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Chomsky and Foucault: Was their 1971 debate the worst blind date of all time?
07.18.2013
11:10 am

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Thinkers

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Noam Chomsky
Michel Foucault


 
Snippets of this classic debate between Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault have been wafting about online for ages, but I think it’s only been posted in full relatively recently, and is well, well worth a thorough viewing…

Which is not to say that it’s a great debate exactly. Initially, indeed, it’s a veritable orgy of awkwardness, resembling something like the worst blind date of all time. The interlocutors come across as chalk and cheese, both philosophically and personally. And despite a fair showing of professional courtesy in what they say, their expressions (while the other is talking) tell another story : Chomsky tending to eye Foucault as if the latter is a louche and ludicrous fraud, and seeming to be constantly having to swallow a smirk, while Foucault, accordingly, gazes at Chomsky as if near stupefied by the intellectual credulity of this American super-ninny.

There is some more elevated fun to be had here, too, mind. Both thinkers offer very lucid formulations of their fundamental outlook, and these outlooks do seem peculiarly, pointedly inverse, so much so in fact that for some time they can’t even seem to engage with one another (as is tediously emphasized by the strange Dutch commentator figure, who introduces it and then twice inexplicably bobs up to be incredibly boring straight at the camera for three or four minutes—just warning you about that one).

Once they get into the topics of morality and politics, however, the discussion comes to life, and so much so that, by the end, Chomsky’s looking at Foucault in an entirely different fashion—namely, as if the latter might just be some kind of moral monster.

Best of all though, is the audience, which seems composed entirely of members of krautrock group Can in various, slight, shifting disguises.
 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky thinks Slavoj Žižek is full of shit
07.02.2013
10:44 am

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Thinkers

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Noam Chomsky
Slavoj Žižek


 
Noam Chomsky, the father of modern linguistics, doesn’t have much respect for the sesquipedalian bad boy of postmodernist philosophers, Slavoj Žižek, and he doesn’t mince words expressing his disdain, either.

In an excerpt from an interview with Veterans Unplugged in December of 2012, Chomsky was asked about Žižek, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida. Here’s what he said:

What you’re referring to is what’s called “theory.” And when I said I’m not interested in theory, what I meant is, I’m not interested in posturing–using fancy terms like polysyllables and pretending you have a theory when you have no theory whatsoever. So there’s no theory in any of this stuff, not in the sense of theory that anyone is familiar with in the sciences or any other serious field. Try to find in all of the work you mentioned some principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions where it all goes beyond the level of something you can explain in five minutes to a twelve-year-old. See if you can find that when the fancy words are decoded. I can’t. So I’m not interested in that kind of posturing. Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don’t see anything to what he’s saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t see anything there that should be influential.

Elsewhere the famed MIT professor and tireless political activist has called followers of postmodernist philosophers like Žižek “cults.”

I got to shake Noam Chomsky’s hand at a lefty fund-raiser in Los Angeles in the early 90s and he had a very “saintly,” very kindly and patient sort of aura to him then. The older Chomsky gets, though, the crankier he gets. I kind of like that. I sincerely hope he writes a book for posthumous publication called Fuck You Assholes: You All Fuckin’ Suck or something like that.

You just know he’s got it in him.
 

 
Via Open Culture

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky on the 2012 election and who he’s voting for
10.01.2012
10:32 am

Topics:
Activism
Class War
Politics
Thinkers

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Noam Chomsky


Portrait of Noam Chomsky by Luca Del Baldo

Political comedian Matthew Filipowicz interviewed Noam Chomsky at his MIT office recently. Filipowicz writes:

We discussed many aspects of activism including how he felt activists and progressives should approach two party politics and specifically the 2012 election:

“I think they should spend five or ten minutes on it. Seeing if there’s a point in taking part in the carefully orchestrated electoral extravaganza.  And my own judgment, for what it’s worth, is, yes, there’s a point to taking a part.”

Professor Chomsky said he will probably vote for Jill Stein for president in effort to push a genuine electoral alternative, but that if he lived in a swing state he would vote “against Romney-Ryan, which means voting for Obama.”

We also discussed the relationship between tactics and action. Speaking about Occupy Wall Street’s public encampments, Professor Chomsky, who supported OWS and authored a book on the subject, said such tactics have a half-life and that when one tactic stops working, activists have a responsibility to try something else.

Hear, hear. Just as there’s really no more Tea party, only an ignorant, nativist Fox News fan club that was left once the tide went back out, during the conservative movement’s brief heyday, they actually got several dozen members of Congress elected. Although a lot of that groundwork seems set to be undone in this election, where is the Occupy movement to fill in that vacuum? The answer is nowhere, of course, because the Occupy movement doesn’t exist anymore, either.

