The ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ Bites Back

Noam Chomsky managed to piss off just everyone over the weekend by arguing that “Ukraine must make concessions to Russia’s demands”. This went against the prevailing left-left narrative of Ukraine being the helpless victim. Many mainstream conservatives, who also support the war, also pushed back.

It doesn’t really matter what Chomsky’s opinion is. He has no power despite his influence. What I found more interesting is how Chomsky, who is considered something of a saint to the far-left, suddenly found himself on the wrong side of the issue. He was possibly caught off guard by how the left seemingly abruptly transitioned, from in the early 2000s being anti-war regarding Iraq and Bush, to now beating the drums for US intervention. So now, all that anti-war stuff doesn’t matter anymore, because war is trendy again among the left, along with pronouns and trans women competing against cis-women in sports.

Or maybe Chomsky expected this response, but it’s evident that Ukraine has now become probably the only issue to unite an otherwise fractured America, after the shitshow that was Covid and Trump. Same for how in 2001, after 911 and leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, republicans and democrats temporarily set aside their Clinton-era partisan differences in support of war.

Freddie Deboer was also flummoxed by the sudden pro-war shift of the left. A little over a month ago, when the conflict began, he wrote two articles arguing along the lines that America bore some responsibility for Putin’s actions, and that Russia is entitled to the same self-determination that America is entitled to. It was the typical left-wing or democratic socialist view of foreign policy…nothing too controversial if you’re on the left, at least if you’re old enough to remember or care about the Iraq War. Suddenly those readers who otherwise lapped up posts about IQ, education, and the woke-left, were not having it regarding Ukraine. The rebuke was swift and bad, and this prompted Freddie to have to cancel some subscriptions and issue a response.

This shows how fickle, unforgiving, and capricious the ‘marketplace of ideas’ is. As I wrote earlier in the article Against having opinions, it’s easier to beat the stock market than to beat the marketplace of ideas. I can recall many times having what I thought were good opinions backed by evidence and ‘reason’ only to have them be taken apart either because they were wrong, I overlooked some detail, or people didn’t like them. There are some people who are very good at having good opinions, so it can be improved with practice, but still it’s very much an art, not some objective science. It does not matter how smart you are, how many credentials you have, which Chomsky has plenty, or even if you are right. If enough people think you are wrong, then for all intents and purposes you are wrong.