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Interviews, Debates and Talks

with  Noam Chomsky


Questions and Answers Following the Massey Lectures

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, December 1988

From the Necessary Illusions Page

 

The Massey Lectures given by Noam Chomsky were aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) from November 28 - December 2, 1988. Chomsky's book Necessary Illusions (South End Press, 1989) is based on those talks. These are some of the questions a panel of Canadian journalists asked Chomsky afterwards. Words that are unclear from the tape appear in round brackets. Editorial additions are indicated by square brackets.

DF = David Frum
PW = Peter Worthington, editor of the Ottawa Sun
KM = Kevin McMann,filmmaker and reporter
MD = Margaret Daley, CBC
Mod = Moderator
NC = Noam Chomsky

 

DF:

You say that what the media do is to ignore certain kinds of atrocities that are committed by us and our friends and to play up enormously atrocities that are committed by them and our enemies. And you posit, in fact you say in the Massey Lectures, that there's a test of integrity and moral honesty which is to have a kind of equality of treatment of corpses.

NC:

Equality of principles . . .

DF:

I mean that every dead person should be in principle equal to every other dead person.

NC:

That's not what I say. That's not what I say at all.

DF:

I'm glad that's not what you say because that's not what you do.

NC:

Of course it's not what I do. Nor would I say it. In fact I say the opposite. What I say is that we should be responsible for our own actions primarily. That's something quite different.

PW:

But you were equating one (Polish) [priest] to one hundred priests.[1]

NC:

I wasn't equating them. I was comparing the treatment of them. If you want my value judgement - we should give much more attention to one priest whom we've killed than to one hundred priests that they've killed. Notice that this is exactly the . . .

DF:

That's not your method.

NC:

That's exactly my method.

DF:

Because your method is to ignore . . . not only to ignore the corpses that are created by them, but also to ignore the corpses that are created by neither side but are irrelevant to you're ideological . . .

NC:

That's totally untrue.

DF:

Well, let me give you an example.

NC:

Okay.

DF:

One of your own causes that you take very seriously is the cause of the Palestinians, and a Palestinian corpse weighs very heavily on your conscience, and yet a Kurdish corpse does not.

NC:

That's not true at all. I've been involved with Kurdish support groups for years. That's absolutely false. I mean, just ask the people who are involved - you know, they come to me, I sign their petitions, and so on and so forth. In fact if you look at the things we've written . . . I mean, I'm not Amnesty International, I can't do everything, I'm a single person. But if you read, say, take a look, say, at the book that Edward Herman and I wrote on this topic. We wrote a book about this in 1979 [2]. In it we discuss three kinds of atrocities, not two, three kinds of bloodbaths. What we called benign bloodbaths - which nobody cares about, constructive bloodbaths - which are the ones we [the U.S.] like, and nefarious bloodbaths which are the ones that the bad guys do. Constructive bloodbaths are things like the Indonesian massacres, which we [the U.S.] supported. Nefarious bloodbaths are like, Pol Pot. But we also discussed ones that nobody cares about, like Burundi. For example, we have probably the only discussion in the literature, I guess, of the massacres that were going on in Burundi at that time. We probably have the only discussion in the literature, at least that I know of, of the massacres that were going on in Burma. Now, in fact, not only is what you say not true, but it's the opposite of the truth. We went out of our way to find the kinds of bloodbaths that are just ignored because nobody cares about them. Now again, let me stress, I'm not Amnesty International. I do not have the ludicrous egotism which makes me the arbiter of all atrocities over the world. I'm not trying to give an A to this country and a B minus to this country and so on. The principle that I think we ought to follow is not the one that you stated, it's the principle we rightly expect Soviet dissidents to follow. What principle do we expect Sakharov to follow, let's say? What lets us decide whether Sakharov's a moral person? I think he is. Sakharov does not treat every atrocity as identical. He has nothing to say about American atrocities. When he's asked, he says I don't know anything about them, I don't care about them. What he talks about are Soviet atrocities, and that's right. Because those are the ones that he's responsible for. You know, it's a very simple ethical point - you're responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions. You're not responsible for the predictable consequences of someone else's actions. Now, we understand this when we're talking about dissidents in the Soviet Union but we refuse to understand it when we're talking about ourselves for very good reasons. Commissars in the Soviet Union don't understand it about dissidents. Commissars in the Soviet Union attack Sakharov and other dissidents because they don't talk about American crimes. We understand exactly why that's just hypocrisy and cynicism when they do it and we should understand the same when we do it. Now the fact of the matter is that I spend a fair amount of effort on crimes of official enemies. There are a fair number of people in the United States and Canada, from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, who are there because of my personal activities on their behalf. But I don't take any pride in that particularly, I just do it because I'm interested in it. The most important thing, for me and for you, is to think about the consequences of your actions. What can you affect? Those are the ones you primarily ought to be concerned about. Of course every corpse is a corpse, but there are some you can affect and there are others you can't do much about. You know, like I can be worried about things that happened in the eighteenth century but I can't do much about them.

