September 08, 2003

Chomsky in Havana

If you think you can stomach it, here is the transcipt of an interview with Noam Chomsky by Bernie Dwyer on Radio Havana, dutifully published in Z Magazine. (Via Oliver Kamm.) Here are some excerpts.

[Bernie Dwyer] A couple of new popular books have recently been published such as Weapons of Mass Deception and Stupid White Men. Do you see them as a viable alternative to the corporate media?

[Noam Chomsky] No, they are not trying to be an alternative to the corporate media. They are just books among the many books written about the way the corporate media function and there is by now, in the United States, more than any other western country that I know, a rather significant popular movement concerned with the corporate media, which is virtually all the media within the United States, and the way they function as a kind of propaganda system.

This blog is not a part of the corporate media. NPR is not a part of the corporate media. The New York Times may be corporate, but it takes a rather different editorial line than The Wall Street Journal, also corporate. There is no propaganda "system" in this country. Or perhaps I should say there are many different propaganda systems. Quite unlike the monolithic state-run system in Cuba where Chomsky is giving this interview.
[Bernie Dwyer] The recent war on Iraq and the current US occupation was fully supported by the mainstream press in the US to the extent that the media became the political wing of the Bush administration. Isnít that pushing the power of the press beyond all limits?

[Noam Chomsky] Itís hard to answer that. An independent press, of course, would not function in that fashion. You are quite right.

Here is Chomsky pulling his Jedi mind trick. Indeed, an independent press would not act as the political wing of the Bush adminstration. Therefore, Chomsky suggests, the American media is not independent. It is controlled by the Bush adminstration. Including NPR and the New York Times. This he says on state-controlled Cuban radio.

Of course, our media did not function in that fashion. Fox News and the Rush Limbaugh Show can be accused of functioning in that fashion up to a point, but they did so voluntarily. And the relentlessly anti-war New York Times did not operate in that way at all. But nevermind that. Chomsky has to trash the American free press on state-run media in a Communist dictatorship, and facts cannot get in his way.

Naturally, he can't give an interview without injecting his trademark:

The fact that the United States can label other countries as terrorist states itself is quite remarkable because it not a secret that the United States is incontrovertibly a terrorist state.
Anyway.
[Bernie Dwyer] You would still uphold your admiration of the Cuban system as you did before?
His admiration for the Cuban system. Savor that. And remember it.
[Noam Chomsky] As far as I am concerned, I do not pass judgement on what Cubans decide to do.
But it's okay to judge liberal democracies...
I am in favour of Cubaís successful defiance of the United States.
Thanks for the solidarity, Noam.
I am in favour of them taking matters into their own hands.
Cuba is a totalitarian dictatorship, but he doesn't mind. No, really. He doesn't.
Exactly how they carry it outÖ I have my own opinions. A lot of things I think are fine, a lot not, but itís a matter for the Cubans to decide. My concern is that the hemispheric superpower not resort to violence, pressure, force, threat, and embargo in order to prevent Cubans from deciding how to determine their own fate.
Cubans are not allowed to determine their own fate, and it isn't the United States that prevents them from doing so. They live in a prison-state from which they are not allowed to leave.

I do agree with one thing Noam Chomsky said, though not what he meant. It is a matter for Cubans to decide. Too bad when he said "Cubans" he only meant Fidel Castro.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2003 01:06 AM
Comments

Just thought I'd ask Michael, but have you actually read any of Chomsky's books?

It's true he's a grumpy old socialist. It's also true that you, like so many others, seem to regard him as the boogeyman. To your credit, you do engage with what he says to some extent, but plenty of others (say Bill Whittle) use his name as a 4 letter word signifying "utter evil only slightly milder than Stalin".

But why the desperate need to misrepresent what he says? E.g., he simply says that the media is not independent. He did not say it was controlled by the Bush Administration, the interviewer did. There are other sources of significant power in America, apart from the Federal Govt. To me it sounds like he is trying to be polite- he doesn't fully agree with the question, but does agree with part of it.

Chomsky ain't always right, that's for sure, but he ain't always wrong either. The knee-jerk reactions to him are just as laughable as the demonisation of Hayek and Friedman by people on the left.

Posted by: carl at September 8, 2003 04:59 AM

carl-
I also used to think that piling on Chomsky was a cheap fix for people who wanted an anti-American effigy to burn. Then I read enough of his interviews to convince myself that it's well worth the effort to excoriate him. Even just his initial comments after 9/11- the ones equating the 9/11 massacres with Clinton's missile strike on the Al-Shifa plant- were idiotic and amoral enough to deserve all the venom that ensued.*

Stil- I have not read any of his books on particular conflicts (like the one on the war in Lebanon), and I understand that they are factually authoritative and worth checking out. He also carried a torch for the Timorese back when hardly anyone else did.

