Hegemony or Survival (New!) Noam Chomsky Dec 23 2003 GNN interview in fullIn the lead-up to Operation Iraqi Occupation, the American news networks rolled outa small army of ex-generals, pro-Israel "Middle East experts," ex-CIA directors, andpowerful right-wing politicians to back the Presidents case for war. On the otherside, you had such eminent American intellectuals as former Saturday Night Livewriter Al Franken, XXL satirist Michael Moore and slacker comedienne JaneaneGarofalo, arguing the anti-invasion line. The voice of the American Left was reducedto a handful of jokers, literally.None of them had the humility to say, "Hey, why dont you call Noam Chomsky?"Despite the lack of media exposure, Chomsky is at the top of his game. His slimbook entitled "9/11" has sold more than half a million copies. He blew away a 15,000person stadium full of cheering anti-corporate globalization activists at last yearsWorld Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Millions of college students still reverehim as their hero. Bono calls him the "Elvis of Academia." His new book,"Hegemony or Survival: Americas Quest for Global Domination" has just beenreleased, and the response has been heady. A Business Week reviewer wrote, "Withrelentless logic he bids us to listen closely to what our leaders tell us - and to discernwhat they are leaving out...Agree with him or not, we lose out by not listening." Hemust be doing something right.Having recently returned from Iraq, GNN headed up to Cambridge to interview thegraying anarcho-syndicalist about Bushs New World Disorder, democracy in Iraq andthe state of the flag-happy American news media.Chomsky HQ is a small alcove of offices on a non-descript street in the middle of theMassachusetts Institute of Technologys non-descript campus a couple of miles downMass Ave. from the ivy-covered Harvard. The HQ sits above a charmless café, acrossthe street from MITs charmless business management school - about as deep-covera location as you can get for Americas most subversive intellectual.
In the offices main area, one wall is filled with the various translations of hisnumerous books. On another is a large blow-up of a photo of Bertrand Russell. Onanother, a poster-sized letter addressed to "Palestine" stamped "Return to Sender.No such address.""Thats his favorite one," said an assistant, smiling slyly.Chomskys universe is as tightly managed as his thoughts. We booked our interviewmonths in advance, and were promised one hour, no more, so we got right into it. Itwasnt two minutes before he was comparing the Bush Administration to Japanesefascists.The following is the interview in its entirety (note, its long):GNN: Currently we are in Iraq. We have a standing army there and we are fighting aworldwide battle that is called the "war on terror." The idea that has been createdover and over again is that we are there for democracy. Is this a myth?Chomsky: The conception that the U.S. entered Iraq to bring democracy had tworoles. It was never presented as an official reason. If that was the point then whatsthe point of having weapons inspections, and UN resolutions and so on? In fact, theU.S. government and British government kept on insisting that the only question iswhether Iraq has lived up to its commitment to terminate its weapons of massdestruction program. Meanwhile, for intellectuals who have their job to do, which isto put a pleasant gloss on whatever atrocity is being carried out (the traditionalfunction of the intellectual world) - for them it was a kind of throw-away line, Oh,were doing this wonderful thing bringing democracy, etc. Bush: We did some bad things in the past, but now were going to be marvelous.Now this shifted after the invasion. After the invasion, it became embarrassinglyclear that they were not going to find weapons of mass destruction, so the rhetoricbegan to shift and bringing democracy became the great achievement. In earlyNovember Bush made a speech that got wonderful applause in the west (in the U.S.and England), and was mostly ridiculed elsewhere, saying now were engaged in anew mission in the world, we made some mistakes in the past, but now were goingto be struggling to bring democracy everywhere. In the U.S. and, for the most partin Great Britain, this announcement was greeted with rapacious awe. TheWashington Post had an article in which one of its leading commentators said thatthis must be the noblest war in history... the first war ever fought for purely altruisticreasons, of bringing democracy. Paul Wolfowitz was brought forward as the grandvisionary with his dream of democracy.There were also reactions in Iraq. There was a poll shortly after asking people whythey thought United States came to Iraq, and some people did agree with this -actually one percent in the poll. But throughout most of the region, and in places likeLatin America, the reaction was mostly ridicule and for several reasons: for one thingthis sort of change of course - we did some bad things in the past and now weregoing to be wonderful - this doctrine comes into vogue every two or three years. If
