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Chomsky’s Unearned Prestige

Eric Zuesse

A large part of Noam Chomsky’s public image as an intellectual is derived not from his role in the field of linguistics, but instead from his having co-authored with Edward Herman Manufacturing Consent. The first matter to be discussed here will therefore be Chomsky’s contribution to that work; and, more broadly, that work’s contribution to human understanding — the actual significance of the book.

Chomsky’s contribution to that 1988 book was to describe the selling of specifically the wars in Vietnam and in adjoining Indochinese nations, according to that book’s main author, Herman’s, theory. That theory was called the “Propaganda model of communication”. It’s the book’s theory, or “model,” of manufacturing consent for wars. According to their book, the practitioners of this model are the public relations or PR profession that sell, to the domestic American public, invasions and military occupations of foreign lands. This is a specialized field of PR.

Herman’s theory (or “model”) of political PR (commonly called “propaganda”) for the invasion and control of foreign countries, had, itself, actually already been presented 66 years earlier in almost full form in Walter Lippmann’s 1922 introduction of that concept, “the manufacture of consent,” but Lippmann focused there more broadly, on the selling of all types of governmental polices, and not only on the selling of invasions and military occupations of foreign lands. Lippmann had introduced this broader concept of “the manufacture of consent,” in his 1922 book Public Opinion.

Chomsky’s theoretical contribution to the concept — that is, to the theory (manufacture of consent) — was nil, and even Herman’s additions to Lippmann’s theory (Herman’s model of it, that is, for selling wars) were only minor, and certainly not as deep as Lippmann’s broader theory is. Lippmann’s analysis of the subject was the foundation of Herman’s “Propaganda Model.” Herman’s “model” of Lippmann’s theory was merely the application of “the manufacture of consent” to specifically the selling of foreign invasions and military occupations.

In any case, as Edward Herman’s biographer said, “Ed was the primary author. Ed developed the Propaganda Model and wrote the chapters before the Indochina wars, and Noam wrote the Indochina chapters.” This would mean that Chomsky wrote pages 169-296 (127 pages) of the 330-page work. He applied there Herman’s model, to analysis of the media-coverage of the wars in three countries: Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

Chomsky was the co-author who also gave the public speeches and most of the interviews on the book, because he was its famous author. Chomsky was therefore constantly generating new sales and income for both of the authors. He was the book’s main salesman. And this was Chomsky’s main contribution, outside of linguistics. Of course, his speeches and interviews about mainly-Herman’s book also helped considerably to increase Chomsky’s fame beyond his narrow technical field of linguistics.

Chomsky’s chief non-linguistic contribution to the world has thus been his marketing Herman’s model of the sales-promotions (the propaganda) for wars; and that model, in turn, was based upon Lippmann’s theory of the manufacture of consent. Here is how he marketed it:

In a 2002 interview, Chomsky said:

The term “manufacturing consent” is not mine, I took it from Walter Lippmann, the leading public intellectual and leading media figure of the twentieth century, who thought it was a great idea. He said we should manufacture consent, that’s the way democracies should work. There should be a small group of powerful people, and the rest of the population should be spectators, and you should force them to consent by controlling, regimenting their minds.

That’s not true. Lippmann instead had said the manufacture of consent happens, and throughout history has happened, in each and every nation, of every type. He didn’t say it “should” happen, but that it always does happen. He said a very different thing than what Chomsky said that Lippmann had said. What Lippmann had said is also far less heinous than Chomsky’s smear of Lippmann made it appear to be. It wasn’t heinous at all.

Here is the key part of Lippmann’s actual presentation on the matter:

That the manufacture of consent is capable of great refinements no one, I think, denies. The process by which public opinions arise is certainly no less intricate than it has appeared in these pages, and the opportunities for manipulation open to anyone who understands the process are plain enough.

The creation of consent is not a new art. It is a very old one which was supposed to have died out with the appearance of democracy. But it has not died out. It has, in fact, improved enormously in technic, because it is now based on analysis rather than on rule of thumb. And so, as a result of psychological research, coupled with the modern means of communication, the practice of democracy has turned a corner. A revolution is taking place, infinitely more significant than any shifting of economic power.

Within the life of the generation now in control of affairs, persuasion has become a self-conscious art and a regular organ of popular government. None of us begins to understand the consequences, but it is no daring prophecy to say that the knowledge of how to create consent will alter every political calculation and modify every political premise. Under the impact of propaganda, not necessarily in the sinister meaning of the word alone, the old constants of our thinking have become variables. It is no longer possible, for example, to believe in the original dogma of democracy; that the knowledge needed for the management of human affairs comes up spontaneously from the human heart. Where we act on that theory we expose ourselves to self-deception, and to forms of persuasion that we cannot verify.

Nowhere in all of Lippmann’s published writings did he ever say anything like: “We should manufacture consent, that’s the way democracies should work. There should be a small group of powerful people, and the rest of the population should be spectators, and you should force them to consent by controlling, regimenting their minds.”

Elsewhere, Chomsky asserted, which likewise was misrepresenting Lippmann’s views:

He [Lippmann] said this is useful and necessary because the common interests, the concerns of all people, elude the public. The public isn’t up to dealing with them, and they [“the concerns of all people”] have to be the domain of what he called a specialized class.

Notice that that’s the opposite of the standard view about democracy. There’s a version of this expressed by the very respected moralist and theologian Reinhold Niebuhr. … His view was that rationality belongs to the cool observer, but because of the stupidity of the average man …, “necessary illusions” [are needed]. …

It’s not the case as the naive might think, that indoctrination is inconsistent with democracy, rather as this whole line of thinker observes, it’s the essence of democracy.

Lippmann’s view was instead that it’s not “the essence of” any type of government, but that it is an unfortunate part of every type of government. Instead of being portrayed as “the essence of democracy,” it was portrayed as something that’s in every sort of government.

The closest that Lippmann had said, to Chomsky’s version of it, was:

In the absence of institutions and education by which the environment is so successfully reported that the realities of public life stand out sharply against self-centered opinion, the common interests very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality. This class is irresponsible, for it acts upon information that is not common property.

Lippmann there essentially defined what he had otherwise called “the sinister meaning of the word [propaganda]” as being the “irresponsible” type of it. Lippmann was not saying that this is what should be — much less that it’s the way any country ought to function. He was even, on the contrary, warning against it.