Yes, Occupy changed the conversation, I’d agree with that, but then what?

Then fuckin’ nothing. It didn’t even last for an entire year. It’s time for something new. Something more.
 

 
Via AlterNet

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky on how the Occupy movement might affect the US Presidential election


 
“If you’re rich and powerful, you can never have enough…”

The Guardian’s Gary Younge talks to Noam Chomsky about why the Occupy movement is so important, where it goes from here, and how it will affect the election. You can watch a longer version of this interview, here.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Books By Their Covers: Oliver Bevan’s Fabulous Op-Art Designs for Fontana Modern Masters

Fontana_Modern_Master_Books_1_10
 
In 1970, Fontana Books published the first of 7 paperback books in a series on what they termed Modern Masters - culturally important writers, philosophers and thinkers, whose work had shaped and changed modern life. It was a bold and original move, and the series launched on January 12th with books on Camus, Chomsky, Fanon, Guevara, Levi-Strauss, Lukacs, and Marcuse.

This was soon followed in 1971 with the next set of books on McLuhan, Orwell, Wittgenstein, Joyce, Freud, Reich and Yeats. And in 1972-73 with volumes on Gandhi, Lenin, Mailer, Russell, Jung, Lawrence, Beckett, Einstein, Laing, and Popper.

Fontana Modern Masters was a highly collectible series of books - not just for their opinionated content on the likes of Marx or Proust, Mailer or McLuhan, but because of Oliver Bevan’s fabulous cover designs.

This eye-catching concept for the covers came from Fontana’s art director, John Constable, who had been experimenting with a Cut-Up technique, inspired by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin and based on The Mud Bath, a key work of British geometric abstraction by the painter David Bomberg. It was only after Constable saw Oliver Bevan’s geometric, Op Art at the Grabowski Gallery in London, did Constable decide to commission Bevan to design the covers.

The first full set of books consisted of 9 titles. Each cover had a section of a Bevan painting, which consisted of rectilinear arrangements of tesselating block, the scale of which was only fully revealed when all 10 covers were placed together. Bevan designed the first ‘3 sets of 10’ from 1970-74. He was then replaced by James Lowe (1975-79) who brought his own triangular designs for books on Marx, Eliot, Pound, Sartre, Artaud and Gramsci. In 1980, Patrick Mortimer took over, with his designs based on circles.

The original Fontana Modern Masters regularly pop-up in secondhand bookshops, and are still much sought after. Over the years, I have collected about 20 different volumes, but have yet to create one complete painting. Here are a few samples, culled from my own collection and from the the web.
 
Fontana_Modern_Masters_Set
 
A small selection of Fontana Modern Master covers, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky: Where does Occupy go from here


 
This is the transcript of a discussion that took place earlier this year between Noam Chomsky and Occupy supporters Mikal Kamil and Ian Escuela for InterOccupy, an organisation that provides links between supporters of the Occupy movement around the world.

Professor Chomsky, the Occupy movement is in its second phase. Three of our main goals are to: 1) occupy the mainstream and transition from the tents and into the hearts and the minds of the masses; 2) block the repression of the movement by protecting the right of the 99%‘s freedom of assembly and right to speak without being violently attacked; and 3) end corporate personhood. The three goals overlap and are interdependent.

We are interested in learning what your position is on mainstream filtering, the repression of civil liberties, and the role of money and politics as they relate to Occupy and the future of America.

Noam Chomsky: Coverage of Occupy has been mixed. At first it was dismissive, making fun of people involved as if they were just silly kids playing games and so on. But coverage changed. In fact, one of the really remarkable and almost spectacular successes of the Occupy movement is that it has simply changed the entire framework of discussion of many issues. There were things that were sort of known, but in the margins, hidden, which are now right up front – such as the imagery of the 99% and 1%; and the dramatic facts of sharply rising inequality over the past roughly 30 years, with wealth being concentrated in actually a small fraction of 1% of the population.

For the majority, real incomes have pretty much stagnated, sometimes declined. Benefits have also declined and work hours have gone up, and so on. It’s not third world misery, but it’s not what it ought to be in a rich society, the richest in the world, in fact, with plenty of wealth around, which people can see, just not in their pockets.

All of this has now been brought to the fore. You can say that it’s now almost a standard framework of discussion. Even the terminology is accepted. That’s a big shift.