you look over the past years, yes, we did some bad things in the past, but now weregoing to be marvelous.Furthermore, its uniform in the history of aggression and imperialism. If you look atHitler or Stalin, the Japanese fascists, they all used that kind of terminology, andcertainly the British Empire used that kind of language, and others. So it basicallycarries no information. It is kind of the routine reflexive terminology - freedom anddemocracy as a justification. Stalin even introduced what he called PeoplesDemocracies. No one takes it seriously, you look at the practice.There is a record of practice. The practice shows that yes, democratic forms ofgovernment are fine as long as they do exactly as we say, otherwise they are notfine. For example, in the Middle East to where this message is directed, you have tobe pretty dumb not to notice that the countries that were praised in the speech fortheir progress towards democracy are those that are following orders, and the onesthat are condemned are the ones that arent following orders. This is completelyindependent of any steps towards democracy, human rights and so on.Some of the worst and monstrous regimes were praised.GNN: Like?Chomsky: Algeria, for example. Morocco was praised because they are doing whatwe want them to do. But their records are grotesque. On the other hand therehappens to be one elected leader in the Middle East. One genuinely elected leader, ina relatively free election, namely Yasser Arafat. But the administration determinedthat they dont like him any more. He wasnt doing the job that they wanted him todo, which was to control and manage the population and the interests of theoccupiers, and he was losing control or wasnt performing, so therefore he had to go. Wolfowitz, the grand visionary of democracy, berated the Turkish military because they did not intervene to compel the government to overrule 95 percent of the population.And he had to be replaced by someone who the U.S. government picked; who theyconceded had virtually no popular support. Abu Abas, whether you like him or dislikehim, is a separate point. But they recognized that they are forcing out the oneelected leader in the region and forcing one in with no popular support, but thatspart of our crusade for democracy. Now maybe that passed among westernintellectuals, but people who can look at the world and see what it is, draw differentconclusions. Furthermore, these very same people (like Paul Wolfowitz) had in recentmonths demonstrated such hatred and contempt for democracy that it took a realeffort not to perceive it.Wolfowitz, for example, berated the Turkish military because they did not interveneto compel the government to overrule 95 percent of the population. About 95percent of the population was opposed to getting involved in the war in Iraq and thegovernment, to everyones surprise, went along with them, which caused hugeoutrage in the U.S.
Colin Powell immediately announced they were going to be punished. Wolfowitzcalled on them to apologize to the U.S. and to recognize that they must help the U.S.advance its love for democracy.There was all this flurry of commentary about what was called Old Europe and NewEurope. Now there is a very interesting experience.What was the distinction? Old Europe were the bad guys, the ones that we needed torevile and condemn and figure out what their psychic disabilities are, and so on andso forth, like Germany and France. New Europe is the wonderful hope of the future.Berlusconi in Italy and Asnar in Spain, some of the Eastern European satellites wherethe governments overruled an even larger majority of the population than in OldEurope and followed orders from Crawford, Texas and were therefore the forwardlooking leaders and the hope for democracy.The criterion was absolutely sharp. I cannot think of an example of a more brazenand open contempt for democracy. This is right in the background of the crusade fordemocracy.If we move a little farther back we find exactly the same thing. The same people running the so-called War on Terror, in the 1980s were carrying out what they called a "democracy campaign" in Central America. Look at how they brought "democracy" to Central America. It was with massacres, torture, violence and destruction.A couple of years ago, the grand visionary, Paul Wolfowitz was praising Suharto[President of Indonesia 1967-1998], who ranks right with Saddam Hussein as amurderer, torturer and aggressor responsible for a huge number of deaths andatrocities. But he was praising him in 1997, actually just a couple of months beforehe was overthrown by an internal revolution. That goes all the way back. Of course,no one takes this seriously outside of western intellectual circles where you aresupposed to worship your leaders, and if they say we are brining democracy, thenwe are bringing democracy. The fact that this suddenly became the leading themeafter the official reasons collapsed... well, they sort of forget about that.Its familiar. It happens all the time. During the 1980s, these same people inWashington, basically the same people who were running the country in the 1980s,were carrying out what they called a "democracy campaign" to bring what theycalled democracy to Central America. Well, take a look at how they brought"democracy" to Central America and it was with massacres, torture, violence anddestruction of the countries. And finally they succeeded by force in imposing whatthey themselves called "top-down democracies" - with the traditional elites in powerthat have been connected to the U.S. - thats democracy.GNN: We had a very interesting experience actually following a former guerrilla backto Iraq who had fought against Saddam in the 1991 uprising. How does that uprisingfit into what youre talking about?
