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Edemariam writes: "Noam Chomsky is one of the world's most controversial thinkers. Now 84, he reflects on his life's work, on current events in Syria and Israel, and on the love of his life - his wife."

Noam Chomsky: 'I grew up during the Depression. People would come to the door trying to sell rags - that was when I was four' (photo: Graeme Robertson/Guardian UK)
Noam Chomsky: 'I grew up during the Depression. People would come to the door trying to sell rags - that was when I was four' (photo: Graeme Robertson/Guardian UK)


Noam Chomsky: 'No Individual Changes Anything Alone'

By Aida Edemariam, Guardian UK

23 March 13

 

Noam Chomsky is one of the world's most controversial thinkers. Now 84, he reflects on his life's work, on current events in Syria and Israel, and on the love of his life – his wife.

t may have been pouring with rain, water overrunning the gutters and spreading fast and deep across London's Euston Road, but this did not stop a queue forming, and growing until it snaked almost all the way back to Euston station. Inside Friends House, a Quaker-run meeting hall, the excitement was palpable. People searched for friends and seats with thinly disguised anxiety; all watched the stage until, about 15 minutes late, a short, slightly top-heavy old man climbed carefully on to the stage and sat down. The hall filled with cheers and clapping, with whoops and with whistles.

Noam Chomsky, said two speakers (one of them Mariam Said, whose late husband, Edward, this lecture honours) "needs no introduction". A tired turn of phrase, but they had a point: in a bookshop down the road the politics section is divided into biography, reference, the Clintons, Obama, Thatcher, Marx, and Noam Chomsky. He topped the first Foreign Policy/Prospect Magazine list of global thinkers in 2005 (the most recent, however, perhaps reflecting a new editorship and a new rubric, lists him not at all). One study of the most frequently cited academic sources of all time found that he ranked eighth, just below Plato and Freud. The list included the Bible.

When he starts speaking, it is in a monotone that makes no particular rhetorical claim on the audience's attention; in fact, it's almost soporific. Last October, he tells his audience, he visited Gaza for the first time. Within five minutes many of the hallmarks of Chomsky's political writing, and speaking, are displayed: his anger, his extraordinary range of reference and experience - journalism from inside Gaza, personal testimony, detailed knowledge of the old Egyptian government, its secret service, the new Egyptian government, the historical context of the Israeli occupation, recent news reports (of sewage used by the Egyptians to flood tunnels out of Gaza, and by Israelis to spray non-violent protesters). Fact upon fact upon fact, but also a withering, sweeping sarcasm - the atrocities are "tolerated politely by Europe as usual". Harsh, vivid phrases - the "hideously charred corpses of murdered infants"; bodies "writhing in agony" - unspool until they become almost a form of punctuation.

You could argue that the latter is necessary, simply a description of atrocities that must be reported, but it is also a method that has diminishing returns. The facts speak for themselves; the adjectives and the sarcasm have the counterintuitive effect of cheapening them, of imposing on the world a disappointingly crude and simplistic argument. "The sentences," wrote Larissa MacFarquhar in a brilliant New Yorker profile of Chomsky 10 years ago, "are accusations of guilt, but not from a position of innocence or hope for something better: Chomsky's sarcasm is the scowl of a fallen world, the sneer of hell's veteran to its appalled naifs" - and thus, in an odd way, static and ungenerative.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4BpBjnqGT8

To be fair, he has - as he points out the next day, sitting under the gorgeous, vaulting ceilings of the VIP section of the St Pancras Renaissance hotel - not always been preaching to the converted, or even to the sceptically open-minded. "This [rapturous reception] is radically different from what it was like even five years ago, when in fact [at talks about Israel-Palestine] I had to have police protection because the audience was so hostile." His voice is vanishingly quiet as well as monotonal, and he is slightly deaf, which makes conversation something of a challenge. But he answers questions warmly, and seriously, if not always directly - a surprise, in a way, from someone who has earned a reputation for brutality of argument, and a need to win at all costs. "There really is an alpha-male dominance psychology at work there," a colleague once said of him. "He has some of the primate dominance moves. The staring down. The withering tone of voice." Students have been known to visit him in pairs, so that one can defend the other. But it is perhaps less surprising when you discover that he can spend up to seven hours a day answering emails from fans and the questing public. And in the vast hotel lobby he cuts a slightly fragile figure.

Chomsky, the son of Hebrew teachers who emigrated from Ukraine and Russia at the turn of the last century, began as a Zionist - but the sort of Zionist who wanted a socialist state in which Jews and Arabs worked together as equals. Since then he has been accused of antisemitism (due to defending some 35 years ago the right to free speech of a French professor who was later convicted of Holocaust denial), and been called, by the Nation, "America's most prominent self-hating Jew". These days he argues tirelessly for the rights of Palestinians. In this week's lecture he quoted various reactions to the Oslo accords, which turn 20 in September, including a description of them as "an infernal trap". He replied to a question about whether Israel would still exist in 50 years' time by saying, among other things, that "Israel is following policies which maximise its security threats ... policies which choose expansion over security ... policies which lead to their moral degradation, their isolation, their deligitimation, as they call it now, and very likely ultimate destruction. That's not impossible." Obama arrived in Israel this week accompanied by some of the lowest expectations ever ascribed to a US president visiting the country. There was so much more hope, I suggest to Chomsky, when Obama was first elected, and he spoke about the Middle East. "There were illusions. He came into office with dramatic rhetoric about hope and change, but there was never any substance behind them," he responds.

