Saturday, March 23, 2013

Glenn Greenwald — Why Noam Chomsky Is the Subject of Relentless Attacks by Corporate Media and Establishment 'Intellectuals'

The book on which I'm currently working explores how establishment media systems restrict the range of acceptable debate in US political discourse, and I'm using Chomsky's treatment by (and ultimate exclusion from) establishment US media outlets as a window for understanding how that works. As a result, I've read a huge quantity of media discussions about Chomsky over the past year. And what is so striking is that virtually every mainstream profile or discussion of him at some point inevitably recites the same set of personality and stylistic attacks designed to malign his advocacy without having to do the work to engage the substance of his claims. Notably, these attacks come most frequently and viciously from establishment liberal venues, such as when the American Prospect's 2005 foreign policy issue compared him to Dick Cheney on its cover (a cover he had framed and now proudly hangs on his office wall).
AlterNet
Why Noam Chomsky Is the Subject of Relentless Attacks by Corporate Media and Establishment 'Intellectuals'
Glenn Greenwald | The Guardian (UK)

30 comments:

vimothy said...

What I would like to know is what it would look like if Chomsky were not marginalised by the establishment, given that he is already world famous, cited by everyone from sixth formers to Bin Laden, a multi-millionaire off the back of his writing and speaking, and a professor at one of the best universities in the world.

Joe said...

Chomsky's politics and criticism are utterly useless to any practical, current discussion. He's stuck in this cold war mentality when the US supported some very unsavory groups who committed heinous acts. But even then, you could argue it was for the greater good. For that, he'll never support any US-led military intervention.

What disturbs me most is that he still dwells on how evil the US is, when we are the most free, and prosperous nation on Earth. I know, there are many shortcomings, but most of entire world waits in line to get in. Chomsky has such a perverse moral code that he can't distinguish between deposing Saddam and the WTC attack.

JK said...

Joe, using your not-perverse moral code, how would you distinguish between deposing Saddam and the WTC attack?

Chomsky's fundamental moral code: 'the law of universality' i.e. the most basic moral framework is to apply the same standards to yourself that you apply to others.

Is that kind of moral code perverse? Maybe it's not practical in a dangerous world, but I think it would be tough to honestly and sufficiently argue that the 'law of universality' is perverse.

An yet, we all expect universality at home. You expect to have the same rights as everyone else here within the United States. right?

What Chomsky sees is the U.S. engaging in "wars of aggression" which are 'the supreme crime' set in the Nuremburg Trials. And the Iraw war was a "war of aggression" according to international law/standards.

Joe, you seem to think that just because we have the capacity to wage war (and take our evil dictators), that we than also have the right to. Would you extend that priviledge to others? If other countries see our President as doing evil, do they have to right to depose him (or her)?

vimothy said...

JK,

Don't other counties in fact have the right to wage war?

If counties do not have the right, who will prevent them from doing so, and from where does this entity derive its authority?

JK said...

Vimothy,

Depends what you mean by "right"

If you mean by "right" that it is codified in international law, then no other countries don't and neither does the United States.

If you mean by "right" …'ability'.. as in the Jungle, survival of the fittest, then sure all other countries have the "right" to wage war. But this kind of definition is a mockery of the word "right"… it's the same "right" as the bully on the playground. "The strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must"

I'm no scholar on this, but my limited understanding is that countries have the "right", as codified in international law (Nuremberg Trials, etc.), to self-defense, but they do not have the "right" to wage pre-emptive wars.

Tom Hickey said...

I'm no scholar on this, but my limited understanding is that countries have the "right", as codified in international law (Nuremberg Trials, etc.), to self-defense, but they do not have the "right" to wage pre-emptive wars.

The assertion of the Bush/Cheney administration was that pre-emptive action in self-defense is not agression, the principle that offense is the best defense and the magnitude of the threat (imminent use of WMD) was sufficient cause.

Of course, if if the argument is accepted, evidence that there was an imminent threat of Saddam using WMD against either the US or its allies (chiefly Israel) was flimsy on one hand (Saddam's bluster) and manufactured on the other.

Dan Kervick said...

I think Chomsky has performed a great overall service to humanity. But he has also contributed to the paralysis of the left. He seems incapable of positively endorsing anything but the most vague and starry eyed of political programs, because he is a rigidly austere moralist.

Joe said...

JK,

I shouldnt have to explain this, but the WTC attack was perpetrated by fanatics for the purpose of murderer and terror. Iraq was done by our American military with the purpose of deposing a sadistic regime. If you can't distinguish between the two, then I cant help you.

Making the Golden Rule the driving force behind foreign policy decisions will result in disaster. Treating sadistic dictators and terrorist groups as you would like to be treated will do nothing to make the world a better place. Let the Pope do that.

Tom Hickey said...

Iraq was done by our American military with the purpose of deposing a sadistic regime

Really? That was never mentioned until later, when WMD (the original justification) were not found and the narrative about Saddam's supposed support of Al Qaeda fell apart. Then the story became, well, we got rid of a really bad guy.

