During the past two weeks Professor Michel Chossudovsky, an economist,
political analyst and human rights advocate of international reputation who
teaches at the University of Ottawa and directs his own Centre for Research
on Globalization and its widely-admired website www.globalresearch.ca,
has become the object of a strange campaign of defamation.
Chossudovsky’s website makes available writings on worldwide
political issues by a wide range of academics and journalists. It also offers
open forums in which members of the public can discuss and debate the issues
raised by the scores of articles published each week.
But that, it seems, can be a risky business.
Discovering recently that anti-semites had managed to insert their noxious drivel
into a discussion thread hosted by Chossudovsky’s website, B’nai Brith
Canada did not simply alert him to the fact, so that he could take the obvious
step of removing the hateful messages. Rather, with the eager assistance of the
Ottawa Citizen, this once universally-respected organization made the event a
pretext for a campaign of character assassination.
On August 20, the Citizen published an article (Pauline Tam, “U
of O Professor accused of hosting anti-Semitic website”) the tone of which
can best be described as scurrilous. Conflating the toxic invasion of his website
with Chossudovsky’s own editorial work and with his own writings, the
article insinuated that anti-semitism and denial of the Shoah feature prominently
in both of them. A follow-up article (Alex Hutchinson, “Controversial
site ‘not an issue’ for university,” August 21, 2005) wondered
at the University of Ottawa’s failure to take disciplinary action.
There are some obvious ironies here. Michel Chossudovsky is widely
regarded as a leading interpreter and critic both of globalization and of the
structural violence and military aggressions it has entailed. His life’s
work as an economist and political analyst has been a finely articulated series
of reproaches to injustices of all kinds, including the foulness of racism.
And as it happens, members of his immediate family died at Auschwitz.
By a further irony, the best brief introduction to his work is a profile published
some years ago by none other than the Ottawa Citizen (Juliet O’Neill, “Battling
mainstream economics,” January 5, 1998). This article offered a sympathetic
account of Chossudovsky’s “defiance of mainstream economic scholarship
in which ‘critical analysis is strongly discouraged’,” and also
of his studies of “the purposeful impoverishment of people in dozens of
countries” through IMF/World Bank interventions. It mentioned in addition
his criticisms of major financial institutions for a “hidden agenda”
involving criminal complicity in drug-money laundering as well as in the social
and economic collapses prompted by the IMF—criticisms that have since been
confirmed by the revelations of former “economic hit-man” John Perkins
and of Nobel prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz.
But B’nai Brith and the Citizen now want this distinguished public intellectual
to carry the leper’s rattle of the anti-semite. The August 20 article quotes
Frank Dimant, executive vice-president of B’nai Brith Canada, as complaining
that the website’s materials are “full of wild conspiracy theories
that go so far as to accuse Israel, America and Britain of being behind the recent
terrorist bombings in London. They echo the age-old anti-Semitic expressions that
abound in the Arab world….” A second-year University of Ottawa student
worries “other students will stumble on to the site,” where they presumably
risk contamination by Chossudovsky’s ideas. B’nai Brith’s human
rights lawyer Anita Bromberg is quoted as piously hoping that pressure can be
exerted on his university “to hold him to a certain standard of acceptable
And finally, a purportedly sympathetic political scientist who specializes on
the use of the internet by terrorists declares himself disturbed by “a conspiratorial
element” in Chossudovsky’s writings, and finds “not much that
resembles” them in recent work on retail or anti-state terrorism.
This dismissive conclusion is not quite the coup de grâce the author of
this article evidently meant it to be. Political scientists who have some acquaintanceship
with current scholarship on development economics and on state (as opposed to
retail) terrorism might be less likely to think Chossudovsky’s work marginal
And while the weather-beaten axiom that power elites would never dream of engaging
in conspiratorial behaviour may still hold a certain faded charm for journalistic
Howdy Doodies and pundits of all kinds, the clear function of the taboo against
“conspiracy theory” in present-day public discourse is to shut down
critical inquiry into matters of what Gore Vidal has called “unspeakable
What, one wonders, did the seven leaked “Downing Street memos” reveal,
if not that the American and British governments conspired between 2001 and 2003
to launch what they knew to be a criminal war of aggression against Iraq? And
what did Congressman John Conyers’ minority judiciary committee report on
electoral irregularities in Ohio reveal, if not that the Bush Republicans conspired
in 2004 to steal the presidential election?