Lippmann went on to say “The democratic theory by failing to admit that self-centered opinions are not sufficient to procure good government, is involved in perpetual conflict between theory and practice.” His warning was prophetically important. He was pointing out the difference between the way things are (lacking some democratic regulations — democratic governance — that are needed in order to serve and protect individuals), and the way things must become, if the future isn’t to go the wrong way (as it has done, and still is doing). In any “non-sinister meaning” of the word “propaganda,” “the environment is so successfully reported [by practitioners of the propaganda professions] that the realities of public life stand out sharply against self-centered opinion.” Only to the extent that PR is entirely truthful, informing the public in such a way that “the realities of public life stand out sharply against self-centered opinion” and not at all deceiving or misleading people, can it even possibly avoid being “sinister.” And whenever it is “sinister,” it is “irresponsible.” He was clear.

Lippmann was (especially as seen now, in historical retrospect) both true and wise. The misrepresentation of him by Chomsky presents Lippmann instead as having been sinister.

Misrepresentations such as those described above, are common in Chomsky’s public statements. In the above examples, the topic happened to be one (“Manufacturing Consent”) regarding which Chomsky had gained a significant portion of his fame as being a supposed expert and authority. He supposedly understood this subject, and was supposedly an expert speaker about it, who wouldn’t distort and lie about the matter, such as he routinely does. (The examples cited here are not anomalous, they are typical.)

In 2005, the trade-newspaper for college and university professors, the Chronicle of Higher Education, headlined “Chomsky as the world’s top public intellectual”. It reported that in the first-ever poll taken by Britain’s Prospect magazine, Chomsky “has been voted the world’s leading public intellectual from a list of 100 prominent thinkers compiled by the British magazine.” Prospect also “holds the annual Think Tank Awards, which celebrate and reward the work of think tanks on a national and global scale. The awards are supported by Shell” and by other international corporations. Each one of them has a PR department, lobbyists, and other members of what Chomsky said that Lippmann had said was the “specialized class” “that’s the way democracies should work,” “because the common interests, the concerns of all people, elude the public. The public isn’t up to dealing with them.”

Perhaps academics, and the owners of international corporations, want the public to think that that’s the way things are — that the aristocracy (who control the corporations and endow the colleges, etc.) aren’t the cause and source and boss of the propaganda-business, and that instead the public’s own stupidity and gullibility are the cause and source of that business. That’s blame-the-victim thinking. However, that view of the matter came actually from Chomsky, not at all from Lippmann.

So, perhaps people who are gullible enough to be reading magazines such as Prospect, or the Chronicle, believe Chomsky is a wise man, but people who understand the propaganda-business, know better. They hire and promote organizations such as Prospect magazine and individuals such as Chomsky, to “force them [the public] to consent by controlling, regimenting their minds” (via such PR agencies and professors) so as to blame the public, instead of to blame the people who actually hire the people who manipulate the public: the aristocracy.

How exquisite a deception is this? Is Chomsky really so skilled an example of this “specialized class,” of persons who possess “that rationality,” which “belongs to the cool observer,” and not to “the naive” masses? Perhaps Chomsky has deceived himself to think so. Obviously, his many admirers think so and view him as being a paradigm of these ‘truths’ — but they’re lies. Chomsky’s ‘paraphrases’ of Lippmann are not statements of Lippmann’s actually expressed views, which are, if anything, the exact opposite. Chomsky’s statements about the person who was actually the originator of the concept of the manufacture of consent were a fraudulent caricature of Lippmann, as if Chomsky had greatly improved upon Lippmann’s original presentation of the “manufacture of consent.” Consequently, Chomsky misrepresented both the person, and that person’s concept and intention.

There are many, many, other examples of Chomsky’s deceptions. For one, his championing of America’s invasion of Syria is, itself, terrific propaganda for the manufacturers of US weapons such as Lockheed Martin, and for America’s and its allies’ international oil and gas giants, and it’s propaganda for criminal US invasions and military occupations of sovereign foreign lands. Until recently, America’s invasion and occupation of Syria were relying mainly upon the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda to train and lead ‘our moderate rebels’ there to overthrow and replace Syria’s Government by one that would be selected by the Saud family who own Saudi Arabia and are the key foreign ally of America’s aristocracy. The Sauds are the people who, by selling their oil only in dollars, prop up the value of the US dollar no matter how big the US Government’s debts and trade-deficits are.

But more recently, the US military has been relying instead upon Syria’s separatist Kurds to take over in northeast Syria. Either way, it’s America’s invasion and occupation of the sovereign nation of Syria — an extreme violation of a nation’s sovereignty over its own territory. However, Chomsky and many other leading scholars and intellectuals (and war-industry-funded think-tanksters) encourage this international aggression by the US Government. Here’s a specific example of that, from Chomsky:

On 23 April 2018 was published in the New York Review of Books, “A Call to Defend Rojava: An Open Letter”. Chomsky was one of its signers. His name there added prestige and ‘authority’ to the proposal.

Rojava is the projected name for a breakaway Kurdish region to be taken from the existing nation of Syria, by the US and its anti-Syrian allies, and to be ruled then by the U.S.-established “Syrian Democratic Forces” (SDF) of the most-ethnocentric Kurds. That “Open Letter” was urging continued US military arming and training of Kurdish fighters, the SDF, to achieve this goal of a Kurdistan for Kurds, which would be like the existing Israel for Jews — that is, everyone else in the given territory would be second-class citizens; they’d be ruled by Kurds there, like in Israel by Jews. Rojava would be an apartheid state, like Judaic Israel is, and White South Africa was.

This letter, signed by Chomsky, demanded that the US “continue military support for the SDF,” and the letter asserted that “the Kurdish-led forces had established an oasis, unique in Syria, of local self-government, women’s rights, and secular rule.” That’s false. Secular rule and women’s rights wouldn’t be “unique in Syria,” but instead the same as under Syria’s present Government. The two links in that demand within the letter, are links that are in the letter itself, and both links are to articles that were written by neoconservatives — proponents of American conquest of foreign lands.

