by Jerry Alatalo
A few comments on Noam Chomsky’s talk at The New School in New York titled “On Power and Ideology”… First, it was an interesting coincidence, days after publishing “2016” and intentionally naming the title to suggest George Orwell’s “1984”, that Mr. Chomsky would begin his talk by referring to Mr. Orwell. Perhaps there’s something to quantum physics, the unified field and newer theories that propose thoughts influence material reality, but we’ll leave that mesmerizing topic for another day.
Mr. Chomsky is over 80 years old now, and men and women at some point in the life/aging process start using softer tones when speaking to others. For Mr. Chomsky, in his younger days during the Vietnam War era one can find talks where his voice was more assertive, at a higher volume and on rare occasions loud, especially when in the heat of debate or discussion.
At 80 the dizzying amount of information he’s researched, written and talked about through decades has resulted in his communicative style becoming more subdued, which could describe him as one who “speaks softly, but carries a big truth”. Many have probably come across comments on the internet which claim that Noam Chomsky, Democracy Now host Amy Goodman and others are “gatekeepers”. Some believe the so-called gatekeepers are holding back on essential truths, and not going “all the way” when discussing important Earth issues.
That debate won’t become discussed now but to say it is always most beneficial to speak the 100% truth, without omission, as best one perceives it . For example, besides the gatekeeper criticism, Noam Chomsky has received criticism for not being more forceful or speaking out about the need for a new investigation of the events which occurred 14 years ago on September 11, 2001. This writer’s view is that one is truly necessary, and could easily be carried out with relatively minor financial cost. In fact, there are probably multi-millionaires and billionaires around the Earth who would agree to cover the costs of a new investigation entirely, so cost is no constraint.
The closest I’ve seen Mr. Chomsky come to expressing more of a spiritual message in his talks was years ago when he answered an audience question “what drives you… keeps you going?’ by saying, “A person has to look at himself in the mirror every morning”. My one “critical” observation is that if Noam Chomsky (along with all peace and justice activists) presented more in his talks and writings on man’s spiritual aspects he would become more effective. Why? Because I believe peace and justice activism is all about spirituality.
This is no criticism of Noam Chomsky but only a simple observation. There is a great deal to respect and honor in the decades of work Mr. Chomsky has carried out, and, besides believing peace activism is all about spirituality, it is also my belief that no person has any right to interfere in another person’s spiritual journey. This relates directly to what Noam Chomsky talks about in the talk, in particular American relations with the Islamic nation of Iran.
“We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be united, and to love one another. We never quarrel about religion.”
– RED JACKET
In his talk, Chomsky goes into the current American debate about the Iran nuclear deal. He pointed out that this was an international agreement between the P5+1: permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (Britain, China, France , Russia and the United States), Germany and Iran – not only between the U.S. and Iran. He added that the “debate” is only occurring in the U.S. as the rest of the world has been in favor of the agreement, accepting it with relief and optimism, and that it is the U.S. by debating the deal which exhibits its other, unmentioned form of exceptionalism and risks further isolation.
In his quiet manner, he destroys all talk of Iran as “an aggressor nation seeking hegemony over the Middle East”. He points out that Iran hasn’t invaded another nation in well over a century, in “several hundred years” but once – during the reign of the Shah of Iran when he used military force to secure some local small islands. He shares his perception that the Obama administration action to normalize relations with Cuba stems from Latin American nations’ rejection of U.S. policy in Central and South America, and that it was the Cuba action or becoming completely shut out by the people of the South.
On assertions that ‘Iran is a great threat… Iranian aggression…” Chomsky mentions recent Gallup polls asking which nation represents the greatest threat to world peace, and that it is the United States, not Iran, which easily and far and away comes in #1 according to polled men and women. He contrasts Iranian support of Syria and Iraq in those nations’ fight against ISIS being described as “aggression… destabilizing…” to the Iraq War begun in 2003 on lies about Iraq weapons of mass destruction and connection to 9/11, resulting in Iraq’s destruction, the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and where the latter has often been described as “stabilizing the region”.
Chomsky noted that Saudi Arabia is responsible for supporting a great percentage of extreme ideology terrorist groups like ISIS, that U.S. NATO ally Turkey has supported terrorist groups killing and destroying in Syria and Iraq, and that media and government narratives fail to accurately describe what’s really happening. His view is that Saudi-sponsored radical Islam is the real danger for the people of the Middle East and beyond.
He said the “threats” posed by some about Iran are non-existent, and that assertions the deal didn’t go far enough are true, but in a different sense than conveyed by those making the assertions. Others claim the deal didn’t go far enough because it didn’t include language making the Middle East a nuclear weapons and mass destruction weapons-free zone. Such a plan has been the content of resolutions at each five-year international meeting on the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), but, Chomsky points out, the United States has sabotaged or blocked implementation of the plan every five years at least since 1995, including a resolution at the meeting held earlier this year.
In the Q+A he received a question about Donald Trump. He said “the (Republican) candidates are not that different”, Scott Walker (who dropped out of the race days after this talk) told a debate audience he would bomb Iran on his first day in office, while Jeb Bush would wait until the first meeting of his cabinet, and that “This is just off the spectrum of, not only international opinion, but relative sanity”. He stated his agreement with some far-right conservative commentators that the Republicans are no longer a political party but a “radical insurgency”.
He described the current state of the Democratic Party as one where it has moved to the right and are what were known in the past as moderate Republicans, while the Republicans have “simply moved off the spectrum”.
Another question asked about upcoming meetings at the United Nations on sustainable development goals and his view on potential success. He answered by saying “a two-word answer” and that “nothing will be achieved”.
In answer to a question about WikiLeaks Chomsky praised the group, and told the audience much would be earned from reading WikiLeaks information which hasn’t been widely published. He compared U.S. actions toward Iran as “Mafia-like”, comparing the U.S. to the mafia “Don” who sends his goons to teach harsh physical lessons to those who “disobey orders” – which Chomsky asserts represents Iran. Now, nations from Europe are sending government and business delegations for meetings with Iranian officials to discuss contracts and conducting business.
The extreme irony is that Republicans, those who oppose the Iran P5+1 deal so strenuously are associated with corporations restricted from seeking and doing business with Iran. Although the final question “What is intelligence?” didn’t specifically refer to that ironic situation, perhaps Mr. Chomsky’s response after cracking a rare wide grin did. “Well, it’s something that’s lacking in certain places… Let’s put it like that. Thanks.” He then walked off the stage.
The thought came up of Noam Chomsky, at 80 years old and certainly well aware of its inevitable coming, walking off the Earthly stage.
(Thank you to Democracy Now)
Those interested can watch the entire over one-hour lecture here.