Re: The Roaming Noam by R.M. Price

Come on, Mr. Price. I expect more from you. I normally respect your ability to analyze, but this is weak sauce. The problem with this essay is that it’s obvious that you know almost nothing about either anarchism or Chomsky. Your arguments here are so simplistic as to almost be entirely meaningless.

“Yet I can’t help thinking he is seeing a conspiracy where none exists. He is an anarcho-syndicalist and therefore despises any form of government (and all give plenty of reasons to do so!), and this is inevitably going to mean he is going to barrage them with criticism no matter what they do, for existing at all.”

Chomsky backs every single fucking claim with endless cited facts. That is the precise reason he is so impressive. The same reason that impresses me about you in terms of biblical criticism is what impresses me about Chomsky’s views on politics. The guy knows in vast detail what he is talking about. Chomsky never theorizes in the abstract. He is almost boring in his absolute dependence on often tediously careful explanation of facts. Chomsky’s brain is a virtual library of historical and political facts.

No, he won’t criticize the government no matter what they do. Only someone completely ignorant of Chomsky’s political views could make that statement. He isn’t an anti-statist in the way some anarchists are, especially anarchists on the right. In fact, I’ve heard anarchists on the right claim he isn’t an anarchist because he doesn’t advocate the absolute and immediate revolutionary abolishment of the state. Chomsky is a gradualist. He believes the government is necessary in our present situation. He thinks that social democracy, especially democratic processes and institutions, needs to be strengthened first. After that happens, he thinks people can begin to experiment with alternatives. The more our government can be made into a democracy then the closer we as a people can move toward implementing direct democracy. Ultimately, that is all that anarchism means: direct democracy, i.e., active civic participation of all citizens within their communities (and workers within their places of work).

“He aims his thunderbolts from an empty heaven of pure theory that is never sullied by no-win situations and lesser evils. He does not propose an alternative type of government, but merely wishes there were a vacuum, and he would try to prevent human nature from filling it, as it did in the beginning and would do again.”

It’s almost as if you are describing someone who is the complete opposite of Chomsky. It’s true that Chomsky doesn’t propose a single alternative to our present government. If he did so, he wouldn’t be an anarchist. The very core idea of anarchism (or, at least, anarchism at its best) is that there is no single solution for all people in all situations. Instead, he proposes many possible alternatives. Read more of or listen more to Chomsky and you’ll learn about some of these alternatives he has proposed. He talks, for example, about anarcho-syndicalism and worker-controlled factories which is an alternative that has been successfully implemented in different places.

Anyway, as another commenter pointed out, arguments based on ‘human nature’ tend just to be projections and rationalizations. I would, however, not dismiss all such arguments. It’s just I would only trust arguments about human nature that are based on a very detailed analysis of all available research on psychology, sociology and anthropology (such as Fukuyama’s ‘The Origins of Political Order’). Anarchists’ argument against state governments is based on the fact that humans have spent most of their evolution in conditions that didn’t involve state governments, i.e., state governments aren’t the natural environment in which human nature evolved. Just because humans can be forced to submit to state governments by destroying all other alternatives isn’t a very good argument for it being ‘human nature’.

“I found it remarkable that Chomsky admitted both that this is the freest society in the world and that it had been necessary to sacrifice that freedom temporarily to survive during WW2. Doesn’t that tell him anything? Like maybe that government isn’t necessarily so bad? And that occasional control over human behavior (which is what any government is, after all) isn’t necessary only when Hitler looms?”

You’re setting up a very strange double standard. If you perceive Chomsky as having not considered the complexity of human society, he is righteously judging from an attitude of abstract theory. And if you perceive him as admitting to the complexity of human society, he is wrong because you perceive he has hypocritically betrayed his supposedly pure theory position. Chomsky can’t win for losing.

As I said, Chomsky is a gradualist. He accepts that our present society isn’t perfect. So, he understands that imperfect solutions are required as we move toward better solutions. If someone attacks you, then sure defend yourself. But once the immediate threat is taken care of, then try to change the situation that created and/or allowed the threat to happen. The problems caused by state governments sometimes have to be taken care of by state governments, but that isn’t in anyway a justification for why state governments are supposedly a good thing and why they should continue indefinitely.