Syria’s Government already provides, and has long-established (not only in its customs but in its laws), both women’s rights and secular rule. However, a Western (US-allied, in this case Jordanian) poll of Syrian women found that four fifths of women said that “the social norms in Syria truly impede women’s success.” The same percentage might be found in Kurdish areas of Syria. The “social norms” in Syria were not established by the Government but by tribal and religious traditions that go back for centuries, and even for millennia.

Syria’s Constitution, however, asserts that

The state shall provide women with all opportunities enabling them to effectively and fully contribute to the political, economic, social and cultural life, and the state shall work on removing the restrictions that prevent their development and participation in building society.”

It also says:

Citizens shall be equal in rights and duties without discrimination among them on grounds of sex, origin, language, religion or creed.”

Although some Syrians (including some Kurdish ones) want Islamic (Sharia) law, and most of the fighters who have been backed by the US Government to overthrow Syria’s Government are of that religious type (jihadists — fighters based on religious reasons and favoring religion-based laws), Syria is the most secular of all Arabic countries; and even the polling in Syria by Western polling organizations has shown consistently that the secular Bashar al-Assad would easily win any free and fair election there.

Furthermore, Table 26 of the July 2015 Orb International poll of Syrians asked Syrians for “the reason that explains the presence of ISIL?” (“ISIL” is synonymous with ISIS and Daesh.) And 82% of Syrians said “ISIL is US foreign manufacture.” That was the highest percentage for any explanation. In Table 20, the other options were also shown, and the closest ones were 59% for “widespread sectarian politics in the Arab countries and in Turkey,” and then 55% for “ISIL is some Arab regimes manufacture” — presumably referring in that case to the Sauds, especially since Turkey wasn’t included in that particular option (it’s not Arab) and yet 55% is nearly as high as the 59% (which did include Turkey — along with “the Arab countries” — as being a cause for ISIL’s being in Syria).

So, Syrians apparently know the truth about that matter, even if Americans (such as Chomsky) don’t. The US Government is the main source of their war, and “sectarian politics in the Arab countries and in Turkey” also contributed to it. In other words: the US Government has taken advantage of those local “sectarian politics” in order to conquer Syria. The US is even more unpopular among Syrians than is the Saud family, and this is the reason why the US Government was trying to get the Sauds to run Syria. The US Government has a bad reputation in almost every Muslim-majority land, but especially in Syria and in Iran (neither of which that US Pew poll even sampled), both of which the US Government hopes to conquer.

In a 26 September 2018 interview with The Intercept, Chomsky said of “the Kurdish areas — Rojava” that “They have the one part of Syria which is succeeded in sustaining a functioning society with many decent elements. And the idea that they should be subjected to an attack by their bitter enemies the Turks, or by the murderous Assad regime I think anything should be done to try to prevent that.” Chomsky there certainly disrespects Syrian national sovereignty, and despises the non-sectarian President of that country, who shares the view (which repeated polling in Syria has shown to be the view of the vast majority of Syrians), that Syria is and must remain a secular and multi-ethnic country. The goal of breaking Syria up into ethnic enclaves has circulated ever since at least the 1950s within the CIA, RAND Corporation, and Israel. However, Obama’s goal was instead to have the royal Saud family control Syria. But that plan had already failed even before Trump became the US President.

As to the reality regarding the Kurds versus the Government, it’s tragic. Bashar al-Assad and Syria’s highly secular ruling Baath Party (which existed long before the Assad family rose to its leadership) have faced only bad options there. Propagandists of the sinister type (such as Chomsky) take advantage of that fact. The northwest Syrian city of Afrin is the best example of this reality. On 7 June 2018, Britain’s pro-US-empire (or “neoconservative”) Guardian newspaper headlined “‘Nothing is ours anymore’: Kurds forced out of Afrin after Turkish assault: Many who fled the violence January say their homes have been given to Arabs”.

The article was true, except that it ignored the key fact, that the Arabs whom Syria’s Government had transferred into the Kurdish-rebel-run city of Afrin and who now were taking it over, were jihadists who had been defeated by the Government, around the city of Ghouta, and the Government chose to offer those jihadists this relocation to Afrin in preference to the Government’s killing everyone in the pro-Sharia-law enclaves around Ghouta simply in order to destroy those jihadists there. (Syria’s Government wanted to minimize civilian casualties, and so offered jihadists this alternative, which would free non-combatant Ghoutans from their captors instead of killing them, but there was this inevitable down-side to doing that.)

So, the Government was now letting the fundamentalist-Sunnis who rejected Syria’s Government, fight in Afrin against the tribalist Kurds there who controlled that area and rejected Syria’s Government. Unfortunately, tragically, the non-tribalist Kurds likewise became dispossessed there. Wikipedia has a brief but broadly accurate description of the background of this tragedy:

Syrian Civil War
Main article: Afrin Canton

During the Syrian Civil War, Syrian government forces withdrew from the city during the summer of 2012. The Popular Protection Units (commonly known as YPG) took control of the city soon afterward.

Afrin Canton as a de facto autonomous part was declared on 29 January 2014, the town of Afrin being the administrative center. The assembly elected Hêvî Îbrahîm Mustefa prime minister, who later appointed Remzi Şêxmus and Ebdil Hemid Mistefa to work as deputies.

Between 2012 and 2018, the YPG, the official [that term ‘official’ is, however, just a CIA lie, because it was instead only de facto, which even the CIA-edited and written Wikipedia recognizes to mean non-official – EZ] defence force of the canton, was criticized for recruiting child soldiers, committing arbitrary arrests and failing to address unsolved killings and disappearances. According to the reports, the YPG and Asayish were also accused of forcibly recruiting civilians, arresting political activists and displacing more than 150,000 Arabs whose homes were later stolen and looted. Displaced Arabs accused the Kurdish security forces of imposing taxes and restrictions on the population in order force them to leave, and change the demography.

Propagandists take advantage of such tragedies, in order to deceive the public. Chomsky, a co-author of Manufacturing Consent, is an example of that — in this case manufacturing consent for US imperialism. What he has been saying about Syria is propagandizing for America’s invasion and occupation of that country. The means by which this immensely destructive invasion and occupation are done are not merely US troops training and arming the fighters, but are especially the fighters themselves, first mainly jihadists, but more recently and increasingly ethnocentric Kurds.

