Archive for the 'Chomsky' Category

“Nothing succeeds like success.”

Mar 23, 2010 in Chomsky, Health Care

The public is positive. Any Democrat can turn our health care victory into a winning issue. Those who were afraid were always wrong.

While the press has tried a few, “Bad News for Democrats?” articles after this historic success, it’s not sticking well. For those of you unfamiliar with this inside joke, it’s conventional wisdom among the press that when Republicans win, it’s bad news for Democrats, and when Democrats win, it’s bad news for Democrats.

Well, this isn’t good news for Democrats…it’s fantastic news for Democrats. For those who doubted Democrats could ever live up to their promises in office, this is proof (although the public option shall not be forgotten, this bill made it more likely that we will have a public option one day, whereas failure would have sealed our fate for a generation). For those who felt that Democrats could never display any spine or organization, this bill could have passed no other way. For those who have ever uttered the familiar trope, “The Republicans and Democrats are just two wings of the same party!” the line in the sand is clearly drawn.

Moreso, the public can look at the behavior of Democrats and Republicans now and learn some instructive lessons. Shrill Republicans screeching at the top of their lungs about “totalitarian” tactics sound like sore loser idiots. Tea partiers yelling “Nigger” and “Faggot” at Congressmen reveal the level of pathological contempt boiling within. Those signing the Club for Growth petition to repeal the bill look like a cavalry of Don Quixotes preparing to joust a mountain. On the other hand, Democrats showed the country every last effort to compromise, to move towards the center, to negotiate, to debate, to put things out in the open for the public to see. Democrats fought bitterly for the public option but let it go in order to move forward. That is America. We strive, and fight, and we dream the grandest dreams. We dream of mansions, but if we find ourselves in a two bedroom house, we call it our home. And we get to work making it better so that it will be worth something to our children.

The Democratic Party has seen over forty years pass without a noteworthy display of strength against constant Republican warfare, beyond Clinton’s showdown against Newt Gingrich which earned a brief period of fiscal responsibility before the Republicans took power and squandered our wealth. With the ascent of Barack Obama, we have seen strength, cunning, flexibility and tenacity at work. I still look back and wonder why he couldn’t have been stronger at certain points, why he couldn’t have engaged in the full court press on the public option, if he mightn’t have helped Democrats along at one point or another. But then there is the trick of it all that I cannot deny. Today he signed a big fat piece of paper titled, “I Knew What I Was Doing All Along.” I may wish to cherish a bit longer the idea that it could have been handled a bit better, but the plain fact is that Obama had fooled me more than once, and I am humbled. He did what neither Roosevelt, nor Truman, nor Kennedy, nor Johnson, nor Carter, nor Clinton could do. Some of us may entertain the notion that a President Kucinich might have gotten us single payer health care, but it is a lazy fantasy shed of all responsibility or reality. And I say this as a person who fundamentally agrees with everything Noam Chomsky says here. Yes, I know the water is dirty, but I have come a long way through the desert, and now that I am stronger, I may set out once again.


The depraved media.

Aug 27, 2008 in Beltway-itis, Chomsky, Journamalism, Politics

Brad at Sadly No! sums up our elite media’s attitude towards this election:

What’s been generally amazing to me about this convention is how much the talking heads focused on personality-based elements: “Have Barack and Hillary made up yet? Is Michelle Obama a scary, angry black woman, or is she a phony pretending not to be a scary, angry black woman? What do the Democrats have to do to prove that they don’t hate America?”

Absolutely nothing about policy, absolutely nothing about the disaster that the past eight years of right-wing rule have wrought upon the country and the world. It’s all one big soap opera for these assholes, and as long as they’re entertained, Rome can burn.