Earlier this month, the Pew foundation released one of its annual polls surveying what people think is the greatest source of tension and conflict in American life. For the first time ever, concern over income inequality was way at the top. It’s not that the poll measured income inequality itself, but the degree to which public recognition, comprehension and understanding of the issue has gone up. That’s a tribute to the Occupy movement, which put this strikingly critical fact of modern life on the agenda so that people who may have known of it from their own personal experience see that they are not alone, that this is all of us. In fact, the US is off the spectrum on this. The inequalities have risen to historically unprecedented heights. In the words of the report: “The Occupy Wall Street movement no longer occupies Wall Street, but the issue of class conflict has captured a growing share of the national consciousness. A new Pew Research Center survey of 2,048 adults finds that about two-thirds of the public (66%) believes there are “very strong” or “strong” conflicts between the rich and the poor – an increase of 19 percentage points since 2009.”

Meanwhile, coverage of the Occupy movement itself has been varied. In some places – for example, parts of the business press – there has been fairly sympathetic coverage occasionally. Of course, the general picture has been: “Why don’t they go home and let us get on with our work?” “Where is their political programme?” “How do they fit into the mainstream structure of how things are supposed to change?” And so on.

And then came the repression, which of course was inevitable. It was pretty clearly coordinated across the country. Some of it was brutal, other places less so, and there has been kind of a stand-off. Some occupations have, in effect, been removed. Others have filtered back in some other form. Some of the things have been covered, like the use of pepper spray, and so on. But a lot of it, again, is just, “Why don’t they go away and leave us alone?” That’s to be anticipated.

The question of how to respond to it – the primary way is one of the points that you made: reaching out to bring into the general Occupation, in a metaphorical sense, to bring in much wider sectors of the population. There is a lot of sympathy for the goals and aims of the Occupy movement. They are quite high in polls, in fact. But that’s a big step short from engaging people in it. It has to become part of their lives, something they think they can do something about. So it’s necessary to get out to where people live. That means not just sending a message, but if possible, and it would be hard, to try to spread and deepen one of the real achievements of the movement that doesn’t get discussed much in the media – at least, I haven’t seen it. One of the main achievements has been to create communities – real functioning communities of mutual support, democratic interchange, care for one another, and so on. This is highly significant, especially in a society like ours in which people tend to be very isolated and neighbourhoods are broken down, community structures have broken down, people are kind of alone.

There’s an ideology that takes a lot of effort to implant: it’s so inhuman that it’s hard to get into people’s heads, the ideology to just take care of yourself and forget about anyone else. An extreme version is the Ayn Rand version. Actually, there has been an effort for 150 years, literally, to try to impose that way of thinking on people.

During the onset of the industrial revolution in eastern Massachusetts, mid-19th century, there happened to be a very lively press run by working people, young women in the factories, artisans in the mills, and so on. They had their own press that was very interesting, very widely read and had a lot of support. And they bitterly condemned the way the industrial system was taking away their freedom and liberty and imposing on them rigid hierarchical structures that they didn’t want. One of their main complaints was what they called “the new spirit of the age: gain wealth forgetting all but self”. For 150 years there have been massive efforts to try to impose “the new spirit of the age” on people. But it’s so inhuman that there’s a lot of resistance, and it continues.

One of the real achievements of the Occupy movement, I think, has been to develop a real manifestation of rejection of this in a very striking way. The people involved are not in it for themselves. They’re in it for one another, for the broader society and for future generations. The bonds and associations being formed, if they can persist and if they can be brought into the wider community, would be the real defence against the inevitable repression with its sometimes violent manifestations.

How best do you think the Occupy movement should go about engaging in these, what methods should be employed, and do you think it would be prudent to actually have space to decentralise bases of operation?

Noam Chomsky: It would certainly make sense to have spaces, whether they should be open public spaces or not. To what extent they should be is a kind of a tactical decision that has to be made on the basis of a close evaluation of circumstances, the degree of support, the degree of opposition. They’re different for different places, and I don’t know of any general statement.

As for methods, people in this country have problems and concerns, and if they can be helped to feel that these problems and concerns are part of a broader movement of people who support them and who they support, well then it can take off. There is no single way of doing it. There is no one answer.

You might go into a neighbourhood and find that their concerns may be as simple as a traffic light on the street where kids cross to go to school. Or maybe their concerns are to prevent people from being tossed out of their homes on foreclosures.

Or maybe it’s to try to develop community-based enterprises, which are not at all inconceivable – enterprises owned and managed by the workforce and the community which can then overcome the choice of some remote multinational and board of directors made out of banks to shift production somewhere else. These are real, very live issues happening all the time. And it can be done. Actually, a lot of it is being done in scattered ways.