PW:

It strikes me that you're a living refutation of the thesis that you can't get a certain point of view across. You've hardly been a shrinking violet over the past thirty years but it seems to me the effect of your theme has been virtually zilch except for a few of the elite who support it. It seems to me the great mass of the American people, the workers, either don't understand it or reject it totally.

NC:

First of all I don't agree with your factual assumption. I think it's exactly the opposite of the truth.

PW:

What factual assumption?

NC:

What you said is . . . you said correctly that I haven't been a shrinking violet and you said the effect has been zilch except for elements of the elite. The facts are exactly the opposite. The effects on the elite are zero and the effects on the general population are not insignificant. Not just me. I'm one person. There are a lot of people doing this sort of thing and we have much greater outreach than we've ever had before. Not through the elite media. As I said before, I travel around the country all the time. I can't accept a fraction of the invitations that come. I'm booked up solidly two years in advance and I probably don't accept . . . maybe 10% of the invitations that come in.

PW:

I guess this works well for you.

NC:

But see, there's a reason for that. That was not true twenty years ago. When I got started in this, if I could talk to three neighbors in a living room I'd consider it a good evening. I was giving talks on the Boston Common where we had to be protected by the police to prevent us from being murdered. And that was going on until 1966, and Boston is a liberal city incidentally, and this was with the support of the media that the . . .

PW:

But the media wasn't ignoring you.

NC:

Oh, totally. Totally. There are lots of illusions about this. In the 1960's the media were completely closed to anybody like me. That includes National Public Radio, for example. The most liberal segment of the American media is probably National Public Radio in Boston, where I live and I'm not unknown. During the entire Vietnam War, when I was very well known for opposition to the war, I was on National Public Radio once for, I think, five minutes; if I remember, after I came back from Vietnam, with an extremely hostile interview by the most liberal commentator (Louie Amlient). That was it. I could never be in the newspapers or anything of that sort. By the early 70's it began to change a little and by the late 70's it changed more, and in the 1980's it's considerably more. I mean, it's still very limited but if I wanted to I could probably at this point, say, write op-eds for quality local press. Not the New York Times, but, say, the Minneapolis Star Tribune or something. That was unimaginable in the 60's.

PW:

But that's elite.

NC:

It's not. That's a reflection . . . see, I think that's missing the point. The elites are about as closed as they always were but the general population has changed and that's beginning to affect the institutions. I mean, outreach to the general population is much easier than before. I gave my own experience but other people have the same experience. You talk to much wider groups, much bigger audiences, they're much more sophisticated. In the peak of the peace movement I was always cutting corners. I would never say what I thought. I never talked about the U.S. attack against South Vietnam in the 1960's even in, you know, student activist groups because they wouldn't know what I'm talking about. And I never talked about institutions. I never criticized . . . you know, today I talk a little about capitalist democracy - I'd never talk about that kind of thing in the 60's, it was just too exotic. But I don't cut any corners anymore anywhere. I can be giving a talk in eastern Kentucky or central Iowa or something else and I say exactly what I think and people generally understand it. They may not agree, they may be surprised, but they want to listen and they want to think about it. Those are changes outside of the elite circles.

DF:

(Your) [propaganda] model of the media [3] - [is one] in which the media argue for and defend the established institutions of society and any deviation from that defense is dismissed or even suppressed, so that views that dissent from the overwhelming consensus that characterizes our society cannot get a hearing. Now, here you are tonight in a large lecture hall at Canada's most prestigious journalism school speaking to an audience of journalists who are hearing your remarks with apparent approbation. Your remarks are being broadcast on the government owned radio network as part of the most prestigious lecture series on that network. How did that happen?