Chomsky: Very well. Up until the day of the invasion of Kuwait, Saddam Husseinwas a fine guy. It wasnt secret. The U.S. and Britain were providing him with aid,they explained the reasons, it wasnt a secret. This was well after his worstatrocities, the Halabjah gassing and so on. It was long after the war with Iran andhad nothing to do with Iran. The reasons were officially explained: We wereproviding Saddam with aid including technology for development of weapons of massdestruction out of responsibility to U.S. exporters, and supporting Saddam willimprove the condition of human rights and stability in the region. The New York Times Middle East correspondent explained Saddam offers more hope for stability in the region than those who are trying to overthrow him. Stability is a code word that means obedience.And that went on virtually up until the invasion of Kuwait, and then he became a badguy all of a sudden, once he disobeyed orders. Then after the invasion, the U.S. is intotal control and there is an uprising led by rebelling Iraqi generals, who didnt askthe U.S. for help. They asked for access to captured Iraqi equipment and wanted theU.S. to prevent helicopters and so on from destroying them. The U.S. just backed offand effectively authorized Saddam to destroy the rebellion.The rebellion may have overthrown him, in which case Iraq would have been run byIraqis and thats not tolerable. Its to be run by either a client or by us. And therewere explanations which were public but people are very careful not to report them.Take for example, Thomas Friedman of The New York Times. He now explains inhis columns that he was in favor of this invasion because it was a moral obligation,and what drew him to it was discovering the mass graves from the repression afterthe uprising. He is careful not to tell and others are polite enough not to report whathe said at the time when he knew all about the mass graves. The atrocities wereperfectly clear to everyone. The rebellion was crushed with U.S. authorization forreasons which he said were good reasons... The best of all worlds for the UnitedStates would be an iron-fisted military junta ruling Iraq the same way Saddam did[NYT, July 7, 1991] and much to satisfaction of the U.S. allies in the region, and ofcourse, the bosses in Washington. But we couldnt find another iron-fisted militaryjunta so we had to settle for this one.The New York Times Middle East correspondent explained at the time that as muchas it pains us to see all killings and the bloodshed, there is nevertheless anoverwhelming consensus that Saddam offers more hope for the stability in the regionthan those who are trying to overthrow him. Stability is a code word that meansobedience.Allende in Chile was running a perfectly stable country but he had to be de-stabilized and overthrown because he was not obedient.This was the reaction in 1991 when the atrocities were carried out with theauthorization of Washington, which could have stopped them in no time, but theydidnt want the rebellion to succeed. Has any sort of miraculous conversation takenplace between now and then? Its conceivable, but then youd expect the people whowere applauding the repression then to say sorry we made a mistake, and theyrenot saying that. Theyre just keeping quiet about it. Which means theres been no
miraculous conversion, and everything else in their reaction to other eventsdemonstrates that.For the rich and the privileged its easy to pretend that history doesnt exist.On the other hand, for the people at the wrong end of the guns, they have a way ofpaying attention to what actually happens in the world and they remember and drawconclusions from it. I presume thats why we are getting 1% of Iraqis taking thedeclaration seriously while its been reverentially praised in the leading media.Incidentally, these polls on Iraq have been fairly consistent. Another poll around thesame time asked Iraqis which foreign leader they most preferred and the highestforeign leader rating was Jacques Chirac of France who was the very symbol ofopposition to the invasion. He was far and above Bush and Blair. The New YorkTimes actually reported that on an inside column, and the reporter, Patrick Tyler,was puzzled by it. Evidentially, he didnt say anything at the time, but a few weekslater he returned to it and mentioned it in another column, and his comment on itwas, "go figure." I assume that means, whats the matter with these crazy A-rabs?We come and liberate them and their favorite foreign figure is the one who wasopposed to the invasion.In recent polls in Iraq about five to one regard the U.S. army as an occupation forcenot a liberating force. Maybe the most amazing thing Ive seen in the polls which arepretty consistent is that about five to three say they want U.S. forces out right away,despite the chaos and destruction that could result from invasion if those forcesleave, they still want them out. And this is fairly consistent. I have not spoken to thepeople on the streets of Baghdad. I am not there, but the polls, which are westernpolls, and I have no reason to think they are falsified, are giving fairly consistentresults which are meaningful and not terribly surprising.People dont like to live under military occupation.GNN: Talking about empire, weve recently seen Paul Bremer go in and dissemblethe Iraqi constitution and institute a flat tax. Would you characterize what ishappening as the expansion of capitalism? We met this American tank commander inthe "Sunni Triangle" who said to us we cant really tell parents back home that weare fighting for a way of life, but in fact this is what were doing. Do you think this isabout the expansion of capitalism or is that too simplistic?Chomsky: The occupation authorities imposed on Iraq an economic program that nosovereign country would ever accept. They effectively opened the country up tocomplete purchase by foreign corporations, meaning mostly U.S. corporations. Forthe moment they left the oil industry out because that would have been too blatant.But that will come along. But everything else is completely open to foreigninvestment and foreign control. Theres a flat tax, in other words no taxation. Nosovereign country would accept this. These are the kinds of conditions countriesaccept by force. Take a look at the British Empire; this is essentially what they did toIndia. They insisted that India, which in many ways was more advanced thanEngland as a commercial and industrial center back in the 18th century... They splitradically and became a very poor impoverished peasant society where they had oncebeen one of the worlds commercial centers, and England prospered.