A whole range of other things can be done, such as addressing police brutality and civic corruption. The reconstruction of media so that it comes right out of the communities, is perfectly possible. People can have a live media system that’s community-based, ethnic-based, labour-based and [reflecting] other groupings. All of that can be done. It takes work and it can bring people together.

Actually, I’ve seen things done in various places that are models of what could be followed. I’ll give you an example. I happened to be in Brazil a couple of years ago and I was spending some time with Lula, the former president of Brazil, but this was before he was elected president. He was a labour activist. We travelled around together. One day he took me out to a suburb of Rio. The suburbs of Brazil are where most of the poor people live.

They have semi-tropical weather there, and the evening Lula took me out there were a lot of people in the public square. Around 9pm, prime TV time, a small group of media professionals from the town had set up a truck in the middle of the square. Their truck had a TV screen above it that presented skits and plays written and acted by people in the community. Some of them were for fun, but others addressed serious issues such as debt and Aids. As people gathered in the square, the actors walked around with microphones asking people to comment on the material that had been presented. They were filmed commenting and were shown on the screen for other people to see it.

People sitting in a small bar nearby or walking in the streets began reacting, and in no time you had interesting interchanges and discussions among people about quite serious topics, topics that are part of their lives.

Well, if it can be done in a poor Brazilian slum, we can certainly do it in many other places. I’m not suggesting we do just that, but these are the kinds of things that can be done to engage broader sectors and give people a reason to feel that they can be a part of the formation of communities and the development of serious programmes adapted to whatever the serious needs happen to be.

From very simple things up to starting a new socio-economic system with worker- and community-run enterprises, a whole range of things is possible. The more active public support there is the better defence there is against repression and violence.

How do you assess the goals of the Democratic party as far as co-opting the movement, and what should we be vigilant and looking out for?

Noam Chomsky: The Republican party abandoned the pretence of being a political party years ago. They are committed, so uniformly and with such dedication, to tiny sectors of power and profit that they’re hardly a political party any more. They have a catechism they have to repeat like a caricature of the old Communist party. They have to do something to get a voting constituency. Of course, they can’t get it from the 1%, to use the imagery, so they have been mobilising sectors of the population that were always there, but not politically organised very well – religious evangelicals, nativists who are terrified that their rights and country are being taken away, and so on.

The Democrats are a little bit different and have different constituencies, but they are following pretty much the same path as the Republicans. The centrist Democrats of today, the ones who essentially run the party, are pretty much the moderate Republicans of a generation ago and they are now kind of the mainstream of the Democrat party. They are going to try to organise and mobilise – co-opt, if you like – the constituency that’s in their interest. They have pretty much abandoned the white working-class; it’s rather striking to see. So that’s barely part of their constituency at this point, which is a pretty sad development. They will try to mobilise Hispanics, blacks and progressives. They’ll try to reach out to the Occupy movement.

Organised labour is still part of the Democratic constituency and they’ll try to co-opt them; and with Occupy, it’s just the same as all the others. The political leadership will pat them on the head and say: “I’m for you, vote for me.” The people involved will have to understand that maybe they’ll do something for you, that only if you maintain substantial pressure can you get elected leadership to do things – but they are not going to do it on their own, with very rare exceptions.

As far as money and politics are concerned, it’s hard to beat the comment of the great political financier Mark Hanna. About a century ago, he was asked what was important in politics. He answered: “The first is money, the second one is money and I’ve forgotten what the third one is.”

That was a century ago. Today it’s much more extreme. So yes, concentrated wealth will, of course, try to use its wealth and power to take over the political system as much as possible, and to run it and do what it wants, etc. The public has to find ways to struggle against that.

Centuries ago, political theorists such as David Hume, in one of his foundations for government, pointed out correctly that power is in the hands of the governed and not the governors. This is true for a feudal society, a military state or a parliamentary democracy. Power is in the hands of the governed. The only way the rulers can overcome that is by control of opinions and attitudes.

Hume was right in the mid-18th century. What he said remains true today. The power is in the hands of the general population. There are massive efforts to control it by less force today because of the many rights that have been won. Methods now are by propaganda, consumerism, stirring up ethnic hatred, all kinds of ways. Sure, that will always go on but we have to find ways to resist it.

There is nothing wrong with giving tentative support to a particular candidate as long as that person is doing what you want. But it would be a more democratic society if we could also recall them without a huge effort. There are other ways of pressuring candidates. There is a fine line between doing that and being co-opted, mobilised to serve someone else’s interest. But those are just constant decisions and choices that have to be made.

Extracted from Occupy by Noam Chomsky, published by the Zuccotti Park Press and the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series in the US and Canada.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
What comes after the end of Capitalism?