The results of this ‘civil war’ have been horrific. “Gallup measured negative emotions in 138 countries in 2013 by asking people whether they experienced a lot of stress, sadness, anger, physical pain, and worry the previous day, … [and found that Syria] is the only country in the world whose Negative Experience Index score exceeds its Positive Experience Index score.” Iraq was found to be almost as bad — still, even ten years after the US regime’s destruction of that country, in 2003, by an invasion based on lies.

An extraordinary journalist at a mainstream ‘news’-medium, William Arkin, quit NBC and MSNBC on January 2nd, and the independent columnist Caitlin Johnstone, headlined then “Reporter Quits NBC Citing Network’s Support For Endless War”. She linked to Arkin’s email resigning from those networks. It had mentioned such unmentionables as “I’m alarmed at how quick NBC is to mechanically argue … in favor of policies that just spell more conflict and more war. Really? We shouldn’t get out Syria?” But it’s not only the directly mega-corporate ‘news’-media that shape the ‘news’ this way. Johnstone aptly noted:

A journalist with NBC has resigned from the network with a statement which highlights the immense resistance that ostensibly liberal mass media outlets have to antiwar narratives, skepticism of US military agendas, and any movement in the opposite direction of [from] endless military expansionism. … Another way to say it would be that plutocrat-controlled and government-enmeshed media networks hire reporters to protect the warmongering oligarchic status quo upon which media-controlling plutocrats have built their respective kingdoms, and foster an environment which elevates those who promote establishment-friendly narratives while marginalizing and pressuring anyone who doesn’t.

The enormous success of that manufacturing of consent for our nation’s military, has been proven conclusively, by Gallup’s constant polling of Americans on our degrees of respect, or disrespect, for the nation’s various institutions. Each and every year, the one institution that Americans respect by far the most is the military. The American institution that’s the worst of all (an engine of misery even within the United States), is also the most respected of all. That’s how enormously successful the manufacturing of consent is, in America. Can such a country be a democracy at all, or only a dictatorship? Does it resemble 1984’s “Big Brother,” and perpetual war for perpetual ‘peace’?

On 18 March 2011, a blogger at Huffington Post, David A. Love, headlined “A State of Perpetual War”, and opened:

In the George Orwell classic 1984, there is a state of perpetual war between the nations of Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia. The enemy in the conflict is ambiguous, and the battlefield exists in an elusive and distant land. The enemy could be Eurasia one day, and Eastasia the next, but that location is really insignificant. … Before, it was the Cold War, and now it is the War on Terror. And the boogeyman du jour is Al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism rather than Communism. And it doesn’t seem to matter whether the government is controlled by Democrats or Republicans.

And now, the ‘enemies’ are, yet again, Russia, and China, and North Korea, and Iran — but always anything, in order to keep the tax-money flowing to firms like Lockheed Martin, in order to provide the muscle, for firms like ExxonMobil, to be able to extract resources more profitably, from around the world.

What Chomsky is doing is in accord with the theory for selling foreign invasions and military occupations, as was set forth in his co-authored 1988 book. Chomsky has been practicing what he has become famous for condemning. (Instead of training and arming Vietnamese and other fighters, the US now is training and arming jihadist and ethnocentric fighters, such as ones led by Al Qaeda and by separatist Kurds.) And few, if any, of Chomsky’s admirers have even noticed this. His admirers have been oblivious.

Readers who may wish to explore more deeply the current and very sinister ways in which the US Government is manufacturing consent, will see an especially potent example of that, here.

Originally posted at strategic-culture.org
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Antonym.
Reader
Antonym.

The present US is definitely the super bully right now but it is naive to think that the mentality only exists in Anglo minds around Washington DC, Arlington, Manhattan or Dallas.

The new kid on the block is Xi from Beijing and his (state Capitalist) comrades: stupid to ignore the next one…

Antonym.
Reader
Antonym.

Walter Lipmann died in 1974, so long before the rise of the wired Internet and wireless communication. He lived in a world of a few newspapers and TV channels, easier to control. Today we have Internet, Twitter, Whats-app, Facebook, Off Guardian etc., impossible to control apart from hundreds of TV channels. Therefore domestic mass-spying was needed by the Establishments and 9/11 was an excellent fig leaf. Orwell and Lippmann were right in their interpretation of the intentions of any Establishment, but could not foresee the new info channels of the general population. Chomsky outlived them and has therefore more of… Read more »

Frankly Speaking
Reader
Frankly Speaking

I could have never believed that Maureen Lipman could have caused so much controversy and debate here.

David Eire
Reader
David Eire

I think this article misrepresents Chomsky whom I continue to respect even if he sometimes has views I cannot support. Walter Lippmann was an elitist intellectual who characterised the civilian population as a ‘bewildered herd’ which needed to be managed by propaganda. I guess propaganda, or persuasion, is preferable to martial force and gulags. A conservatist realist would probably agree with Lippmann. A moralist progressive might say It ought not to be that way. But the illusions of personal independence and freedom we all believe and cherish are really only myths. We are all products of our environments and utterly… Read more »

binra
Reader

This could also be seen as a demand for unconsciousness. (In the masses). Or a refusal or incapacity for self-responsibility. I don’t stress one side of a coin to exclude the other. Guilt that is projected so as to mitigate its pain will still demand punishment. And guilt is protected and valued as the core means of manipulating ourselves or others. A sense of lacking control gave rise to the idea of power OVER life. the experience of being denied, deprived, rejected, abandoned, betrayed (by life or by others), generates a sense of defence, opposition and reaction in like kind… Read more »

Charles Frith
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9/11 Deniers

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

For what it’s worth, here’s my theory about Chomsky: I don’t think he’s a “spook” or a “mole”. I just think he’s a good example of that old adage that it’s hard to get someone to see the truth when his livelihood depends on him NOT seeing it. I think the JFK thing was the turning point. He realised there was something odd going on but the implications disturbed him – as indeed they would anyone. The quote from his associate Selwyn Bromberger is probably a signal of Chomsky’s own feeling: “If they are strong enough to kill the President,… Read more »

Ari Paul
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Ari Paul

Thanks Makropulos for the thoughtful comment. But I think your point can be summed up very simply:

Chomsky is clearly part of the establishment because the establishment does not make any forceful propaganda against him; he’s prominent but not vilified.

binra
Reader

Part of the established order does not mean part of an organisation.
I may be wrong but I feel he is essentially ignored or walled out of any real effect insofar as he speaks critically.
Is that so?
And so does he willingly or not occupy the place designated for him by the fact that what he says has no real effect.