“I loved what Chomsky said about the Superbowl and other popular idiotic entertainments, how they are mere distractions to give the cows some cud to chew on instead of thinking about anything important. And yet I think Dostoyevsky rings truer: people want such bread and circuses, because they shun the burden of real thought, responsibility, and decision. There is not some secret cabal that keeps them hypnotized. No such thing is necessary (alas!).”

You didn’t present any real argument here. I suppose from an anarchist view that a society is healthier when people play sports rather than watch others play. This is similar to how anarchists think it’s better to democratically make our own decisions than to watch other people make decisions for us, better to participate in politics than watch politics as if it were a spectator sport. All societies have sports, but not all societies have spectator sports. Most societies throughout history, in fact, had participatory sports rather than spectator sports.

So, it’s not about bread and circus. The theory of bread and circus was invented by the Romans. The Romans only needed to do that because they had an oppressive military empire which required a submissive population. Societies that don’t require submissive populations also don’t require bread and circus. This isn’t an issue about people shunning burdens. If you give people freedom to make their own choices, most people are glad to make their own choices. But if you oppress and propagandize people enough (along with bread and circus), you can make them passively accept your making decisions for them. It comes down to a choice of authoritarian rule of an elite or democratic participation of all. You apparently prefer the former and Chomsky the latter. I agree with Chomsky’s preference.

“My guess is rather that the choice of news has more to do with the Family Feud model–what do the average viewers want to hear about? Surely that is the reason there is time wasted with sports “news” daily. In other words, I suspect a lot of what Chomsky attacks comes from the ground up, from the grassroots, not from the top down. And that is far more depressing.”

Your argument fails because it is based on a guess rather than on evidence. Anyone who has studied the mainstream media in any detail knows that it doesn’t operate on grassroots bottom-up model. All you have to do is compare public opinion to what is seen on mainstream media.

“Conspiracy theories are the most optimistic theories around! They centralize and simplify our problems. They are demythologized versions of the Christian belief in Satan. […} The problem is much more complex than that, and so is any possible solution. Same thing with secular conspiracy theories. They are imaginative schemes to find a scapegoat with a single face. They tend to absolve us of collective guilt and the complicity of our institutions as a whole. If you blame the Ku Klux Klan for our race problems, you are avoiding the much, much larger problems of institutional racism. (Not that the KKK deserves any mercy or even patience!)”

The problem is you haven’t even begun to understand the complexity of Chomsky’s position. You criticized him for not having a simple alternative solution and now you criticize him because you think he does have a simple answer. It’s that strange double standard again.

Chomsky doesn’t need to imagine any schemes or scapegoats. Everything he talks about is backed up with facts which is more than can be said about your arguments here. Chomsky is doing the complete opposite of trying to absolve us of collective guilt and complicity of our institutions as a whole. It’s you who have defended such institutions against Chomsky’s criticisms. As for collective guilt, you’ve proposed that society always is or should be run by a ruling elite. How can there be collective guilt if the average person is just a sheep going with the herd? Dealing with collective guilt would require individuals to take responsibility in their participation in society, a possibility that you consider impossible or undesirable.

Chomsky is the type of person who sees there is plenty of blame to go around. He would blame the KKK, institutional racism, and all the rest of society as well (including himself and everyone else). But he would make sure that any blame given is based on actual evidence of responsibility. Chomsky has absolutely no desire to blame just for the sake of seeking a scapegoat.

“You might wonder what Noam Chomsky thinks about 9/11. Surprisingly, he does not believe there is anything to the conspiracy theories. But this turns out to be the exception that proves the rule, since he suspects the Bush administration purposely fueled such conspiracy theories in order to distract the public from other nefarious actions the administration was performing! Nevertheless, the “Truther” movement seems Chomsky-esque to me.”

It would seem you are being paranoid in seeing conspiracy theories where there are none. Presidential administrations that use conflict to distract the public, you don’t say!?! Surprise, surprise. That isn’t exactly a conspiracy. I think it’s what is called commonsense. Politicians like to distract and manipulate people with rhetoric and emotional persuasion. Why does this common everyday political behavior seem like a conspiracy theory to you?

Chomsky-esque, huh? WTF! You’d first have to know what Chomsky stands for before you could make intelligent claims about what is ‘Chomsky-esque’.