 
Noam Chomsky has long advocated simply reading the Wall Street Journal if you wanted to understand the mindset of the ruling class. No special detective work is necessary to divine the attitudes and intentions of the rich and powerful. In the pages of their house organ you could find what you were looking for, often with unvarnished bluntness.

It’s good advice, but today, the WSJ isn’t the only place to look for hints of ruling class attitudes. In a column published today at Huffington Post, Dr. Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum poses a salient question: If this is the end of Capitalism, then what’s next?

One of the criticisms of capitalism centers on the widening gap between winners and losers due to the so-called turbocapitalism that is a result of global competition. In this context, the so-called Nordic model demonstrates that a high degree of labor market flexibility and social welfare systems do not have to be mutually exclusive—indeed, they can actually be combined to very good effect. This type of economic policy also enables countries to invest in innovation, childcare, education and training. The Scandinavian countries, which underwent a similar banking crisis in the 1990s to that which we are now experiencing in other Western economies, have shown that by reforming regulation and social welfare systems, flexible labor and capital markets really are compatible with social responsibility. So it is no coincidence that these countries are now among the most competitive economies in the world. [Emphasis added]

Other aspects of the criticism of capitalism that are worthy of serious consideration are excessive bonuses, the burgeoning market in alternative financial instruments and the imbalance that has emerged between finance and the real economy. However, we do see some progress in these areas thanks to mounting pressure from the general public, governments and also the market.

So even though capitalism was not laid to rest in Davos, it is fair to say that capital is losing its status as the most important factor of production in our economic system. As I outlined in my opening address in Davos, capital is being superseded by creativity and the ability to innovate—and therefore by human talents—as the most important factors of production. If talent is becoming the decisive competitive factor, we can be confident in stating that capitalism is being replaced by “talentism.” Just as capital replaced manual trades during the process of industrialization, capital is now giving way to human talent. I am convinced that this process of transformation will also lead to new approaches within the field of economics. It is indisputable that an ideology founded on personal freedom and social responsibility gives both individuals and the economy the greatest possible scope to develop.

If this is the sort of intellectual currency that was circulating around Davos this year, I think this is a pretty strong indication that the Occupy backlash is having a big effect. You’d hope that by now the elites must know that the natives are restless!

Obviously a worldwide group-mind consensus is demanding, if not exactly the end of Capitalism, certainly a major rethink/reformation of the way it is practiced in the 21st century. The world is a different place than it was before the Industrial Revolution, it’s high time we updated the operating system to reflect those changes.

It’s just getting to be so fucking stupid, isn’t it?

Michael E. Porter, a Harvard University professor cited by Schwab in his essay, explains why business leaders must focus on “shared value creation.”
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky on Ron Paul: ‘Ron Paul is a nice guy, but…’
01.16.2012
12:56 pm

Topics:
Politics

Tags:
Noam Chomsky
Congressman Ron Paul


 
Videotaped during the Q&A portion of a Chomsky speech at Kutztown University on November 21, 2011

CHOMSKY: Ron Paul’s a nice guy. If I had to have dinner with one of the Republican candidates, I’d prefer to have it with him—but, his policies are off the wall.

I mean, sometimes I agree with him. I think we have to end the war in Afghanistan. But, if you look at the other policies, I mean, it’s kind of shocking and principles that lie behind them (shakes head)....I don’t know what to say about them.

In the Republican debates, at one point—and this kind of brought out who he is—- he is agains Federal involvement in health, in anything. He was aked something like, “Well, what if some guy’s in a comma, and…uh…he’s going to die and he never took out insurance. What shouldhappen?”

Well, his first answer was something like, “It’s a tribute to our liberty.”

So, if he dies, that’s a tribute to how free we are?

He kinda backed off from that, actually. There was a huge applause for when he said that. But later, reactions were eleswhere. He backed up and said, “Well, the church will take care of him…or charities or something or other….so, it’s not a problem.”

I mean, this is just savagery.

And it goes across the board. In fact, it goes through the whole so-called Libertarian ideology. It may sound nice on the surface but if you think it through, it’s just a call for corporate tyranny. It takes away any barrier to corporate tyranny.

But, it’s all academic. The business world would never permit it to happen because it would destroy the economy. They can’t live without a powerful state, and they know it.