NC:

Recall that what I said was that this [the Propaganda Model] is a very good first approximation to the description of a complex social institution. Now, you remember that I mentioned. . . I'm afraid this remark may sound a little insulting but let me try to say it without sounding that way. I specifically mentioned that in the United States, for example, I wasn't talking about, say, listener supported radio in a small community. In fact, as you get away from the elite centers that matter things open up. Now, the fact of the matter is that Canada is a much more open society in this respect than the United States and the reason is, it's less important. This generalizes. I can talk this way in Belgium, in Israel, in Latin America. I can't talk this way . . . I mean, I can talk this way in the United States but not on national radio and television because it's just too important. What people think about international affairs in Canada just doesn't matter that much to established power. If it did matter that much Canada would close up too.

Mod:

If CBC then is just a small publicly funded station in some small town . . . with the (point) of that perspective, why don't we turn to the CBC person on stage here - Margaret Daley, perhaps you can have a turn.

MD:

Well, I was intrigued by the thesis and particularly impressed by the volume of factual documentation that I look forward to reading in the long version. I guess that the question I want to ask though is, that given that this information exists, you lay it all out supposing people knew it. And obviously individuals do know it - minorities, intellectuals, foreign affairs buffs if you want to call them that - those kinds of people can assemble all this information. Then what? It doesn't seem to make any difference, and why is that?

NC:

Well, I think it does make a difference. I think it makes a lot of difference. I mentioned, not entirely jocularly, that if a third world country today were to put forth the American Constitution, we'd call it a reversion to nazism and I mentioned that that's a sign of hope and progress. There has been moral progress over two hundred years. There's also been progress over twenty years, thirty years, my active lifetime. Again, I'm talking mostly about the United States but it's a different country than it was twenty or thirty years ago. Now, elites are not different, they're pretty much as indoctrinated as they always were. Contrary to a lot of necessary illusion, elite groups including liberal intellectual elites, did not oppose the Vietnam War. They supported the Vietnam War, supported it enthusiastically. They began to turn against it somewhat after Wall Street turned against it and more or less for the same reasons - because it was too costly. The media were almost totally closed to critics of the war. But among the general population this crisis of democracy did take place and it changed the society. I think it led to, probably . . . I hope, a permanent cultural change outside the elite centers. And the United States is just a different country than it was twenty years ago in a lot of respects. Everything from interpersonal relations, to treatment of ethnic minorities, to concern over international affairs and so on. You can see it. And the reason is . . . while the major institutions of indoctrination continue on their natural course, other modes of interaction did develop and they remained. You know, they're informal, they're inefficient . . . I mean, I spend probably 80% . . . I don't know, some huge percent of my time traveling around the country giving talks. Well, that's less efficient than writing for a major journal but people do this and ultimately it makes a difference. There are solidarity groups, there are all kinds of organizations and so on, and they do make a difference. You can see it. So take for example . . . I mentioned the U.S. attack against South Vietnam in the early 1960's. You compare the early 1960's with the 1980's - that's twenty years. When Ronald Reagan came into office, his administration, in my view, intended to emulate John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, except their target was Central America. They came out with the White Paper in February 1981 right after they came into office - virtually a declaration of war. The communists are taking over the world, we've got to go in there and stop them. It was a precursor to direct U.S. military intervention in Central America. What happened? The media, incidentally, bought the whole story. There was virtually no criticism of the White Paper when it came out - just enthusiastic support for it. However, the general population didn't [support the White Paper] because the population is not what it was in the early 60's. [4] When John F. Kennedy started sending the American Air Force to bomb South Vietnam on a regular basis there was no protest. You couldn't get two people together in a living room to talk about it. And it didn't have to be hidden either - it was on the front page of the newspapers. Nobody cared - we want to bomb another country, great, let's go on to the next thing. When Ronald Reagan's administration sort of indicated that they might try to turn to direct military intervention there was a convulsion in the country. People started coming out of the woodwork. It ranged from a massive flow of letters to Washington, to demonstrations, to church groups getting involved. A whole array of protest began to develop spontaneously without any organization and structure. The reason is the country's just a lot different. Well, what happened? What happened is that the Reagan administration backed off. They in fact told the media to cool the rhetoric, to cut back the inflammatory rhetoric. They were afraid that much more central themes of their program would be endangered. After all, remember that they were trying to ram through a program that the population was strongly opposed to - a domestic economic program. They were trying to ram through destruction of the limited welfare measures that exist in the United States - a huge transfer of resources from the poor to the rich and massive increase in state power, and huge public subsidy to high technology industry through the pentagon system and so on. All of these things were contrary to what the public wanted and they didn't want any protest about them. So what they did was back off from their inflammatory proclamations about Central America and they went underground. That's what the Iran-Contra hearings were about. The administration was driven underground. The domestic population would not tolerate the activities that they wanted to carry out and they therefore had to turn to illegal clandestine activities. Now, the Reagan administration was notorious for the level of its clandestine activities and clandestine activities are a pretty good measure of popular dissidence. If there isn't any popular dissidence you don't have to carry out clandestine activities. You can carry out overt international terrorism and violence, which is much more efficient. Overt violence is more efficient than clandestine violence for obvious reasons - for one thing it's just more efficient to do, and for another thing, there isn't any risk that it will be exposed which will cause a scandal and so on and so forth. And in fact the state was driven underground by popular dissidence. Well, that's important. I think that's one of the many reflections of the difference between the 1960's and the 1980's. And in fact even the media are different. Bad as they are . . . I mean, as you can see I'm no great enthusiast for the elite media but they're better than they were twenty years ago. They're not as closed and restricted and constrained as they were twenty years ago and that includes the elite media. So there are slow changes and I think there is a slow move towards general democratization - much too slow, but not insignificant. Those are things that first of all one can be somewhat hopeful about, but it also teaches you a lesson - it means there are things you can do. After all, our societies - like Canada and the United States - have one tremendous virtue: the state is very restricted in its capacity to use force against citizens. It's not zero, but by comparative standards it's low, and that means there's a great range of options available if people want to make use of them - and many do and it makes a difference.

