Noam Chomsky is talking to John McDermott:
I say that he hasn't referred to Chávez's human rights record. Some of Chomsky's critics have accused him of going easy on the faults of autocrats so long as they are enemies of the US. Chomsky denies this vehemently: he spoke out against the consolidation of power by the state broadcaster; he protested the case of María Lourdes Afiuni, a judge who spent more than a year in prison awaiting trial for releasing a government critic. "And I do a million cases like that one."
Still, Chomsky thinks about how hard to hit his targets. He admits as much as our soups arrive. "Suppose I criticise Iran. What impact does that have? The only impact it has is in fortifying those who want to carry out policies I don't agree with, like bombing." He argues that any criticisms about, say, Chávez, will invariably get into the mainstream media, whereas those he makes about the US will go unreported.
I must say I don't find this altogether persuasive. If Chomsky sets out the human rights derelictions of the Iranian regime in conjunction with a clear registration of his opposition to bombing the country, then his views can't be used in support of bombing it. Somebody could try to misuse them to that end, but misusing them is what they'd then be doing and Chomsky wouldn't be responsible for that. No one can prevent others from selective presentation of what they think about some issue; they can only do their best to make it as clear as possible.
Two comparisons come to mind. Today, any criticism of Israel whatsoever is likely to be taken up by those who mean it ill. Does it follow that those of us who are friends of the country should never crititicize it? Absolutely not. Because I believe in Israel's right to exist doesn't mean I'm going to pretend I support the policy of settlements, which has been, and remains, a disaster for the country.
At various times in recent years some of us on the left have been critical of Amnesty International. I was one of them, though a longtime supporter of the organization. Voices were raised to say that by criticizing AI one weakened it in face of its enemies. But that is a counsel of folly. One has to be critical of organizations and other collectivities one supports, when criticism is what they deserve, in order to do what one can to ensure that they are as little open to attack by their enemies as possible.
One does one's best to avoid being misunderstood or misrepresented and that's all one can do.
(Postscript. As for Chomsky going unreported, all I can say is, poor thing. Everyone should have to labour against such inattention.)