 

 
Via Information Clearing House via reddit

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday Noam Chomsky!
12.07.2011
01:51 pm

Topics:
Activism
Heroes
Thinkers

Tags:
Noam Chomsky


Portrait of Noam Chomsky by Luca Del Baldo

America’s greatest public intellectual, prominent linguist, longtime MIT professor and tireless political activist, Noam Chomsky turns 83 today.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky: Occupy The Future


 
In These Times published an essay adapted from Noam Chomsky’s talk at Occupy Boston on Oct. 22. Chomsky’s speech was part of the Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture Series sponsored by the encampment. It’s a must read:

Delivering a Howard Zinn lecture is a bittersweet experience for me. I regret that he’s not here to take part in and invigorate a movement that would have been the dream of his life. Indeed, he laid a lot of the groundwork for it.

If the bonds and associations being established in these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead, victories don’t come quickly, the Occupy protests could mark a significant moment in American history.

I’ve never seen anything quite like the Occupy movement in scale and character, here and worldwide. The Occupy outposts are trying to create cooperative communities that just might be the basis for the kinds of lasting organizations necessary to overcome the barriers ahead and the backlash that’s already coming.

That the Occupy movement is unprecedented seems appropriate because this is an unprecedented era, not just at this moment but since the 1970s.

The 1970s marked a turning point for the United States. Since the country began, it had been a developing society, not always in very pretty ways, but with general progress toward industrialization and wealth.

Even in dark times, the expectation was that the progress would continue. I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. By the mid-1930s, even though the situation was objectively much harsher than today, the spirit was quite different.

A militant labor movement was organizing, the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) and others, and workers were staging sit-down strikes, just one step from taking over the factories and running them themselves.

Under popular pressure, New Deal legislation was passed. The prevailing sense was that we would get out of the hard times.

Now there’s a sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. This is quite new in our history. During the 1930s, working people could anticipate that the jobs would come back. Today, if you’re a worker in manufacturing, with unemployment practically at Depression levels, you know that those jobs may be gone forever if current policies persist.

That change in the American outlook has evolved since the 1970s. In a reversal, several centuries of industrialization turned to de-industrialization. Of course manufacturing continued, but overseas, very profitable, though harmful to the workforce.

The economy shifted to financialization. Financial institutions expanded enormously. A vicious cycle between finance and politics accelerated. Increasingly, wealth concentrated in the financial sector. Politicians, faced with the rising cost of campaigns, were driven ever deeper into the pockets of wealthy backers.

And the politicians rewarded them with policies favorable to Wall Street: deregulation, tax changes, relaxation of rules of corporate governance, which intensified the vicious cycle. Collapse was inevitable. In 2008, the government once again came to the rescue of Wall Street firms presumably too big to fail, with leaders too big to jail.

Today, for the one-tenth of 1 percent of the population who benefited most from these decades of greed and deceit, everything is fine.

In 2005, Citigroup, which, by the way, has repeatedly been saved by government bailouts, saw the wealthy as a growth opportunity. The bank released a brochure for investors that urged them to put their money into something called the Plutonomy Index, which identified stocks in companies that cater to the luxury market.

“The world is dividing into two blocs, the plutonomy and the rest,” Citigroup summarized. “The U.S., U.K. and Canada are the key plutonomies, economies powered by the wealthy.”

As for the non-rich, they’re sometimes called the precariat, people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. The “periphery” however, has become a substantial proportion of the population in the U.S. and elsewhere.

So we have the plutonomy and the precariat: the 1 percent and the 99 percent, as Occupy sees it, not literal numbers, but the right picture.

The historic reversal in people’s confidence about the future is a reflection of tendencies that could become irreversible. The Occupy protests are the first major popular reaction that could change the dynamic.

Continue reading Chomsky’s analysis of the international arena at In These Times
 

 
Part II and Part III of Noam Chomsky at Occupy Boston

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky on the Wall Street protests


 
Noam Chomsky sends a “strong message of support” to the organizers of the Occupy Wall Street protests:

“Anyone with eyes open knows that the gangsterism of Wall Street — financial institutions generally — has caused severe damage to the people of the United States (and the world). And should also know that it has been doing so increasingly for over 30 years, as their power in the economy has radically increased, and with it their political power. That has set in motion a vicious cycle that has concentrated immense wealth, and with it political power, in a tiny sector of the population, a fraction of 1%, while the rest increasingly become what is sometimes called “a precariat” — seeking to survive in a precarious existence. They also carry out these ugly activities with almost complete impunity — not only too big to fail, but also “too big to jail.”

The courageous and honorable protests underway in Wall Street should serve to bring this calamity to public attention, and to lead to dedicated efforts to overcome it and set the society on a more healthy course.”

