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Noam Chomsky
Perceptive analysis of American foreign policy and propaganda

Noam Chomsky is one of the best sources I've found for intelligent and perceptive opinions aimed at American foreign policy. I can't describe him very well. He's not a pundit or any sort of mass media figure and he refuses to be marketed or dumbed down or coached to have a more animated and soundbite-friendly way of entertaining audiences through the media. His methods don't lend themselves to being interviewed on CNN or even the PBS Newshour. (He does appear for focused, in-depth interviews such as here on the Charlie Rose Show—audio available here.) So you aren't likely to come across Chomsky during daily media consumption.

Chomsky is deeply suspicious of power structures (e.g. governments and corporations) who inevitably act in their own interests, and he calls himself an anarcho-syndicalist. He believes in the principle of moral universality: that we apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others, and more stringent ones if we are serious. He is a leading voice for peace and social justice.

The excellent documentary Manufacturing Consent (DVD via Amazon, or watch for free on Hulu) gives a detailed profile of Chomsky. There are two common outcomes for those who watch it: you'll either have a revelation and find you now understand how the world works, or fall asleep. After watching it a second time, here is my Cliff Notes outline of Manufacturing Consent's main points:

  • It's futile to expect any organization with concentrated power to behave in any way other than in the interests of those in power. (This is a generalized statement; organizations are by no means monolithic or perfectly controlled.)
  • It's a mistake to call the lameness and subsurvience of the corporate media a "conspiracy." This evades a deeper institutional analysis of it.
  • "Concision" is a major problem with the mainstream media. Highly opposing viewpoints are practically nonexistent and can't be expressed at all because there's not enough time to fit them into the formats of TV shows and newspaper articles.
  • The media has a tendency (apparently as part of its institutional bias) to keep us isolated and powerless, rather than joining in solidarity for our collective interests.
  • Freedom of speech is vital. Chomsky notoriously supported the right for someone to write a book saying the Holocaust didn't exist.
  • My favorite part of the movie was at the end, where you're given a taste of enlightened anarchism and what could be possible for the future. The populace has a choice of whether or not to take control of its interests and secure its own future.

I highly recommend this excellent lecture as a good example of Chomsky:

Here's another good lecture of his:
  • Noam Chomsky debates Richard Perle on the U.S.'s imperialist foreign policy
    1988, Columbus, Ohio (2 hours, MP3 format)
    Chomsky reels off the facts and figures regarding our neocolonial policies in Latin American during the 70's and 80's and leaves Richard Perle, a neoconservative heavyweight and adviser to Bush II leading up to Iraq, in the dust. At times Perle would barely be able to muster a response. From a description at Alternative Radio: "Rarely do establishment figures take on Chomsky in a debate format. After listening to this you'll understand why."

For more information, check out any interviews with him you can find, and the following resources:


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