Why Kraut’s Noam Chomsky Video Is Garbage

I’ve been avoiding watching videos by the YouTuber Kraut for years now. At the request of a viewer, I finally took the plunge this past weekend, and found it pretty irritating. Having now written and produced a 15 minute video, I think my problem is largely with the style of argument. The blithe assumption that there is no point in even discussing the details of politically useful mayhem is infuriating to me. This style of argument is often used against my attempt to analyze the horror in Syria. Part of Kraut’s anger at Chomsky is that he would even dare to attempt to construct a chronology of deaths in Kosovo. A chronology of death, and the awareness that only a few thousand people died in Syria before the US intelligence community and ally intervention is a key part of my critique of what happened there. If Kraut and folks like him got their way, we wouldn’t be able to establish basic information about catastrophes. That’s not a world I want to deal with. So, to the horror of my 20something self, I’ve managed to make a 15 minute video defending Noam Chomsky.

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Video Transcript after the jump…

Hey there! I’m a failing YouTuber covering politics and history, so I’ve always been really jealous of this guy called Kraut. He’s very successful, and he seems to care about the same sorts of things that I do. I want to learn from him, but I find his videos really hard to watch. They are just so god damn long. And whenever I would try to watch one of his videos, I would usually stop when I got to some glaring error or blatant misinterpretation. If something’s an hour long, and I come to something that’s clearly wrong on minute 10, I usually can’t bring myself to watch the rest of the video.

But, this weekend I did finally watch a Kraut video, entitled “Why Noam Chomsky Is Garbage”. And I did not like it. In fact, I found it to be deeply sleazy. Now the video is built around a central point that is fairly accurate. In Noam Chomsky’s extraordinary 54 year crusade against American Empire, he has put himself in the position of defending, or excusing some pretty horrible things. Chomsky should be called out for that. But that’s not what Kraut wants to do here. He wants to destroy Chomsky or cancel him, and portray him as a genocide denier. And to do that Kraut Lies through his teeth. Let’s condemn Kraut with his own words.

“I would like to take a moment to point out what Chomsky does here. He bases his arguments upon a source, but upon inspection it is revealed that he continuously lies about what those sources actually contain. This is highly unethical behaviour”

OK, let’s talk ethics…

I would encourage you to watch this video carefully. It does two things. The first, is to movingly describe the very real genocide committed against the Bosniaks in the 1990s. But then it also shows you blocks of text, that purport to be examples of Chomsky minimizing the genocide. I would suggest pausing the video when Kraut does this, because if you actually read the text, it rarely says what he says it does.

Chomsky’s framing of the fact that the majority of the victims at Srebrenicza were male, as supposed evidence of this being a regular act of war, or as he puts it a “population exchange” is cynical, gross and repulsive.

Well if you actually pause the video and read the quote, you can see that Chomsky described Srebrenicza as a slaughter, in furtherance of a policy of population exchange, which is really just another way of saying ethnic cleansing. I could be wrong about this, but I think this passage here is the only excerpt from Chomsky’s written work in the entire video. Chomsky has written or contributed to multiple books and has probably written dozens of articles on the conflict in Yugoslavia at this point. That content never really comes up in this video.

What Kraut does engage with, is very small chunks of text almost exclusively from spoken interviews with a 70something and 80something year old man, and call him a disgusting liar because Kraut has a different interpretation of highlighted selections of decades old reports that Chomsky refers to. Crucially, it’s not just the video of Chomsky that’s from spoken interviews, b ut most of the chunks of text too. I guess you could take Kraut’s word that all of these off the cuff remarks represent Chomsky’s deep seated views, but as I will demonstrate now, you really shouldn’t take Kraut’s word for anything. The video’s peak comes at minute 28

“The Clips I used here are from 2013, he in fact declared after the Yugoslav war that he was going to intentionally double down on this. In a 2005 interview where he was asked if he regretted supporting those who claimed that the Srebrenica massacre was exaggerated, he said, ‘my only regret is that I didn’t do so strongly enough’”

Kraut follows that blockbuster line with almost 20 seconds of silence. You can’t get away with that in a movie theater, you shouldn’t be able to do it in a medium where people can just click away. It’s an amazingly ballsy thing to do on YouTube, and you know what, Kraut pulls it off. I do have a lot to learn from this guy. Kraut is really good at YouTube. Too bad Noam Chomsky never said that.

Through the magic of Google search, quotes are your friend, I tracked down the actual article that line was drawn from. It was a correction from the Guardian, where they admitted that was not Chomsky’s position at all. The quote, which the newspaper used as a headline, was a complete fabrication. The Guardian’s humiliation for this misrepresentation of Chomsky was so complete that they pulled the article, and only the retractions survive on the internet. Which makes it really hard to see this as an honest mistake on Kraut’s part. The emotional and cinematic peak of Kraut’s nearly hour-long smear of Chomsky, is a famously debunked smear of Chomsky.

