Noam Chomsky/to Do - Thought - Politics

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Politics portal

Chomsky has stated that his "personal visions are fairly traditional anarchist ones, with origins in the Enlightenment and classical liberalism", and he has praised libertarian socialism. Although Chomsky tries to avoid the ambiguity of labels, his political views are often characterized in news accounts as "leftist" or "left-wing," and he has described himself as an anarcho-syndicalist. He is a member of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy and the Industrial Workers of the World international union. Chomsky is also a member of the interim consultative committee of the International Organization for a Participatory Society which he describes as having the potential to "carry us a long way towards unifying the many initiatives here and around the world and molding them into a powerful and effective force." He published a book on anarchism titled Chomsky on Anarchism, published by the anarchist book collective AK Press in 2006.

Chomsky has engaged in political activism all of his adult life and expressed opinions on politics and world events, which are widely cited, publicized, and discussed. Chomsky has in turn argued that his views are those the powerful do not want to hear, and for this reason he is considered an American political dissident.

Chomsky asserts that authority, unless justified, is inherently illegitimate, and that the burden of proof is on those in authority. If this burden can't be met, the authority in question should be dismantled. Authority for its own sake is inherently unjustified. An example given by Chomsky of a legitimate authority is that exerted by an adult to prevent a young child from wandering into traffic. He contends that there is little moral difference between chattel slavery and renting one's self to an owner or "wage slavery". He feels that it is an attack on personal integrity that undermines individual freedom. He holds that workers should own and control their workplace, a view held (as he notes) by the Lowell Mill Girls.

Chomsky has strongly criticized the foreign policy of the United States. He claims double standards in a foreign policy preaching democracy and freedom for all while allying itself with non-democratic and repressive organizations and states such as Chile under Augusto Pinochet and argues that this results in massive human rights violations. He often argues that America's intervention in foreign nations, including the secret aid given to the Contras in Nicaragua, an event of which he has been very critical, fits any standard description of terrorism, including "official definitions in the US Code and Army Manuals in the early 1980s." Before its collapse, Chomsky also condemned Soviet imperialism; for example in 1986 during a question/answer following a lecture he gave at Universidad Centroamericana in Nicaragua, when challenged about how he could "talk about North American imperialism and Russian imperialism in the same breath," Chomsky responded: "One of the truths about the world is that there are two superpowers, one a huge power which happens to have its boot on your neck; another, a smaller power which happens to have its boot on other people's necks. I think that anyone in the Third World would be making a grave error if they succumbed to illusions about these matters."

Regarding the death of Osama bin Laden, Chomsky stated: "We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden's, and he is not a 'suspect' but uncontroversially the 'decider' who gave the orders to commit the 'supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole' (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region."

He has argued that the mass media in the United States largely serve as a "bought priesthood" of the U.S. government and U.S.-based corporations, with the three intertwined through common interests. In a famous reference to Walter Lippmann, Chomsky along with his coauthor Edward S. Herman has written that the American media manufactures consent among the public. Chomsky has condemned the 2010 US Supreme Court Citizens United ruling revoking the limits on campaign finance, calling it a "corporate takeover of democracy."

Chomsky opposes the U.S. global "war on drugs", claiming its language is misleading, and refers to it as "the war on certain drugs." He favors drug policy reform, in education and prevention rather than military or police action as a means of reducing drug use. In an interview in 1999, Chomsky argued that, whereas crops such as tobacco receive no mention in governmental exposition, other non-profitable crops, such as marijuana are attacked because of the effect achieved by persecuting the poor. He has stated:

U.S. domestic drug policy does not carry out its stated goals, and policymakers are well aware of that. If it isn't about reducing substance abuse, what is it about? It is reasonably clear, both from current actions and the historical record, that substances tend to be criminalized when they are associated with the so-called dangerous classes, that the criminalization of certain substances is a technique of social control.

Chomsky is critical of the American "state capitalist" system and big business; he describes himself as a socialist, specifically an anarcho-syndicalist, and is critical of "authoritarian" communist branches of socialism. He also believes that socialist values exemplify the rational and morally consistent extension of original unreconstructed classical liberal and radical humanist ideas to an industrial context. He believes that society should be highly organized and based on democratic control of communities and work places. He believes that the radical humanist ideas of his two major influences, Bertrand Russell and John Dewey, were "rooted in the Enlightenment and classical liberalism, and retain their revolutionary character."

Chomsky has stated that he believes the United States remains the "greatest country in the world", a comment that he later clarified by saying, "Evaluating countries is senseless and I would never put things in those terms, but that some of America's advances, particularly in the area of free speech, that have been achieved by centuries of popular struggle, are to be admired." He has also said "In many respects, the United States is the freest country in the world. I don't just mean in terms of limits on state coercion, though that's true too, but also in terms of individual relations. The United States comes closer to classlessness in terms of interpersonal relations than virtually any society."

