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Forum Post: Noam Chomsky Inspires and Invigorates

Posted 4 years ago on Dec. 18, 2013, 3:13 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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Noam Chomsky Inspires and Invigorates

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 12:39 By Jeff Cohen, Consortium News | Op-Ed


This month, Noam Chomsky turned 85 – and he’s the subject of a new animated movie focused on his scientific and social philosophies. He has actually seen this movie, unlike other works about him: “I can’t stand watching myself.”

He’s one of the world’s best-known intellectuals and one of the least vain. Or elitist. Put him in a roomful of a thousand social activists (not uncommon surroundings for him) and you’ll see him attempt to meet each of them, one-by-one, until he’s physically removed to rush to the airport or next appointment.

Standing at a podium in his usual brown corduroy sport jacket, he laces his lectures with biting sarcasm toward corporate malefactors, warmongers and their sycophants among intellectual and media elites. But with regular folks, he’s a model of gentleness and compassion that would make Eugene Debs blush with envy. I saw Noam Chomsky as my mentor – way before we ever met. When I was in college in the late 1960s/early’70s, he was already a guiding light for me, an exemplar of how those with privilege and principles should live our lives.

I started reading Chomsky’s criticism of the Vietnam War when I was 17, and that’s when I first heard him speak. It was November 1969. Visiting a friend in Boston, I joined militant demonstrations aimed at shutting down the war research labs at MIT. Chomsky spoke to the activists assembled from across the Northeast; he was one of only a couple MIT professors willing to support the confrontational protests. (A large majority of MIT profs had voted to support an injunction against the protests.)

In Chomsky’s political writings of that period, I remember a focus on the sanitized language that accompanied U.S. war crimes in the Vietnam conflict (“a euphemism for U.S. aggression”) — such as strategic hamlets (“concentration camps”) to protect the Vietnamese from guerrillas (“whom they were largely supporting”).

His press critiques helped turn me into a media critic, and in 1986 I founded the media watch group FAIR. Chomsky was so influential that I sometimes wonder if FAIR would exist if not for him. He was one of the first people I asked to join our advisory board — he readily said yes, and has supported FAIR ever since. He spoke at the organization’s 25th birthday party in 2011.

At FAIR, we continually pointed out that – while mainstream media in Europe and across the globe regularly featured Chomsky as an expert on U.S. and Western foreign policy – he was virtually blacklisted by the mainstream media in his own country.

Today he’s still largely blacklisted, but the embargo matters less in the new media environment of Internet and nonprofit publishers able to create bestsellers. His books and speeches are now much more accessible in the U.S. . . . though nowhere close to the intellectual offerings of the Coulters and O’Reillys.

In the years that we challenged media decision-makers over the Chomsky blacklist, it was clear they were even less informed about Chomsky than on other issues. A few thought he was some kind of Holocaust denier. Or “Stalinist defender.” As any googler can quickly learn, Chomsky is not a Stalinist, but a proud anarchist — a skeptic of both state and private authority, and of hierarchy. It’s another reason he’s so supportive of FAIR; he likes that it grew into a collective, with most decisions made by the staff as a whole.

In the late 1980s, I sat with Chomsky before a FAIR fundraiser in Los Angeles and asked him if he was aware that a number of celebrities in movies and music were big fans of his. He was unaware and couldn’t have cared less. I ran a few well-known names by him – he’d heard of none of them, and had no interest in meeting them . . . unless it would help FAIR. He had far more interest in mingling with peace and justice organizers.

One of the highpoints for me in all the years at FAIR was watching Noam Chomsky appear as a guest on PBS’s MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour in 1990. He was invited after FAIR published our first study of the NewsHour, which revealed that its guest list was even narrower and more conservative than that of commercial news programs.

The widely-discussed study proved embarrassing to the NewsHour – and had some impact. A major foundation soon quit funding the show. And, for a while, the program slightly broadened its guest list by making The Progressive magazine’s editor a regular pundit. In another gesture at broadening, Chomsky was asked to make his first (and it turned out, last) appearance on public TV’s NewsHour. The date was Sept. 11, 1990. What Chomsky said on the show was totally clear and would not have surprised anyone even slightly familiar with his work. But it seemed to confuse interviewer Robert MacNeil.

CHOMSKY: It’s been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the United States and its clients, and, crucially, that no independent, indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil production and price. That’s been a leading principle of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s, and, I think, it remains so, as we see.

MacNEIL: And a valid principle, in your view?

At hearing MacNeil’s question, Chomsky paused, apparently wondering if it was a joke or trick question of some kind. Chomsky then replied: “That principle is not a valid principle in my view.” In fairness to MacNeil, his confusion seemed to stem from never having interviewed a U.S. citizen before on the NewsHour who believed that imperialism and the taking of other people’s resources were bad things. We wrote up Chomsky’s appearance (with a chunk of transcript) in FAIR’s magazine, beneath the headline: Chomsky Appears on MacNeil/Lehrer; Western Civilization Survives

Weeks later, I introduced Chomsky at a large FAIR conference in Los Angeles; I mentioned his recent PBS guest spot and got a big laugh by referring to our jokey headline “Western Civilization Survives.” Amid the laughter, I could hear Chomsky off-stage behind me, saying, “Oh, heck!” – disappointed by his ineffectiveness. While he didn’t succeed through that one TV appearance in bringing an end to Western imperialism, or what passes for Western Civilization, he goes on trying at age 85. Happy birthday, Noam!