I see it that those who break the unspoken rules or step out of line who for whatever reason cant just be disappeared, bought, compromised and smeared or intimidated to retract, retire or revise their stance, are walled out or ignored.

Hugh O'Neill
Reader
Hugh O'Neill

I think you are being too kind to Chomsky. What price integrity? What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but suffers the loss of his own soul? (It is interesting – to me – that John the Baptist, the voice in the wilderness, still ended up with his head on a plate). On the 40th Anniversary of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, John Pilger told Amy Goodman that many more shots were fired than the seven allegedly fired by Sirhan; she simply ignored this crucial eye-witness testimony, and Pilger let her. One would have thought… Read more »

binra
Reader

“(It is interesting – to me – that John the Baptist, the voice in the wilderness, still ended up with his head on a plate)” The faith in the light, calls on or attracts the (awareness of light), preparing the way by the repentance and sweeping out of dark arts or habits of a mind set in secrets and lies; (darkness). But while recognising and welcoming the light (in Jesus) John could not accept it fully but only see it OUTSIDE himself while the presumption of self as sin (unworthiness of light) was so fearfully predicated to disallow or deny… Read more »

Hugh O'Neill
Reader
Hugh O'Neill

Binra. Quoting JtB, I am not fit to tie the straps of your sandals. I understand that one sees in others what is within oneself and thus the truly good will find the good in others etc. Every man has a free will to choose between right and wrong, but only unblemished by Original Sin could see the good in Everyman, a necessary prerequisite for Forgiveness. There must be good in both Lippmann and Chomsky but there is a strong injunction against those who bear false witness e.g. if Chomsky were deliberately inverting Lippmann. I know nothing about either one,… Read more »

binra
Reader

The ‘I’m not fit to…’ presentation… is a presentation. Your worth is not in question if you do not create yourself. But what you make by believing it true (reacting to as true) is real for you and of course we do nothing alone nor exist in isolation but in relation – within a whole that can be extended and shared or blocked and withheld. I hold that truth is not mocked by illusions regardless their apparent intensity – but our awareness of truth is fragile while we are in a world of sin – which is easiest to describe… Read more »

Frankly Speaking
Reader
Frankly Speaking

Hmmm. Meanwhile, in the real world, the rest of us are having to work 12 hours a day to make ends meet. We pay our taxes and hope that they are spent wisely, not on academic wafflers and their tortuous analysis, circular arguments, mud slinging between themselves ( this article and most comments on it) etc, but all of which is entirely fine by “us” if it’s self-funded by these types. We try and keep it simple and down to Earth, just hoping for the traditional Labour Party to return one day, not the one stuffed to the brim with… Read more »

Makropulos
Reader
Makropulos

Your point being….?

Frankly Speaking
Reader
Frankly Speaking

I’m not actually too sure! I’d just woken up and tried to read the article and posted my thoughts, unfiltered. Wishing for edit and delete buttons here one day very soon.

Benge
Reader
Benge

I thought your comment made perfect sense.
Sometimes academic squabbling and quibbling seems a bit of an indulgence.
The present, in the UK, is a shining example of such a time.

binra
Reader

Everyone perceives their own version of this article/comment thread. The reason this is so is well illuminated by Lippman very near the beginning of his book. If there is one world ‘out there’, everyone has their own particular version or perspective. Because we can only engage or relate in it through the definitions and beliefs and agreements that – in any given moment – are accepted ‘reality’. Competing narrative identities reinforce identity in the model. Identifying underlying issues opens the currently believed and acted out beliefs and presumptions to the possibility of revision within a wider perspective. To the invested… Read more »

Frankly Speaking
Reader
Frankly Speaking

Thank you Benge, that’s what was on my mind: academic over indulgence. Meanwhile, Rome is burning.

bevin
Reader
bevin

“Wishing for edit and delete buttons here…”
You make a very convincing argument.

Frankly Speaking
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Frankly Speaking

Apologies m’Lord Bevin, some of us serfs had to make do with Comprehensive education and might not be quite as eloquent as thou self. Humbly apologise, I know my place m’Lord, I will promise to use the edit and delete button generously.

Paul
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Paul

To give Zuesse the benefit of the doubt he has clearly not understood what Lippmann is trying to say about ‘manufacturing consent’. Chomsky very ably cuts through the rather tortuous prose Lippmann uses. What his position boils down to is that the modern world is too complex for the average voter to understand and that in a modern democracy a specialized class is needed who study the problems and see to it that the right decisions are made. Chomsky lays out in Lipmann’s position very clearly in his essay ‘Force and Opinion'(in Deterring Democracy from 1991) and places him within… Read more »

Ari Paul
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Ari Paul

But Lippmann was not making a VALUE JUDGEMENT. He was not saying that it was a GOOD thing that specialists have to think and make decisions for the masses. He was simply saying that it was a practical requirement dictated by the circumstances of modernity. In other words Lippmann thought that it was inevitable, but bad. Chomsky is clearly presenting Lippmann’s assessment as though Lippmann thought the developments were morally positive. This is totally false and misleading. The words “SHOULD” and “HAVE TO” have very, very different meanings.

binra
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The development of scientific specialisations has generated a world that scientists themselves don’t understand – but that their handlers are able to interpret to better market capture or weapons to protect it. There IS a basis for discerning where someone is coming from and not needing to analyze their presentation to know it carries a hidden agenda – but this is wisdom, not analytical understanding. While faith is invested the scientific discovery of the true nature of the world, as the basis for how to live, technocracy tends to operate behind any personalities or political face. However, the capture of… Read more »

Eric Zuesse
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Eric Zuesse

That comment from ‘Paul’ is yet more misrepresentation of Lippmann. ‘Paul’ took that quotation from Lippmann’s 1927 book, The Phantom Public, Chapter XIV, “Society in its Place.” This chapter opens with “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment …” That opening paragraph closes with “The public must be put in its place, so that it may exercise its own powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and roar of the bewildered herd.” That entire section closes by condemning situations “where false unities are worshiped, and… Read more »

bevin
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bevin

It seems to me that Lippman is making a fairly standard argument against democracy as ‘mob rule’ . Naturally these would be led by ‘false prophets’. The basic problem is that underlying these views is a chronic mistrust of the masses and their judgement.
“But we are the people of England; and we have not spoken yet.
Smile at us, pay us, pass us. But do not quite forget.”

