#1 Edited by booble (7 posts) -

After the mostly civil discussion I incited last time, I thought I'd raise another if slightly similar topic!

I've been reading up on some of Noam Chomsky as of late..I never knew he was quite so Anti-American. That's not to say he hasn't criticized other nations or governments in the past, but I've noticed a constant trend of his to relate every event with the US and other Western countries like the UK.....and not in a positive way I might add.

We can probably all agree that a lot of US mass media is woefully flawed and unbalanced. Fox news being the obvious example. Chomsky has certainly wrote good stuff about all this, but from my reading, he seems to over exaggerate the role of American media on the rest of the world outside the US. He seems to suggest that it's the worst kind of media and communications censorship/control that has ever existed. For instance, a quote from him:

"Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media."

I don't know about you guys, but I find this rather absurd. The fact that we as Western civilisations have the right and the option to dissent against different opinions, let alone learn about others (sometimes to a fault) via means such as the internet, a mostly free database of the world's information, is a great thing. Plus, we have the option to switch off Fox News. We can ignore CNN, MSNBC, or even some ranting political scribbler on a blog or loudmouth on Youtube, should we so choose. That's not to say there's not problems with mass media in the US, as i've said. but it seems to me that Chomsky overstates its dominance in comparison with the rest of the world. No one gets those options in places like North Korea for example, which seems to be hugely depressing and degrading in just about every way that offends us as moral beings.They are only ever allowed to absorb ONE THREAD of information... wretched scores of forced propaganda and leader worship.

To focus on the US as the main problem seems strangely narrow-minded. I've read people saying that he primarily writes about the US because he's a citizen and is simply being critical of his own country, but I think it's pretty clear to see how his perception of his home nation overrides his acknowledgment of more/equally problematic ones.

Thoughts??

#2 Posted by project343 (2807 posts) -

I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that the US has a lot more covert propaganda going on. It is really easy to see, complain and stand against the overt oppression of a population, but it is so much worse when that population is blissfully unaware of that control.

The whole Western ideology of development and 'modernity' is equally covert and twisted. As if there is a single, linear pathway toward the future, and the Western world is at the helm of it all...

#3 Posted by Manekineko (21 posts) -

The only thing I know about him is that he wrote Syntactic Structures . It's his first published book about linguistics. I'm studying computational linguistics/computer science, so the quote "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously" describes essentially part of what I have to do.

Now on to your question. Like you said @booble:

...

We can probably all agree that a lot of US mass media is woefully flawed and unbalanced.

...

Media is just a business. The media outlets earn money by informing people but more so by catering to them (be it people or big sponsors). In my mind the solution is to provide cheaper education to more people. The problem comes with important topics being drowned under miles and miles of news garbage. Just take Bradley Manning as an example. There is close to no coverage about him anywhere in the media. Not because of some conspiracy but people lost interest.

From my perspective as a German the US has a lot of strengths that it has not yet played on (like more affordable education). In my mind ignoring the heavily biased media outlets is wrong. I would say that "Each force requires an Equal and Opposite Reaction".

In the end it is up to the voters to steer the country and we will see how the media landscape changes over time.

#4 Posted by Kerned (1168 posts) -

Have you been reading Chomsky or just "reading up on" him? His criticisms of the US government and media are pretty spot on and well reasoned. If you have an interest in understanding his view on the media, you shoud watch the film "Manufacturing Consent." It was made quite some time ago (the 90s I think), but the issues addressed (such as consolidation of the media) have become far worse in the intervening years, so it's extremely relevant even today.

I think it's pretty clear to see how his perception of his home nation overrides his acknowledgment of more/equally problematic ones.

I don't understand this line of reasoning. Whether you mean to or not, the above statement suggests that you believe that just because other nations have worse governments than those of the United States, that the problems of the US government should be disregarded or ignored. One can (and should) be critical of one's own government, even if it's not the most corrupt on the planet. There is always someone worse, it doesn't mean we can't expect more from the ones we have.