The case the Bush/Cheney administration made for the Iraq invasion never included the removal a tyrant as either a sufficient or necessary condition. That is just historical revisionism that is not factual. The case was that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the US and its allies, chiefly Israel, due to possession of WMD.

David said...

When I was young and read Chomsky I noticed he had the attitude that everything he was saying should be self-evident to anyone with a bit of common sense and a tenth grade reading level. At the time I thought he was just a smart man who tended to assume other people were as smart as he was. The older I get the more I see Chomsky's point. It's just nothing special. It's just that it takes a certain amount of time and observation of control systems to become inured to the banality of their evil.

Joe said...

Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld admitted that the WMD contention was just a legal argument. It was clear to most of the world that there was a strategic objective beyond the whole WMD thing.

But what makes me different from chomsky and his followers is that I think the US is force of good in this world, not some imperialist exploiter. I understand all the ugly history of this country, but the amount of good we've done is overwhelming and undeniable. Pessimists and detractors like Chomsky bring nothing constructive to today's discourse, he's still stuck in the cold war, vietnam era of US foreign policy.

Joe said...

and FWIW, I used to idolize chomsky

JK said...

Joe, your understanding of both seems superficial to me.

(1) "the WTC attack was perpetrated by fanatics for the purpose of murderer and terror."

(2) "Iraq was done by our American military with the purpose of deposing a sadistic regime."

...

(1) Do you really think the WTC attacks was just pure evil, and there was no political aspect? Are you not familiar with geopoltical international politics? The middle east is a very "strategic" region because of it's oil. It's a giant game of Chess with real blood on everyone's hands, including the red, white and blue.

(2) What Tom said, etc.

JK said...

"But what makes me different from chomsky and his followers is that I think the US is force of good in this world, not some imperialist exploiter."

Simplistic naive and wrong. It's a nice fairy tale to tell ourselves if we want to absolve ourselves of any responsibility. The reality is much more complicated. Hence Chomsky's (probably accurate) claim that the masses are supposed to be passive spectators… every few years give symbolic votes, then get back to consuming, and leave the important stuff to important people. i.e. the 'chess' game.

Joe said...

of course there was some political aspect, but explain to me how the hijackers were some sort of victims of this political meddling. For the most part, they were spoiled, ignorant, brainwashed, unemployed Saudis.

Acknowledging the political aspect is negligible in the scope of what was perpetrated.

There are no easy choices for the West in the middle east. Every option carries heavy negative consequences, mostly indirect.

Joe said...

what's your point, JK? are you saying we should adopt chomsky's view of the world and apply it?

JK said...

I suggest you consider the actual hijackers as similar to our troops on the ground. Both are pawns in the game. There are broader purposes and plans behind both.

JK said...

Joe, if you go back to my first comment you'll read that I said maybe Chomsky's perspective is not practical. Even if that's true, a moral code of 'universality' (golden rule) is not "perverse" (your word choice)

Tom Hickey said...

Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld admitted that the WMD contention was just a legal argument. It was clear to most of the world that there was a strategic objective beyond the whole WMD thing.

Yes, and everyone also knew that the strategic objective that made the whole thing worthwhile in the eyes of the administration was the approximately 15 trillion dollars worth of oil at the price of oil at that time.

Matt Franko said...

I see it ultimately going all back to Iran.... Question of when and how...

Rsp

Tom Hickey said...

"But what makes me different from chomsky and his followers is that I think the US is force of good in this world, not some imperialist exploiter."

You've drunk the neo-conservative kool aid and swallowed the claim that the US spreading freedom and making the world safe for democracy. That the package in which neoliberalism, neo-imperialism, and neo-colonialism is sold. I don't want to impugn these motives, since I agree that the US has a moral responsibility as the world's only superpower and largest economy. But that is just not the case, as Chomsky and many others have documented. What's actually happening is the Great Game of geo-strategy aimed at hegemony aka Realpolitik.

Michael Hudson, Super Imperialism

Noam Chomsky, Humanitarian Imperialism: The New Doctrine of Imperial Right

Tom Hickey said...

I see it ultimately going all back to Iran.... Question of when and how...

It's pretty evident that the WTC was an Al Qaeda operation. Al Qaeda is comprised of Sunni extremists. Iran is Shi'ite. Al Qaeda and Iran are mortal enemies, just as were Iran and Iraq under Saddam, with the US aiding Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. In spite of that, Iran has helped the US against Al Qaeda in opposing a common enemy.

Joe said...

Tom, youre making the Iraq war about oil, but what evidence supports that? Is oil any cheaper? Does Iraq's current production break the Saudi monopoly? The "war-for-oil" argument makes no sense.

Joe said...

Tom, youre making the Iraq war about oil, but what evidence supports that? Is oil any cheaper? Does Iraq's current production break the Saudi monopoly? The "war-for-oil" argument makes no sense.

Matt Franko said...

Perhaps the leadership of the rogue elements in these two sects within Mohammedism is vying to be seen as the greatest foe of the 'great Satan'...

If so, this will not work out well for either of them or the jurisdictions where they reside...

