Comments: New Tomdispatch

O good golly, looks like I agree with him. Only difference is that I would have said the same before Obama got elected. You Noam? Yeah, and any schoolchild could get the point across with 10% of his verbosity.

Posted by tim at May 19, 2009 07:01 PM

Tim, you are aware that Chomsky has been saying this for decades, right?

And why is length and detail a problem?

Posted by John at May 19, 2009 08:18 PM

"What will rise up from the ruins will not be something new, but the face of the monster that has, until then, remained hidden behind the facade."

Chris Hedges, 'The Disease of Permanent War.'

Posted by Oarwell at May 20, 2009 09:40 AM

Chomsky deserves a break. He didn't start out as a celebrity lecturer, and he's not ego-driven, let alone playing to the crowd. Here's his description of how that happened, from an interview:

Q: With respect to that, you seem to be someone whom a lot of people listen to. Could you do some things that make the media focus on you?

A: I've done all that. I've been in and out of jail any number of times for organizing. I organized national tax resistance; I was one of the people who organized national draft resistance. I mean, I was up for a long jail sentence. It was so close that my wife went back to school because we figured we were going to have to have somebody who'd take care of the three children.

It's true that I don't spend a lot of time in organizing. I used to, but there came to be a sort of division of labor at some point. And I think we all figured that I'm more helpful when I go out giving talks and show up at fundraising events and so on.

http://www.bostonphoenix.com/archive/features/99/04/01/NOAM_CHOMSKY.html

Posted by Not Exactly at May 20, 2009 01:15 PM

The Draft Resister has his life/conscience at stake and is more inclined to "stay the course" to movement success. The TAX Protester need only worry about losing some cash and/or possibly some jail time if the movement fails. ALL movements depend upon member "dedication to the cause" to succeed.
A Draft Resister can EXPECT jail time and/or fines as part of resistance and thereby spare his/her life/conscience to succeed. A TAX Protester need only close his/her wallet to participate and EXPECT only to need to resist social and/or legal pressure to succeed.

Posted by Mike Meyer at May 20, 2009 02:13 PM

But that's the beauty of it, John. If Chomsky were brief and terse, he could dismissed as just another asshole with an opinion, and why should we listen to this crazy stuff? If he supports his argument with detail, then he's longwinded and boring, snowing you under "a blizzard of obscure sources," as Paul Berman put it in his demented Terror and Liberalism, which I just finished reading a coule of days ago. ("Obscure," y'know, like The New York Times, the Boston Globe, etc.)

If Chomsky just writes about something bad that's happening now, he's fastening onto an anomaly (a few bad apples, etc.) that says nothing about America's true goodness and beauty. If he puts it into historical context by citing other American crimes to show that this is not just an aberration, it shows that he hates America and has made a career of collecting stray facts that make America look bad.

If Chomsky stands alone, he's a kook, who cares that he thinks? If there are other people who agree with him (or whom he agrees with, as Tim claims, and I hadn't noticed), then he's one of a horde of America-haters, useful idiots, etc. The important thing, of course, is to make it clear that no one gets away with any substantive criticism of America except the far right. Or that what he's saying is obvious, everybody knows it, so why even bother listening to him when there are more important things to worry about, like Dubya's mispronounciation of "nuclear," or Michelle Obama's arms?

Posted by Duncan at May 20, 2009 02:24 PM

Blue ox babe,

You need to grow up.....If you disagree with Chomsky on something that is fine, but make your case with a rational argument not something that is a akin to a schoolyard shouting match...I mean it is incredible...the man has devoted his life to furthering the cause of peace and justice and still he is attacked by some on the so called left because Chomsky doesn't accept various conspiracies that run around in lefty circles...it is really petty and sad.-Tony

Posted by tony at May 20, 2009 04:22 PM

Well I take what I said back, because after looking, he actually did say the same sort of thing about Obama before the election.

So that's two worthless comments from me. Nice day huh?

Posted by tim at May 20, 2009 05:21 PM

I must admit to falling asleep during a personal appearance by Chomsky, just a few weeks ago. He was speaking in Madison, his first speaking engagement outside the Boston area in years, more than two thousand people had packed the Orpheum theater to hear him, and as soon as he opened his mouth... I was out like a light. (OK, maybe the beer I had earlier in the evening didn't help.)

It's just that, while I agree with what Chomsky says, I don't find anything he says to be particularly surprising. In a way, Chomsky is the victim of his own success. His world view has been so thoroughly absorbed by lefties like me that it's like the air we breathe; it's essential, but it's no longer remarkable.

It's as if Galileo had been brought back from the dead to lecture us on cosmology. We'd all be in awe to be in the presence of the Great Man himself, but who among us would say, "Really? The Earth revolves around the Sun? Well imagine that!"