#5 Posted by Arabes (330 posts) -

I think the reason why a lot of his criticisms are aimed at the US is because the US paints itself as being a bastion of freedom, honesty etc etc while at the same time encouraging an extremely jingoistic media. I think it's that disconnect that he finds problematic. North Korea is not meant to be the leading light of the truth and justice.

Bear in mind, I've only read one of his philosophy books, I got to know of him through his computer work.

#6 Posted by Veektarius (4147 posts) -

Chomsky's problem is that he insists on using incendiary language that paints him as a fringe figure. If he were willing to speak in a more centrist fashion, most of his ideas would be interesting for study.

#7 Posted by Stonyman65 (2405 posts) -

He's the typical Socialist hypocrite. He bitches and complains about everything, but continues to live in the country and consume all that he deems so horrible.

Also, his views of the world from his Anarcho-Syndicalism ideals are kind of ridiculous. The world just doesn't work that way.

In a weird way, he's just as bad as the people he condemns.

#8 Posted by Nicked (237 posts) -

Having very little familiarity with Chomsky, I don't think the phrase "anti-American" is apt or useful. It's too loaded. For example is it "anti-American" to not support US interests/action in the Middle East? Is it "anti-American" to be a Marxist? Etc. It's not, I don't think. "Anti-American" doesn't really mean much or it isn't often used in an appropriate way.

Again, I'm not familiar with much of Chomsky's work, but I don't think he's necessarily "anti-American".

Is he talking about American news media or media in general? (Though I'm not sure it matters too much.)

One point I'd make is that I wouldn't say North Korea is "more problematic". As an American, North Korea is largely irrelevant to me and as such not "problematic". I don't mean to sound unsympathetic, but I don't think we can write off the problems with American media just because people have worse problems elsewhere. What I mean is that the problems with American media don't delegitimize the problems elsewhere or vice versa.

#9 Posted by gogosox82 (413 posts) -

Well you really have to think about how much choice you actually have. Yes, in the general sense, we do have a lot choice when it comes to media but at the end of the day, all of the media covers the story in the exact same way with more or less the exact same slant. So while there are a lot of choices, those choices are actually limited when you consider how the information the media disseminates to the public is presented. That's probably what Chomsky is referring to more than anything else.

#10 Edited by believer258 (11040 posts) -

Let's be fair here: American news broadcasts - and it's the same everywhere - aren't delivering all of their news without some sort of bias to it. It's a business. Businesses have interests, and they will protect those interests to the best of their abilities. And, frankly, that's pretty fucking dangerous as far as I'm concerned.

As for this Chomsky fellow, I recall hearing his name here and there but I don't really know who he is that well.

#11 Posted by TheVeteran13 (1197 posts) -
What needs explaining?
#12 Edited by CatsAkimbo (583 posts) -

@Nicked said:

Having very little familiarity with Chomsky, I don't think the phrase "anti-American" is apt or useful. It's too loaded. For example is it "anti-American" to not support US interests/action in the Middle East? Is it "anti-American" to be a Marxist? Etc. It's not, I don't think. "Anti-American" doesn't really mean much or it isn't often used in an appropriate way.

Again, I'm not familiar with much of Chomsky's work, but I don't think he's necessarily "anti-American".

I definitely agree with this. You can be critical of things and not be Anti- that thing. Noam Chompsky embodies what being a smart person is all about. He does a lot of research on both sides and comes to his own conclusion and tries to put it out in the best way he can. Whether he's successful or his opinions are "right" is up to you to research both sides and come to your own conclusion.

On the topic at hand, I'm really interested in media sensationalism after I was tangentially part of a huge media clusterfuck that's not worth getting into. I truly don't think news should be treated like entertainment, and it's actually harmful to society for them to play for ratings.

The easiest statistic to relate to this point is the rate of violent crime from the US Bureau of Statistics and the Gallup Polls on fear of crime over that same time period. Despite what the news would have you believe, things are getting better, less people are being assaulted/murdered, etc. Yet the Gallup polls show an increase in fear of crime (of course this is a simple summary, there's tons of stuff that effects this like arguably 9/11).