Eric Zuesse
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Eric Zuesse

When ‘bevin’ says “It seems to me that Lippman is making a fairly standard argument against democracy as ‘mob rule’,” I think that that’s a misrepresentation of what Lippmann’s constant position was. Lippmann opposed “A false ideal of democracy,” “where false unities are worshiped.” He condemned the misrepresentation both of democracy and of what is in the public’s interest. I don’t recollect him ever having blamed the public for its having been deceived. I don’t perceive elitism in him, though I very much perceive it in Chomsky. Though I consider Lippmann to have been a wise man, I think that… Read more »

binra
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RE: “avoiding offending people” Do you mean treading on eggshells so as not to invite or incite a feared reaction, or conscious communication that does not engage in personal smear or attack as a personal satisfaction? My sense of the persona is of a mask for defence – that is itself defended as part of or representing self – but self under threat. Being right does not necessarily serve a true outcome – but more likely the false if its right is claimed upon the wrong or sin of the other – as the denial of the other – who… Read more »

binra
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Because an emotion rules mob happens and is cultivated does not mean one has to deny democracy as the idea of having a say in decisions that affect us.

DunGroanin
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DunGroanin

EZ – can you elaborate on why you have just decided to take down the mighty wizard of Narrative?

Not in anyway disagreeing with you.

Frankly Speaking
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Frankly Speaking

As the Sex Pistols would say, perhaps he did it because:

Friggin’ in the riggin’
There was fuck all else to do…

Hugh O'Neill
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Hugh O'Neill

It appears that Lippmann can be taken out of context (by both Chomsky and Paul?) and his meaning inverted. Perhaps it is too easy to misquote Lippmann – or did Lippmann speak with forked tongue firmly in cheek? Regardless, the point is clear that public opinion is indeed fickle and can be easily moulded (William Shirer explained this in his “Rise & Fall of the 3rd Reich”). I think we can all agree that when one casts one’s [informed] vote in a democracy, one needs to have some understanding of the issues – just as one acts morally with an… Read more »

Arrby
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“I think we can all agree that when one casts one’s [informed] vote in a democracy, one needs to have some understanding of the issues – just as one acts morally with an informed conscience.” Sure, But then our informed votes get mixed in with many, many more uninformed votes. What do you get when you pee in fine wine?

binra
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Urine therapy? Is that an apt metaphor? People think or imagine and believe or hope that they are voting for something they hope to get or keep or grow, or against something they hope not to lose by or lose to. Insofar as an ability or willingness to understand and address issues, is blocked, subverted or distorted by invested identity operating and operated by archetypes of ancient personality entanglements – people are effectively led and controlled by emotionally backed reaction to unquestioned perceptions and beliefs. However, this to me calls for a culture of inclusion and education – not invalidation… Read more »

Eric Zuesse
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Eric Zuesse

Nothing that I have said about Lippmann is about Lippmann but instead about first, Chomsky, and now, Paul, as misrepresenting Lippmann. Do I trust Lippmann’s honesty? I don’t know. Do I trust Chomsky’s? Certainly NOT!!! Do I trust ‘Paul’s? He linked to an idiot’s lifting of a quotation out of its necessary context by which to understand that quotation. At least, Paul did something stupid there, but whether he was doing it to deceive? I doubt that.

Eric Zuesse
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Eric Zuesse

Re. my “Do I trust Lippmann’s honesty? I don’t know.”

I did say “Lippmann was (especially as seen now, in historical retrospect) both true and wise. The misrepresentation of him by Chomsky presents Lippmann instead as having been sinister.”

Ever since childhood, when I read Lippmann’s A PREFACE TO MORALS, he convinced me that he was wise, because I found that his citations were accurately represented and were to the point. But I have never fully trusted him, because he wrote with insufficient clarity. That’s why “I don’t know.” I still don’t know.

Arrby
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“To give Zuesse the benefit of the doubt he has clearly not understood what Lippmann is trying to say about ‘manufacturing consent’.” That seems plausible to me. Which is why the issue is: Did Chomsky get Lippmann right or not? Of course, Chomsky shouldn’t actually say this or that person said something if that person didn’t. Paraphrasing is fine, if you’re being clear that that’s what you’re doing. Zuesse is saying Chomsky has misquoted Lippmann. I don’t know.

Stephen Morrell
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Stephen Morrell

This is an interesting take on Chomsky, especially its highlighting his own role in manufacturing consent for imperialist depredations. Chomsky’s anarcho-liberal politics is at the root of his mostly rotten positions, especially on big issues. Anarchism’s clueless notions of ‘pure’ ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’, etc, are a perfect left cover for liberals like Chomsky. Anarchism never asks ‘what kind of democracy?’ or ‘who’s democracy?’ Neither do liberals of course and, like liberals, anarchists run a mile when actual revolutions occur, where force and violence and non-democratic means are used to overthrow the oppressors. Anarchists can never accept it when a state of… Read more »

milosevic
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milosevic

Anarchists can never accept it when a state of exploiters is overthrown and replaced by a state of the exploited, that the exploited somehow aren’t permitted to have their own state that acts in their interests, that coerces and suppresses the old ruling class and all its hangers on; that a revolution must effectively defend itself. Above all, the exploited must never aspire to be the new ruling class. — and they all lived happily ever after, in the land of lollipops and chocolate ice cream. You can read all about it, in The Russian Revolution and Other Stalinist Faery… Read more »

Ari Paul
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Ari Paul

lol nice post milosevic.

But I am interested in any “counter-examples to this general trend.” Are there any???