KM:

Many of the things you describe about how the elite press in the United States sees the world are replayed to us through some of the main communications links that we rely on - such as Associated Press, Reuters News Agency, New York Times News Service. And I think many Canadian journalists are in a position of recognizing a strong U.S. bias in those reports and are active . . . that's one of the day to day challenges - trying to find ways of getting around that. One of the things you can do is get your own correspondents there who have a different point of view, or try and get local (stringers). You can't do that all the time, but I just wonder from that - from my point of view anyway - it seems that perhaps a lot of what you describe could be simply interpreted as the American press playing cheerleader for the home team. It's just like there's a kind of sports writer who's called a homer, you know, and the home team can do no wrong. Can you look at it that way - just as an issue of American foreign policy, and countries like Canada can have some effective room to maneuver in terms of covering the world?

NC:

Well, I think there's something to that but, you know, we have to be careful about what's the home team. I mean, for example, what the American press defends is the interests of elite elements in the United States. Now, it may be that the general population is strongly opposed to elite elements but they're not the home team. It's the elite elements that are the home team, for the reasons that I mentioned. So on, say, Central America there's no doubt that the general population has been pretty much opposed to these policies, but the home team is in favor of them and the press is in favor of them. Let's take Vietnam, the Vietnam War - that was very interesting. At first the general population was strongly in support of the war, strongly in support. But it changed. By about 1969 the population was largely opposed to the war, and on interesting grounds. The population was opposed in principle. Again, you take a look at the Gallup polls . . . up until today, or at least two years ago which was the last one I saw - about 70% of the population regularly says the Vietnam War was fundamentally wrong and immoral, not a mistake. Now, among opinion leaders it's not 70%, it's like 40%. Opinion leaders include clergy and businessmen and so on. When you get to the real intellectual elite, the percentage is about zero. Even at the peak of opposition to the war, around 1970, the real intellectual elite - as picked by various standards - was of course opposed to the war, so was everybody including Wall Street 'cause it was just not paying any more - but they were opposed on pragmatic grounds: it wasn't working, it was too costly, it was maybe too bloody and so on. But fundamentally wrong and immoral - not a mistake - that position is barely expressed in the ideological system, but it's the position of about 70% of the population. Now, here we have a striking case where the home team that you're working for is not the general population, it's a very specific interest in the general population. I think that's true on a lot of issues. Let's take, say . . . turn to a totally different question - take [a] nuclear test ban. Just through popular grassroots organization the population was about 75% in favor of a nuclear test ban two or three years ago. Elites were strongly opposed to it - liberal, conservative, everyone else. They were so strongly opposed to it that when the Soviet Union declared a unilateral test ban the media barely covered it . . . I mean they noticed it and disparaged it and told various lies about it - and when it was renewed it was barely even covered. It was hardly even an issue in the elections even though 75% of the population was in favor of it . . . had virtually no elite support except maybe an occasional gesture. That's a very strong elite position but it's not reflecting the general public. So I think there's something to what you say but I think one has to be more discriminating about how to define the home team. The home team means the people who own the country and therefore ought to govern it.