He seems cautiously optimistic about the Arab spring, which he sees as a "classic example ... [of] powerful grassroots movements, primarily in Tunisia and Egypt" - but is dryly ironic about the west's relationship with what is happening on the ground. "In Egypt, on the eve of Tahrir Square, there was a major poll which found that overwhelmingly - 80-90%, numbers like that - Egyptians regarded the main threats they face as the US and Israel. They don't like Iran - Arabs generally don't like Iran - but they didn't consider it a threat. In fact, back then a considerable number of Egyptians thought the region might be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons. Not because they wanted Iran to have nuclear weapons, but to offset the real threats they faced. So that's obviously not the kind of policy that the west wants to listen to. Other polls are somewhat different, but the basic story is about the same - what Egyptians want is not what the west would like to see. So therefore they are opposed to democracy."

What does Chomsky, who has infuriated some with his dismissal of the "new military humanism", think should be done in Syria, if anything? Should the west arm the opposition? Should it intervene? "I tend to think that providing arms is going to escalate the conflict. I think there has to be some kind of negotiated settlement. The question is which kind. But it's going to have to be primarily among Syrians. Outsiders can try to help set up the conditions, and there's no doubt that the government is carrying out plenty of atrocities, and the opposition some, but not as many. There's a threat that the country is on a suicidal course. Nobody wants that."

Chomsky first came to prominence in 1959, with the argument, detailed in a book review (but already present in his first book, published two years earlier), that contrary to the prevailing idea that children learned language by copying and by reinforcement (ie behaviourism), basic grammatical arrangements were already present at birth. The argument revolutionised the study of linguistics; it had fundamental ramifications for anyone studying the mind. It also has interesting, even troubling ramifications for his politics. If we are born with innate structures of linguistic and by extension moral thought, isn't this a kind of determinism that denies political agency? What is the point of arguing for any change at all?

"The most libertarian positions accept the same view," he answers. "That there are instincts, basic conditions of human nature that lead to a preferred social order. In fact, if you're in favour of any policy - reform, revolution, stability, regression, whatever - if you're at least minimally moral, it's because you think it's somehow good for people. And good for people means conforming to their fundamental nature. So whoever you are, whatever your position is, you're making some tacit assumptions about fundamental human nature ... The question is: what do we strive for in developing a social order that is conducive to fundamental human needs? Are human beings born to be servants to masters, or are they born to be free, creative individuals who work with others to inquire, create, develop their own lives? I mean, if humans were totally unstructured creatures, they would be ... a tool which can properly be shaped by outside forces. That's why if you look at the history of what's called radical behaviourism, [where] you can be completely shaped by outside forces - when [the advocates of this] spell out what they think society ought to be, it's totalitarian."

Chomsky, now 84, has been politically engaged all his life; his first published article, in fact, was against fascism, and written when he was 10. Where does the anger come from? "I grew up in the Depression. My parents had jobs, but a lot of the family were unemployed working class, so they had no jobs at all. So I saw poverty and repression right away. People would come to the door trying to sell rags - that was when I was four years old. I remember riding with my mother in a trolley car and passing a textile worker's strike where the women were striking outside and the police were beating them bloody."

He met Carol, who would become his wife, at about the same time, when he was five years old. They married when she was 19 and he 21, and were together until she died nearly 60 years later, in 2008. He talks about her constantly, given the chance: how she was so strict about his schedule when they travelled (she often accompanied him on lecture tours) that in Latin America they called her El Comandante; the various bureaucratic scrapes they got into, all over the world. By all accounts, she also enforced balance in his life: made sure he watched an hour of TV a night, went to movies and concerts, encouraged his love of sailing (at one point, he owned a small fleet of sailboats, plus a motorboat); she water-skied until she was 75.

But she was also politically involved: she took her daughters (they had three children: two girls and a boy) to demonstrations; he tells me a story about how, when they were protesting against the Vietnam war, they were once both arrested on the same day. "And you get one phone call. So my wife called our older daughter, who was at that time 12, I guess, and told her, 'We're not going to come home tonight, can you take care of the two kids?' That's life." At another point, when it looked like he would be jailed for a long time, she went back to school to study for a PhD, so that she could support the children alone. It makes no sense, he told an interviewer a couple of years ago, for a woman to die before her husband, "because women manage so much better, they talk and support each other. My oldest and closest friend is in the office next door to me; we haven't once talked about Carol." His eldest daughter often helps him now. "There's a transition point, in some way."

