Sunday, December 12, 2004
Every now and then we like to pull down a volume or two of The Collected Works of Noam Chomsky, if only to remind ourserves why just about everyone, including most of our staunchest liberal buds, regards him as a spittle-flecked, vitriol-spewing, beyond-the-pale radical-lefty psycho freak. From a typically enlightening 2003 interview with David Barsamian, on the origins of modern propaganda (an art form that's been refined to near-perfection in the U.S., "because it's the most free and democratic society, and it's just much more important to control attitudes and opinions"):
NC: You can read it in the New York Times. They ran an interesting article about Karl Rove, the president's manager, basically his minder, the one who teaches him what to say and do. It describes what Karl Rove is doing now. He was not directly involved in the war planning, but neither was Bush. This was in the hands of other people. But his goal, he says, is to present the president as a powerful wartime leader, aimed at the next presidential election, so that the Republicans can push through their domestic agenda, which is what he concentrates on, which means tax cuts – they say for the economy, but they mean for the rich – tax cuts and other programs which he doesn't bother enumerating, but which are designed to benefit an extremely small sector of the ultra-wealthy and privileged and will have the effect of harming the mass of the population. But more significant than that – it's not outlined in the article – is to try to destroy the institutional basis for social support systems, try to eliminate things like schools and Social Security and anything that is based on the conception that people have to have some concern for one another. That's a horrible idea, which has to be driven out of people's minds. The idea that you should have sympathy and solidarity, you should care whether the disabled widow across town is able to eat, that has to be driven out of people's minds . . . .Hah. Wotta crackpot!!
DB: Often at the talks you give, there is a question that's always asked, and that is, "What should I do?" This is what you hear in American audiences.
NC: You're right, it's American audiences. You never hear it in the Third World.
DB: Why not?
NC: Because when you go to Turkey or Colombia or Brazil or somewhere else, they don't ask you, "What should I do?" They tell you what they're doing. It's only in highly privileged cultures that people ask, "What should I do?" We have every option open to us. None of the problems that are faced by intellectuals in Turkey or campesinos in Brazil or anything like that. We can do anything. But what people here are trained to believe is, we have to have something we can do that will be easy, that will work very fast, and then we can go back to our ordinary lives. And it doesn't work that way. You want to do something, you're going to have to be dedicated, committed, at it day after day. You know exactly what it is: it's educational programs, it's organizing, it's activism. That's the way things change. You want something that's going to be a magic key that will enable you to go back to watching television tomorrow? It's not there.