What happens when there is a disagreement of opinion between the most important intellectual alive and the most dangerous philosopher of the West? A treat for those who seek intellectual entertainment, of course. But at the same time, it reignites the issue of the Khmer Rouge and the Cambodian atrocities. Let us begin with what Zizek had to say about Chomsky, “I don’t think I know a guy who has so often been empirically wrong.” This was said by Zizek at a talk he gave in London at Birkbeck College. As Chomsky once said to those who opposed his point of view on the Cambodian atrocities, “It takes a phrase to produce a lie and ten minutes to decode it.” With that in mind, let us try and decode Zizek’s claims. If I were to attempt to sum up what Zizek believes about Chomsky in a fashion that is simple to understand, I would proceed by firstly pointing out that Chomsky was wrong about Khmer Rouge. Let us decode number 3 first of all. Chomsky never denied that Khmer Rouge had not carried out any mass atrocities against the people. In fact, he simply said this about the issue, “We do not pretend to know where the truth lies amidst these sharply conflicting assessments; rather, we again want to emphasize some crucial points. What filters through to the American public is a seriously distorted version of the evidence available, emphasizing alleged Khmer Rouge atrocities and downplaying or ignoring the crucial U.S. role, direct and indirect, in the torment that Cambodia has suffered.” So, it can be reasonably said, that Chomsky was not in support of the Khmer Rouge. According to Ponchaud, 800,000 Cambodians had been killed in American bombings. Chomsky, to this day, believes that there were atrocities carried out by the Khmer Rouge, and he believed it at that moment too. He only said that the number isn’t as high as it is widely believed by the general populace. Apparently, the public discourse about the Khmer Rouge at the time from ’75 to ’77 was enough for everyone to determine that the Khmer Rouge was a violent organization. How does Zizek know this? Well, as he said in the talk at Birkbeck College, Khmer Rouge “treated itself as illegal.” He also says “leaders were nameless” and if one would ask who is their leader their head would be chopped off. Over here, I have many questions to ask. The first question would be that how reliable is the information presented to us by Zizek, when we have nothing to go on but his word? My second question would be that it is possible that an organization can deliberately treat itself as illegal and be opposed to the government and still be a cause for good. This ‘organization’ would want to be illegal so as to show its dissociation with the government which in their eyes is, and may in itself be, a government that is corrupt and harmful to the people it is supposed to serve. So I find this point of Zizek where he says that the nature of any organization can be known via public discourse to be a terribly weak point. Since public discourse has and often will interpret that which may be good to be bad, and that which may be bad to be good. This is because public discourse relies on people and their interpretations, and put simply, interpretations by people can be both disastrous and beneficial, and hence, they cannot be relied on for any major conclusion. Chomsky realized this and searched for facts and figures. I shall now return to Chomsky and what he had to say about the Khmer Rouge which makes Zizek think he was “empirically wrong.” The number of people killed by the Khmer Rouge which was being quoted literally everywhere was exactly 2 million. Chomsky asked the question of where the 2 million figure came from. The 2 million figure originated from the review of a book called ‘Year Zero’ written by a French priest called Ponchaud who had lived in Cambodia for ten years and left when the Khmer Rouge came into power. The book was in French and not widely available, so the media picked up the source for material on the Cambodian atrocities from the second best thing, which happened to be a review of the book ‘Year Zero’ and the review was written by Lacouture. Now, Lacouture wrote in his review that the Khmer Rouge ‘boasted’ of killing 2 million people. This is the exact quote, “What Oriental despots or medieval inquisitors ever boasted of having eliminated, in a single year, one quarter of their own population?” Chomsky was the one who discovered that literally every single reference made by Lacouture to Ponchaud’s book was false. How did he discover this? He simply got a copy of the book from a friend in France and compared it with Lacouture’s review of the book. When Chomsky did this, he contacted Lacouture and Lacouture himself admitted that he had been wrong. So, Chomsky went on to uncover the greatest lie being told at that time, which was that the Khmer Rouge had killed 2 million people. But what was the truth? Chomsky tried to uncover that also. According to Ponchaud, 800,000 Cambodians had been killed in american bombings. Then, he goes on to say that the Khmer Rouge was responsible for 1.2 million deaths (and this figure Ponchaud got from the American Embassy) from all causes which includes starvation, overworking and killings/murders etc. What Lacouture did was that he added up the figures by Ponchaud and by the American Embassy, and attributed the resulting 2 million people killed to the Khmer Rouge. And even after Lacouture admitted he was wrong, the number was quoted as widely as before. Moreover, according to the American Intelligence, the people who were killed were maybe in the “tens or hundreds of thousands” and that too only due to overwork or harsh conditions. Finally, Chomsky discusses that after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, more data and evidence was available. And what was this data? He uses Michael Vickery and his book “Cambodia” which gives a detailed demographic study on Cambodia. Vickery concluded that the total number of people who died is 700,000. Throughout all of this information that I have just presented, which I have supported with citations, it cannot be concluded in any way that Chomsky was wrong about the Cambodian issue. And let’s just say that he was. Finally, I would like to say that Zizek was unjust in attacking Chomsky. The author is a freelance writer Published in Daily Times, October 20th 2018.