fidesquaerens (marta_bee) wrote,
fidesquaerens
marta_bee

Chomsky, Zinn, and Tolkien

Originally published at Faith Seeking Understanding. You can comment here or there.

So, McSweeney’s (think academia/intellectuals/book-frood’s version of The Onion) has an absolutely hilarious spoof of Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn talking about The Lord of the Rings:

UNUSED AUDIO COMMENTARY BY HOWARD ZINN AND NOAM CHOMSKY, RECORDED SUMMER 2002 FOR THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (PLATINUM SERIES EXTENDED EDITION) DVD. PART ONE., by Jeff Alexander and Tom Bisell

A taste:

Zinn: This is absolutely established in the books. Pipe-weed is something all the Hobbits abuse. Gandalf is smoking it constantly. You are correct when you point out that Middle Earth depends on pipe-weed in some crucial sense, but I think you may be overstating its importance. Clearly the war is not based only on the Shire’s pipe-weed. Rohan and Gondor’s unceasing hunger for war is a larger culprit, I would say.

Chomsky: But without the pipe-weed, Middle Earth would fall apart. Saruman is trying to break up Gandalf’s pipe-weed ring. He’s trying to divert it.

Zinn: Well, you know, it would be manifestly difficult to believe in magic rings unless everyone was high on pipe-weed. So it is in Gandalf’s interest to keep Middle Earth hooked.

Chomsky: How do you think these wizards build gigantic towers and mighty fortresses? Where do they get the money? Keep in mind that I do not especially regard anyone, Saruman included, as an agent for progressivism. But obviously the pipe-weed operation that exists is the dominant influence in Middle Earth. It’s not some ludicrous magical ring.

I stumbled across it when my Google search alert turned up this blog post, from the Patheos blog Catholic and Loving It:

Insane Ideology vs. Tolkien

… and I’m honestly not sure whether he was being serious, a parody of Serious Posts (TM), or what exactly. He does identify the piece as a nice parody but also uses it as a kind of springboard to serious discussion of the limited service Chomsky offered (mainly he spared us the full brunt of B.F. Skinner) and how he went wrong. I have to admit, I couldn’t help smiling at “It doesn’t matter which secular ideology you choose to save you, because the other word for ideology is “heresy”.” – even speaking as a Christian, it’s a bit hard to take that seriously for some reason, I suppose because I’m not sure just how you’d single sort a secular philosophy from a religious one, and why that would matter, and even why a secular philosophy would need to think of itself in messianic terms.

So I’m really not sure what to make of this post, but I get the vague feeling that the author managed to punk himself. Somehow. And as if the idea of a pipeweed cartel wasn’t funny enough, there’s that as well.

ETA: On rereading, I’m not sure I was as charitable as I’d like to Mark Shea. Looks like he knows the McSweeney’s post is a parody but was using this as an occasion for a serious discussion of Chomsky and Zinn. I’m still struggling with that line I quoted above but I don’t want to be unfair to what he’s trying to do in this post. I’ve got a lot going on right now and I’m still not quite up to nuance at the moment, I guess.

Tags: fannish, philosophy + theology
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