Re: Chomsky (was: Christopher Hitchens' Column)

From: Mike Lorrey (
Date: Fri Oct 05 2001 - 11:01:09 MDT

Joe Dees wrote:
> >Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 16:06:20 +1000
> > Damien Broderick <> Re: Chomsky (was: Christopher Hitchens' Column) extropians@extropy.orgReply-To:
> >
> >At 12:40 AM 10/5/01 -0400, John K Clark wrote:
> >
> >> >Chomsky has contrasted the high-volume media coverage
> >> >of the Khmer Rouge atrocities with the low-volume
> >> >coverage of the atrocities committed in the same
> >> >period by Indonesia's US-sanctioned invasion of East Timor.
> >
> >>All atrocities should be condemned but to do it by saying my holocaust
> >>is worse than your holocaust shows a moral tone deafness that is
> >>staggering to contemplate.
> >
> >Oddly, that's exactly Chomsky's point. He's noting not just the moral
> >deafness of the major media (who effectively ignored the Timor atrocities,
> >presumably on the grounds that they were someone else's holocaust), but the
> >actual deafness thereby imposed on readers and viewers.
> >
> >Which is what John's cite from Jeff says.
> >
> There is still his problem of equating tens of thousands of deaths to millions of them, as if one Timorese death is worth a hundred Cambodian demises, which he does when he argues that it is unjustifiable that one atrocity received more media attention
than another.

This is specifically a problem of how you look at society. Chomsky and
his anarcho-lefties look at society as one unit, thus an atrocity is an
atrocity is an atrocity, no matter how many individuals were involved.
To them, the individual is not as important as the group, so saying that
one death here is equal to one hundred there has no meaning for them.

Part of this is because of the difficulty in executing thousands of
sentences on one perpetrator of an atrocity in court. How, for instance,
do you impose a thousand death sentences on one person? Or a thousand
life sentences? At best, in the current day, a person can do two to four
life sentences before they die, so any more than that is a bit of
overkill. Thus, mass crimes tend to be treated as one whole crime, and
the punishment for each individual death is thus discounted as the
death toll rises. After you've killed ten, what harm is there in
whacking a few more, you aren't gonna be punished any MORE for doing so.

Back in the middle ages in Scotland and elsewhere, a person could be
tried and sentenced after their own death. In many cases, the corpse was
brought into court and stood up in the docket in their casket to face
the judge and jury... all without modern air conditioning...

Unless, of course, we gain immortality. Imagine keeping a Hitler or
Stalin (or bin Laden) alive for hundreds or even thousands of years
purposely to keep him in prison, doing hard labor, for the thousands or
more people they've killed. Perhaps even upload the minds of such
criminals so that they can undergo eons of punishment in virtual
reality. By this count, bin Laden would get 6,000 x 20 years, or 180,000
years of incarceration for his crime. Hitler would get somewhere between
300 million and a billion years of hard time. Sounds rather like the
mythological hell, doesn't it?

Yet to do less is to most certainly devalue the individuals who died in
such atrocities. Many top Nazis got sentences ranging from 6-20 years,
which puts the value of the people they killed at mere seconds of
punishment for each death. The law today says that in such cases, the
offenders serve their sentences 'concurrently', yet that is to, once
again, apply standards of group crimes and group rights when none such

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