Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 15, 2017

Ben Norton’s transparent alibi

Filed under: journalism,Syria — louisproyect @ 6:18 pm

Initially getting the Syria war wrong, learning from past mistakes, and correcting lies

I have never seen any conflict lied about more than the horrific war in Syria.

Most of the lies have been in the interest of empire. But there has also been a fair share of lying within the camp of those who ostensibly oppose it.

I have been ceaselessly attacked from multiple sides for the evolution of my views on Syria. Some of these attacks have been warranted, I readily concede. Many others have not been.

In a recent denunciation, the blog Moon of Alabama pilloried me, Max Blumenthal, and Rania Khalek, in one of a slew of nearly identical pieces that have done the same (penned by a motley crew of deranged digital stalkers with a penchant for lying, like serial impersonator Pham Binh, Photoshop-wielding demagogue Louis Proyect, and reactionary conspiracy-monger Barbara McKenzie)…

I admit I was wrong, and it was gradually from 2014 into 2015 that I began to see that. When Syria’s al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra was openly leading the opposition, and yet Cliffites continued to support it (with Trotskyite writers like Louis Proyect and Michael Karadjis cheering on al-Nusra’s offensives), I was hit with the realization that I had been fooling myself.

Max Blumenthal and Rania Khalek came to similar realizations on a similar timeline. The three of us are close friends and colleagues who talk frequently. We discussed the issue at length; our views evolved together organically.


What a lying bastard this kid is. I had never met him before August 21, 2015 when he approached me after Patrick Bond’s talk at the Verso office in Brooklyn on Rosa Luxemburg’s “The Accumulation of Capital” to telll me that he agreed completely with my analysis of Syria and Ukraine. He also mentioned that he was about to start a new job at Salon. I told him good luck. So if he had started to “rethink” things as early as 2014, why would he have come up to spend 10 minutes badmouthing exactly what he was already well on the road to becoming, namely a carbon copy of Robert Parry, Patrick L. Smith, Gareth Porter and other tawdry apologists for the Baathist killing machine.

Besides killing and displacing Syrians, the war has taken a toll on leftist journalists. Norton is as slippery as an eel coated in vaseline and will likely end up like David Horowitz. That’s what happens when you begin to write articles relying on the Saudi media for “the truth”.

I figured out that Norton had joined the conspiracist left after reading his Salon articles. In my view, it was cash that made the difference–not having a Road to Damascus conversion after reading some book opposed to Gilbert Achcar or Idrees Ahmad. If you want to understand him politically and psychologically, I’d advise reading Norman Podhoretz’s memoir “Making It”. From my first commentary on the turncoat dated June 18, 2016:

When I visited the Verso office in Brooklyn for a panel discussion on Rosa Luxemburg last August, I ran into someone named Ben Norton who I knew vaguely as a critic of the crude “anti-imperialism” that had swept across the left like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We chatted briefly about our shared political values and his latest career move, which was joining Salon.com as a staff member. I thought this was a welcome addition to a magazine that featured Patrick L. Smith, one of the worst propagandists for the Assad dictatorship to be found anywhere.

I never would have expected that within six months Norton would end up in the Smith/Cockburn/Fisk camp writing articles reinforcing the dominant narrative on the left that the USA was bent on “regime change” and that the Syrian rebels were reactionary jihadists engaged in a proxy war launched by the West against its perceived enemies in the region.

I want to review his journalism since early 2016 as a way of showing how taking the wrong position on Syria inevitably leads to bending the truth, which for a serious-minded journalist is a cardinal sin. Writing for Salon, at least until it remains in business, might pay the rent but what good is that if you lose your soul in the process?





  1. About to start a maintenance to replace the ROM battery on an HP server and very glad I have an employer that could care less what my position on Syria is.

    Comment by Clay Claiborne — July 15, 2017 @ 11:54 pm

  2. What little remains of the Left is just as corrupt as the capitalist parties. That’s a big reason why the masses don’t trust the Left to lead, even after 2008.

    Comment by Bill — July 17, 2017 @ 11:23 am

  3. The left corrupt? There’s certainly some sort of money in fake anti-imperialism, though one suspects not very much, for the Sputnik News contingent, specifically the incomparable J. Wight and that spineless Putinolator M. Whitney. And of course Blumenthal and Norton are, God help us, “professionals.”

    Maybe it’s true that you can’t make a living as a “left” journo unless you toe the conspiracist line or take money from R.T. and Sputnik.

    But what makes the American left so fatally susceptible to this may well go deeper, finding its roots in the U.S. worship of “truths self-evident” to the untutored intuition of the sacred individual.

    This finds expression not only in self-proclaimed “left” fakers like Norton, but also in (e.g.) the writings of the Ron Paul-infected Glenn Greenwald, one of the most useful “left” journos, who in fact isn’t really “left” at all but firmly a part of the American right. The more this country passes its neoliberal zenith, the more deeply embedded this nonsense seems to be, especially when all these people aspire to be seen as superstars in some firmament of affluent hipness.

    Is this so surprising in a movement that still venerates a money-grubbing reactionary male chauvinist like Bob Dylan?

    If money and stardom are the lures and transcendentalist individualism and libertarianism are the intellectual background, how could it be otherwise?

    I think this disease goes back decades, at least as far as the unstable synthesis behind the Vietnam antiwar movement. The left made a deal with the devil then, and we are paying the price for that now.

    Easy to say. But what then? Ah, there’s the rub–at least for an old man out of time, money, and ideas.

    Comment by Farans Kalosar — July 17, 2017 @ 12:36 pm

  4. Louis,
    Despite your intelligence, skilled polemics, and an amazing material output, you really don’t offer anything other than anti-Assad diatribes, theater criticism, and political endorsements of Green Party candidates who never mention capitalism.
    You refer to yourself as a Marxist. Therefore I challenge you to come into compliance with Engels’s declaration at Marx’s graveside that “Marx was, before all else, a revolutionist.” I challenge you to bring some truly radical, revolutionary, organizational content into your commentaries.
    Without such content, you are only the “Unrepentant Ex-Trotskyist,” and you can do better than that–much better if you put your mind to it.
    I was “disappeared” from your blog some time ago for such comments. Now let’s see if I’ve been resurrected.

    Comment by Joe Barnwell — July 17, 2017 @ 5:44 pm

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