Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Must See Chomsky Interview

BBC journalist Jeremy Paxman is here trying to lead Chomsky up the garden path with partly provocating, but also crucial questions. Main topics are the ongoing Arab revolts and how the Western states are supposed to react, the role of technology and the internet with regard to the revolts and ... stupid people. Here are some highlights and cliffhangers:

Part I


Paxman: What should the West be doing?

Chomsky: For example, the Arab press – if you read it, including from London - is proposing that countries which have some respect in the region become involved, namely Egypt and Turkey. That would make a lot more sense than countries that are hated ... for good reasons.

Pacman: So, what do we do, just do nothing?

Chomsky: First, we're not asked to do anything. Mostly we've been asked to stay away. Just read what is being said. Mostly: "Stay away! You've got enough blood on your hands already. The question what to do is not up to us. We're not the only ones in the world.

Paxman: Sure.

Chomsky: So, say Brazil for example, is a respected country, so is Turkey. If you look at the Arab world, ask yourself: which leader is most respected? [...]

Paxman: We have an obligation - do we not – to behave responsibly.

Chomsky: Yes.

Paxman: And you're saying that the responsible thing is to simply not getting involved.

Chomsky: There may come a time when it would make sense for the West to become involved despite of its horrendous record of atrocities and crimes, in that region too [...]. But the question is: has this time come? There are other which have a much better status and may be able to do things that would lead to some sort of reconciliation or at least mediation. I mean it's very possible that Libya is going to break up into two states.


Paxman: We know [...] how you regard Bush's and Blair's record in the Middle-East. Do you think Obama has known better?

Chomsky: In many ways he's worse.

Paxman (laughing): Why? [...] Why is he worse?

Chomsky: Shall we go through the details?

Paxman: Please!


On Chomsky's famous saying "If the nuremberg Laws were applied ...
Paxman: You famously said that every American president since the 2nd World War would fail in the judgement as applied in Nuremberg and therefore [...] should be hanged. [...]

Chomsky: I didn't say that. Not everybody was hanged at Nuremberg. I said that if we believed in the Nuremberg Principles, every American president would be subject to them. What the decision would be we have to check. [...]

Paxman: But Obama would fare no better if the principles were applied to him?

Chomsky: No, ... he's carrying out a major war in Afghanistan ... he's directly involved in aggressive and criminal actions carried out by Israel for example ...


Part II


Paxman: Can I finish with a personal question? You're how old now?

Chomsky: 82.

Paxman: Why haven't you mellowed?

Chomsky: Because I look at the world. And there are things happening in the world which should lead anyone to become indignant, outraged, active and ... simply engaged.


Chomsky: Congress has already moved to ban funding for the most mild evironmental efforts. Furthermore, unfortunately, many of these people are true believers. The head of one of the Congressional Subcommittees, a republican, explained that the global warming can't be a problem because God promised there would be no other flood.  [...]

Paxman: But why do you care about stupid people?

Chomsky: Stupid people? These people have power! They're carrying out the actions defunding possible efforts ...


And certainly, if one looks at stupid people, we'll find them all over the place. For example, we happened to be right in the middle of a huge financial crisis, people have noticed. If you trace that back, a lot of it comes from a fanatic religious belief in what is called the efficient market hypothesis. It's pure fanaticism – dominated the economics profession, dominated the Federal Reserve. One consequence was that when an 8 trillion dollar housing bubble developed – totally unrelated to any fundamentals, completely off the hundred years history of housing prices - the profession and the Fed and the Central Bank said it's not necessary to pay attention because of the efficient markets. I mean is that very different from "God promised Noah"?

Paxman: That's great. Thank you very much!


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