I’m of the understanding that the inevitable corruption of revolutionary movements in the sense you’re referring to can be taken as universal and axiomatic.

binra
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I see it that way – excepting as a ‘turn about’ in consciousness – rather than an attempt to reverse the symptoms of a collective consciousness by force. The ‘killing or replacing of the evil or denying father by the son’ is an endless fragmentation of oppositional factioning. If progress is the invalidation and denigration of the past, then such is its predicate. We really are in times where many regard humans as an evil blight on the planet and give sympathy and support to the idea of our destruction. Guilt demands punishment and reads itself into events as a… Read more »

Stephen Morrell
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Stephen Morrell

The constant refrain of liberals and anarchists is that revolutions which result in a new state inevitably, eventually and in all cases put into power often well-meaning people who become corrupt, even bloodthirsty, bureaucrats imposing a repressive and totalitarian police-state system over the population to retain power. This line of reasoning rests on essentially a ‘human nature’ argument that denies the malleability of human ‘nature’, of how adaptable humans are to changing social and natural conditions. Christians call it ‘original sin’, but ultimately such ahistorical argumentation denies Darwinian evolution. Anarchists are moralists in the same vein as Christians. ‘Meanwhile back… Read more »

Mike
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Mike

The most interesting and revealing thing about this article is the wild collection of narrow responses. A lot on 911 and JFK theories, some quirky attempts at blame and counter blame, the usual lefty versus righty battle (including lefty-to-righty conversions in old age) and a whole series of not-quite-identifiable troll spoiler rants. Very little cogent or objective analysis re. the argument in the title. A pity really, as most off-guardian article comments are usually enlightening, whereas these are largely uninspiringly tangential.

Frankly Speaking
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Frankly Speaking

Well said Mike!

Makropulos
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Makropulos

I found his comment to be uninspiringly tangential. If Mike has some “cogent or objective analysis” then let’s hear it.

John
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It’s hilarious that I think this article may have the most comments on the off guardian site and many of them are Chomsky fans struggling with reality (many are clearly of the utopian mindset) plus Chomsky is an anarchist a failed ideology that’s never worked before and is primarily a plaything for middle class rich kids with attitude problems

milosevic
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milosevic

a failed ideology that’s never worked before

— as opposed to the world-historic successes wrought by stalinism, a system universally endorsed by all those who have been privileged to experience it.

Voline — The Unknown Revolution, 1917-1921

Frankly Speaking
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Frankly Speaking

Thank you Milosevic for this, and your other, injections of realism into these Ivory Tower, academic debates.

Arrby
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That’s empty.

Hugh O'Neill
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Hugh O'Neill

Evening All. Apologies (as always) for being so late to the discussion. Life is too short to evaluate the likes of Chomsky by debating his intellectual/spiritual integrity which is why I rely on the old Litmus Test of the Assassination of JFK. Chomsky’s response on that issue alone tells you all you need to know: he says: “Who cares who killed Kennedy?”. My thanks to Eric Zuesse (note spelling) for divining Chomsky’s modus operandi with his complete subversion of Walter Lippmann and smearing him into the bargain for something he emphatically did not say. I have little doubt that you… Read more »

Jordan DeMaio
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This reads a bit like something once written for an undergraduate media studies course.

John
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I think we’ve found the Chomsky fan who refuses to think

Zoltan Jorovic
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Zoltan Jorovic

As someone with no particular view on Chomsky I have to say that I agree with Jordan. I tried to read it but gave up as it was just so tedious. After a few paragraphs I couldn’t have given a flying fig about Chomsky, Lippmann or Dr Zeuss. Actually, Dr Zeuss is a far better writer than this fellow. He probably has a point, but it is completely lost in the endless verbiage, and I just lost the will to live after a few hundred words. I then looked at the comments section and…

Makropulos
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Makropulos

“Chomsky fan who refuses to think”

Isn’t that a tautology?

falcemartello
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Corbett report did a piece on him a few years back.
We in the old fashion Gramscian left crowd have always considered Chomsky as a gate keeper . Gave himself away the way he supports the anglo-zionist creation of occupied Palestine.

jag37777
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Corbett propagates a few major falsehoods himself.

Like Chomsky you need to read him on an issue by issue basis and make up your mind on the argument.

I’ve never met anyone I agree with about everything.

Arrby
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Corbett is great. But he wasn’t great when he did that show. It was just awful smear. I was very interested in what James might have said about Chomsky. I was then very disappointed.

falcemartello
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The fact that this so called western intellectual parrots the deep state line on the whole 9/11 ruse is more than telling. Back in the early eighties when I attended the University of Perugia Language Arts department Chomsky was a must read for that is his expertise (Linguist)once he started promoting all the anglo-zionist political lies well then from a Gramscian and Vico point of view it just does not pass the BS test.
Further more he threw Finklestein under the bus and that says a lot.

milosevic
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milosevic

this so-called western intellectual parrots the deep state line on the whole 9/11 ruse

— yah, but don’t they all?

It’s almost like all the high-profile “left-wing intellectuals” are part of some controlled opposition, or something.

https://ohtarzie.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/passing-noam-on-my-way-out-part-1/

https://ohtarzie.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/passing-noam-on-the-way-out-part-2-chomsky-vs-aaron-swartz/

bevin
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bevin

I had been meaning to say-and perhaps this is the wrong thread for it- that looking back on Manufacturing Consent or even Goebbels is to see an era in which propaganda made an effort, usually, to convince the reader.
In these days The Guardian’s news columns increasingly feature articles like this one, which read like press releases put together by kindergarten teachers of the more authoritarian persuasion.
Its an unimportant article but it would never pass muster at RT or Sputnik where the editors are not up to date, I guess.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/09/china-ambassador-canada-white-supremacy-huawei

Arrby
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“Chomsky there certainly disrespects Syrian national sovereignty, and despises the non-sectarian President of that country, who shares the view (which repeated polling in Syria has shown to be the view of the vast majority of Syrians), that Syria is and must remain a secular and multi-ethnic country.” You’ll find references scattered throughout various books by Chomsky showing that he knows that Syria and other socialist, secular, democratic States are targets of the regime-changing US. This is disturbing, to me. The new Chomsky is lacking the virtues of the old Chomsky.

milosevic
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milosevic

The new Chomsky is lacking the virtues of the old Chomsky.

Maybe the Old Chomsky was merely the tasty bait to get you to bite on the disinfo hook which is the New Chomsky. This lure having obviously served its purpose in the case of many other people, if not yourself, the line is now being reeled in.

As with so many things, 9/11 is the giveaway.