Does he think that in all these years of talking and arguing and writing, he has ever changed one specific thing? "I don't think any individual changes anything alone. Martin Luther King was an important figure but he couldn't have said: 'This is what I changed.' He came to prominence on a groundswell that was created by mostly young people acting on the ground. In the early years of the antiwar movement we were all doing organising and writing and speaking and gradually certain people could do certain things more easily and effectively, so I pretty much dropped out of organising - I thought the teaching and writing was more effective. Others, friends of mine, did the opposite. But they're not less influential. Just not known."

In the cavernous Friends' House, the last words of his speech are: "Unless the powerful are capable of learning to respect the dignity of their victims ... impassable barriers will remain, and the world will be doomed to violence, cruelty and bitter suffering." It's a gloomy coda, but he leaves to a standing ovation.


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Comments   

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It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

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It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

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Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+14 # nice2blucky 2013-03-23 10:50
Glenn Greenwald comments on this article and his broader perspective on methods "applied with particular aggression to those who engage in any meaningful dissent against the society's most powerful factions and their institutions" and by "attack[ing] the so-called "style" of the critic as a means of impugning, really avoiding, the substance of the critique.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/23/noam-chomsky-guardian-personality
 
 
+18 # BobbyLip 2013-03-23 13:13
Greenwald nails it, as usual. I note this as one "self-hating Jew" to another. If I love my people (whatever that means), do I have to hate others, the Palestinians or the Germans or any other Goyim? Do I have to collude in Israel's policies that are ultimately self-destructiv e? How sad, what is apparently required of us if we would keep the good opinion of the ostensibly liberal establishment. How sad that we must be so dishonest. How sad that Chomsky is so dishonored.
 
 
0 # Valleyboy 2013-03-25 03:31
Thanx for that link, Glenn of course said it better than I could. From the very first sentence "Noam Chomsky is one of the world's most controversial thinkers." I could see this was gonna be a hollow hit-piece.
 
 
+29 # Henry Braun 2013-03-23 11:30
We are given weight
separate from the earth
as the first miracle,
a certain leave
to rise like the stones
in a thawing road.
There are directions
pointed to by growing
in the flowering branch
and the equal root for those
who have tried and tired,
who disbelieve the sunlight.
Because it is lonely,
teachers like Noam Chomsky
wait at the mouths of caves
for our coming home.
 
 
+11 # MidwestDick 2013-03-23 14:03
Downright uplifting!
 
 
+7 # goingeast2 2013-03-23 15:40
Quoting Henry Braun:
We are given weight
separate from the earth
as the first miracle,
a certain leave
to rise like the stones
in a thawing road.
There are directions
pointed to by growing
in the flowering branch
and the equal root for those
who have tried and tired,
who disbelieve the sunlight.
Because it is lonely,
teachers like Noam Chomsky
wait at the mouths of caves
for our coming home.



That is beautiful.
 
 
0 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-23 17:49
Are you the poem's creator?
 
 
-1 # Henry Braun 2013-03-26 08:42
yes
 
 
-32 # brux 2013-03-23 12:35
>> "This [rapturous reception] is radically different from what it was like even five years ago, when in fact [at talks about Israel-Palestin e] I had to have police protection because the audience was so hostile."

Because most people realize he is just a voice talking nonsense on this subject ... except for his very impressive encyclopedic knowledge of history ... he is not going to change the direction of history, either way. Either the West will win out over what amounts of totalitarian religiosity or it won't, but Chomsky is not going to change any minds.

I wonder how a man so brilliant in his talents, his logic can be such a tool on the subject of the Middle East - so wrong, when he is so knowledgeable on that subject and others.

I admire and respect the man, except when he talk propagandizes for Islam, and in fact what I believe is that he functions as a kind of grounding rod for the nuts on this subject and a way for the "corporatocracy " to track people and their interests way before they even know what their interests are in this day and age of the Internet and everything electronic.

Think about it, there are tools out there millions of times stronger and faster than anything tyranny has had before that can know who you are based on your lifetime's electronic trail, better, at least statistically, than you can even know yourself.

It's all about whose hands you want those tools to be in?
 
 
+20 # MidwestDick 2013-03-23 14:08
"Because most people realize he is just a voice talking nonsense on this subject"
This criticism is identical to that which he received in the VietNam period. It is not unlike what we heard about him in the run-up to the war in Iraq.
In this period, when the rush to war is with the Islamic world and his voice rises against it, we expect to hear the same.
Experience instructs me to discount it.
 
 
-11 # brux 2013-03-24 00:11
I was 100% with Chomsky at the time in the Viet Nam era. Just because he was right about Viet Nam does not make him omniscient!

I agree that the war was rushed, and I never agreed with the way it was prosecuted, particularly the bombing of Bagdhads's residential neighborhoods ... for no bloody reason, but the pushing back of Islamic totalitarianism is critical in my opinion, we just had bad leadership.
 
 
+18 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-23 17:45
To Brux (2013-03-23 10:35)

You cannot provide a single Chomsky quote that might even merely IMPLY that Chomsky "propagandizes for Islam."

Chomsky decries — with facts & truth-premised logic — Israeli & U.S. & European oppression & state terrorism wrought against ordinary folk who happen to be Muslim.