KM:

Or the official home team.

NC:

Yes.

KM:

It's my impression that most of the population feels that it's being propagandized and they turn more and more towards using media as strictly a source of entertainment. You know, it's a (postmodern) idea that it doesn't really matter what they say because they say it so stupidly that people are just consuming it for a laugh. And I wonder if now that doesn't become more of a problem really than propaganda. Despite the really impressive evidence that you've amassed, you know, most people would be convinced by a couple of sentences saying we're propagandized. So I wonder if entertainment isn't really the greater problem now.

NC:

Yes. I think what you said is very important. What I've been talking about gives a kind of a skewed picture. I maybe should have emphasized more but remember I'm talking about the elite media. The elite media target largely educated people. They target the political class, the more or less politically active class, a pretty small percentage of the population - the articulate elite intellectuals. And that's the kind of propaganda I've been talking about and that's only a small part of the system. Things have to be done for the rest of the population too - they have to be marginalized. But they're not going to be marginalized by telling them lies about foreign policy because just as you say they don't believe most of what they read. There's just a kind of a general populace skepticism. Along with this sense that the government is run by a few big interests looking out for themselves is the sense that the media are probably lying to us. So for most of the population the media system is I think a different one. It's not just the case that it tries to entertain them, it tries to entertain them through means which will intensify attitudes that support the interest of elites. For example . . . let me give some cases. Take the emphasis on professional sports. It sounds harmless but it really isn't. Professional sports are a way of building up jingoist fanaticism. You're supposed to cheer for your home team. Just to mention something from personal experience - I remember, very well, when I was I guess, a high school student - a sudden revelation when I asked myself why am I cheering for my high school football team. I don't know anybody on it, if I met anybody on it we'd probably hate each other. You know, why do I care if they win or if some guy a couple blocks away wins. And then you can say the same thing about the baseball team or whatever else it is. This idea of cheering for your home team -which you mentioned before - that's a way of building into people irrational submissiveness to power. And it's a very dangerous thing. And I think it's one of the reasons it gets such a huge play. Or . . . let's move to something else. The indoctrination that's done by T.V. and so on is not trying to pile up evidence and give arguments and so on. It's trying to inculcate attitudes. I mentioned a couple of cases but there are a lot more. Let's take, say, the bombing of Libya. Why did the American public support the bombing of Libya? Well, the reason is that there had been a very effective, and careful, and intense inculcation of racist attitudes about Arabs. Anti-Arab racism is the one form of racism in the United States that's considered legitimate. I mean, plenty of people are racist, but you don't like to admit it. On the other hand, with regard to anti-Arab racism you admit it openly. You read a journal like, say, The New Republic, and the kinds of things that they say about Arabs . . . if anyone said them about Jews you'd think you were reading (Der Stern). I'm not joking. And nobody notices it because anti-Arab racism is so profound. There are novels that have a form of anti-Arab racism that's hair-raising. The same is true of television shows and so on and so forth. An image has been created - the media are part of this, not all - of the Arab terrorist lurking out there ready to kill us. And against that background you could bomb Libya and people would cheer. Recall how effective that was, remember what was happening in 1986, there are a lot of measures of how effective this is. Remember that in 1986 when this happened the tourism industry in Europe was virtually wiped out because Americans were afraid to go to Europe, where incidentally, objectively, they would be about a hundred times as safe as in any American city. That's no joke. But they were afraid to go to Europe because they got these Arab terrorists out there trying to kill us. Now, that was not from New York Times editorials, that was from a whole array of television and novels and soap operas and a mass of symbolism and so on and so forth and that's effective. The anticommunist hysteria is developed that way too. The communists are out there ready to kill us - who are the communists? - I don't know, they're out there ready to kill us. This is introduced by the kinds of symbolism that T.V. is good at, and cheap novels are good at and so on and that's important. These are critical means of indoctrination it's just that I wasn't talking about them. I was talking about the more intellectual side.