*Note to Chomsky fans- arrange for more Ramsey Clark interviews and publications- the dogs will smell fresher meat and leave Noam alone.

Posted by: Matt at September 8, 2003 05:48 AM

"The knee-jerk reactions to him are just as laughable as the demonisation of Hayek and Friedman by people on the left."

If sneering at an overrated fool who can't tell the difference between the United States and an actual terrorist nation is a 'knee-jerk reaction', then count me as an unabashed and proud knee-jerker.

Right to the groin, for preference.*

Moe

*Disclaimer: the preceding is hyperbole and/or poetic license; it should not be taken as an overt and/or covert threat or incitement re any action involving a knee traveling at increased speed and Noam Chomsky's private parts.

No matter how much... no, I don't want to type out the disclaimer again. :)

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 8, 2003 05:49 AM

Neologism request:

We need a word for the public expression of sympathy for dictators and totalitarian regimes simply because Dear Leader happens to defy the US.

Posted by: Matt at September 8, 2003 05:56 AM

Chomsky isn't satisfied with merely sympathizing with dictators - he also takes it upon himself to denigrate those who stand up to them. See this <A HREF="http://www.mattwelch.com/archives/week_2003_02_23.html#1674"this post from Matt Welch for Chomsky's views on Vaclav Havel. If our disgust with Chomsky seems like a cartoon, it is primarily because he's become something right out of one.

Posted by: George at September 8, 2003 06:08 AM

Ack, messed up the HTML above. Much, much too early.

Posted by: George at September 8, 2003 06:09 AM

George-
I hope Chomsky gets a cold every time a teenaged Rage Against the Machine fan decides that Havel's not cool.

For another example of rank sophistry employed against Havel, check out this warmed-over leftist hash.

Posted by: Matt at September 8, 2003 06:17 AM

I was about to echo those dumping on Chomsky, but hey, they said better than I could. Oh well.

Posted by: eric at September 8, 2003 06:29 AM

It’s true, Chomsky didn’t say that the American media was not independent – the interviewer did. As Michael said, it was just an old jedi mind trick.

As everyone knows, these simple tricks of suggestion only work on the weak minded – like radio interviewers and purchasers of Chomsky’s books, who have made this anti-capitalist a rich man.

Chomsky loves to use the art of suggestion – like when he suggested that American was committing ‘silent genocide’, deliberately murdering millions of Afghans during the Afghan war. This is how he was quoted in Al Ahram, an Egyptian newspaper:

"Plans are being made on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people. Very casually, with no comment and with no particular thought about it. It looks like what is happening is some sort of silent genocide," said Chomsky.”

Did Chomsky helped our relations with the Islamic world when he said that?

It was another mind trick, but the Egyptians believed every word. Stirring up hatred and rage with lies, endangering the lives of Americans, spreading hatred against them and wording lies so that he can weasel out of them later is a Chomsky specialty.

Chomsky has defended Holocaust deniers, the Saudi rag ‘Arab News’ has compared him to John the Baptist, he’s tried to downplay the crimes of the Khmer Rouge to the American press, he’s criticized Vaclav Havel while praising the Soviet Union.

He told the absurd lie that thousands of deaths in the Sudan were the result of the bombing of an aspirin factory and not the result of murderous oppression by Islamists in the North. Of course, his dittoheads believed him.

Chomsky has a few plans for America that go beyond making piles of money for his books and buying new cars. He hopes that there will be a social revolution in this country, and that American will follow the path of Vietnam, led by our equivalent of the Viet Cong.

Chomsky worships totalitarians and loathes democracy. He also gave the left some of the worst advice ever when he claimed that if ‘activists’ want to destroy that old ‘terrorist state’, the US government, they must cover up or downplay the crimes of the mass-murdering totalitarians our government opposes. The left has consistently followed this advice.

Chosmky isn’t frightening. What is frightening is the sheer mass of weak-minded dittoheads who don’t see through his charade.

Posted by: mary at September 8, 2003 06:43 AM

Great comments, mary. I am a reformed dittohead, and will be opening a dittohead rehab center soon.

Posted by: Dave at September 8, 2003 07:56 AM

Great piece, MJT. I liked that you showed how starkly hyporitical it is to denigrate the media in the USA while on a state-controlled propagandist media outlet!
He and his followers must not place any value on freedom. Just leave Ho Chi Minh, Sung, Castro, Milosevic, Saddam, alone.