Funnily enough, like addicts, some in the media can even talk about their own depravity, even though they’re powerless to stop it:

Stephanopoulos stated bluntly, “it’s just not true that these issues are not being discussed.” He’s right, of course. They are being discussed, but in many cases, far from sight. Take the recent news out of Iraq, where withdrawal timetables are suddenly, plainly, a part of negotiations between the Bush and al Maliki governments. This development had its origins in a congressional hearing back in June, where Iraqi Parliamentarians began the steady push for U.S. withdrawal. To get that news, one had to turn to the Washington Independent. So far as I can recall, this story was not given much play in network or cable news. It was certainly never discussed on Sunday! But these hearings presciently bespoke the Iraq turning point we have arrived at today.

Can you imagine if Maliki had endorsed John McCain’s plan for endless occupation of Iraq? Bush moved to Obama’s position on Iraq qualitatively, with not much variance quantitatively (thoughts go out to the troops who will die that extra year, hopes that Obama will expedite the process). That should be an earthquake for journalists. It should be topic NUMERO F’ING UNO, the hot buzz, the big story about the ultimate vindication of what Barack Obama and the Democrats have been saying about Iraq for a long time, and…we’ve gotten pure gossip. We aren’t even treated to some blathering about how Bush taking Obama’s position and contradicting everything McCain has said about Iraq is really good for McCain. It happened, and it just failed to register. Not news. Iraq is so OVER! Let me show you some real news:

“Did you hear McCain talk smack about Obama? It was totally f’ed up! Is Obama gonna let him punk him like that?”

The media is completely uninterested in the election as a debate about policy and how to run the country. If they do care, they pretend they’re trapped in the system. They like to call themselves the fourth branch of government, but they don’t care. They’re selling advertising. A reminder of what we’re dealing with here:

(CHOMSKY:) So what we have in the first place is major corporations which are parts of even bigger conglomerates. Now, like any other corporation, they have a product which they sell to a market. The market is advertisers — that is, other businesses. What keeps the media functioning is not the audience. They make money from their advertisers. And remember, we’re talking about the elite media. So they’re trying to sell a good product, a product which raises advertising rates. And ask your friends in the advertising industry. That means that they want to adjust their audience to the more elite and affluent audience. That raises advertising rates. So what you have is institutions, corporations, big corporations, that are selling relatively privileged audiences to other businesses.

Well, what point of view would you expect to come out of this? I mean without any further assumptions, what you’d predict is that what comes out is a picture of the world, a perception of the world, that satisfies the needs and the interests and the perceptions of the sellers, the buyers and the product.

Now there are many other factors that press in the same direction. If people try to enter the system who don’t have that point of view they’re likely to be excluded somewhere along the way. After all, no institution is going to happily design a mechanism to self-destruct. It’s not the way institutions function. So they’ll work to exclude or marginalize or eliminate dissenting voices or alternative perspectives and so on because they’re dysfunctional, they’re dysfunctional to the institution itself.

Now there are other media too whose basic social role is quite different: it’s diversion. There’s the real mass media-the kinds that are aimed at, you know, Joe Six Pack — that kind. The purpose of those media is just to dull people’s brains.

The Republicans have found this system exceptionally advantageous to their needs, bitching about the “Librul media” aside. They do not have the public on their side when it comes to the issues, and so they need this distraction, these diversions from the issues. When the media gossips, Republicans do better because they’ve engineered their campaigns around avoiding the issues. The entire structure of their discourse is built around making sure no substantial conversation actually happens. Thirty second soundbites are good for advertisers, and the Republicans know their market, playing them like any amoral salesman would.

Have you ever worked in sales? People who have know it’s about figuring out how to game people, how to say exactly the right thing at the right time that will manipulate them to give the desired response. You may end up saying things that aren’t true, but it’s not your fault because you have bills to pay and you need that commission. And if you game them into signing what you want them to sign, you tell yourself, “I’m giving them what they want. I’m not culpable.” Our media behaves the same way, acting like journalists to the extent that it will drive headlines, ratings, revenue, and correspondingly their own star. They go through the motions of doing their job, but in their minds they always carry the lessons they’ve learned. They remember what got other journalists ahead, and what got them promoted. The barking from editors…about readers, editions sold, ad revenue. They don’t want to say their readers are stupid, but they will write stupid pieces and mutter to themselves, “This is what interests people.” The art of sales is to know people are able to be fooled, yet never admit you are fooling them, unless you have figured out a way to fool them still.