“And it reveals the peculiar perversity of hate-America conspiracy theories. This is one of those rare instances where we do have an actual sinister conspiracy: Al Qaida”

Well, I’d say that your comment reveals the peculiar perversity of love-America ignorance. This demonstrates how simple your political understanding is compared to Chomsky. Chomsky knows more about Al Qaida and the history behind it than you will ever know in your entire life.

“I was interested to hear from Chomsky, in answer to a simple question, that he gets his information about what is really going on in the world, not from the sold-out propaganda mills of the American news media, but rather from newspapers in other countries—which, presumably, are as objective as the day is long. Somehow, though working within societies that are anything but free, whose newspapers are not just de facto but de jure propaganda arms of the controlling juntas, these papers and broadcasts tell the unvarnished truth.”

Now that is just plain beyond stupid. I’ve nearly lost all respect for you at this point. Maybe you should stick to biblical criticism, Lovecraft and comic books.

You really just don’t get it.

Chomsky reads a little bit of everything. He checks out the mainstream media and the alternative media, US media and foreign media. He obsesses over the diversity of journalism in a way that verges on obsessive-compulsive behavior. The reason he reads so much from so many diverse sources is because no single source or single country can be trusted to present the whole truth. That is the fucking point. If you only read US newspapers, you are no better than the French person who only reads French newspapers. It is true, as I understand it, that Chomsky ignores tv reporting because it is so mindlessly superficial and usually empty of information. He prefers reading newspapers and other sources of articles that present more detailed and factual views.

Also, he doesn’t just read all of this. He cuts out the important articles and he files them. He does this every single day and has been doing it for decades, endless files of categorized facts. This is why the guy is able to back up his arguments with so many facts.

“It reminds me of the college freshman who learns just enough anthropology to become convinced of Cultural Relativism, which he construes to mean: everybody is right except for the United States. “My country, wrong or wrong.””

My God, you didn’t actually just compare Chomsky to a college freshman. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

Anyway, Chomsky has never *NEVER* claimed that America is always wrong. That is why I appreciate and respect Chomsky. He doesn’t make black/white arguments based on empty speculation and simplistic analysis.

“Don’t get me wrong: I am far from trying to pretend everything is right with America, especially with her government and her policies. Far from it! I am by now pretty cynical. But nobody (e.g., Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan) is going to get me to believe that theocratic, nuke-toting Iran is harmless and that America ought to be spelled with a “k.””

That is fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far. Chomsky doesn’t argue that Iran is harmless any more than he argues America is always wrong. Did you actually listen to Chomsky or did you just make up all this bullshit after smoking a bunch of pot?

You are free to have your own opinion. However, as I’m fond of saying, you aren’t free to have your own facts. If you’re going to criticize someone like Chomsky who has been writing detailed analyses for decades, you should at least try to understand his basic position before dismissing him.

Noam Chomsky: An Interview with Barry Pateman

 I always enjoy hearing Chomsky talk on almost any issue. In this interview, Chomsky discusses: anarchism, community, technology, class warfare, wealth transferral, taxation, free market, outsourcing, command economy, totalitarianism, Marxism, neoliberalism, and globalization.

Ye slaves, find yer own ways

Below is a video of Noam Chomsky. I’m simultaneously intersted and irritated by his message. There is a strength in this attitude, but also a weakness.

“Can you give me advice about what I should do? I can’t stand what’s going on. I’d like to do something about it. What should I do?”

“It’s not the way it works. You’ve got to find out for yourself what to do. And nobody can give you advice.”

It’s interesting because the view expressed is so representative of the liberal attitude. A conservative pundit would feel no wariness about telling people how to live their lives. Limbaugh fans proudly call themselves Dittoheads because they see Limbaugh as a hero to be parroted and Limbaugh encourages this Dittohead attitude of his followers, but Chomsky says he doesn’t even tell his kids what they should do.

This is such a simple distinction in how people think and behave. Still, it’s profound in its implications on the societal level. It’s why the apparent hypocrisy of some right-wingers can confuse liberals. To the far right mindset, consistency isn’t necessarily inherent to the system of thought but to the authority or tradition that is the foundation of the system of thought. As such, strange as it seems to liberals, patriotic fervor and secessionist paranoia aren’t mutually exclusive in the minds of many conservatives.