The state sector is subsidized, which is a radical interference with any market system. And countries that are under control, like Iraq, are not permitted to do it.How? India was compelled to accept what was called Liberalization. India wascompelled to accept what was called "free trade," which meant no subsidies, noprotection. England on to the other hand, didnt pay any attention to those rules. Itimposed very high tariffs, it blocked Indian imports, and thats the way it developedits textile industry, its shipping industry and so on - it had subsidies. It did exactly allthe things that every country did, including the United States, and every otherdeveloped country in the world did to develop. What we now call the Third Worldbecame the Third World largely as a result of these structures. Later in the 19thcentury, by the time England was far and away the most advanced industrial countryin the world, then it was willing to play around with free trade for a while, figuring itwould win in the competition. But as soon as it became clear it wasnt winning in thecompetition, that game was called off, and the U.S. did the same thing.The Reagan administration and the current Bush administration, which are about thesame, love to preach free trade for others, but not for us. So the Reaganadministration virtually doubled barriers to imports in order for U.S. industry whichwas lagging behind to reconstruct itself. Now the Bush administration imposes tariffswhenever it feels like it - all for the benefit of U.S. industry. All of this overlooks thefact that the U.S. has a dynamic state sector that is highly subsidized, a lot of itunder Pentagon cover, and that is the source of most of what we call the neweconomy: computers, telecommunications, the internet, anything you think aboutthat is coming out of the state sector is either from direct work within, or issubsidized by it, which is a radical interference with any market system. Andcountries that are under control, like Iraq, are not permitted to do it.So its quite typical. And its not particular to Bush. Clinton sent the Marines toinvade Haiti to restore democracy, as it was called, after he decided that the militaryjunta which he in fact had been supporting (just as Bush I had been supporting), hadtortured the population enough so that now we were going to free them fromtorture. Now well return the elected president whos overthrow we supported, but -a big but - but they have to accept an ultra-Liberal economic program which thepopulation had voted against in the only free election that had taken place - thatswhy the U.S. backed the military junta and overthrew the government - now weregoing to liberate them but theyve got to accept the economic program thats goingto destroy the country and open it up to western and U.S. exploitation. Well, we callthat restoring democracy.Well, great applause here. Elsewhere, slightly different view of the matter. And thatswhats happening in Iraq. It has a long history, it goes back centuries.Obviously, they want to open these countries up to western exploitation, westernpower, in this case U.S., British and some others will be brought in - thats traditionalimperialism. It takes one or another form, but there are remarkable consistencies.GNN: You used the word "imperial" when you were talking about India and ofcourse, England. Weve read a lot of books lately in which its become fashionable totalk about the U.S. as an empire, or an empire in denial. Gore Vidal would disagree,
he would say that we are an empire in decline. I have a two-part question: First ofall do you believe in this word "empire," that America is an empire. Secondly, do youthink its somewhat antithetical for the public to think of itself as an empire, we thinkof ourselves as a free republic, is there a myth about ourselves that rubs against theempire notion?Chomsky: Personally, I dont particularly use the word empire. It doesnt reallymatter. It has all kinds of connotations like having administrators running thecountry, and so on. Whether one uses it doesnt really matter. There are all sorts offorms of imperial domination. Sometimes its grotesque. George Washington was known by the Indians as the "town destroyer." In the middle of the Revolutionary War, he decided to destroy the Iroquois civilization.The U.S., from its origins, has had imperial ambitions and has implemented them.Why are you and I sitting here? There were people here, after all. Well, when theEnglish colonists came, they wiped them out, or drove them out, and then expandedover the continent over millions of people. Sometimes we made treaties with them,but we violated the treaties and kicked them out anyway.Sometimes its grotesque. In the Revolutionary War in 1779, George Washingtonwas known by the Indians as the "town destroyer," a slightly different vision of