Interview With Noam Chomsky

pixlr_20160917114142040Washington, DC (TFC– Noam Chomsky has been a dedicated opponent of war and injustice for more than half a century. He has written dozens of books and published in innumerable journals.  His prolific works have made him one of the best-known radical voices in the U.S,. and around the world.  His arguments and teachings are have contributed to the commitment of activists, and to shaping the thinking of countless people worldwide.

FC. What are your thoughts on the Anarcho-Pacificist text: “The Kingdom of God is Within You” by Tolstoy and the slogan “nonresistance to evil”:

NC. There’s no doubt a metaphoric interpretation of Tolstoy’s comments that make sense. I don’t see much use in general slogans. Sometimes it is worth resisting evil with lesser evil, very commonly in fact.

FC. Some people namely, Michael Foucault, have critiqued your view on Human Nature, what is your response?

NC. It’s true that many say that [they] object to the idea of “human nature,” but it’s not clear what that is supposed to mean. Are we different from ants?

There is a good deal in print about the likely evolutionary context [of linguistics] . Requires some technical explanation.

FC. What are your thoughts on Ron Paul’s Ten Principles of A Free Society?

#4 [ Government may not redistribute private wealth or grant special privileges to any individual or group.] expresses the real content of his views, which he is probably too much of an ideologue to understand: concentrate wealth and power very narrowly, leaving everyone else “free” to serve or starve.

#9 [ All forms of involuntary servitude are prohibited, not only slavery but also conscription, forced association, and forced welfare distribution.] expresses his moral depravity, the savage opposition to community agreement (which is what government is, if democratic) to helping those in need.

The rest is mostly silly.

FC. If democracy always cater to the will of the majority can it ever be truly horizontal?

NC: Democracy, in any rational form, also imposes conditions on majority rule. That’s what the Bill of Rights is about, for example.

FC. Many who break away from the mainstream of corporate politics end up following Alex Jones and other conspiracy theorists and begin pointing toward Bilderberg, bohemian Grove, Council of Foreign Relations, Free Masons, or even the illuminati as their targets of dissent. What would you say to people who’ve headed down that thought process?:

NC: Bohemian Grove seems to be a kind of frat house affair. Bilderberg may be marginally more serious. The CFR is transparent. You can read their
publications. In the 18th century it perhaps made some sense to conjure up the Illuminati and Masons. Not since.

FC. Is Iceland a model you think the United States should follow? Would you consider them in any way Liberterian Socialists?:

NC: Iceland is capitalist social democratic, rather like the Nordic countries generally. The capital had a mayor who is an anarchist, but the city has been nothing like that. In fact a few years ago it was super-neoliberal, which led to the crash.

FC: Is waiting for the end of institutions such as the federal reserve or electoral college, necessary before real change occurs?

NC: No use in waiting, we can all work hard to bring about changes. Fed and electoral college could use some tinkering, but they are not the source of the problems.

FC. Would you encourage people to vote for Bernie Sanders?

NC: I’ve already supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries.

FC. What are your thoughts on the Anti Immairation and fascists movements springing up in mainstream politics?:

NC: When I gave talks in Arizona last year, I referred to it as “occupied Mexico.” Not just irony.

The US stole Texas from Mexico by violence, then invaded Mexico on ludicrous pretexts and conquered half of it, what is now the Southwest and Far West. That’s why cities have Spanish names: San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Cruz, etc. All of this is suppressed in standard American history. But the victims remember. The conquerors typically have one history, the victims a different one – and often a more accurate one.

And the conquerors knew at the time. Here’s a famous quote from General and President U.S. Grant:

“For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure [the annexation of Texas], and to this day regard the war [with Mexico] which resulted as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.”

FC. In Paul Johnson’s the Intellectuals, he uses you as one of his negative examples of an intellectual, but doesn’t seem to have much in terms of critique. What are your thoughts on this book wherein you and Tolstoy share a cover?:

NC: Haven’t read the book for a while, so these are faded memories. But I suspect we’re both on the cover because he detests both of us.

My memory – faded, as I say – is that he was trying to vilify all intellectuals who were at all critical of the states he worships, and of power generally (except, of course, the power of enemies, which we must denounce, imitating the commissars who are his models, though he doesn’t understand it). Another recollection is that he mostly kept away from ideas and dedicated activism, and concentrated on sex lives and other gossip. When he got to me he was in trouble, because I’m an old-fashioned conservative: married when I was 21, stayed married, 3 kids, live in the suburbs, no scandals, so nothing to write about. So what he did is concoct one of the nuttiest claims I’ve ever seen. The reason I am a political radical is that I work on syntax. If I worked on semantics (which in fact I do), I’d be a good Thatcherite.

FC. What are your thoughts on the social movement, Kids Out Of Cages and groups like Save The Kids, who fight to end Youth Incarceration:

NC: Very pleased to learn about [the] project, a very worthy goal, and I hope [it has] the greatest success.

FC: What are your thoughts of the Anarchist organizations in the Kurdistan Independence Movement, such as the YPG/J?

NC: I’ve been interested in the reports on Rojava. It seems clear that there are positive developments. I have inquired about them with veteran correspondents who know Syria well and have worked there for years and would be very sympathetic, but they are unable to verify the more upbeat reports. So I don’t know.

FC. Should radical activists concerned with the environment, continue to work in solidarity with labor movements within industries that destroy natural habitat?

Andrew Rusk, Flickr, Creative Commons Noam Chomsky

Andrew Rusk, Flickr, Creative Commons
Noam Chomsky

NC. We should certainly not be perpetuating further harm to others or to the environment. Suppose that workers at ExxonMobil are trying to unionize. We have two choices: to help them improve their lives, or to keep away so that their lives will be worse. Neither choice has any effect on use of fossil fuels. So radical organizers can both help them unionize and improve their lives, and convince them to find a different way to survive and work for ending the use of fossil fuels.The alternative is just the latter, while making their lives worse, with no effect on fossil fuel use. Radical activists can’t ignore the fact that we live in this world, like it or not, and have to make difficult decisions about which paths are the best – or sometimes, the least harmful. There are no abstract formulas. Have to think through each case on its own.