Posted by: Bleeding Heart Conservative at September 8, 2003 08:14 AM

Thanks, Dave - and It's nice to know that some can be saved :-)

Posted by: mary at September 8, 2003 08:38 AM
Chosmky isn’t frightening. What is frightening is the sheer mass of weak-minded dittoheads who don’t see through his charade.

No what's frightening is that the sheer mass of weak-minded dittoheads who can't see through is charade are composed of an disturbing number of humanities university professors who SHOULD be able to see through his rabid dishonesty. Or.. they read and quote Chomsky to prove they can, like swallowing goldfish.

I remember one professor who was rabidly anti-Chomsky (and yes, had us read him) and I have a feeling that he had to keep his mouth shut until his had tenure.

Posted by: Bill at September 8, 2003 09:09 AM

Just thought I'd ask Michael, but have you actually read any of Chomsky's books?

Seven or eight of them, yes.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2003 09:19 AM

He also carried a torch for the Timorese back when hardly anyone else did.

Yes he did, and that's when I discovered him, and why I used to like him.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2003 09:22 AM

The Killing Fields...CIA lies!

http://www.leftwatch.com/FAQ/People/noam_chomsky.html

Posted by: Noam Fan at September 8, 2003 10:26 AM

In answer to Matt's neologism request:

"We need a word for the public expression of sympathy for dictators and totalitarian regimes simply because Dear Leader happens to defy the US."

How about "despot-hugging"?

BTW, I agree that Chomsky has become an ass, but the charge that he defended a holocaust-denier is misleading, and ultimately unnecessary to to the case that he has become an ass. For details, check this link.

http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky#The_Faurisson_Affair

In the mid '80's, Christopher Hitchens also wrote an eloquent and convincing defense of Chomsky on this point. He also covers the issue of Chomsky's apparent willingness to indulge in despot-hugging with the Khmer Rouge. It's archived in Znet, of course.

http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/other/85-hitchens.html

Posted by: Browning at September 8, 2003 10:29 AM

I heard somewhere that Noam Chomsky was the literary model for Ellsworth Toohey. Or was that the other way around?

Posted by: Stephen at September 8, 2003 10:32 AM

Questions for all:

In your opinion, is Castro the legitimate leader of Cuba? If he came to power illegally through a coup, is the USA required to respect his status as Head of State?
I ask because we heard a lot of pre-war comments regarding Iraq's sovereignty... "We have no right to decide who should be in power over Iraq."

I think a case could be made that we have no more right to decide than does the baath party who acended against the consent of the governed, but it doesn't hold water to say that baath or Saddam has or had more right to stay in power, than we had to remove him.
I'm not expressing myself as well as I'd like: if Saddam set himself up in power through slaughter of opponents, a military coup, then no one had any business calling him the legitimate ruler of Iraq.
If "we", the coalition, had no "right" to take over Iraq, because it violates sovereignty, on what basis are we less legitimate than Saddam? Or are we equally illegitimate and saved only by our intentions? Did Saddam's ethnic identity confer on him special forgiveness in the area of coup and regime change? Or could one say that his presence in Iraqi politics pre-purge at least gives him standing?
My feeling is that if a dictator seizes power through brute force and terror, torture and murder, like Castro, then all bets are off. We usually leave them alone because it is too expensive and dangerous to go about removing them, except in interest of national security.
So perhaps the anti-war or anti-embargo argument is more about what WE shouldn't do, how we shouldn't use our power, than about Saddam or Castro.
In my opinion, the best thing to ever happen to Iraq is our liberation. It won't be long before we see more Iraqi tourists in other parts of the world, more exchange students, Iraqi film, and so forth.
Castro isn't equally evil with Saddam, although he is weakening the soul of his people with unsustainable dependency and no liberty. It can't be paradise or even decent if thousands are willing to row to escape. The Bahamas are closer, and how many of them "escape" to Florida?

Posted by: bleeding heart conservative at September 8, 2003 10:37 AM

Mary:

where can the writhing "mass" of Chomsky dittoheads be located? Is there perhaps a massive underground marxist-leninist left-wing movement that I have failed to detect in the US (I live in TX, so maybe that's why)? Is Chomsky's brand of doctrinary leninism rebroadcast ceaselessly on talk shows and editorial pages?

Of course, there isn't, and it isn't. So, frankly, I fail to understand the obsession. However wrong, Chomsky is as safely unrepresentative as a zealot can be (in a manner that any comparable right-wing zealot isn't, by the way).