I don't think Noam Chomsky is the ineffable genius some people seem to portray him as, but he makes some good points.

#13 Posted by boj4ngles (287 posts) -

@Stonyman65 said:

He's the typical Socialist hypocrite. He bitches and complains about everything, but continues to live in the country and consume all that he deems so horrible.

Also, his views of the world from his Anarcho-Syndicalism ideals are kind of ridiculous. The world just doesn't work that way.

In a weird way, he's just as bad as the people he condemns.

I don't think he's hypocritical. I think he has made a moral calculation that the best way to promote his own ethical view is not to adopt some radical lifestyle of total anti-consumerism, stop paying taxes and move to the rain forest. The best way he can create change is by doing so from a position of relative power, (professor at a prestigious university). I think you should realize that just because a person might be a hypocrite does not necessarily make what they say wrong. They could be totally right they just aren't adhering to it perfectly.

And if you think about it, everyone does this so your argument is BS.

And his ideas are not as crazy as you seem to think. He mostly just offers criticism of governments and institutions that are unethical, he doesn't claim to have unlocked the secret to creating a perfect civilization.

#14 Posted by Stonyman65 (2405 posts) -

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

He's the typical Socialist hypocrite. He bitches and complains about everything, but continues to live in the country and consume all that he deems so horrible.

Also, his views of the world from his Anarcho-Syndicalism ideals are kind of ridiculous. The world just doesn't work that way.

In a weird way, he's just as bad as the people he condemns.

I don't think he's hypocritical. I think he has made a moral calculation that the best way to promote his own ethical view is not to adopt some radical lifestyle of total anti-consumerism, stop paying taxes and move to the rain forest. The best way he can create change is by doing so from a position of relative power, (professor at a prestigious university). I think you should realize that just because a person might be a hypocrite does not necessarily make what they say wrong. They could be totally right they just aren't adhering to it perfectly.

And if you think about it, everyone does this so your argument is BS.

And his ideas are not as crazy as you seem to think. He mostly just offers criticism of governments and institutions that are unethical, he doesn't claim to have unlocked the secret to creating a perfect civilization.

Have you ever listened to any of his speeches? He's so far up his own ass he couldn't see daylight if he wanted to.

#15 Posted by boj4ngles (287 posts) -

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

He's the typical Socialist hypocrite. He bitches and complains about everything, but continues to live in the country and consume all that he deems so horrible.

Also, his views of the world from his Anarcho-Syndicalism ideals are kind of ridiculous. The world just doesn't work that way.

In a weird way, he's just as bad as the people he condemns.

I don't think he's hypocritical. I think he has made a moral calculation that the best way to promote his own ethical view is not to adopt some radical lifestyle of total anti-consumerism, stop paying taxes and move to the rain forest. The best way he can create change is by doing so from a position of relative power, (professor at a prestigious university). I think you should realize that just because a person might be a hypocrite does not necessarily make what they say wrong. They could be totally right they just aren't adhering to it perfectly.

And if you think about it, everyone does this so your argument is BS.

And his ideas are not as crazy as you seem to think. He mostly just offers criticism of governments and institutions that are unethical, he doesn't claim to have unlocked the secret to creating a perfect civilization.

Have you ever listened to any of his speeches? He's so far up his own ass he couldn't see daylight if he wanted to.

I've seen lots of his speeches (recorded), interviews and read many of his articles. He's not crazy at all. I'm starting to think you are very naive if you really don't understand what he is talking about. His criticisms of American foreign policy are valid. His criticisms of American media are valid. Is he 100% correct with everything he says and with his predictions? No. Of course he isn't.

#16 Posted by Stonyman65 (2405 posts) -

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

He's the typical Socialist hypocrite. He bitches and complains about everything, but continues to live in the country and consume all that he deems so horrible.

Also, his views of the world from his Anarcho-Syndicalism ideals are kind of ridiculous. The world just doesn't work that way.

In a weird way, he's just as bad as the people he condemns.