Professor Chomsky, along with John Pilger, Michael Albert, Johann Hari and Robert McChesney. will be appearing at the Rebellious Media conference in London on October 8th and 9th. Tickets can be purchased at www.radicalmediaconference.org

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky: American Decline


 
I don’t always agree with Noam Chomsky. I think he’s too reflexively anti-American (to the detriment to his works being more widely read), that he’s been getting a lil’ cranky as he gets older (as we all do) and sometimes he veers a little too far into conspiracy theory territory for my tastes. Still, when he’s on it, Chomsky can zero in on a complex confluence of events and trends and elucidate them like few other observers of national and world politics can. He recently took on the topic of American decline on the pages of al-Akhbar:

The post-Golden Age economy is enacting a nightmare envisaged by the classical economists, Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Both recognized that if British merchants and manufacturers invested abroad and relied on imports, they would profit, but England would suffer. Both hoped that these consequences would be averted by home bias, a preference to do business in the home country and see it grow and develop. Ricardo hoped that thanks to home bias, most men of property would “be satisfied with the low rate of profits in their own country, rather than seek a more advantageous employment for their wealth in foreign nations.

In the past 30 years, the “masters of mankind,” as Smith called them, have abandoned any sentimental concern for the welfare of their own society, concentrating instead on short-term gain and huge bonuses, the country be damned—as long as the powerful nanny state remains intact to serve their interests.

A graphic illustration appeared on the front page of the New York Times on August 4. Two major stories appear side by side. One discusses how Republicans fervently oppose any deal “that involves increased revenues”—a euphemism for taxes on the rich. The other is headlined “Even Marked Up, Luxury Goods Fly Off Shelves.” The pretext for cutting taxes on the rich and corporations to ridiculous lows is that they will invest in creating jobs—which they cannot do now as their pockets are bulging with record profits.

The developing picture is aptly described in a brochure for investors produced by banking giant Citigroup. The bank’s analysts describe a global society that is dividing into two blocs: the plutonomy and the rest. In such a world, growth is powered by the wealthy few, and largely consumed by them. Then there are the ‘non-rich,’ the vast majority, now sometimes called the global precariat, the workforce living a precarious existence. In the US, they are subject to “growing worker insecurity,” the basis for a healthy economy, as Federal Reserve chair Alan Greenspan explained to Congress while lauding his performance in economic management. This is the real shift of power in global society.

The Citigroup analysts advise investors to focus on the very rich, where the action is. Their “Plutonomy Stock Basket,” as they call it, far outperformed the world index of developed markets since 1985, when the Reagan-Thatcher economic programs of enriching the very wealthy were really taking off.

Before the 2007 crash for which the new post-Golden Age financial institutions were largely responsible, these institutions had gained startling economic power, more than tripling their share of corporate profits. After the crash, a number of economists began to inquire into their function in purely economic terms. Nobel laureate in economics Robert Solow concludes that their general impact is probably negative: “the successes probably add little or nothing to the efficiency of the real economy, while the disasters transfer wealth from taxpayers to financiers.”

By shredding the remnants of political democracy, they lay the basis for carrying the lethal process forward—as long as their victims are willing to suffer in silence.

Read more of American Decline: Causes and Consequences by Noam Chomsky

Below, Ali G interviews Professor Chomsky in 2006:
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death

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Via Guernica:

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”
There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

Copyright 2011 Noam Chomsky

Posted by Brad Laner | Leave a comment
MSNBC’s Dylan Ratigan: Breitbart won’t be on again without disclaimer he’s a race-baiter and liar

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Like probably many of you reading this, I absolutely loathe Andrew Breitbart. Seeing him on TV turns my stomach sour the same way seeing Pamela Geller or that Koran-burning idiot with the Yosemite Sam mustache being given airtime does. Foul, hateful people. WHY do the major news outlets (non-Fox News, I mean) offer these distasteful, tacky creeps a platform to spout the lousy nonsense they KNOW IN ADVANCE they’re going to come on to these programs and puke at their viewers?

Breitbart is a KNOWN fabulist. A KNOWN practitioner of “creative editing” and outright DECEPTION. What is a guy like him doing on any supposed news channel? He’s not a serious person who has opinions worthy of respect, so why pretend that he is? He’s just a punk, like his dweeby, pimple-faced side-kick James O’Keefe.

Another person who causes me to wince when I accidentally see him on TV is anti-gay rights activist Tony Perkins, he of the respectable sounding hate group, Family Research Council. Giving an asshat like Perkins a national stage is like providing the same service for one of the most rabid witch burners in Salem, Massachusetts if there were cable news channels back in 1692. This is how history will remember a man like Perkins—if history marks him at all, which is doubtful—as an ignorant, hateful, intolerant religious extremist.

So why allow a malignant goofball like Tony Perkins the airtime and the credibility it confers upon him?

Was Noam Chomsky already booked???

