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:
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:
… 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.