Chomsky's complaints address the oppression, state terrorism, and arrogance of the aggressor states. They do NOT embrace or "propagandize for" Islam or any religion or religious philosophy or sectarian political position.

You sneered that Chomsky "functions as a kind of grounding rod for the nuts...." Eeven if just subliminally, you imply that if one agrees with Chomsky, one is a "nut." The ultimate implication is that CHOMSKY is a nut.

Your criticism reduces to barely veiled character-assas sination — a faux-polite ad hominem attack, rather like the feigned-respect ful personal assaults Aida Edemariam (the main article writer) peppered into her essay. See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/23/noam-chomsky-guardian-personality
 
 
-10 # brux 2013-03-24 00:15
I think to do treat both sides as equal in this discussion, as imperfect as the US is, to equate it with Iran or Iraq is what Chomsky does, and I really dislike it, and I really wonder why all the people who like Chomsky are so non-critical of him over this.

We have never had a President that I know of that let his sons drive around with the military, pick up, rape and kill women, and more of less, as Chomsky even says repeatedly, things are getting better and less violent.

I am not assassinating anyone's character, I am pointing things out and asking questions that many here have no answer to and cannot even conceive up ... so they just minus my comments. I couldn't care less.
 
 
+6 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-24 17:10
PART 1 OF 6

Chomsky calls the US is a terrorist state. He is right.

Obama & GW Bush & Clinton & GHW Bush & Reagan & Nixon & Johnson committed — & Obama continues committing — mass murder & mass criminal mayhem, and other mass crimes.

The Iraq & Afghan wars & Pakistan drone-attacks & Clinton's Balkan invasion & GHW Bush's Panama invasion & Reagan's Granada invasion & the Vietnam war — ALL are or were ILLEGAL. Also ILLEGAL was the US part of the Libya invasion; US actions strayed far beyond the objects the UN authorized.

The crimes are clear & indefensible. The acts are not just international law crimes, but also US felonies: US law adopts the pertinent international laws — UN Charter, UN Resolutions, Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal...... US laws make many such acts crimes despite they manifest abroad.

The UN Charter says all member nations must settle disputes peacefully. No nation may use force except in "self-defense" or if authorized by the Security Council.

Security Council Resolutions 1368 & 1373 condemned 9/11. But neither authorized invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, or Pakistan.

Our Afghan invasion was not “self-defense.”

CONTINUED WITH PART 2
 
 
-6 # brux 2013-03-24 22:37
Almost every country on Earth is a terrorist country, it starts with their own people. It's not that I disagree with Chomsky on America being the world biggest terrorist nation ... if he wants to frame it like that ... it's that there always will be a world's biggest terrorist nation whether its the US or not.

The UN is biased against Israel, and not only that but has a long history of being biased against Jews ... like our own legal system is biased against blacks or the poor, yet you think appealing to it is the legal everything ... BS!

That is at least as compelling a reason in support of Israel as the hoaky nonsense resolutions pushed through by the intolerent Islamic states. Who do you think you are fooling ... and you can forget me at least reading part 2.
 
 
+3 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-25 13:32
Israel is the second worst terrorist state (the US being far the worst).

The UN is biased in favor of Israel, because the US & certain EU nations sit permanently on the Security Council.

Anti-Zionists are not anti-Semites; they oppose Zionist Israel's horrendous, long-lived terrorism.

Zionist Israel was born from terrorism. It lives through terrorism. It deserves contempt.
 
 
+2 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-25 02:29
Correction of an error of the first line of PART 1 of my 6-Part post:

"Chomsky calls the US a terrorist state. He is right."

The term "is" was an error.

Sorry.

Thanks for your indulgence.
 
 
+7 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-24 17:10
PART 2

Afghanistan did not attack, conspire to attack, or threaten the US — ever.

The 9/11 Commission found that of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists, 15 were Saudis, 1 Egyptian, 1 Lebanese, and 2 citizens of the UAE. None Afghan. The attacks did not originate in Afghanistan or its airspace. The Commission did not find the Afghan government had any connection with 9/11.

CIA counter-terrori sm chief Paul Pillar wrote [Washington Post (9/16/09)]: "The preparations most important to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks took place not in training camps in Afghanistan but...in apartments in Germany, hotel rooms in Spain and flight schools in the United States."

Perhaps bin Laden conceived 9/11 while in Afghanistan (though we have no hard evidence of his involvement & some evidence exonerated him). But bin Laden’s thoughts or words, even his deeds, did not equal action or conspiracy of the Afghan government.

The 9/11 attacks were criminal acts — not "armed attacks" committed by another nation, national government, or national military. The Montreal Protocol & other UN provisions hold that terrorist assaults are crimes to be treated by domestic law-enforcement , not by military action.

CONTINUED WITH PART 3
 
 
+4 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-24 17:11
PART 3

The UN-Charter-requ ired self-defense necessity must arise from “armed attack” of another NATION & must be "instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation."

Bush invaded (ostensibly) because Afghanistan’s government would not render bin Laden — not because it had wrought or threatened armed attack against the US. Bush did not invade Afghanistan till 7 October 2001, 4 weeks after 9/11.