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

Ralph Nader: McCarthyism Made Us Veer Away From a Systemic Doctrine for Change

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 10:12 By Paul Jay, The Real News Network | Video Interview


NADER: I did. I hoped for a cooperative economy, you know, where people own their own businesses, co-ops, food co-ops, insurance co-ops, you know, the way they developed in Switzerland and Norway and Sweden. But that took too much time. It reminded me of Oscar Wilde, who once said socialism will never work, 'cause it requires too many meetings. And that's part of it.



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[-] 3 points by AlwaysIntoSomething (42) 4 years ago

"– he was virtually blacklisted by the mainstream media in his own country.

Today he’s still largely blacklisted, but the embargo matters less in the new media environment of Internet and nonprofit publishers able to create bestsellers. "

It makes it very hard to rally the public when the people you are fighting are the ones that control the new, whats deemed news, whats deemed important, the answers to the problems that they let you know about, and the so-called causes of whats causing the pain of a nation.

That being said, the internet is changing it all, exposing a lot. The amount of information on this site alone is staggering, when compared to where we were 20 years ago.

We should prob enjoy it while it lasts, I don't see them allowing it much longer. Its causing too many headaches.

[-] 1 points by MattLHolck (16833) from San Diego, CA 4 years ago

the people will go where they can get access

[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5909) 4 years ago

Local Government Is the Secret Weapon in the Fight Against Economic Inequality

Wednesday, 18 December 2013 13:03 By Joelle Gamble, Next New Deal | Op-Ed


With Congress gridlocked, we must look to local governments to pursue more innovative strategies for promoting equal opportunity.

Americans don’t believe in guaranteed equal outcomes, but we do believe in equal opportunity and the ability to achieve a decent livelihood if one works hard. Unfortunately, the United States, despite being the world’s largest economy, is in the top quartile of the most unequal states, along with countries like Bulgaria, and is more unequal than all of Europe. In addition to high levels of income inequality, the United States still faces a jobs crisis, meaning that many people who want to work to achieve economic stability cannot find gainful employment.

Given the congressional gridlock impeding efforts to promote economic opportunity at the federal level, we should look to community-based solutions to mitigate our unsustainable levels of inequality.

Over the past several decades, political leaders have tried to stimulate the economy on the supply side. They have provided incentives for businesses to invest in capital improvements, loosened regulations to encourage business growth, and lowered tax rates to give investors an incentive to take risks and create jobs. But we do not have a supply-side problem.

Our problem is on the demand side. Average Americans have so little wealth that they cannot afford to consume what companies sell. Income inequality has grown to the extent that those who are not at the very top can no longer afford to participate in the market. Hyper-partisanship and the special interests that fuel it make it impossible for the current Congress to address the declining wealth of America’s middle- and low-income communities. Just look to the Ryan-Murray budget compromise: Congress is refusing to extend unemployment insurance, claiming that an extension will discourage recipients from looking for new work, while at the same time, congressional Republicans complain that the president is not creating enough jobs for those same workers. While they focus on scoring political points, American workers continue to suffer. Given the intransigence and stalling at the federal level, what immediate actions can be taken to provide economic security and agency to average Americans? For this, one must turn to our cities and towns.

This is not a simple solution, because local governments do not have the same fiscal tools that Congress has. Cities cannot levy a progressive income tax on residents to fund redistribution, but instead must work with sales and property taxes. These taxes are regressive and punish the very people localities want to support. Some municipalities have tried to attract high-dollar business and residential developments in order to bring in revenues to support progressive programs such as universal pre-K and housing support. Unfortunately, too much development to this degree will backfire by pushing out lower-income and middle-class families.

In order to be effective, plans to address rampant inequality at the local level must be innovative. Instead of focusing on attracting developments solely as a source of tax revenue, local governments should incentivize the creation of local businesses that have fair and uplifting worker practices. For example, the Evergreen Cooperative Laundry in Cleveland Ohio, frequently referred to as the Cleveland Model, pays living wages and allows its employees to earn ownership in the company after a certain period of time. It is a prime example of providing an equal opportunity for American workers to maintain a decent livelihood and to move up economically if they commit to it.

By providing direct loans, utility subsidies, bonds for capital purchases, and other incentives to cooperative model businesses that promote high wages and greater employee agency, localities can support the growth of living wage businesses in areas where they may never have existed before. This will jumpstart a cycle of quality jobs for underserved communities and begin to remedy the demand-side economic challenges our economy faces.

While the detrimental effects of rising income inequality in America are widespread, we do not have to wait for federal action to start implementing solutions that will level the economic playing field. By supporting worker-empowering businesses close to home, local governments can both support job creation in their areas and provide workers with the opportunity they need to lift themselves out of their tough financial situations.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 0 points by AlwaysIntoSomething (42) 4 years ago

From Nader article:

"But the real dynamic that isn't being [incompr.] is if you start getting people saying, hey, we own all this stuff, why are we paying such high price for drugs? That drug was developed with taxpayer money by the National Cancer Institute and the NIH--that's a federal agency. They give it away to a drug company. See?"

Excellent point. I would love to see something that expands on this, just how much and what these corporations have, that was funded by tax payer money. Its probably close to damn near all of it.