By understanding how our media works, we can better neutralize the damage they do and game them in return to give us what we want: for them to do their goddamned jobs. I have a simple wish for the election: that it be about substance and policy at least as much as it is about personal gossip and playing favorites. Is it so much to ask for the media to acknowledge that the Democrats are giving the people the policies they want? Or are they so threatened because, unlike them, we give with genuine intent?


P.S. Forgot to tell this tale of Beltway media incest! Did you help George W. Bush screw up America? You get a job, Sir!

Chomsky Missed the Memo

May 28, 2008 in Barack Obama, Chomsky, Uncategorized

Iowa Liberal has generally been a pretty Chomsky-friendly zone, but it seems that back in November our man just ran right off the rails. Get with the program, Noam! Haven’t you heard about the hope and what-not?

BOOKTALK.ORG: What’s your opinion of the candidates running in the Democratic Presidential primary?

CHOMSKY: Keeping to the viable candidates, I am not impressed. Take Barack Obama, for example. In this morning’s (Nov. 2) New York Times, a front-page story reports his foreign policy stance, based on an exclusive interview. It opens by reporting that if elected he would offer “a possible promise not to seek `regime change'” if Iran stopped “acting irresponsibly” in Iraq, stopped supporting “terrorist activities,” and cooperated with the US on “nuclear issues.” Not a promise, just a possible promise in reward for “good behavior.” The threat of force is, of course, a serious violation of the UN Charter, but that seems not to be a matter of concern. The idea that Iran is acting “acting irresponsibly” in Iraq can indeed be raised: on the assumption that We Own the World, so that if we invade and occupy another country, any interference with our actions is “irresponsible.” On terrorism, and on “nuclear issues,” I’ll refer to the comments in Interventions, which barely scratch the surface, but suffice to illustrate how astonishing his statements are, except, once again, on the assumption that We Own the World. The candidates differ somewhat on other issues. No space here to run through the details. Of all the viable candidates, the positions that Edwards has put forth seem to me the best, or maybe it would be more accurate to say “the least objectionable.”


Chomsky – The Immaturity of The Left.

Nov 10, 2007 in Chomsky, Librulz

Chomsky sticks it to Kennedy, Cambridge liberals and various other hacks.

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Chomsky at Stony Brook University on North Korea

Oct 03, 2007 in Chomsky, North Korea, Uncategorized


This clip is a little dated but it provides an important historical background on the situation in Korea, both North and South, and their rather brutal foreign policy relations with the United States since the end of World War II.  If you’d like you can download the entire mp3 file here.

We invaded Iraq for the oil? No waaaaay!

Jul 28, 2007 in Chomsky, Iraq, Middle East, Politics

While the American people and the Iraqi people supported the Iraq War, their support was seen as something essential to the endeavor. America has turned against the war for some time now, and while Republican politicians are going to pay a heavy price, Bush can play chicken until he leaves office. The American public presents to the Bush administration, at best, a minor obstacle. The opinion of the Iraqi people? As soon as it was lost, it meant nothing. We are meant to believe that we did all of this for the democratic freedoms of the Iraq people, but if they don’t want to go along with it, they’re savages who don’t know what’s best for themselves.

Noam Chomsky is The Great Satan in the eyes of any Republican ground trooper. This isn’t because what he says is wrong, but because if all Americans listened to him and learned a thing or two, they’d be much harder to control. If they’d done it five years ago, nothing that has gone wrong in Iraq since would be a surprise. All the bullshit aside, Noam, why doesn’t public opinion matter?