Posted by SteveB at May 20, 2009 05:56 PM

Duncan,
I know. In a way, it's hilarious. He's so far into the sphere of deviance, that no one respectable has to even pretend to treat him fairly.
http://preview.tinyurl.com/c7bclr

Posted by John at May 20, 2009 06:15 PM

steve b,


It's just that, while I agree with what Chomsky says, I don't find anything he says to be particularly surprising. In a way, Chomsky is the victim of his own success. His world view has been so thoroughly absorbed by lefties like me that it's like the air we breathe; it's essential, but it's no longer remarkable.

I actually agree with you on this...I dont think anything he says is all that shocking or new and he kind of repeats the same argument over and over. I admire him personally a heck of a lot...I hope I have half the energy and the commitment he has when I get to 80, if I make it that far!! He doesnt have a lot to say, in detail, on alternatives...Except to point to the say the Spanish Revolution and say his introduction to Rudolf Rockers "Anarcho-Syndicalism"...It was through Noam that I learned of anarchism and I will always be in his thanks for that knowledge. It was like whole new world opened up to me....I was philosophy major in college and of course I learned of Marx but I never really cared for Marx mostly because I didnt understand what he was talking about most of the time but I didn't know of an alternative to Marx...and Marxism always had the yolk of the Bolsheviks and the Soviet Union on it...NC opened my eyes to something besides Marx and I will always be thankful for that more than anything else....-Tony

Posted by tony at May 20, 2009 07:21 PM

I think that comment by Duncan is spot on.

I think that comment by Tony about Chomsky's dedication is spot on.

I personally think Chomsky's view of history and politics is a little simplistic, because he still thinks about politics like an organizer. He thinks spending time on ideas that aren't going to lead to change is a waste of time.

but i'm skeptical about how well, and with how much certainty, he or anyone else can reliably tell what ideas are going to turn out to be a waste of time.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 20, 2009 11:28 PM

NE,

I think Chomsky would agree with you that his view of history or power is simplistic....he often says that the world and humans are certainly complicated but what is understood at all is relatively straight forward and simple to understand especially when it comes to the state and those that control it...

He is vague on vision and what should be done, or what a decent society should look like...again he always mentions the Spanish Revolution and his introduction to Rockers "Anarcho-Syndicalism" are maybe his most concrete comments on the subject...He often says more about this in interviews and such that he does in formal presentations in books....I think he feels it is not his place to tell others what to do..people are intelligent and they can figure out for themselves what they should do....he seems to be very impressed with Mike Albert's "Participatory Economics" or Parecon for short...which is quite compelling, but anyway he is a remarkable figure for his unending commitment to peace and justice...let alone his professional life...I have no idea how he even finds the time to do all that he does. I guess he is kinda like Bertrand Russell in many ways.-Tony

Posted by tony at May 21, 2009 08:33 AM

Tony, your pretense at paternalism is misplaced. I don't need a fake-hero. Maybe you do. I don't need to find Chomsky inerrant. Maybe you do. My world won't collapse if I acknowledge Chomsky's a shill for Israel. Maybe yours will.

The growing up required here? Yours. Intellectually. And comically as well. You pretend at such grave seriousness, while mouthing such tripe. I'm sorry, but Chomsky's a clown, a clown who offers limited hangouts for lib-wools and pwoggies to lap up like dullminded kittens.

Sure, he criticizes your mortal enemies The Evil Rethugs. But when has he ever criticized Israel with both eyes open? Ever? Even once?

Nope.

It's okay, though. Israel is blameless, right? I mean, the "holocaust" excuses all sorts of torture, displacement, theft, murder, rape, pillaging of Palestinians. Right?

Right.

Posted by blue ox babe at May 21, 2009 11:40 AM

Tony:

Comparing Chomsky to Russell seems astute to me. They both could do the work of a dozen people. And neither of them shy from the truth much.

I would bet that Chomsky would agree with Russell's rules for reading the newspapers, which Russell set forth in his fantastically honest little book War Crimes in Vietnam:

"1. Read between the lines.
2. Never underestimate the evil of which men of power are capable.
3. Know the jargon of 'terrorists' versus 'police actions' and translate whenever necessary."
(War Crimes in Vietnam, 1964, at 30, for anyone who wants to look it up)

Notice that Russell was in 1964 already talking about 'terrorists.' Chomsky points out that the first United States war on terror was in the 80s but seems to have been deliberately forgotten, and he's right. But talk about 'terrorists' long predates that too. People were talking about terrorists when your inspirational anarchists were the great evil feared by The Poweres That Be back in the 19th century and turn of the 20th century (when a supposed anarchist shot McKinley), before the Bolsheviks upstaged them. The Nazis were fighting terrorists too. Same old same old.