PW:

Your talk of the Vietnam War, the turning against it, and you said for moral grounds because it was an immoral war . . .

NC:

On the [part of the] general population, not the elites.

PW:

Yes, well, my view would be that the public turned against it - regardless of the point that I think it was a mistake - but I think the public turned against it primarily because it was a losing war. And can you give me any indication of a winning war that's been unpopular?

NC:

Well, can I give any indication of a winning war that's unpopular? See, quite honestly I think the Vietnam War was a winning war for the United States . . .

PW:

Well, believe me, it didn't look like a winning war.

NC:

But see, that's indoctrination.

PW:

We're propagandized. Oh yeah, I see.

NC:

See, in order to decide . . . let's be careful.

PW:

No, that's fine. So long as I know that we're indoctrinated.

NC:

To decide whether a war is a winning war or not you have to figure out first why it was fought. Right? That's what tells you whether it was a winning war or not.

PW:

There are a variety of ways to tell.

NC:

That's right, there are a lot of ways. But one of the ways, if you're logical, is to ask what were the goals of the war and were those goals achieved. That's the way you decide whether a war is a winning war. Right? If we do that . . . we're not going to do this in one second but let me again just talk methodologically 'cause there's no time to go through the whole story - you can look up the documents. There's elaborate documentation on the background planning for the Vietnam War, elaborate documentation on the high level planning. And the main concern all along was that independent nationalism in Vietnam might be what was called a rotten apple that would infect the barrel - it might have a demonstration effect throughout the region, very much like Nicaragua. And there's a way you deal with that. The way you deal with a virus that might infect the region - the virus in this case being independent nationalism - the way you deal with it is by destroying the virus and inoculating the region from the spread. Now that was done, the Vietnam War had a dual character - you had to destroy the possibility of independent development in Vietnam and you had to create around it brutal military dictatorships which would prevent the spread, and both of those things were done reasonably effectively. Part of the Vietnam War was the support for the Indonesian massacres in 1965, a very significant part. Part of the concern over Vietnam was that it would encourage the growth of independent politics in Indonesia where you had a huge mass-based, peasant-based communist party and success in Vietnam might have spurred that on. In 1965 that party was wiped out with the slaughter of maybe 700,000 people to enthusiastic support in the West, I should say. That was part of the inoculation of the region - same happened in Thailand, same happened in the Philippines with the Marcos coup, all around the region. Meanwhile, Vietnam was sufficiently destroyed so the chances of it being a model for anyone else are very slight. I mean, Vietnam barely survives . . . it suffered the kind of fate that there's nothing to compare with in European history, back to the black plague. [It will] Be a century before they even recover, if then. So that's a partial victory. You didn't have a total victory, they didn't get their ultimate goal. If you call success only achievement of every goal, even the minor ones, then it wasn't a victory. But if you give an accurate assessment it was a partial victory - partial defeat, partial victory. They didn't reabsorb Indochina back into the American system but they prevented it from being the threat of a good example. In this respect the American war in Nicaragua is also a partial victory. Now, we can answer the question . . . what the American population thought about the war - we can answer it because it's a very heavily polled population - and we don't have to speculate, we can look at public opinion studies, and they changed over time. By the late 60's the population was largely opposed to the war on moral grounds, not on grounds that it was going to fail. By the 70's, with the continued improvement in the cultural climate among the general population those figures went up. By 1982 it was 72% answering that "the war is fundamentally wrong and immoral not a mistake". [5] And those figures are particularly dramatic because there was virtually no articulate expression of this view. You go to the extreme doves, you know, Anthony Lewis and so on - they were not saying this, they never said it. What they were saying is, it's a mistake. Some of them might have said it's too bloody. If you want some actual evidence on this . . . don't take my word for it, go to the evidence. There is an interesting study called "The American Intellectual Elite," [6] it came out around 1974, it's done by a sociologist named Charles [Kadushin]. It's a study of the attitudes of people called the American intellectual elite. I agree, it's a totally idiotic concept but the people he studied are probably no worse a sample than others. I was actually one of them, so I sort of watched the study go on. This study was taken in May 1970 - that's rather important. If you look back, you'll discover that that was the peak period of opposition to the war. Right after the invasion of Cambodia - that was the period when the colleges were closed down, the whole country was blowing up. Right at that point this survey was taken of the American intellectual elite - you know, the people that write for the New York Review of Books and all this kind of fancy stuff. There were 200 people in the sample, everybody was against the war, but so was Richard Nixon. So that didn't mean anything. The question is, why were they against the war? Well, they broke it down into three categories . . .most of them were against the war on what the editor called pragmatic grounds - meaning, can't get away with it. A smaller percentage, I forget the numbers, maybe a third or so . . . . . .