U.S. polls show majority opposition to the war, but they receive limited attention and scarcely enter into policy planning, or even critique of planning. The most prominent recent critique was the report of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group, widely acclaimed as a valuable critical corrective to the policies of the George W. Bush administration, which immediately dismissed the report to oblivion. One notable feature of the report is its lack of concern for the will of the Iraqi people. The report cites some of the polls of Iraqi sentiment, but only in regard to the safety of U.S. forces. The report’s implicit assumption is that policy should be designed for U.S. government interests, not those of Iraqis; or of Americans, also ignored.

The report makes no inquiry into those guiding interests, or why the United States invaded, or why it fears a sovereign and more or less democratic Iraq, though the answers are not hard to find. The real reason for the invasion, surely, is that Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world, very cheap to exploit, and is at the heart of the world’s major hydrocarbon resources. The issue is not access to those resources but control of them (and for the energy corporations, profit). As Vice President Dick Cheney observed last May (2006), control over energy resources provides “tools of intimidation or blackmail”—in the hands of others, that is.

In five hundred years, nobody will look back on this chapter in history and decide oil was anything less than the primary reason for the occupation of Iraq. So much propaganda has been purchased to persuade people that really, Iraq’s oil reserves were entirely coincidental, but nobody believes it. Who, the right? They’re very evasive about the subject, but prod one a little bit and you’ll hear, “Damn right it was about oil, all you damn hippies keep talking about the end of oil, who do you expect to do something about it when you can’t jump in your car and go to the multiplex?”

The American public isn’t trusted much more than the Iraqi public to know what is good for it. Dick Cheney is probably just as aware of peak oil as we are, Iraq is simply his answer.


The dutifully obedient corporate media defends corporate medicine.

Jul 12, 2007 in Chomsky, Health Care, Media

Question…why does CNN believe its job is to take up an adversarial position against single-payer health care and defend America’s current system?

Those who’ve read or seen Manufacturing Consent or some of Noam Chomsky’s other works know the answer: they are a corporate entity designed to sell advertising and protect corporate interests first, loosely draped in the form of a news organization.

Those who attempt to reform America and push for changes that threaten to weaken corporate power will run into a brick wall in the corporate media. This isn’t hard to understand; in fact, it would be rather hard to understand how it could happen any other way. If the corporate media wasn’t looking to protect their corporate health care friends, you’d have to ask yourself what went wrong.

Our health care system has turned into a corporate profit-care system, designed to look after the bottom line first and ensure healthy multi-million dollar megasalaries for the CEOs. Like the corporate media, the supposed function, health care, is simply a tool by which to reach that goal. If your kidney operation hurts Kaiser Permanente’s CEO’s plans to buy a new yacht, you’re just going to have to sacrifice.

Some may choose to disagree, but obviously single-payer systems around the world are working, providing all of their citizens care, and making enough people satisfied to stand up for that kind of system. Michael Moore has asked Americans to consider the issue. Others would love to disagree with him, but by what grounds does CNN believe a “fact-check” on Moore containing its own errors is all the issue deserves?

Perhaps this is an issue America needs to look at and debate, instead of being told by CNN, “There’s nothing to see here, go home!”


UPDATE: Sullivan gets bimbotastic on Moore.

Chomsky on Iran

Mar 23, 2007 in Chomsky, Iran, National Security, Uncategorized

Here’s an instructive snippet taken from the International Relations Center website featuring an interview with Chomsky:

Shank: How can the U.S. government think an attack on Iran is feasible given troop availability, troop capacity, and public sentiment?

Chomsky: As far as I’m aware, the military in the United States thinks it’s crazy. And from whatever leaks we have from intelligence, the intelligence community thinks it’s outlandish, but not impossible. If you look at people who have really been involved in the Pentagon’s strategic planning for years, people like Sam Gardiner, they point out that there are things that possibly could be done.