CNN seems to me to be the most pathetic of all the cable newsers—grasping at straws as their ratings slide. Watching CNN recently, it would seem that a misguided management decision was made to do like a “reverse Fox News” using a lot of the same guests. Does the upper management at CNN really think that their audience (or potential audience members) want to see the same exact idiots they see on Fox News, albeit in an environment less welcoming than the joint owned by Rupert Murdoch?

Poaching some guest bookers from Fox News was hardly the innovation CNN needed to reinvent itself. Why not just have some random haters from the Free Republic boards on with Wolf Blitzer if that’s the sort of “sizzle” they seek…

And again, I ask CNN’s upper management, is the reason we don’t see America’s greatest living intellectual on your channel—but we do see an un-credentialed, perhaps deranged, rightwing racist gasbag like Pamela Geller—because Noam Chomsky is not taking your phone calls???

MSNBC is a lot better when it comes to the way they contextualize their guests, but you still have the likes of Orly Taitz appearing on the network. WHY?

Even if Chomsky is BOOKED SOLID, there are still options to Orly fucking Taitz!

But Andrew Breitbart always gets a pass on MSNBC—as does Pat Buchanan—and that always pisses me off. Just imagine how much BETTER the news would be—how much BETTER OFF AMERICA WOULD BE—if each and every time these two appeared on TV the “lower third” under their names read “Lying Fuck” or “Increasingly Senile Racist & Author.”

Some basic “truth in advertising.” Is that too much to ask of our cable news outlets? I can dream, can’t I?

Recently James Rucker, the co-founder of Color of Change waged a bit of a campaign to make sure Dylan Ratigan understood how offended he and others (raises hand) feel about seeing Andrew Brietbart on TV sans context other than his name and his URL. Not everyone knows who he is or what his greatest (s)hits as a Republican media assassin are. If they were told about just a lil’ bit of that history upfront, they’d be greatly assisted in their understanding of what they were watching and be much better equipped to properly evaluate the bullshit coming out of Brietbart’s lying pie-hole.

It’s almost like those cigarette labels with the pics of cancerous lungs. Why can’t America’s responsible journalists ALWAYS perform the same sort of service regards Mr. Brietbart and his fellow travelers?

Via Daily Kos:

As you may know, ColorOfChange members led the charge to ensure that Breitbart’s credibility and image weren’t sanitized by ABC News or the Huffington Post. After we saw Breitbart on Ratigan’s show, with Ratigan seemingly praising Breitbart as “smart” and a “sharp shooter who gets results,” we were deeply concerned.

When I spoke with Ratigan, he explained what he was trying to do. He quickly agreed that Breitbart was a race-baiter, dishonest, and undeserving of credibility—without question. And he frankly hadn’t thought about the legitimizing effect that having Breitbart on his show—without clearly labeling him as the race-baiter and deceiver he is—would have.

Ratigan’s core issue is exposing the corruptive nature of corporate dollars in politics (which I, and many ColorOfChange members would agree is a critical and important endeavor). Ratigan’s goal in interviewing Breitbart was to ask him why he chose targets like Sherrod or the NAACP, while Breitbart and the Tea Party activists he defends seems to agree that banks and corporations with undue influence over government are actually the ones destroying our country. It’s an important criticism of Breitbart. Ratigan’s goal was to keep the conversation there, and he believed that if he focused on Breitbart’s penchant for race-baiting and deception, it would simply trigger Breitbart, and he’d end up in the same conversation others have where Breitbart goes on a rampage and the conversation goes nowhere.

Moving forward, Ratigan said that if he deals with Breitbart at all in the future, it will be with the explicit disclaimer that Breibart is someone who deceives and race-baits. Ratigan recognizes and respects the argument that there’s a problem with giving Breitbart a mainstream platform, and he’s committed to making sure that his show is not used to lend Breitbart the appearance of legitimacy and credibility.

Breitbart, not surprisingly, is completely unapologetic. Can’t expect a racist to give up that white robe so quickly. However, I give Ratigan and his producers credit for being receptive to this at all… too often, these kinds of issues are raised by liberals and dismissed out of hand. I’d rather that MSNBC acknowledge that people like Breitbart (and network regular Pat Buchanan, come to that) really have no right to expect a national platform for their racism and hate. I doubt very much that Ratigan or the suits at MSNBC have any idea the message it sends to people of color. But I’ll take this incremental step gladly and keep pushing for more.

Nice work James Rucker and Color of Change! The repercussions of this victory are still to be felt for some time.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Noam Chomsky streaming LIVE (right now)
04.22.2011
06:26 pm

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Watch live streaming video from freespeechtv at livestream.com

 
Thank you Nile Southern!

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