. "Because he has been sitting in Iran and has not had to live with Noam Chomsky, he does not know what people like Chomsky do," she said. "He is looking at Chomsky as a hero worshipper, and that Chomsky no longer exists."

One reason for the visit is Mr. Ganji's interest in Western philosophy. His manifesto is laced with references to Karl Popper, the thinker who coined the concept of the open society. In Berlin last month, he met with a German liberal theorist, Jurgen Habermas.

While I'm on the subject of Chomsky, ModernityBlog has been fisking away at him recently. Work backwards from here. Regular readers will now I hate him (Chomsky that is, not Mr Modernity). But not as much as Candace de Russy hates him. It was her blog at Phi Beta Cons (hat tip Jogo) whereby I reached the Ganji article.

As David Horowitz writes in The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America, Chomsky is known for his “ferocious anti-Americanism and cavalier relationship with the factual record.” His basic message has long been that "whatever evil exists in the world, the United States is to blame." According to Chomsky, all presidents since World War II have “’been either outright war criminals or involved in serious war crimes.’”

Ganji’s manifesto in behalf of freedom in Iran cites Karl Popper, the champion of the open society. Someone should remind Ganji before his encounter with Chomsky that the professor has been involved with neo-Nazis and holocaust revisionism and that he supported Pol Pot. Ganji should repudiate Chomsky, who perhaps above all American academic militants has advanced the closed society.
That's a bit of a confused assessment in my view. Chomsky did not support Pol Pot, even though he relativised away his genocidal crimes. And his "involvement" with holocaust deniers was in fact in the libertarian/liberal spirit of Popper's open society: defending their right to free speech. Analogous, I think, with the Horowitzians' defence of, say, the Danish cartoonists' free speech. Being very illiberal myself, I don't actually give a shit about free speech. (See here, here and here for that argument.) But you can't have your open society cake and eat it too.

Candace's attack on Hardt and Negri is also somewhat ill-informed.
as Adam Kirsch writes, some Western intellectuals are so morally obtuse as to continue to this day to cultishly admire such “liberators” as Fidel Castro. How incomprehensible, he remarks, that Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt could wax enthusiastic in their widely acclaimed book, Empire, about “the irrepressible lightness and joy of being communist.”
While I hate Castro even more than I hate Chomsky (Castro actually kills people; Chomsky doesn't), Hardt and Negri hate him too. The "communism" they talk about (small c - a world without exploitation) is precisely the opposite of the "Communism" (big C) Castro's Cuba exemplifies. Which is why Stalinists and crypto-Stalinists - Louis Proyect, Monthly Review - hate Hardt and Negri. (More nuanced Marxist views here and here.)

Sorry to come over all left-wing.


jason kropsky said...

Why are intellectuals like Habermas against the egalitarian cyber transformation of information exchange? The answer seems to redound on enlightenment condescensions towards the creative, flexible and shocking power of subversive ideas that men without formal scientific-technical skill have in transforming theoretical views on politics, religion, psychology, etc...

With the low cost of the blogging medium, any would-be theoretician has the ability to change the perception of anyone else. So though there is a democratizing effect in blogging, there is also the potential for singular voices out of the woodworks to rise up and become leading lights. The only asset required is a sharp mind and a tart tongue.

Choose your own adventures.

First we liberate the internet; then we liberate conscious, waking life.

SnoopyTheGoon said...

"Chomsky did not support Pol Pot, even though he relativised away his genocidal crimes."

That one was a bit tricky, Bob. I strongly suspect that Chomsky got as close to support as possible in this case. Morover, by denying the mass murder he effectively provided that support.

And I do not believe he ever retracted or apologized.

bob said...

Snoopy, you are certainly right he enver retracted or apologised, but instead has obfuscated and fudged about it. And, of course, has gone on to deny other genocides or support those who deny them - e.g. in Bosnia.

Jason, Stirring stuff! Thanks for comment

Tom said...
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