Arrby
Reader

“Chomsky’s statements about the person who was actually the originator of the concept of the manufacture of consent were a fraudulent caricature of Lippmann, as if Chomsky had greatly improved upon Lippmann’s original presentation of the “manufacture of consent.”” Reading this critique would have one think that Chomsky was building on Lippmann’s work, that he supported it. But as Zuesse himself points, therefore contradictorily, Chomsky smears Lippmann. So, Which is it? I have never had the impression that Chomsky supported or even gave much thought to, Lippmann’s theory of social control or whatever you want to call it. I have… Read more »

Eric Zuesse
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Eric Zuesse

Chomsky lies about Lippmann. Why don’t you care about his being a liar? And not only about Lippmann but about Syria? And about lots else — but I had THOUGHT that I had provided enough examples/ Apparently, some Chomskyites just refuse to care about his being a liar.

Arrby
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Eric, I do care. And I appreciate that you brought to our attention what you brought to our attention. Give me a chance to dig into it all. I have some issues with your critique, which you can glean from my comments in this discussion, but I do not completely reject what you present.

I am not, as you are, a Chomsky basher. But, Maybe I will be after all is said and done.

bevin
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bevin

” Was Lippmann a progressive?”
At one stage he ran as a Socialist in Poughkeepsie, I think. He was a child of the Progressive era. But so were many reactionaries and Cold Warriors.

Arrby
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Acknowleded, if this wonky website shows my comment.

Maxine Chiu
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Maxine Chiu

Didn’t Chomsky, however reluctantly, vote for Hillary Clinton?….Considering his stated values, pressing the button for a corporate-loving warmonger is unacceptable.

Glasshopper
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Glasshopper

He decided she was the lesser of two evils. A mistake in my view.

robjira
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robjira

Or perhaps even, as the redoubtable Glen Ford might say, he decided she was the “more effective evil.”

Eric Zuesse
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Eric Zuesse

All of that’s irrelevant to this article. I hope that readers here will notice that. People who can’t make a comment that’s relevant should not make any comment at all, because irrelevant comments are distractions, wastes of readers’ time to read — irrelevant, not even side-tracking, but no-tracking.

robjira
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robjira

Not entirely, Mr. Zuesse. In fact, the above is rather a “reverse confirmation” of the point of your article; that Chomsky’s undeserved prestige is derived in part from academic laziness. The above comment points to Chomsky’s unearned prestige affording/excusing his engaging in civic laziness, which pretty well confirms your point.
Chomsky has insightful opinions on many subjects; not so insightful on others. He can also be dismissive, and condescending and I think those serve to cloud his perceptions.
Excellent article, by the way.

Arrby
Reader

Bingo. Choosing the best candidate, in an election, from among a bad lot of stumping politicians is understandable. But there’s a difference between a candidate who supports imperialism (aggression, widespread terror and destruction) and one who may be rightwing but doesn’t want to do imperialism (for the gain of a minority of parasites). If you’re choosing between two candidates who support regime change as a foreign policy practice, and you choose the one who has talked about regime change in 10 countries, instead of 11, which the other candidate talks about, that’s meaningless and far from noble.

Wazdo
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Wazdo

I have always respected Chomsky while admitting to differences on 911 and so forth. However, I have also noticed that when a writer wants to move from the left to the right, in search of greater wealth, the late Christopher Hitchens, Goerge Mombiot ect. they often try to impress their would be new masters with a critique of Chomsky.

Anyone else?

John
Reader

To an extent yes

bevin
Reader
bevin

“when a writer wants to move from the left to the right, in search of greater wealth…they often try to impress their would be new masters with a critique of Chomsky.” “Anyone else?” These guys generally begin with their critiques of Stalin and/or Mao, just to show that they may be of the left but it is a left within the Pale. Then they have tended to pick on the Milosevics and Ghadaffis of this world, again to to show their masters that, they might not wear suits and ties but they know their political manners. In every case there… Read more »

Robert J.
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Robert J.

EZ, wisely, doesn’t discuss Chomsky-the-Famous-Linguist. In the field of linguistics, one that is far from being as irrelevant as may seem, Chomsky’s paradigm is only one among several, and it has encountered much opposition, primarily by professionals who believe that languages are spoken stuff, entwined with the cultures that speak them; people who, accordingly, go out in the field to listen to them in order to study them, rather than sit behind their desks elaborating theories (I was once told that Chomsky only speaks English — if true, how preposterous.) A decade or so ago there was also much criticism addressed by… Read more »

Arrby
Reader

It’s just a sad fact that Chomsky, and he’s not alone in this, is not the same person – progressive – he was when he wrote books like “Deterring Demoracy.” I began to see signs some time ago but had nothing much to sink my teeth into. Recently, I began pondering, in light of developments like this (where someone is one day progressive and the next day not), just what ‘progressive’ meant and who self-identified ‘progressives’ were. To be sure, It wasn’t just the sad defection of Noam Chomsky that had me thinking about these things. (And I’m not merely… Read more »

bevin
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bevin

I think that you and Chomsky misunderstood Hitchens whose political trajectory was predictable. It is hard to go to ‘the right’ of what the SWP had become in the 90s. Check out the politics of the ISO in the US for example, particularly where questions involving Syria and US imperialism are concerned.
Hitchens politics made no sense when the Cold War ended. And he knew it.

John
Reader

The hitch bros despite their obvious intellects are obvious frauds and permanent rebels (permanent revolution of the Trotskyist way perhaps?) take Peter for instance he was no fan of the EU but couldn’t bring himself to vote at all. Same with Christopher he decided (or was told) to go against the grain of the rump of his followers after 9/11 (he’s also pals with the shill salman Rushdie) that’s all they do they get you with some nice facts and truths then they misdirect people. Obvious charlatans

JudyJ
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JudyJ

John I would contend that you are being unfairly condemnatory of Peter Hitchens. Whilst he may have expressed views that you (and I) don’t necessarily agree with, he must be given some credit for being one of the few mainstream journalists to speak and write publicly about the evidence pointing to the true nature of the White Helmets and the absence of evidence that the Syrian Government is guilt of the crimes it is accused of. I have seen him ridiculed and patronised on the BBC for holding these views but he has never waivered in his desire to present… Read more »

Ari Paul
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Ari Paul

agreed