Rsp

JK said...

Joe, it's about "control" over oil, control over "strategic resources"... not necessarily cheap gasoline for you and me.

Tom Hickey said...

Tom, youre making the Iraq war about oil, but what evidence supports that? Is oil any cheaper? Does Iraq's current production break the Saudi monopoly? The "war-for-oil" argument makes no sense.

Greenspan — "the Iraq war is largely about oil."

The Washington Post focused on the charge in Greenspan's book that "the Iraq war is largely about oil."

The fiscal guru backed off that assertion by suggesting that while securing global oil supplies "was not the administration's motive," it should have been.

He said than when he made the argument that ousting Saddam Hussein was "essential" because of the threat he posed to U.S. oil interests in the region, White House officials told him "Well, unfortunately, we can't talk about oil."
CBS

Of course, they were never going to admit that Iraq's oil figured in the strategy. As Greenspan notes, if it didn't they were daft. Oilmen Bush and Cheney daft about oil?

Glenn Greenwald — David Frum, the Iraq war and oil

The former Bush speechwriter confirms what has long been the most ridiculed claim about a key reason the US attacked Iraq


Frum's most interesting revelation comes from his discussion of Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi exile whom many neocons intended to install as leader of that country after the US took over. Frum says that "the first time [he] met Ahmed Chalabi was a year or two before the war, in Christopher Hitchens's apartment". He then details the specific goals Chalabi and Dick Cheney discussed when planning the war:
"I was less impressed by Chalabi than were some others in the Bush administration. However, since one of those 'others' was Vice President Cheney, it didn't matter what I thought. In 2002, Chalabi joined the annual summer retreat of the American Enterprise Institute near Vail, Colorado. He and Cheney spent long hours together, contemplating the possibilities of a Western-oriented Iraq: an additional source of oil, an alternative to US dependency on an unstable-looking Saudi Arabia."
Wars rarely have one clear and singular purpose, and the Iraq War in particular was driven by different agendas prioritized by different factions. To say it was fought exclusively due to oil is an oversimplification. But the fact that oil is a major factor in every Western military action in the Middle East is so self-evident that it's astonishing that it's even considered debatable, let alone some fringe and edgy idea.


vimothy said...

JK,

I'm not asking whether countries have the legal right to wage war. Obviously, they do, subject to certain restrictions or qualifications that must be met. Those restrictions include the law towards war (the jus ad bellum) and the law in war (the jus in bello).

The jus ad bellum is given in Article 2(3)(4) and Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Article 2(3)(4) states that all members shall settle their differences peacefully and in such a manner that international peace, security and justice are not endangered, and that all members shall refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.

This prohibition is qualified by two exceptions: 1, the inherent right of individual and collective self-defence and 2, action for the maintenance of international peace, justice and security.

That these conditions are not unfeasible (i.e. they can be met in practice) is easily verified by a glance around the world where one can indeed observe wars being waged.

The degree to which preemptive action is permissible is disputed (and somewhat controversial). Prior to the September 11 2001 attack, the argument was advanced (e.g. by Israel) that Articles 2(4) and 51 of the UN Charter allow for anticipatory acts of self-defence. These acts were understood to be made on the basis of an attack that was imminent and not preventable by other means. Post September 11, some advocate anticipatory acts disregarding the requirement that the threat must be imminent (e.g., the security strategies issued by the US in 2002 and the EU in 2003). In any case, all of these things turn around subjective and uncertain judgments of the nature of the threat in question.

That's sort of a digression. International law is ultimately just a bunch of treaties and norms. Evidently, they can be changed. So the legality of an action is not sufficient for its "rightness". Otherwise, that's a rather circular definition of what is right. (Because, why is it legal?)

If you want a system (such as the present one) where war is proscribed, then you will have a situation in which the actions of sovereign states are restricted. But restricted by what, restricted by whom? It can only be some entity who has power over those states.

How does the entity acquire this power? It must have the biggest battalions, in order to enforce its writ. It itself must go to war to maintain global peace, justice and security.

vimothy said...

Typo:

"If you want a system (such as the present one) where war is proscribed, then you will have a situation in which the actions of sovereign states are restricted."

Should be,

"If you want a system (such as the present one) where war is circumscribed, then you will have a situation in which the actions of sovereign states are restricted."

JK said...

"If you want a system (such as the present one) where war is proscribed, then you will have a situation in which the actions of sovereign states are restricted. But restricted by what, restricted by whom? It can only be some entity who has power over those states."

Right. Without an overarching authority, the 'state of nature' for countries is anarchy; and 'the strong do what they will, and the weak suffer what they must'

The United States is currently a de facto dictatorship in this regard. Dictators can be benevolent, but history probably demonstrates that they primarily act primarily in self-serving way, and couch their actions in language about their actions being a 'force for good' or peace or stability etc. "Good" peace an stability may be a byproduct, but it's not the primary goal.

The United States choice to wage war in Iraq and against Saddam may have beneficial consequences, but that is secondary. The primary reason for that choice is (geo)political and self-serving.

Where do we disagree?