(tape ends but answer continues)


Notes:

  1. The Polish priest in question is Father Jerzy Popielusko, who was murdered by the State Police in Poland in October 1984.Chomsky contrasts U.S. media coverage of this case with that of the murders of 100 prominent Latin American religious martyrs in the period 1964-85. For details, see Necessary Illusions (South End Press, 1989), p. 137, 146-147, and Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent, (Pantheon. 1988), ch. 2 - "Worthy and Unworthy Victims".

2.      Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman, The Political Economy of Human Rights (Boston : South End Press, 1979. (2 volumes)).

3.      See Manufacturing Consent, ch. 1 - "A Propaganda Model".

4.      See White Paper Whitewash: interviews with Philip Agee on the CIA and El Salvador" (New York, NY: Deep Cover Books, 1981).

5.      For more information on the Gallup poll in question, and a reference, see Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War, and US Political Culture, (South End Press, Boston, 1993), pp. 61-62, and also Manufacturing Consent, p. 238. For a detailed analysis of media coverage of Vietnam, see Manufacturing Consent, ch. 5 - "The Indochina Wars (I): Vietnam", also Rethinking Camelot, pp. 105-148.

6.      Charles Kadushin, The American Intellectual Elite, (Little, Brown; Boston, 1974).


Transcribed by Mark Richer


East Timor On the Brink (09/99) ] Frontline Interview on Iraq (01/99) ] Attack on Iraq (12/98) ] Comments on Iraq (12/98) ] Why the US Attacked Iraq (12/98) ] Morality and Human Nature (11/98) ] Senat Virtuel et Tyrannies Privees (11/98) ] Chomsky on Microsoft (5/98) ] ChomskyChat Archive (12/97) ] Q and A on Anarchism (12/96) ] The Big Idea (2/96) ] Noam on AOL (10/95) ] Notes on Anarchism ] Anarchism, Marxism and Hope for the Future (5/95) ] Manufacturing Dissent (01/95) ] Noam on the Net (1995) ] PeaceWORKS Interview (5/94) ] WRCT Interview (3/94) ] Counterpoint Interview (10/93) ] Jerry Brown Interviews Chomsky (8/93) ] Conversations with Michael Albert (1/93) ] Naomi Chase interviews Chomsky (1992) ] An Unjust War (3/91) ] Chomsky on Capitalism (1991) ] The Radical Vocation (2/90) ] Interview with David Barsamian (12/89) ] [ Q&A from the Massey Lectures (12/88) ] Sovereignty and World Order (9/99) ] Whose World Order (9/98) ] Ending 20 Years of Occupation (12/95) ] End the Atrocity in East Timor (3/95) ] 21st Century: Democracy or Absolutism (10/94) ] Democracy and Education (10/94) ] Old Wine, New Bottles (10/93) ] Media Control (3/91) ] The New World Order (3/91) ] Power Politics? (3/98) ] Chomsky debates John Silber (1986) ]


 ] Deterring Democracy ] Necessary Illusions ] The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many ] Keeping the Rabble in Line ] Rethinking Camelot ] Powers and Prospects ] Year 501 ] Secrets, Lies and Democracy ] What Uncle Sam Really Wants ] Interviews, Debates and Talks ] About Noam Chomsky ]


 
 
 

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