January 29, 2015

Does my But look big in this?

I've only just seen Flying Rodent's post on the great But controversy.  Titled But-head.  Clever.  It's a denunciation of the many articles post-Charlie Hebdo which:
screech, wave [their] arms around and call down the vengeance of Heaven upon people who say that cartoonists deserve to be shot, while containing absolutely no examples
But it mostly uses Howard Jacobson's recent Independent article titled, Try ‘and’ instead of ‘but’ and you’ll find that America and Israel are not to blame for all the world’s atrocities as a foil.
Check out the post itself and see Organic Cheeseboard in the comments.  Both OC and FR conclude that Jacobon was being wilfully dishonest in at least two of his claims. Here's OC quoting both Jacobson and the Chomsky article that was the supposed source of Jacobson's criticism of the "But Brigade":
Jacobson says:

how about, “Gunning down the staff of Charlie Hebdo was an atrocity, ‘but’ Israel kills journalists in Gaza.” Would anyone say that? Unless I dreamt it, Noam Chomsky just has.

He hasn't, though. What he's said is that when the USA and its allies intentionally kill journalists simply because they are journalists, they go as far as parading it as a PR triumph, and nobody makes nearly as much fuss as they did over the Charlie Hebdo massacre where journalists were murdered for the crime of being journalists. Chomsky is really clear, in fact:

The more we can blame some crimes on enemies, the greater the outrage; the greater our responsibility for crimes -- and hence the more we can do to end them -- the less the concern, tending to oblivion or even denial.
Now what's particularly impressive about OC's comment is that the quote from Chomsky forms the bulk of a letter Chomsky wrote to The Independent  drawing attention to Jacobson's misrepresentation of what Chomsky had originally written.  Chomsky's letter was published after OC's comment:

I read with much interest Howard Jacobson’s denunciation of the “But Brigade” (24 January) and my culpability in this crime. But (apologies for using the correct word) I’m afraid that he was very careful to miss the point, completely.

There was no “but” in the article of mine that elicited his fury. Rather, the article provided a series of illustrations of a highly significant general principle that was stated quite explicitly: “The more we can blame some crimes on enemies, the greater the outrage; the greater our responsibility for crimes – and hence the more we can do to end them – the less the concern, tending to oblivion or even denial.”

I can easily comprehend why Mr Jacobson would insist that the demonstration of the principle must be suppressed, but (apologies again) I see no reason to accede to his demand.

Noam Chomsky
Massachusetts Institute  of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts
But really the reason  for this post is that I noticed Chomsky's bracketed apologies for his use of the word "but" which reminded me of my own bracketed comments following my use of the word "but" in my previous post.  I don't always agree with Noam Chomsky but (oh never mind).

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