Michael:

"the US media is not a propaganda machine." Please. The US media exhibits a degree of conformism and servilism that is unseemly in a country that so celebrates "debate." This was true well before Sept 11. One need not suffer from Chomsky's ideological blindness to notice this.

I must say that this blog is one of a kind, which is why I return to it in spite of my disagreements: you can hardly find a Chomsky quote anywhere else!

Posted by: Pierluigi at September 8, 2003 10:40 AM

Matt: We need a word for the public expression of sympathy for dictators and totalitarian regimes simply because Dear Leader happens to defy the US."

How about "useful idiocy."

Pierluigi The US media exhibits a degree of conformism and servilism that is unseemly in a country that so celebrates "debate."

I agree with that characterization completely. But that is different from the media being a propaganda machine. If you want to see an actual propaganda machine, look no further than the Cuban state-run media system. And thanks for reading, even if you don't always agree.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2003 10:51 AM

Pierluigi, you can hear Chomsky interviewed frequently on any Pacifica affiliate. If, living in TX, you are within broadcast range of 90.1 KPFT in Houston, you can hear his devoted acolyte, Amy Goodman, weekdays 9-10AM. Hope that doesn't violate any posting rules, because it's certainly not a plug.

Posted by: Phil Smith at September 8, 2003 11:00 AM

Pierluigi, you can hear Chomsky interviewed frequently on any Pacifica affiliate. If, living in TX, you are within broadcast range of 90.1 KPFT in Houston, you can hear his devoted acolyte, Amy Goodman, weekdays 9-10AM. Hope that doesn't violate any posting rules, because it's certainly not a plug.

Posted by: Phil Smith at September 8, 2003 11:00 AM

Posted by Pierluigi at September 8, 2003 10:40 AM

> where can the writhing "mass" of Chomsky
> dittoheads be located?

Ummm, Northern California on up?

> I have failed to detect in the US (I live in
> TX, so maybe that's why)?

I think you pegged it.

> The US media exhibits a degree of conformism
> and servilism that is unseemly in a country
> that so celebrates "debate."

I work in the media (in a support function, I'm not involved in production). If there is conformity it is due to the laziness of reporters. Our big bad corporate masters hardly are aware we (our news organization) exist. It works kind of like the Sopranos... we had in the envelopes every year and they leave us alone. They have no influence on the news content. Our division seems to be sold every 10 years (or less) and the story has always been the same. We do our thing, make money, and hand it up to the people that own us (who never say anything to us about how we run our ship)...

Claims to the contrary (that news content is 'manufactured' to serve a goal of supporting 'the system') are just the usual leftist paranoia (created to serve the goal of supporting their ideological pretensions)...

Posted by: Thomas at September 8, 2003 11:01 AM

I think the question is why are so many people willing to read/listen to Chomsky and refuse to subject him to the same level of analysis and critique they employ on everything else.

I've discoved that many, many people desperately want to believe that the US (change to your country if necessary) is the most racist/sexist/unfree/unequal/fill in your beef here, place, ever.

Why?

What so many are doing is defending world-view, a mindset, as Roger L. Simon pointed out a while back. Most of these folks have a comfortable existence that they wish to believe is revolutionary resistance. Thus the mindset.

Can it be changed? No, in a word. Some may take in more information, but most are trying to limit the information they recieve.

Sad, but in my experience, true.

Posted by: lancer at September 8, 2003 11:04 AM

>>Please. The US media exhibits a degree of conformism and servilism that is unseemly in a country that so celebrates "debate."

The US media offers what sells. The US has the most free market for ideas, the democracy of the market decides what is popular. Anybody can buy a printing press or start a blog, anybody can try to sell their ideas.

It is the job of the sellers to package or market their ideas to appeal to the masses. The citizen-consumer runs this nation, not taskmasters from a dictator or accedemic.

Human nature is resitant to new ideas or alternative opinions. Socialism happens to be an unpopular idea. But instead of respecting the opinions of the majority or selling his ideas, Chomsky insults the masses as "Bush-dupes." Using deception and double-talk, he calls our free-market of ideas "tyrannical."

He says in short: "Don't trust the corporate media, instead trust ME!" - which is a recipe for totalitarianism.

Posted by: Pol Pot victim at September 8, 2003 11:05 AM

Love him or hate him, Chomsky's thriving existence should be cause for celebration, validation and vindication of free societies. He'll return from Havana to his comfortable sinecure, where he'll continue waging intellectual war against his own country. No goons from John Ashcroft's alleged police state will visit.

How many Cuban dissidents mouthing off in Miami could expect a similar return home?