Al Qaeda may be a terrorist league guilty of crimes triable by US courts. Its leaders may have been present in Afghanistan when 9/11 occurred. But the Afghan government did not threaten the US or violate international law by refusing to render bin Laden.

[The Afghan government offered to render bin Laden to a court of a neutral nation or the ICC. That offer did not satisfy Bush's war-lust.]

The Afghan Taliban constituted the legitimate government of a sovereign nation. Many nations refuse to yield residents or sojourners to the US.

CONTINUED WITH PART 4
 
 
+4 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-24 17:11
PART 4

Had the US invaded Switzerland to get Roman Polanski it would have violated international law. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Polanski_will_not_be_extradited_to_the_US.html?cid=15389712 Just so, it violated international law by invading Afghanistan to get bin Laden — & by invading Panama to get Noriega & by killing bin Laden in Pakistan.

Suppose the Taliban had asserted that a terrorist organization had headquartered in Washington DC & planned, there, an aircraft assault executed against Kabul. The Taliban demanded the US render the organization's leader. The US refused, asserting sovereignty. The Taliban invaded Washington to apprehend the organization's leader — & toppled our government.

The US does not have a defense in the Karzai government’s “permitting” US presence. That government is a US installation achieved by the US’s illegal invasion & illegal ouster of Afghanistan’s legitimate government. The US stays because it wants, not by permission.

CONTINUED WITH PART 5
 
 
+5 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-24 17:12
PART 5

Our Iraq invasion was (& is) ILLEGAL.

No UN resolution authorized it. It was not “self-defense.” Bush did not invade until 6 months after 9/11. The Bush administration knew that the 9/11 attacks bore no Iraq-connection & that Iraq had no WMD. HAD Iraq WMD, its merely possessing them could not make our invasion "self defense." Iraq did not threaten to use ANY weapons against the US since the first Iraq war (over 10 years earlier).

The US cannot defend the invasion on the premise of the Iraq government’s “permitting” US presence. The reasons are the same as in the Afghan case.

Saddam Hussein & the Taliban may have treated their people monstrously. But international law prohibits one nation’s invading another to cure the latter’s political ills.

Our Afghan & Iraq invasions cannot attain legality from asserted need of our remaining until violence & chaos quell & Iraq & Afghanistan build good civil societies. Our invasions created the chaos, generated the violence. International law prohibits continuing an illegal invasion to undo its nation-destroyi ng/society-dera nging effects or because such effects might worsen if the invader leaves. The UN must arrange cure.

CONTINUED WITH PART 6
 
 
+5 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-24 17:13
PART 6

Our Pakistan drone-invasions are tangents of our illegal Afghan invasion & not invited by Pakistan. Pakistan has not attacked or threatened us. So our Pakistan invasions are ILLEGAL. They may seek to protect our Afghan invasion. But, being ILLEGAL, our Afghan invasion cannot be an object of “self-defense.”

The US government expects us to believe its actions are lawful because conducted by US-insignia-bea ring war-machines & uniformed military acting per Executive orders & financed by Congress. Uniforms & insignias cannot legalize illegal actions. And US drone attacks are wrought not by US military, but plain-clothed CIA employees. [Oh, & the bin Laden killing was just plain, blatant MURDER accomplished by blatantly ILLEGAL invasion.]

Our illegal military invasions & illegal drone-attacks constitute TERRORISM.

END
 
 
-4 # brux 2013-03-24 11:50
I don't think if people agree with Chomsky they are nuts, but I think is that people use the things Chomsky says which are very intelligent, but very specific to push past to points that he does not talk about. Chomsky provokes a lot of thought, but with certain people that thought is just blind obedience, they do not consider what he says critically they just blindly accept it.
 
 
+5 # Billsy 2013-03-24 12:02
"just a voice talking nonsense"? Really? If you can't more respectfully disagree with the man then how can you possibly expect his readership to have any respect for your thoughts? Until your post, the vibe on this article and its comments was positive and constructive. I disagree with your charge that Chomsky propagandizes for Islam. He's non-ecumenical in that regard.
 
 
-3 # brux 2013-03-24 22:40
> Billsy misquoted me from above thus:
> "just a voice talking nonsense"? Really?

Hey Billsy ... if you cannot faithfully transcribe a little quote like that from just a few posts above I don't give much respect to your intellectual prowess on anything.

I said:

>> just a voice talking nonsense on this subject
 
 
+35 # fredboy 2013-03-23 12:37
Noam Chomsky is one of those rare thinkers who grabs life precisely, clearly, and honestly and holds it up for all the world to see. Thanks to him for always sharing wisdom based in goodness.
 
 
+1 # flippancy 2013-03-24 16:07
Quoting fredboy:
Noam Chomsky is one of those rare thinkers who grabs life precisely, clearly, and honestly and holds it up for all the world to see. Thanks to him for always sharing wisdom based in goodness.


The problem is that his writing can be hard to wade through and some, like brux are incapable of understanding, seemingly. If not, his (her) ideology overcomes the brain.
 