himthan we learn. In the middle of the war, the "town destroyer," George Washington,decided to destroy the Iroquois civilization - an advanced civilization roughly on parwith the colonists, except for military force and the use of violence - and right in themiddle of the revolutionary war he announced to Lafayette on July 4th (he picked anice day) that he was going to send the troops to destroy the Iroquois civilization,and they did. They managed to basically wipe them out and drive the people out andso on. And then another Clinton, DeWitt Clinton, the governor of New York, informedthe defeated Iroquois that theyd have to pay an indemnity to the U.S. for the crimethey committed. Well, it wasnt the U.S. then, it was the colonies, but they had to apay an indemnity for a crime they committed by resisting the aggression thatdestroyed them.They had to pay an indemnity for what they did to us.Its kind of like Wolfowitz and Turkey. They have to apologize for the crime of tryingto defend themselves when we were wiping them out and exterminating them. Andfrom then on it goes on. Thats the way the continent was conquered. Half of Mexicowas conquered. Cuba was "liberated" from Spain - in fact the U.S. intervened in1898 to prevent Cuba from liberating itself from Spain to ensure that it would be acolony, in effect, as it was until 1959. Since then the U.S. has been carrying out alarge-scale war of terrorism and economic strangulation, very serious, since Cubaliberated itself - thats not allowed.The reasons are stated quite explicitly in the public documentary record. Itsprimarily because of what the U.S. government called the very existence of theCastro regime is successful defiance of our policies going back 150 years, namely to
the Monroe Doctrine in which we announced that we own the hemisphere. And thesuccessful defiance of those polices cannot be tolerated, particularly because its amodel that others might want to follow. Therefore terror and economic warfare andso on are justified, and continue right up to the moment. And it extends - Hawaii wasstolen from its population by violence and guile. The U.S. invaded the Philippinesbecause president McKinley told us he got a message from God saying we have dothis, and that makes it OK. A couple of hundred thousand people were slaughtered,and to this day the country remains basically subjugated. After all, the government now in Washington is the only government in the world that was condemned by the World Court for international terrorism and just laughed it off and escalated the attacks.Other mechanisms are used in the backyard, as its called, in Central America and theCaribbean where you just have to follow orders or else, or you get repression,invasion, strangulation, destruction, including by the people now in Washington, whoare some of the worst gangsters.After all, the government now in Washington is the only government in the worldthat has been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism and justlaughed it off and escalated the attacks. Its kind of interesting. The heads of the waron terror, which in fact, the administration now in Washington declared in 1981, arepretty much the same people. Now its turned into a massive terrorist war, of course.The people running the re-declared war on terror - the diplomatic side is now run atthe UN by John Negroponte who was, at that time, the U.S. ambassador to Hondurasand was overseeing torture and violence in Honduras. But more importantly this iswhere the bases were for the U.S.-run mercenary forces that were attackingNicaragua. And thats what the U.S. was condemned for by the World Court, to stopand to pay reparations, but of course the U.S. disregarded it. Now without any flickerof an eyelash, he is running the diplomatic side of the war on terror.The military side of the war against terror we have Donald Rumsfeld, who wasReagans emissary to the Middle East and was sent to restore relations with ourfriend Saddam Hussein knowing perfectly well he was a complete monster and hewas using chemical weapons. Iraq was taken off the list of terrorist states in 1982 sothe U.S. could provide him with arms, aid, establish relations and so on, and sincethere was an empty spot on the list of terrorist states, they introduced Cuba as aterrorist state at the time.It goes right down the list. Elliot Abrams, who was responsible for Latin America[under Reagan], a major sponsor of state terrorism and atrocities, in fact wasconvicted of misdemeanors for lying to Congress, but got a presidential pardon, andhes now back in charge of Middle East Affairs on the National Security Council.You dont know whether to laugh or cry.It goes right down the list. And educated opinion is so disciplined, so astonishinglydisciplined, that all of this passes without comment, that thats wrong. You can go onand on.