Michel Chossudovsky has shown courageous persistence in exposing zones
of unspeakable truth to principled analysis. Ironically again, his
chief offense against orthodoxy appears to have been his steadfast refusal to
racially delimit his opposition to human rights abuses. Articles published on
his website have criticized not just the horrors of the Iraq occupation, and
Canada’s and the UN’s grotesquely hypocritical participation in
the overthrow of democracy in Haiti, but also the state of Israel’s shameless
violations of human rights, international law and common decency in its treatment
of the Palestinians.
B’nai Brith and CanWestGlobal (which owns and controls the Ottawa Citizen)
would like to enforce “a standard of acceptable civil discourse” that
effaces any distinction between criticism of Israel and anti-semitism. But as
is made clear by an editorial in which the Citizen returns to the attack (“The
right to be wrong,” August 26, 2005), they want not merely to silence critics
of Israel, but also to regulate and restrain free critical thought in a much wider
Behind a pallid pretense of defending Chossudovsky’s academic freedom, this
editorial sets about ensuring that his exercise of it will, as the Citizen charmingly
says, “have consequences.” His “exotic opinions” are mocked
as arising from a procedure of “throw[ing] facts into a pot and hop[ing]
conspiracies boil out.” The editorial describes as particularly absurd one
of his recent articles, which drew attention to parallels between an anti-terrorism
exercise run in London on the morning of July 7 that scripted bombings in the
same three underground stations that were actually attacked, and CIA and military
anti-terrorism exercises in the US that shortly preceded or coincided with the
9/11 attacks. We are told that B’nai Brith shares this view, objecting not
just to the discussion-thread postings inserted by anti-semites into Chossudovsky’s
website, but also “to the tone of the site more generally. One of the scraps
Mr. Chossudovsky’s piece on terrorism exercises throws into the cauldron
is that Israel’s former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in London
during the July 7 attacks.”
The editorial’s tactic of ridiculing Chossudovsky by attributing to him
its own feeble treatment of facts and arguments as disconnected bits and pieces
is childishly obvious. But any chain of discourse can be made to seem silly if
one snips it into bits and shakes them in a hat. (If I sang it badly enough, I
do believe I could make “God Save the Weasel” sound like “Pop
Goes the Queen.”)
The Citizen’s editorial urges Chossudovsky’s “colleagues and
bosses” to “make a point of explaining why he’s wrong.”
Let’s pause for a moment, then, over the article that has aroused such a
flurry of contempt (Michel Chossudovsky, “7/7 Mock Terror Drill: What Relationship
to the Real Time Terror Attacks?” www.globalresearch.ca, August 8, 2005).
Readers of the Citizen who take the trouble to look up this article may be surprised
to discover that it is cautious and tentative rather than accusatory in tone.
It confines itself to a sober gathering of information from mainstream media sources.
And it concludes by recommending against the drawing of “hasty conclusions”
and by calling for “an independent public inquiry into the London bomb attacks.”
So why the complaints? Bibi Netanyahu indeed gets a mention: Chossudovsky quotes
from that wild and exotic source, the Associated Press, a report from Jerusalem
according to which Scotland Yard gave the Israeli Embassy in London advance warning
of a bombing attack, thanks to which Netanyahu was able to cancel a meeting scheduled
at a venue close to the site of one of the bomb blasts.
Does that sound troubling to you? Do you think Michel Chossudovsky may have been
right to suggest that “The issue of foreknowledge raised in the Associated
Press report also requires investigation”? Or should we just shoot the messenger
and be done with it?
There is, to conclude, one point at which I find myself in agreement with the
Ottawa Citizen’s editorial writer: I think a controversy of this sort should
indeed “have consequences.”
I believe the Citizen’s editorial team, together with Frank Dimant and Anita
Bromberg of B’nai Brith, should bow their heads in shame.
I think they should offer a public apology to Michel Chossudovsky and
make a serious effort to avoid disgracing themselves in future by any repetition
of this kind of sordid campaign of defamation.