Chomsky objects to the criticism that anarchism is inconsistent with support for government welfare, stating in part:

One can, of course, take the position that we don't care about the problems people face today, and want to think about a possible tomorrow. OK, but then don't pretend to have any interest in human beings and their fate, and stay in the seminar room and intellectual coffee house with other privileged people. Or one can take a much more humane position: I want to work, today, to build a better society for tomorrow – the classical anarchist position, quite different from the slogans in the question. That's exactly right, and it leads directly to support for the people facing problems today: for enforcement of health and safety regulation, provision of national health insurance, support systems for people who need them, etc. That is not a sufficient condition for organizing for a different and better future, but it is a necessary condition. Anything else will receive the well-merited contempt of people who do not have the luxury to disregard the circumstances in which they live, and try to survive.

Chomsky holds views that can be summarized as anti-war but not strictly pacifist. He prominently opposed the Vietnam War and most other wars in his lifetime. He expressed these views with tax resistance and peace walks. In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. He published a number of articles about the war in Vietnam, including "The Responsibility of Intellectuals". He maintains that U.S. involvement in World War II to defeat the Axis powers was probably justified, with the caveat that a preferable outcome would have been to end or prevent the war through earlier diplomacy. He believes that the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were "among the most unspeakable crimes in history".

Chomsky has made many criticisms of the Israeli government, its supporters, the United States' support of the government, and its treatment of the Palestinian people, arguing that " 'supporters of Israel' are in reality supporters of its moral degeneration and probable ultimate destruction" and that "Israel's very clear choice of expansion over security may well lead to that consequence." Chomsky disagreed with the founding of Israel as a Jewish state, saying, "I don't think a Jewish or Christian or Islamic state is a proper concept. I would object to the United States as a Christian state." Chomsky hesitated before publishing work critical of Israeli policies while his parents were alive, because he "knew it would hurt them" he says, "mostly because of their friends, who reacted hysterically to views like those expressed in my work." On May 16, 2010, Israeli authorities detained Chomsky and ultimately refused his entry to the West Bank via Jordan. A spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister indicated that the refusal of entry was simply due to a border guard who "overstepped his authority" and a second attempt to enter would likely be allowed. Chomsky disagreed, saying that the Interior Ministry official who interviewed him was taking instructions from his superiors. Chomsky maintained that based on the several hours of interviewing, he was denied entry because of the things he says and because he was visiting a university in the West Bank but no Israeli universities.

Chomsky has a broad view of free-speech rights, especially in the mass media, and opposes censorship. He has stated that "with regard to freedom of speech there are basically two positions: you defend it vigorously for views you hate, or you reject it and prefer Stalinist/fascist standards". With reference to the United States diplomatic cables leak, Chomsky suggested that "perhaps the most dramatic revelation ... is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S. Government – Hillary Clinton, others – and also by the diplomatic service." Chomsky refuses to take legal action against those who may have libeled him and prefers to counter libels through open letters in newspapers. One notable example of this approach is his response to an article by Emma Brockes in The Guardian which alleged he denied the existence of the Srebrenica massacre. Chomsky's complaint prompted The Guardian to publish an apologetic correction and to withdraw the article from the paper's website.

Chomsky has frequently stated that there is no connection between his work in linguistics and his political views and is generally critical of the idea that competent discussion of political topics requires expert knowledge in academic fields. In a 1969 interview, he said regarding the connection between his politics and his work in linguistics:

I still feel myself that there is a kind of tenuous connection. I would not want to overstate it but I think it means something to me at least. I think that anyone's political ideas or their ideas of social organization must be rooted ultimately in some concept of human nature and human needs.

Some critics have accused Chomsky of hypocrisy when, in spite of his political criticism of American and European military imperialism, early research at the institution (MIT) where he did his linguistic research had been substantially funded by the American military. More sympathetic critics, pointing to the same institutional sponsorship, have described him instead as 'the conscience of America'. Chomsky himself makes the argument that because he has received funding from the U.S. military, he has an even greater responsibility to criticize and resist its immoral actions.

He is also an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and has spoken against the execution of Steven Woods.

I think the death penalty is a crime no matter what the circumstances, and it is particularly awful in the Steven Woods case. I strongly oppose the execution of Steven Woods on September 13, 2011.

In March 2012, Chomsky endorsed Jill Stein for Green party Presidential nominee in 2012, saying,

I hope you'll take the opportunity of the March 6th Green-Rainbow primary to cast a vote for resurgent democracy. A democracy that thrives outside of the Democratic and Republican Parties that are sponsored by and subservient to corporate America. ... As you know, popular anger at the political and economic institutions, and the subordination of the former to the latter, has reached historic heights. And for sound reasons. There could hardly be a better time to open up political debate to the just anger and frustrations of citizens who are watching the country move towards what might be irreversible decline while a tiny sector of concentrated wealth and power implements policies of benefit to them and opposed by the general population, whom they are casting adrift.

Nick Cohen has criticised Chomsky for frequently making overly critical statements about Western governments, especially the US, and for allegedly refusing to retract his speculations when facts become available which disprove them.

Chomsky also supports and focuses on Kurdish separatism both in Iran and Turkey.

Read more about this topic:  Noam Chomsky/to Do, Thought

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