Furthermore, if a right-winger considers a source of data as not valid according to some principle or dogma (which comes from a source they trust), then it’s dismissed even if it’s accepted by many respectable people in society. For example, climatology research is dismissed because scientists are “liberal elites”. It’s not that the right-winger has alternative data of equal weight and merit, but what they do have is a collective mindset that sees the perceived liberal elite as the enemy.

Social conservatives would criticize Chomsky’s attitude as moral relativism. Chomsky is essentially saying that there is more than one way to be in the world, more than one way to understand the world. To the liberal, this means offering someone else respect in the hope of gaining at least mutual tolerance. Chomsky is saying that there are no easy answers, nothing is black and white. Like Michael Moore, Chomsky motivated by a moral sense that makes him resistant to judge others even if he thinks they’re wrong or misinformed. Moore said he would never say he hated Bush and similarly Chomsky chastised his fellow liberals for being critical of Tea Party protesters.

My criticism is that this liberal reticence (and the conservative lack thereof) has often led conservatives to dominate the political and cultural dialogue. On the positive side, liberals prefer more subtle means of communication such as art and entertainment. In the long term, I do think the liberal method is can be effective, but it demands great patience. And patience is a privilege of the comfortable. There is a reason that liberals like Chomsky are economically well off. Only the economically well off can afford this laissez-faire philosophy of life.

Here is the fundamental problem. It’s a cheap answer. Such attitude can come across as false humility and an abnegation of moral responsibility. Suffering is real. And for those of us in a position to make a difference, we should be willing to act on behalf of those are less privileged than us. And no one can doubt the immense privilege someone like Chomsky holds. Don’t give me bullshit about slaves finding their own way. If I was a slave and Chomsky told me that, I’d punch him in the face.

We are desperately in need of leadership. Imagine if Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr had responded in the way Chomsky responds in that video. If they had, they would not be great leaders who inspired other to greatness toward great ideals and aspirations for society. This is the ultimate failure of liberalism. Every success of social progress has come from ignoring Chomsky’s advice.

Besides, Chomsky doesn’t even believe in what he says. That is to say he doesn’t follow his own advice. In recent elections, every time the DNC forces us into yet another lesser evil lose-lose scenario (what I call greater evilism because each time the choices become increasingly evil), Chomsky tells voters to fall in line and submit to the bipartisan stranglehold of corporatocracy. He has become a sheepdog for the Democratic elite, similar to his having worked so closely with the Pentagon. That is not anarchism. That isn’t finding one’s own way. Chomsky has made a mockery of himself.

That is the inherent hypocrisy of liberalism. This disconnect in the mind should be studied by the social sciences that Chomsky denies being of any value. Chomsky has embraced a reactionary strain of liberalism and can’t escape it’s own convoluted logic. He has fallen victim to the propaganda model of media, the rhetoric that holds sway of the mainstream mind. If the slaves want to find their own way, they certainly will have to ignore Chomsky at this point and find someone with better advice.

* * *

Transcript of Noam Chomsky:

I spent many hours and night answering letters. And a fair number of them are from very sincere, very concerned, mostly young people who are asking that question: “Can you give me advice about what I should do? I can’t stand what’s going on. I’d like to do something about it. What should I do?”

And it’s a very frustrating… it’s a funny question which reveals a pathology in the society the idea — that you have you should ask somebody who is up on high for some reason to tell you what to do. It’s not the way it works. You’ve got to find out for yourself what to do. And nobody can give you advice. Not me. Not Bertrand Russell that lives up there. Not anybody.

It’s a it’s a highly personal matter. You know as much as anyone else does. Maybe not on the details about how the economic system works. But you know what matters.

You have choices. We have, people like us, have by comparative and historical standards an unbelievable amount of freedom and privilege. This means plenty of opportunities which makes it harder because you know of narrow choices.

And you just have to find your own way. I mean I never gave advice to my own children and if I had they wouldn’t have paid any attention to it rightly. They just found their own ways, very interesting ways.

There’ll be a lot of false starts, inevitably. You can learn from the failures and you try other things and sooner or later you find something that works for you. It’s not the right… there’s no right answer for everyone. It’s very different right answers. Lots of things that can be done. So you have to find it for yourself.