Look at Colin Powell - hes the "moderate." Whats his record as a moderate? I meanhe was national security advisor in the last couple of years of the Reaganadministration when the administration was successfully evading a congressional banagainst supporting South Africa, they were finding ways around it because theydidnt want to accept it. They declared Nelson Mandelas African national congress tobe one of the more notorious terrorist organizations in the world - thats on ColinPowells watch. One of the beautiful things about this doctrine of change of course is that you can wipe out the past. Its sometimes called "American Exceptionalism," and it goes right back to the pilgrims.They were also supporting massive South African atrocities in Angola andMozambique which were killing hundreds of thousands of people - thats moderation?Paul Wolfowitz at the time was ambassador to Indonesia, praising the monstrousSuharto. Before that, he was high up in the state department office of Asian affairswhere he was overseeing support for Marcos, a vicious, brutal, corrupt dictator whothe U.S. supported almost up to the very last minute until he was overthrown by thearmy. He was supporting Chung in South Korea, another murderous dictator whowas overthrown by the Korean people. The U.S. supported him all the way through.Now theres a kind of revisionist history being constructed that the U.S. was reallyworking behind the scenes to achieve these results but try to find some record of itand its exactly the opposite. And its completely consistent. It doesnt matter. One ofthe beautiful things about this doctrine of change which is evoked every two or threeyears, is that you can wipe out the past. Well it all sort of happened by inadvertentinnocence or something like that, but we didnt really intend anything, it was all-benevolent on our part and now we intend to do good, and that goes way back. Itssometimes called "American Exceptionalism," so you can carry out all sorts ofviolence and destruction but youre doing it for a good purpose. And that goes rightback to the pilgrims who were slaughtering the Indians because they were thechildren of Israel following biblical orders wiping out the Amalekites.To call this exceptionalism is ridiculous because every imperial system has seen itselfthe same way. The French were carrying out a "civilizing" mission while the Frenchminister of war was explaining that we have to exterminate the natives in Algeria,and Britain was bringing "peace and justice" to India while carrying out some of thebiggest atrocities and running the biggest narco-trafficking operation in history. Itwas very crucial for the British Empire because that was the only way it could breakinto China and force them to accept. They didnt want to accept British imports, theydidnt need them.They were producing better stuff themselves but they were forced to accept opium.A large part of the reason the British conquered India was to control a monopoly ofopium. And it was a huge narco-trafficking enterprise. But it was being lauded by themost distinguished intellectuals of the day, who described England as a unique powerin the world and nobody understands how magnificent we are, they think were doingthings for base motives because they cant understand them. And so it continues...The Japanese fascists when they invaded China and Manchuria the rhetoric was souplifting it brings tears to your eyes. They were going to create an earthly paradise
for the people of the region, in cooperation with Japan, to protect them from theChinese bandits who were terrorists and were trying to overthrow the legitimategovernments that Japan was supporting. They were going to have a prosperitysphere, in which we would all contribute and live wonderful happy lives in the earthlyparadise.And when Hitler took over Czechoslovakia, he did it in order to stop ethnic cleansingand atrocities, and let all the people there live happily together with Germansupervision. Furthermore, that was pretty much accepted in the U.S. Franklin DelanoRoosevelts leading advisor Sumner Wells was a close associate after the Munichagreement and Germany essentially took over Czechoslovakia, saying this is leadingthe way to a new world order of peace and justice.There is nothing exceptional about this. This is the way power systems behave. Theylike to think of themselves as mythologies.GNN: How come our media seems so unable to deconstruct, as you just have, thattheres language and motives, and theres a big gap between them. Today weveseen so much rhetoric and so little deconstruction. What is it about the paradigm ofthe media that makes it so afraid to deconstruct them as you do?Chomsky: Its perfectly true that you do not receive from the media an honestreconstruction of the way the world works, its not their task. However, its a littleunfair - there are special reasons why the media behave the way it does: corporateownership, advertiser reliance, corporate structure, and so on. Those are importantfactors, but its well to bear in mind the media, the elite media at least like Fox Newsare pretty much like the intellectual culture in general - the picture is not thatdifferent if you look at the journals of opinion and the public intellectuals and so on.There is a fringe of exception, but for the most part, educated intellectuals aresubservient to power, and there is nothing new to that. It goes all through history.Hans Morgenthau, the founder of modern international relations theory, oncecondemned what he called our conformist subservience to those in power, referringto the liberal educated intellectuals. He was describing something that can be foundalmost everywhere. You can go back to classical Greece and the Bible and you findthe same story. How were they treated? Were they praised? No, they were imprisoned, driven into the desert, despised. Hundreds of years later they were honored.Take the Bible. Were all supposed to be very Bible worshipping. The things we knowabout the Bible... there were people in the Bible whom we would call intellectuals.Then they called them a word that is translated as "prophets" but they werentprophesizing anything. They were basically intellectuals and were giving geo-politicalanalyses. They were calling for moral behavior, treating orphans and womenproperly and so on. They were public intellectuals criticizing power and calling formoral behavior and they were also predicting that the efforts of the kings trying toextend their power would lead to destruction - all the things that critical intellectualsare supposed to do. How were they treated? Were they praised? No, they were