 
-1 # brux 2013-03-24 22:43
I seen Chomsky in documentaries for over 30 years, read his books, seen his interviews, I know that most of his talks are just clones of ones he has given forever, so I know his point of view. I don't disrespect the man, but he is wrong and incoherent when it come to realistically parsing the Arab-Israeli situation.

I bet I know much more about Chomsky and his writing than you ever could hope you ... that is why I know enough to be critical of him instead of a hero-worshippin g fop.
 
 
+30 # Vern Radul 2013-03-23 12:47
"Unless the powerful are capable of learning to respect the dignity of their victims ... impassable barriers will remain, and the world will be doomed to violence, cruelty and bitter suffering."?

They are not. Throughout history they have not been interested in allowing themselves to.

To do so would mean people who want it all and believe they deserve to have it all putting restrictions on themselves. The "dignity of others" is not something they respect. They are not interested in limiting their own self-interest.

Morality is something the powerful push as a means of convincing most to limit themselves, to deter what they view as competition.

Morality is not something the powerful live by.
 
 
+13 # tonenotvolume 2013-03-23 13:45
Perhaps one of the saddest comments I've ever read on RSN because it's so true.
 
 
+7 # afinerway 2013-03-23 19:00
psychopaths are in control....they don't experience empathy
 
 
+4 # Depressionborn 2013-03-24 11:22
RE: # Antemedius 2013-03-23 10:47
"Unless the powerful are capable of learning to respect the dignity of their victims...

What gives the powerful a right to hurt others? Is it simply power? How can it be? No one has the right to impose on another's life or property according to the Bill of Rights? It makes no sense.
 
 
+2 # Vern Radul 2013-03-24 20:58
Nothing gives them the right.

They do it because they can. They get away with it because no one stops them.

..........
There are 310 million Americans who, so far, are acting like they are outnumbered by a few thousand wall streeters, media moguls, insurance company and weapons manufacturer execs and other assorted 'plutocrats', 100 senators, 435 congresspeople, and maybe a couple of hundred in the US Administration.

So far.

[snip]

Humankind is being systematically killed off by the capitalist class, via their poisoning of the air, water and food chain, as well as their heedless imposition of catastrophic climate change. Jensen poses the very reasonable question: are we willing to retaliate violently to save our own lives and those of our children and grandchildren?

http://antemedius.com/content/dont-look-out-window
 
 
-38 # tahoevalleylines 2013-03-23 13:00
Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall see God. Noam Chomsky...

The butterfly effect: How much more blessed would the world have been in our time had Noam not rejected Jesus Christ?

Another way: Romans 1:v20,21 & 22
 
 
+29 # Vern Radul 2013-03-23 13:30
"blessed": synonym for "murdered". All too often.

How much more peaceful would the world have been in our time had the christers not rejected thinking and reason?
 
 
+8 # Glen 2013-03-23 15:48
Wow. That's a huge, judgmental statement, tahoe. You are determining the fate of the world, relative to blessedness based on Noam Chomsky? U.S. presidents and their cohorts have nothing to do with it? How about other presidents and dictators. Did Noam Chomsky have anything to do with Hitler, for instance? Better take a step back from this and re-evaluate.
 
 
+4 # flippancy 2013-03-24 16:09
Hitler was quite religious.

How much better would the world would have been from the beginning if religion was never conceived of?
 
 
+9 # reiverpacific 2013-03-23 18:40
Quoting tahoevalleylines:
Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall see God. Noam Chomsky...

The butterfly effect: How much more blessed would the world have been in our time had Noam not rejected Jesus Christ?

How many devoutly "Christian" thugs, armies, missionaries and priests have sown mayhem in J.C.'s or their "God's" name -Dimwits Bush springs readily to mind, "God's" president and the worst in US history -and that's just the teeny-weeny tip of the earth-and-its-p eople-raping iceberg, like the filthy fruits of most major religions?
Nah, they've all had their time, screwed it up and are ready for the shit-can of history.
Been to the creationist museum in Kentucky yet? You'd love it!
 
 
-1 # barbaratodish 2013-03-23 13:56
Yes, unless the powerful are willing to FACE thier compassion fatigue, etc., (whatever you want to call the NUMBNESS that the powerful have for the vulnerable, those in poverty, etc.) there will be, as Chomsky says:"...(I)mpa ssable barriers will remain and the world will be doomed to violence, cruelty and bitter suffering."
Interesting that Chomsky says that"{People are}n less influential. Just not known." Perhaps the people who are MOST "not known" are the poorest, the MOST vulnerable of all, and perhaps it is they, the most vulnerable that influence SUBLIMINALLY and perhaps it is the POWER of their very VULNERABILITY that makes the APPARENTLY powerful, really defensive, emotionally, etc., and so the APPARENTLY powerful have ego and drama and relativity (and thus FEAR AND TREMBLING jn the Kierkegaardian existential sense)because the APPARENTLY powerful have EXCHANGED their HUMAN NATURE of limitlessness and ABSOLUTE love for self and other for their CONSTRUCTED SOCIAL IDENTITIES! If only the APPARENTLY powerful could INTERNALIZE that "Each of us is better than the worst thing we have ever done", then maybe we ALL couls have the authentic life, love and humor that emerges from what Slavoj Zizek calls "the perspective of eternity."
 