I don't think he's hypocritical. I think he has made a moral calculation that the best way to promote his own ethical view is not to adopt some radical lifestyle of total anti-consumerism, stop paying taxes and move to the rain forest. The best way he can create change is by doing so from a position of relative power, (professor at a prestigious university). I think you should realize that just because a person might be a hypocrite does not necessarily make what they say wrong. They could be totally right they just aren't adhering to it perfectly.

And if you think about it, everyone does this so your argument is BS.

And his ideas are not as crazy as you seem to think. He mostly just offers criticism of governments and institutions that are unethical, he doesn't claim to have unlocked the secret to creating a perfect civilization.

Have you ever listened to any of his speeches? He's so far up his own ass he couldn't see daylight if he wanted to.

I've seen lots of his speeches (recorded), interviews and read many of his articles. He's not crazy at all. I'm starting to think you are very naive if you really don't understand what he is talking about. His criticisms of American foreign policy are valid. His criticisms of American media are valid. Is he 100% correct with everything he says and with his predictions? No. Of course he isn't.

I agree with his views on media and foreign policy, it's everything else that he is talking about which is bullshit.

#17 Posted by boj4ngles (287 posts) -

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

He's the typical Socialist hypocrite. He bitches and complains about everything, but continues to live in the country and consume all that he deems so horrible.

Also, his views of the world from his Anarcho-Syndicalism ideals are kind of ridiculous. The world just doesn't work that way.

In a weird way, he's just as bad as the people he condemns.

I don't think he's hypocritical. I think he has made a moral calculation that the best way to promote his own ethical view is not to adopt some radical lifestyle of total anti-consumerism, stop paying taxes and move to the rain forest. The best way he can create change is by doing so from a position of relative power, (professor at a prestigious university). I think you should realize that just because a person might be a hypocrite does not necessarily make what they say wrong. They could be totally right they just aren't adhering to it perfectly.

And if you think about it, everyone does this so your argument is BS.

And his ideas are not as crazy as you seem to think. He mostly just offers criticism of governments and institutions that are unethical, he doesn't claim to have unlocked the secret to creating a perfect civilization.

Have you ever listened to any of his speeches? He's so far up his own ass he couldn't see daylight if he wanted to.

I've seen lots of his speeches (recorded), interviews and read many of his articles. He's not crazy at all. I'm starting to think you are very naive if you really don't understand what he is talking about. His criticisms of American foreign policy are valid. His criticisms of American media are valid. Is he 100% correct with everything he says and with his predictions? No. Of course he isn't.

I agree with his views on media and foreign policy, it's everything else that he is talking about which is bullshit.

I'm almost scared to ask. . . .

Specifics?

#18 Posted by Stonyman65 (2405 posts) -

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

He's the typical Socialist hypocrite. He bitches and complains about everything, but continues to live in the country and consume all that he deems so horrible.

Also, his views of the world from his Anarcho-Syndicalism ideals are kind of ridiculous. The world just doesn't work that way.

In a weird way, he's just as bad as the people he condemns.

I don't think he's hypocritical. I think he has made a moral calculation that the best way to promote his own ethical view is not to adopt some radical lifestyle of total anti-consumerism, stop paying taxes and move to the rain forest. The best way he can create change is by doing so from a position of relative power, (professor at a prestigious university). I think you should realize that just because a person might be a hypocrite does not necessarily make what they say wrong. They could be totally right they just aren't adhering to it perfectly.

And if you think about it, everyone does this so your argument is BS.

And his ideas are not as crazy as you seem to think. He mostly just offers criticism of governments and institutions that are unethical, he doesn't claim to have unlocked the secret to creating a perfect civilization.

Have you ever listened to any of his speeches? He's so far up his own ass he couldn't see daylight if he wanted to.

I've seen lots of his speeches (recorded), interviews and read many of his articles. He's not crazy at all. I'm starting to think you are very naive if you really don't understand what he is talking about. His criticisms of American foreign policy are valid. His criticisms of American media are valid. Is he 100% correct with everything he says and with his predictions? No. Of course he isn't.

I agree with his views on media and foreign policy, it's everything else that he is talking about which is bullshit.