imprisoned, driven into the desert, despised. Hundreds of years later they werehonored.Meanwhile the main intellectuals are now called false prophets.Not then. They were the flatterers who courted the king. They praised and honored.Thats the way it runs through history.You can find exceptions. And in fact there are important ones that will humiliate us ifwe look at them right now. But by and large thats the way intellectuals behave, andthe media have extra reasons for conformism to power - they are part of majorcorporations which are linked to one another, which are linked to state power andyou dont even move into more managerial positions if you dont internalize thesevalues. So yes, there are extra measures that make it somewhat more extreme. Onthe other hand, they are not behaving very differently than the intellectual classesthroughout history. In a way its almost a tautology. Systems of power anddominance are by and large not going to like or tolerate people who are going toundermine them. Theyll admire and support and honor those who are supportingthem... so in a way the outcome shouldnt come as a surprise.GNN: But isnt journalism supposed to be different? Isnt journalism supposed to beabout exposing the evils of the power structure?Chomsky: Journalism likes to think of itself as a crusading profession in which youexpose the power and tell the truth and so on. And there are plenty ofcorrespondents who try to do that, its not easy. They often get weeded out ormarginalized, or told its time to go to the Metro desk and learn your craft better. Butsome succeed to an extent and there is an element of professional integrity not justin journalism but in intellectual life in general. Its there but it tends to bemarginalized and suppressed. So the same journalists that like to praise themselvesas being for the people - when you watch what theyre doing and look at theircontent, they are very often in referential awe of power and modify history so that itconforms to an ongoing history and to a past history, and so that it conforms to theinterests of power. They say no one is telling them what to write. And thats right, but if they werent writing those things they wouldnt have the columns.Now they are not always doing it deceptively, just like the Japanese fascists probablybelieved they were bringing an earthly paradise to the people they were destroying.And so on throughout history For instance, a lot of Russian archives are coming outnow, and everything in Russia is being sold in the west, including their archives.They are kind of interesting to look at - the way they looked at things. And one ofthe most interesting things that I found in reading through the realized Russianarchives is when these gangsters talked to each other they used the sameterminology as their public declarations, so you find them talking to each otherinternally when there is no reason to lie, explaining how we have to defenddemocracy in eastern Europe against the attacks of the fascists in the west becausedemocracy is the basis for peace and justice and so on.
These are people, who are imposing tyranny on Eastern Europe, but they sawthemselves as defending democracy, and I assume its genuine. Its very hard to sayone thing and believe another.So you usually do something or another that makes you believe the things you aresaying. Correspondents for The New York Times like Anthony Lewis or Tom Wickerget very angry when people say look what youre doing, youre subordinating power.They say no one is telling them what to write. And thats right, nobody is tellingthem what to write, but if they werent writing those things they wouldnt have thecolumns. People would be writing other things, and they wouldnt make it thoughthat system.Again, you can find the usual margin of exceptions youd expect to find in anyinstitutional structure. This isnt physics, just strong tendencies, but its natural,understandable and its almost all over the world.There are some remarkable exceptions right in front of our eyes if we are willing tolook. I happened to have been in Turkey a couple of times in the last year, and its aremarkable exception. And not just because the government stood up to the U.S.and is being condemned by the visionaries who are preaching democracy, but thebehavior of the intellectuals, I dont know anything like it in the west. The leadingartists, writers and publishers are constantly protesting the harsh repressive laws,the massacres against the Kurds and so on. And furthermore they are carrying outconstant disobedience against it and receiving constant punishment for it, andsometimes enduring. Its not a lot of fun to be in a Turkish jail.And they do it unpretentiously, regularly. As I said its not the only country in theworld, but if western intellectuals were honest, they would feel humiliated andashamed. We dont face any of those problems. If we are subordinated to power itsbecause we are afraid of nothing, nothing like people face. Maybe you wont get asgood a job as youd like or maybe someone will scream at you and say youre anti-American. But its not like getting thrown in jail or assassination.GNN: Stanely Cohen wrote a book called "States of Denial" in which he talks abouthow societies go into denial about what theyve experienced. In some ways whatyouve just described - a nation as a family almost - is there a sense of denial inwhich if they knew the truth they wouldnt be able to bear it. And in some ways doesthe media facilitate that denial - almost like a psychological thing?Chomsky: The media and the intellectual classes in general facilitate denialsystematically. The idea of American exceptionalism, of benevolence occasionallygone astray, wiping out the parts of history that are unpleasant (which is a huge partof it), celebrating magnificent achievements often on the basis of false accounts -thats the core of the educational system and the major feature of the media - theway things are framed. Does it lead to successful denial? Sure it does.Lets take the invasion of Iraq. Thats an interesting case, and its very clear and wellstudied. The government and media propaganda about the invasion became, inSeptember 2002, very clearly delineated. Thats when it was effectively announced.Were going to invade Iraq no matter what anyone thinks. Right then began agovernment and media propaganda campaign that within weeks had driven thepopulation of the U.S. completely off the world spectrum. People all over the world
hated Saddam Hussein, like Iran and Kuwait, whom he invaded. They wanted to tearhim to shreds. They werent afraid of him; they knew he was the weakest country inthe region. If I believed those things I would have been in support of the war. If I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat to our existence, was developing weapons of mass destruction, carried out 9/11, is planning for more with Al Qaeda, yeah, we have to defend ourselves.It had been decimated by sanctions, it was virtually defenseless, in fact they hadbeen trying to integrate it back into the region over U.S. objections. They hated himbut they werent afraid of him. And that was true everywhere. Within a couple ofweeks, people in the U.S. feared Saddam. He was a threat to security, andfurthermore, they believed he was responsible for 9/11 and was carrying out newacts of terror. To this day, around 70% of the population think Iraq was carrying outa weapons of mass destruction program. A lot think we found weapons of massdestruction, and that he was tied up with terrorism. I mean no credible sourcebelieves that, including the intelligence agencies and independent analysts. Certainlyno one else in the world believes it outside of here.But its believed here, and its a result of a very successful campaign. Furthermore,those beliefs - completely outlandish beliefs - are very highly correlated with supportfor the war, which is not in the least surprising. If I believed those things I wouldhave been in support of the war. If I thought Saddam Hussein was a threat to ourexistence, was developing weapons of mass destruction, carried out 9/11, isplanning for more with Al Qaeda, yeah, we have to defend ourselves.So yes, you build up support for the war that way, and then you build up illusionsabout the past. We were talking about the 1991 rebellion. As long as you suppressthat it was not only supported by the U.S. but that leading commentators andintellectuals approved of that because Saddam Hussein was able maintain stability inthe country better than those who were trying to overthrow him, in lieu of what wesay, yeah that is forgotten, just as the record of the people in Washington now isforgotten. Their recent record and history are simply reshaped.We dont see history as the history of the destruction of the indigenous population,enslavement, conquest, murder, oppression, violence. You know, its sort of allsomehow out in the background. But the main thrust is supposed to be different.There was an article that just came out by this very distinguished conservativehistorian name Warren Cohen who said the imperial boot is now placed on Iraq andthe history of American denial, of what actually happened (and he runs through itpretty honestly) will reframe this as liberation - thats what he calls Americanexpcetionalism - but I think thats incorrect. Its the behavior of dominant forceswithout history, and they have got to subdue their own populations. Would thepopulation accept it if they knew the truth? I dont think so. You have to lie to them. You have to deceive them. You have to marginalize them. You have to make them feel
hopeless. Otherwise they arent going to hang on to power. Power is very fragile.Certainly no one in power believes it. If they believed it they wouldnt bother withthe propaganda. They would just tell them the truth - look, we want to smash upand destroy and rob these people because we want to enrich ourselves. Did theyever say that? No, no one ever says that because they know perfectly well thatpeople wont accept it. If they understand what is happening, they stop them. Andthat has happened. Thats how antiwar movements start - it seeps in and peoplestart to understand and then they wont buy it.You have to lie to them. You have to deceive them. You have to marginalize them.You have to make them feel hopeless. Otherwise they arent going to hang on topower. Power is very fragile. It can be overthrown. It doesnt take much tooverthrow it, even tyrants in more democratic societies. Its very fragile. So as soonas the discipline breaks down, it will be overthrown and they know it. Thats why youhave such a massive commitment to propaganda, much more so in the free societiesthan in the tyrannies.Like Francos Spain. It was willing to let people talk about whatever they wanted. Ifyou wanted to start Marxist clubs and so on, its perfectly fine, because there was atorture chamber in the center of Madrid, and when you walked past it you heardpeople screaming. So, OK talk about anything you like, but dont forget. In more freesocieties you cant do that. You have to make sure people dont have their ownthoughts and they dont interact with one another. So you need huge industries likethe public relations industry to impose passivity, hopelessness, marginalization, andfalse beliefs. Its required as societies become more free.