I particularly like Russell's second rule. if you assume the powerful wouldn't do something, think again. They absolutely would. Oddly, that's the whole Lockean/Madisonian view of power too, underlying our entire theory of government, but everyone has nonetheless been convinced by the organs of power to think well of powerful people and institutions, because they're just trying to do the right thing.

Sure they are. James Madison would be sorely disappointed in us.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 21, 2009 11:53 AM

Somebody thinks Chomsky is a shill for Israel?

Wow. I am speechless.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 21, 2009 12:00 PM

NE,

yeah....It boggles the mind what people think...Chomsky also works for the CIA in secret and is a "gate keeper" of the american empire...Maybe if there was one rational comment made it would be worth responding too, otherwise its just childish noise.-Tony

Posted by tony at May 21, 2009 03:23 PM

I cant seem to find Bernards post on torture...I would have left these remarks there but again I cant find the old post.....

I saw the French made film called "Martyrs" last night...I highly recommend this film to all although I am sure it will not be for everyone since it is very violent, graphic and brutal...Its also one of the most powerful films I have ever seen...at times you will be on verge of tears. I know I was...I read a lot about it on the internet...some critics described it as "torture porn" I dont agree ....it is far better and a much more serious than films like Saw and Hostel which some people compare it to...I never saw those films but they both struck me as just violent garbage and I doubt they are anywhere near this film....There is a very profound message at the heart of this film and it should be seen before Hollywood-which has already purchased the rights to the film-remakes it and turns into crap.....Watch this film but again it is not for the timid.-Tony

Posted by tony at May 21, 2009 03:44 PM

"Sure, he criticizes your mortal enemies The Evil Rethugs. But when has he ever criticized Israel with both eyes open? Ever? Even once?"
-blue ox babe

Grow. The. Fuck. Up!

Try actually READING the man's voluminous output on the subject of Israel before making a further fool of yourself.

Posted by Coldtype at May 22, 2009 12:28 AM

Has blueoxbabe ever read either The Fatal Triangle or Peace in the Middle East?

If not, could she please go back to her stall and stop bothering the grownups with her mooing?

Posted by MFB at May 22, 2009 03:26 AM

There's a certain nutty charm to blue ox babe's comment. How can you not feel compelled to take the bait and respond?

Posted by John at May 22, 2009 06:47 AM

Hey, I love mooing!!!!

Don't knock it 'til you try it:
http://free-loops.com/download-free-loop-4714.html

Posted by Not Exactly at May 22, 2009 10:42 AM

There's a certain nutty charm to blue ox babe's comment. How can you not feel compelled to take the bait and respond?

Well, in that case: In my experience, the phrase "limited hangout" means "I hate you, because you're not buying my conspiracy theory."

As in: "Sure, you'll acknowledge that the US killed several million Southeast Asians, but you won't go so far as to agree with me that the CIA had JFK killed."

Or: "Sure, you'll acknowledge that the US invasion resulted in the deaths of about a million Iraqis, but you won't go so far as to agree with me that Bush and Cheney had the Trade Centers dynamited."

See, we're all tools of the ruling class (either witting or unwitting) because we'll readily acknowledge (and even condemn) some crimes of the empire, but we won't condemn crimes that we haven't been persuaded have been committed.

Posted by SteveB at May 22, 2009 02:04 PM

SteveB:

hey, how did a "linited hangout" get into this? here i thought a 'limited hangout' was a hangout without a liquor license.

was that juicy talk about JFK etc. "bait"? You sly dog.

i think we're all either witty or witless tools.

geez, it's not possible to know the lowdown on every rotten thing that happens. do people really hate other people about stuff like that? man, that's harsh

You've given me a new slogan idea: Empires don't kill people, people kill people.


"Dynamited?" Now THAT'S funny.

i'm willing to condemn crimes that haven't been committed. I'll even condemn unborn crimes. But should crimes really be condemnable at conception?

now if i just can get that hook out of my face.


Posted by Not Exactly at May 22, 2009 02:38 PM

"Dynamited?" Now THAT'S funny.

I'm sorry, was it C4 instead? I can never keep these things straight.

Posted by SteveB at May 22, 2009 03:16 PM

C4? Puh-leeze. Do you send a lot of telegrams?

Anyway, cut it out, because if I give you the low down, Dick Cheney will have to kill you!

Speaking of the Snarling Hound of Hell (whom Jim Hightower once aptly said smiles like a banker who just evicted a widow), I am reminded of this little pearl of wisdom

"All men will see what you seem to be; only a few will know what you are, and those few will not dare to oppose the many who have the majesty of the state on their side to defend them."

— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

There really is nothing new under the sun.

{ok, obviously some of "the few" do dare to oppose the many in a harmless way, an example being USAF Lieutenant Colonel Robert Bowman, who even has a Wiki page! But they don't get to "oppose the many" in any real way, so i'd have to say that Niccolo's observation remains as spot on as ever.)