I'm almost scared to ask. . . .

Specifics?

Most of his views on "libertarian Socialism" - how using a system that centralizes state power will somehow lead to the state being overthrown and dissolved completely. How nobody should have any private property and everyone should work for nothing in return..... He doesn't seem to understand human motivation and simple supply/demand. It's like he's living in a fantasy world.

#19 Posted by boj4ngles (287 posts) -

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

@boj4ngles said:

@Stonyman65 said:

He's the typical Socialist hypocrite. He bitches and complains about everything, but continues to live in the country and consume all that he deems so horrible.

Also, his views of the world from his Anarcho-Syndicalism ideals are kind of ridiculous. The world just doesn't work that way.

In a weird way, he's just as bad as the people he condemns.

I don't think he's hypocritical. I think he has made a moral calculation that the best way to promote his own ethical view is not to adopt some radical lifestyle of total anti-consumerism, stop paying taxes and move to the rain forest. The best way he can create change is by doing so from a position of relative power, (professor at a prestigious university). I think you should realize that just because a person might be a hypocrite does not necessarily make what they say wrong. They could be totally right they just aren't adhering to it perfectly.

And if you think about it, everyone does this so your argument is BS.

And his ideas are not as crazy as you seem to think. He mostly just offers criticism of governments and institutions that are unethical, he doesn't claim to have unlocked the secret to creating a perfect civilization.

Have you ever listened to any of his speeches? He's so far up his own ass he couldn't see daylight if he wanted to.

I've seen lots of his speeches (recorded), interviews and read many of his articles. He's not crazy at all. I'm starting to think you are very naive if you really don't understand what he is talking about. His criticisms of American foreign policy are valid. His criticisms of American media are valid. Is he 100% correct with everything he says and with his predictions? No. Of course he isn't.

I agree with his views on media and foreign policy, it's everything else that he is talking about which is bullshit.

I'm almost scared to ask. . . .

Specifics?

Most of his views on "libertarian Socialism" - how using a system that centralizes state power will somehow lead to the state being overthrown and dissolved completely. How nobody should have any private property and everyone should work for nothing in return..... He doesn't seem to understand human motivation and simple supply/demand. It's like he's living in a fantasy world.

Okay I agree that libertarian socialism is a bit star treky and maybe unrealistic.

Will we ever see it in our lifetimes? Probably not. Is it impossible because it is antithetical to human nature? I think that depends on your opinion on whether it is human nature for us to dominate each other. But I think that is besides the point.

Chomsky's beliefs (as with any ethical beliefs) do not start from the perspective of what is practical or pragmatic. It starts from the human impulse to morality. Capitalism is a brutal system. Contrary to what right wing talk radio loves to say, it is not a fair system either. We in America are very lucky to be on top of the system, but most of the world is not. The clothes you are wearing were probably made by people without any of the rights, privileges or comforts that we consider essential to human living. The vegetables you eat (or don't eat), were probably harvested by people, in America, who work under excruciating conditions for much less than any minimum wage standard we have. The world is not like this because western civilization is on average harder working or more intelligent. We didn't get here by being the "better" competitor. We got here by exploiting the universal impulse to greed and violence throughout the world (colonialism). The goal of actors within any capitalist system is to create a monopoly of both resources and influence. We in the 1st world think those issues are kept in check because we have comfortable lives but if you look at the world in aggregate, they are not being kept in check. Most of the world's governments are brutal and exploitative of their citizens.

You say that he "doesn't seem to understand human motivation and simple supply/demand". I think he understands it perfectly and understands where it ultimately leads.

Also just to get technical, libertarian socialism does allow for personal property, it just dictates that corporate production must be communally owned.

#20 Edited by chrissedoff (2041 posts) -

Chomsky primarily criticizes U.S. policy because he's an American. He criticizes actions of western governments because the audience listening to him almost always lives in those countries, and because the people in those countries have enough freedom to demand change without fear of reprisal. He's said this on pretty much any occasion that somebody has accused him of being anti-American or anti-West during the questions period after one of his lectures.