Link to: Nick Cohen: Writing from London
having a kind of anarchistic temperament towards power is quite useful. Serially doubting what people in power are telling you, and assuming that they will only do good things if they are forced to by social movements, is a very sensible way of looking at the world.
he basically disputes the two major institutions of power in the world today: the nation-state and any institution of market capitalism
as a first premise: The world should not be in any way as it is now, very valuable when you are looking at the IMF and World Bank – completely illegitimate institutions of corporate fundamentalism that are imposing on poor countries a completely failed economic model.
firstly the alternatives that Chomsky posits are unbelievably vague and, at times, incoherent; and secondly, when you look at his philosophy on markets
alternatives are voluntaristic, anarchist communities. Firstly
how that could work except on a very small scale. he gives an example of anarchist communities that sprang up during the Spanish civil war
But they were crushed precisely because they were anarchists and unable to mount a proper defence. should they have an army to defend themselves? Chomsky said, “I’m not going to get into that. implausibility of these voluntaristic, anarchist communities in a world of 6 billion people with extremely complex urban societies can be organized in that way.
you have to acknowledge there will be some structure of power and that they should be a damn sight more democratic.
For example, he voted for Kerry rather than Bush. John Pilger, who refused to acknowledge any difference and basically said voting in America is pointless and you have to wait for the revolution.
He has used the word “bullshit” to describe the idea that markets in any way generate wealth. markets are a tool need to be extremely tightly regulated. They do things
like abuse workers’ rights or trash the environment. you need very strict, tight democratic regulations and strong trade unions within those regulations. they generate wealth. Chomsky denies that
And there’s another element of Chomsky’s thought which is very important which is his analysis of the media. I was initially skeptical of it but I think there is some truth in it.
MK: You write in the mainstream media.
MK: Do you feel pressure? Do you think if you said certain things your editors would mention something?
MK: It’s unspoken?
JH: Yes. What he would say is you internalize the norms and there are certain things that you don’t say. I think that is how it works; it doesn’t work as self-censorship
I think trusting one of the most important institutions in a free society – the media – to the benevolence of billionaires is pretty dodgy
MK: How else do you structure it though? You can’t have it under state control can you?
MK: He’s into independent non-corporate media though isn’t he? But that’s hard to get off the ground.
JH: The Guardian is a good example but he would say that is corrupted by the fact they have to take advertising from corporations
It is a manufacturing of a common sense that people do absorb. I’ve seen it most clearly on things like asylum.
What he has done in exposing Joan Peters who is a fraud and liar was amazing. I think he is now doing the same thing with Alan Dershowitz. I think it is very valuable. I love what he says about Elie Wiesel. I hate the mystification of the Holocaust and the attempt to turn it into a kind of quasi-religious thing. I love – partly because Finkelstein has the unimpeachable moral authority of having two parents who survived the Holocaust – he can say this in a way that if other people said it you would instinctively be more suspicious of it. Elie Wiesel says things like “the Holocaust cannot be comprehended by human beings.” That is a ridiculous thing to say. It was one of the worst crimes of the 20th century. It was unbelievably evil but it is comprehensible. if you set it up as being incomprehensible you increase the chances of happening again
The American occupation has bought with it a program of extreme neo-liberalism – far more extreme than anything tried in any democratic country, just like the one imposed on Russia. When I interviewed Joseph Stiglitz about this he said “The way they are acting in Iraq suggests they think what they did in Russia after the fall of Communism was a great success,” when in fact it saw the country slide back towards fascism which is basically where it is under Putin
Islamism is a totalitarian movement. There’s another half to that equation. Totalitarian movements do not emerge in vacuums. The context for Nazism was the humiliation imposed by the Versailles treaty. the context for this psychopathic, totalitarian ideology is what has been done to the Arab world over the last 60 years
“It’s a psychopathic movement” – yes, that’s true but psychosis rarely occurs in a vacuum. The reason why this psychotic movement has developed is that for the last 60 years Western governments have systematically murdered all the liberals and democrats in those countries. When there was a profoundly democratic movement in Iran in the 1950’s what did we do? We installed a sub-fascist dictator because they wanted a stable access to oil.
look at Chechnya. Look at what happened in Beslan – murdering and torturing school children. look what’s happened with the Chechens over the last 40 years Chechnya was deported by Stalin to Siberia, half died half died on the way back. Soviet Union fell they wanted to be independent.
They weren’t allowed to be and they were further brutalized. And a third of the population of Chechnya has died since 1991. You look at aerial picture of Grozny and it looks like it’s been nuked.