Posted by Not Exactly at May 22, 2009 04:01 PM

It's just that, while I agree with what Chomsky says, I don't find anything he says to be particularly surprising. In a way, Chomsky is the victim of his own success. His world view has been so thoroughly absorbed by lefties like me that it's like the air we breathe; it's essential, but it's no longer remarkable.

Well, the problem is that lefties like you who not only are actually aware of his worldview, but also subscribe to it, are very much in the minimum. So perhaps Chomsky isn't saying anything new to you, but there are a hell lot of other Americans and Westerners who need to hear and understand his critique of the American power structure.

Plus, it seems to me that "the kids" today are quite the conformist and even right-wing bunch compared to the time when Chomsky began his activist career during the Vietnam war. Their idea of "left" today is a centrist, American liberal Democratic comedian like Jon Stewart. And of course, let's not forget their hysterical Obama-mania and lack of willingness to actually listen to what Obama was really saying and to examine his pro-establishment tendencies right from the start, their complete breakdown in critical thinking during the lead up to the presidential election (although to be fair, many older American liberals were also to blame for both those things) and their complete lack of knowledge of the history of the Democratic party, and of the deeply rotten context of the American imperial power-structure and the bipartisan foreign policy goals and motivations that all should have greatly tempered all of their hysteria and unrealistic expectations of any real and substantial change that they seem to be expecting by electing a corporatist, centre-right imperial manager.

So there are a hell lot of people still that need to hear and understand Chomsky's worldview.

Posted by hv at May 22, 2009 06:22 PM

Well, there's a whole lot more people need to hear too. Chomsky's not an Oracle. And a whole lot of people who are exposed to his ideas don't accept them. I mean, he spoke at West Point a few years ago, by invitation. That tells you how much fear what he has to say strikes into the heart of the army.

So it would be great if people really considered Chomsky, but i think it's going to take a lot more than that to break apart the social cohesion that's has allowed our corporate and military power structures to take on a life on their own. I heard Daniel Ortega quoted on NPR today saying that President Obama is the head of an empire he can't control, but if an American were to say it rather than an ex-Sandanista, it wouldn't even get on the radio.

anyway, why bother with critical thinking when you can play world of warcraft?

Posted by Not Exactly at May 22, 2009 07:31 PM

From Dennis Perrin in case anyone missed it.-Tony

http://redstateson.blogspot.com/2006/07/summer-reading_06.html

Posted by tony at May 23, 2009 11:12 AM

hv, "Plus, it seems to me that 'the kids' today are quite the conformist and even right-wing bunch compared to the time when Chomsky began his activist career during the Vietnam war. Their idea of 'left' today is a centrist, American liberal Democratic comedian like Jon Stewart."

That's not how Chomsky sees it, and that's not how I remember it. You should look at his reminiscences of how scary it was to oppose the invasion of Vietnam, or how little that invasion bothered anyone at the time. In the early 60s, this country was extremely conformist and right-wing. Don't buy the stereotypes of the 60s as a period when everybody, or even all college students, fought in the streets against US hegemony. For one thing, it was also a period when the Right began building its institutions, which have been pretty effective. (Young Americans for Freedom was founded in 1964, for example.) Chomsky says, and I basically agree, that there's much more activism in the US population than there was in the early 60s.

Whether it's "left" activism, I don't know, partly because I don't know what criteria you want to apply. I'm reading Raymond Williams at the moment, and he reminds me that there was never a clear notion of the left or what it stood for in the West. But we live in a country where anyone the least bit critical of corporatism or state violence will be labeled a leftist, an extremist of the far left, etc. So by American standards, Stewart IS a leftist; and those with better credentials (by whose standards, I wonder? blue ox babe's?) have their own blind spots too, and always have. See Richard Seymour's The Liberal Defence of Murder, for details.

Posted by Duncan at May 23, 2009 09:19 PM

Duncan: that's very sharp. i want to read seymour's book but haven't yet.

that being said, it strikes me that there is something different from enforced conformism going on now. there's a strange form of indifference born of permissiveness that i guess might be something like christopher lasch wrote about in the culture of narcissism, though frankly i can't for the life of me remember what he said. i'm not sure what it is exactly, but there doesn't seem to me to be much collective idealism in the US now, just a real dislike of bullshit and love of those who call someone on it.

Posted by Not Exactly at May 24, 2009 12:03 AM

ne, "there's a strange form of indifference born of permissiveness that i guess might be something like christopher lasch wrote about in the culture of narcissism, though frankly i can't for the life of me remember what he said." Damn, you really took my breath away on that one.

"there doesn't seem to me to be much collective idealism in the US now, just a real dislike of bullshit and love of those who call someone on it." I consider the source. I see a lot of "collective idealism", it just got co-opted by Teh Obama.

Posted by Duncan at May 25, 2009 07:18 PM