 
+8 # da gaf 2013-03-23 16:20
all religions need to disappear then we have a chance to save this green planet--worship ing this world and all living being.. not some mythical GOD that no-one has ever known or seen....all so-called religions are incapable of loving all of mankind..they each one think that only their truth is right their people are blessed..all others are the enemies.. hence wars happen..many innocent people and children are murdered in the name of GOD...HOW LONG WILL THIS INSANITY CONTINUE?..as long as this imagination of a GOD EXISTING..SO WILL THE STARTING AND ENGAGEMENT OF UGLY WARS CONTINUE!
 
 
-1 # Depressionborn 2013-03-24 09:16
dagaf asked "HOW LONG WILL THIS INSANITY CONTINUE?"

Until the end, Mr dagaf, until the end. Then you might get your choice of where to be.
 
 
+9 # reiverpacific 2013-03-23 18:33
Regretfully, all the accolades in the list given above notwithstanding , in his own country Chomsky appears to be almost unheard of.
When did you last see him on any of the owner-media monopolist stations including "Liberal" MSNBC, or see him in print on any but the 'alternative' underground papers and on line press? Ask any of your neighbors at random if you don't believe me.
If he were as well known as the likes of "Pish" Limpballs, "Pill" O'Wiley and "Shame" Hamfisty, the country might be in better shape already.
He is something of a ponderous speaker -if it's bright and perky brevity you are looking for forget it. His talks are deep and wide in content and context with an occasional hint of dry humor but he sugar-coats nothing and welcomes enquiry at question time.
David Barsamean's "Alternative Radio" out of Boulder Col', has a great library of his recorded talks in various places around the country -mostly in more progressive cities- and and interviews on many subjects and has co-authored a couple of his books.
But again and so sadly, note the word "Alternative". He joins a long list of unheralded speakers/"think ers"/activists such as Michael Parenti, Arudhati Roy, Dr. Helen Caldicott, the late Howard Zinn and many others.
He was recently denied entry to LIKUD's Israel where he was to have given a talk at Tel-Aviv university, such is his impact elsewhere in better-educated and worldly aware nations bolstered by the quasi-theocrati c US Death culture.
 
 
-1 # brux 2013-03-24 00:21
He was great in the Viet Nam era, he made mincemeat of William F. Buckley ... but Buckley was more or less of a moderate conservatives. Now there are no moderate conservatives.

By the way, if you ever get a chance look for the old "Firing Line" shows on Amazon Price or NetFlix (I think) ... they are wonderful and will show just how badly and for the worse American media and journalism has changed.

Chomsky may have been denied access to Israel once or twice at times, but I just saw him in a video talking to people in "Palestine".

I've read your opinions her ... you're intelligent ... why do you think the American media is so adamant about not presenting "alternative" views. I think this is very bad. We used to have alternative candidates for President and in debates ... our system has gotten old and brittle.

Still that does not mean the international arc of history and hegemony has changed or that all countries should be treated with respect or equality.

I have never heard Chomsky talk about North Korea ... do you know what he has to say about them?
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2013-03-24 12:03
@ "brux
"Well, I wasn't in the US during the Vienam era, thankfully: -I was out in the streets in the UK opposing it.
I do remember Gore Vidal chewing up Buckley on black and white TV but not Chomsky.
Why do he and other progressives as listed in my post, never get on the US media? You partially answered your own question; he looks beyond the owner-media box IN DEPTH and speaks directly to Palestinians and others declared "enemies" of the corporately-own ed state and those in the halls of power of which the parrot-media are mouthpieces more interested in sound-bytes and advertising revenue than real news and content in programming.
The presidential debates are a mockery of the term and reflect what I just wrote about the corporate-owned media. I'd have loved to see Rocky Anderson, Jill Stein and the others, even ones I oppose included but that would have stretched the attention-spans and abilities of U. S. of Amnesia voters to comprehend, being so accustomed to choreographed and scripted milquetoast exchanges between Media approved "safe" candidates.
It would also surely have brought to the surface issues that the major parties tend to sweep under the rug, like Citizens United's impact, voter-suppressi on, equal media-time, universal healthcare, public education, infrastructure and prosecution of the Dimnwits B' crime syndicate administration.
Per North Korea, N.C. HAS addressed it -check out "Alternative Radio's" Chomsky archives, alternativeradio.org.
Best, ReiverP.
 
 
-1 # brux 2013-03-24 22:29
Buckley-Chomksy part1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYlMEVTa-PI

On the question of the Palestinians Chomsky is idiosyncratic. He certainly does not "look beyond" anything. He treats Israel and the Palestinians like the "modern" English and Scots ... it's absurd ... not even the English and Irish.

If you go back into the Democracy Now archive you can even find Jill Stein debating along with Obama and Romney, and the Peace and Freedom nincompoop in their virtual debate. It's not like Americans even listen or understand the debates anyhow.