“He bases his arguments upon a source, but upon inspection it is revealed that he continuously lies about what those sources actually contain. This is highly unethical behaviour”

The parts of the video that aren’t Kraut lying about Chomsky’s views, are really moving or even disturbing. Kraut reproduces video, audio, and in some cases full minutes of archive reporting from Yugoslavia’s wars. I believe Kraut and his collaborators are right to call this war genocidal. But if you’re interested in this conflict I strongly urge you not to rely on Kraut’s video. It’s real long on emotion and disturbing anecdotes, and pretty short on some basics. Like did you know the Serbs were at least two different entities?

Kraut’s video just refers to the Serbs, but there are very meaningful differences between Serbia, the country that we bombed in 1999, and the Republika Srpska we were bombing in 1995. The two entities were definitely working together to do bad things, but they are literally two different countries. This is the kind of detail that should have probably cropped up in a nearly hour long video on the conflict. Maybe instead of that lengthy anecdote about genital mutilation.

I do not want to get into the nuance of Kraut’s claims about the genocides of the 1990s, because despite his general untrustworthiness, I largely agree on the topic. What I would recommend you do, is check out the response to criticisms of the video from Kraut’s collaborator that I am linking in the description below. If you look at the case Kraut and his people are making in text form, instead of with spooky music, and pictures of corpses, the idea that Chomsky is hiding these crimes becomes ludicrous. Honest people can disagree on the interpretations of the government and NGO reports cited. It takes dishonest people, who hate Chomsky, to put the absolute worst spin on everything and accuse him of genocide denial.


Now, I disagree with Chomsky on that. But I’m a 42 year old, and I remember when that view was much more common than it is today. Noam Chomsky is a 92 year old. The Concept of Genocide was invented back in 1944, when Chomsky was finishing high school. It is an evolving concept, and one that is very controversial. Genocide denial is one of the most disgusting things you can accuse a person of. Taking a 92 year old of Jewish descent who probably had not too distant relatives die in the Holocaust, and smearing him as a genocide denier because he has a higher standard for genocide than woke millennials is fucking bonkers.

The last ten minutes of the video were taken up with a scandal so obscure I’d never heard of it. Apparently a key turning point in world public opinion was the discovery of a Serb-run concentration camp by British journalists in 1992. The pictures they took rightly shocked world opinion. They also became deeply controversial, with anti-interventionists questioning their authenticity. What Kraut leaves out, is that these doubts were much more widespread than just a couple wild eyed leftists. As a 2017 Time magazine article points out, even Foreign Policy, a very establishment US periodical, questioned the reporting.

Kraut angrily points out that Chomsky gave an interview to Serbian television where he questioned the validity of those photographs. What Kraut neglects to mention, of course, is that this 2006 interview was after the Serbs had thrown their genocidal leader Slobodan Milosevic out of power violently, arrested him, and deported him to an international war crimes tribunal. But there’s a reason why Kraut devotes ten minutes to this one story. All valid questions about the camps have been answered. The fact that Chomsky was still hanging onto the idea that the photos were faked in 2006 is pretty gross. 78 years old or not, by 2006 he should have known that the controversy was over, and the concentration camps were firmly established to be concentration camps.

I’m terrified of this in my own work. We all struggle against confirmation bias. I hope it’s not the case, but I bet a few of my hundreds of videos include anecdotes that are false or exaggerated. I’m pretty sure I’m not inventing quotes the way Kraut does, but everybody makes mistakes. This story of faked concentration camps fit Chomsky’s ideology really well, so well, that 20 years later, Chomsky still believed it, despite all the evidence. I think it’s entirely fair to demand that Chomsky retract or correct these statements. It’s quite possible he already has.

Chomsky does have a few skeletons in his closet, and they are worth airing. But this urge to destroy, or cancel him is deeply misguided. I know this because I used to be like Kraut. In my 20s I was young and dumb, and drunk on American power too. I loved war and I hated Chomsky and how he always got in the way of America’s good works. But then I grew up. I learned a lot more about the stories I was told. I learned that the Genocide in Rwanda was a lot more caused by French intervention than it was by American non-intervention. I watched as virtuous US military power killed ten to twenty times as many people in Iraq and Syria than Slobodan Milosevic ever managed to. Noam Chomsky wasn’t particularly important to my awakening on these issues, but he has been vitally important to waking up millions of others. It is 100% true that there are far worse people in the world than US policy makers. But there is nobody more powerful and capable of destruction than US policymakers. And for 54 years now, Noam Chomsky has been one of the bravest voices in opposition to that power. That makes me want to cut him some slack. And it also makes me feel a lot better about not watching any Kraut videos.

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