I hate to beat the phrase the death, but the too-big-to-fail model fits America these days, we are too committed and too specialized to do anything but what we are doing. This is why my answer to this has always been search for a compromise between the military industrial complex and a humanist socialist agenda, we have the wealth and power to do both I believe, but everyone on both sides seems to think the good is the enemy of the perfect ... or however that slogan goes.

Citizens United is another symptom of the too-big-to-fail reality of our country, and the status quo is not going to let that fail until its last dying breath.

We had a media model - the fairness doctrine - it needs to come back with a vengeance.

I looked on alternativeradi o.org for anything about Chomsky and North Korea ... do you have a URL?
 
 
0 # reiverpacific 2013-03-25 11:22
Quoting brux:
Buckley-Chomksy part1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYlMEVTa-PI
On the question of the Palestinians Chomsky is idiosyncratic. He certainly does not "look beyond" anything. He treats Israel and the Palestinians like the "modern" English and Scots ... it's absurd ... not even the English and Irish.
If you go back into the Democracy Now archive you can even find Jill Stein debating along with Obama and Romney, and the Peace and Freedom nincompoop in their virtual debate. It's not like Americans even listen or understand the debates anyhow.
I hate to beat the phrase the death, but the too-big-to-fail model fits America these days, we are too committed and too specialized to do anything but what we are doing. This is why my answer to this has always been search for a compromise between the military industrial complex and a humanist socialist agenda, we have the wealth and power to do both I believe, but everyone on both sides seems to think the good is the enemy of the perfect ... or however that slogan goes.
Citizens United is another symptom of the too-big-to-fail reality of our country, and the status quo is not going to let that fail until its last dying breath.
We had a media model - the fairness doctrine - it needs to come back with a vengeance.
I looked on alternativeradio.org for anything about Chomsky and North Korea ... do you have a URL?

Don't recall him doing a whole talk on NK but he has previously addressed it. Ta' for Buckley URL.
 
 
0 # brux 2013-03-28 12:16
If you want to see something interesting ... and you happen to be subscribed to Amazon Prime, which also gives you free shipping when you purchase at Amazon - many if not all of the Firing Line programs are online for viewing in Amazon Instant Video.

I always used to watch these when I was a kid. There are some where Buckley surprises and is 100% right, such as when he is debating William Shockley about his theories on race, and some where he is 100% wrong such as when he debates Robert Kuttner and Lester Thurow on the flat tax and gets his ass handed to him on a platter.

Either way, the show is marvelous for showing what Liberal and Conservative should be about, and how Conservatism these days is a full-flegded mockery of itself more akin to totalitarian fascism. The shows are classics and show a much gentler and more polite time of debate!
 
 
+1 # Organizer 2013-03-24 10:26
What an amazing quote:

"Unless the powerful are capable of learning to respect the dignity of their victims ... impassable barriers will remain, and the world will be doomed to violence, cruelty and bitter suffering."

I have got to agree with Intermedius here. This is not only nonsense but suprisingly naiive - especially coming from such an allegedly deep thinker.

As Saul Alinsky said, "The fat cats don't hear through their ears. They only hear through their rears."

Sure, you'll get the occasional Republican with a gay child who "gets it" about gay rights being human rights and all - but this is the exception that proves the rule.

Don't expect the jerks who run this show to develop respect. Demand they listen! Turn up the heat every way you can! Politically speaking, all the power we have to make the world a better place is organized people who apply serious political pressure or concentrated money.

And any progressive group that thinks they can fix this mess with bombs, guns, monkeywrenching , etc, is nuts. To quote Alinsky again, such an aproach "will only ensure the mass suicide of the left". There is no more perfect example than the horrible damage done to our society by the mass murderers of 9/11.

You want to make things better? Donate your money! Write your congressman! Volunteer your time! Spread the word! But whatever you do, please don't wait passively for the powerful to "learn respect".
 
 
+1 # brux 2013-03-24 22:32
Republicans only get what they NEED to get, what they are made to get, what they are forced to deal with, and the American people still buy into the reality of the tough macho ugly American, and we produce them by grinding down most of everyone else, which is why there is no one left that will stand up and stick a finger in the Republican's eyes.

The killing of social program is just going to slowly beat down more and more until there is no hope at all and we are a broken people, pretty much just like Russians.
 
 
+1 # Leonard R. Jaffee 2013-03-25 02:56
Suppose Chomsky's proposition is not nonsense or naive.

Then the proposition's dependent clause ("Unless the powerful...") sets a condition whose statement denies (implicitly) the condition's possibility.

So, the proposition asserts that the world IS doomed to violence, cruelty, and bitter suffering — because the powerful are NOT capable of learning to respect the dignity of their victims.

The victims are VICTIMS — which implies necessarily that their assailants or oppressors did not, do not, and will not respect them.

The proposition's truth finds clear, sure proof in the whole of human history since 8,000 BC, or perhaps before.

The violence's consistency tells that the violence will continue consistently until humans become extinct.
 

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