Posted by: Cosmo at September 8, 2003 11:35 AM

Re: lancer

It can be change, though it requires world shattering event (relative). Read Horowitz's book Radical Son about his conversion. The origin of Neo Conservatism is the second or third generation liberals who have indeed been mugged.

Posted by: BigFire at September 8, 2003 11:46 AM

The origin of Neo Conservatism is the second or third generation liberals who have indeed been mugged.

Thing is, a lot of us haven't been mugged. I've been a hawk for ten years. Only now that a Republican is in the White House am I considered a heretic.

A lot of this really is just reacionary partisan bullshit.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2003 12:08 PM

Pierluigi wrote: "The US media exhibits a degree of conformism and servilism that is unseemly in a country that so celebrates "debate."

Like a lot of conventional 'wisdom' about the US, this is a tiresome bromide, presented without support -- like a self-evident tautology in need of no scrutiny.

In fact, organizations on the Left and the Right exhaust themselves with outrage over what they perceive to be various biases in US news coverage. The New York Times, NPR, CNN and the anchors of the three major networks, among other media outlets, provided more consistent opposition to this war than did the Democrats. Indeed, mainstream US media are as openly hostile to this president as their European counterparts.

That it does not automatically sink to the levels of gratuitous anti-American bigotry we get from the BBC, or mimic the smug condescension and ridicule of many European outlets, or dignify wacky conspiracy theories in order to pander to the comfortable prejudices of its audience, or wallow in the morally-obtuse 'objectivity' of Reuters hardly supports your charge of "conformism" and "servilism."

Posted by: Cosmo at September 8, 2003 12:10 PM
think the question is why are so many people willing to read/listen to Chomsky and refuse to subject him to the same level of analysis and critique they employ on everything else.

I'm not so sure they even apply the same level of 'analysis' to everything else. Typical Chomskyites and Zinnfandels (ironically most of them are white to add to the sad joke) I've dealt with are so hideously second-handed in their soundbytes and scripts that they make the Rush Limbaugh brand of stereotypical dittoheads look like Nobel Prize Winners. "Four Legs Good, Two Legs Better," and all that jazz.

You can't even argue the facts with them if they refuse to look of the information themselves (e.g., about Israel for one glaring example). I honestly wonder if any of them do their own research and then immediately discount it when they read something where Noam or Howard or any other member of the Intellecutaloid A-List says otherwise lest they lose their invitations to the right parties. I'd like to think that I'm wrong but I've had too many encouters to think my examples are a fluke

Posted by: Bill at September 8, 2003 12:20 PM

Chomsky's such a pointless moralizing grandstander. I've never heard him say a single thing that wasn't either completely obvious, perfectly stupid, or factually wrong, and I've never heard him miss a chance to tot his own moral superiority. He's made a nice name for himself selling Chomsky Brand Political Dissent, and the only reason we are paying any attention to him is because he's convinced so many people that he has a monopoly on truth. Arguing with him is as pointless as arguing with Rush (Limbaugh, not the band) or Jerry Fallwell or any other charismatic polemicist - it does no good, and it just lets him play the matryr. The only way to counter this is to ignore him, and it's good for your blood pressure as well.

Russil Wvong wrote what I think is a fair critical review of Chomsky's work (as opposed to Chomsky the psychological case study, which is how most of these debates end up), which you can either read, because it's well done; or ignore, because Noam, despite the best efforts of his supporters and critics, is simply not an important figure in political discourse:

http://www.geocities.com/rwvong/future/chomsky.html

Posted by: Andrew Northrup at September 8, 2003 12:30 PM

I hear Chomsky once in a while on KPFK in LA. He brings to mind an image of the Pied Piper. His comforting speaking style seems to lull the listener into a somewhat relaxed yet compliant state of mind. But by staying alert, much of his comforting phraseology can easily be picked apart as groundless and conjecture. That tends to invalidate most of what he says in my feeble mind.

By the way, why didn't the interviewer suggest that Chomsky start a new TV station in Cuba which is not controlled by "propaganda" forces? Maybe Noam can find his dream job there.

Posted by: sammy small at September 8, 2003 12:31 PM

Pierluigi - A writhing lair of Chomsky dittoheads can also be found slithering through any random indymedia site (the main one is at: www.indymedia.org).

Is Chomsky safely unrepresentative? He believes that it's wrong to criticize any group or country that opposes the United States, even if that particular group or country enjoys oppressing and murdering innocents by the thousands. To Noam, the enemy of his enemy is his friend. Activists from the left have been following his advice for many years. When was the last time they criticized an oppressive despot who also happened to be an enemy of the US?

Posted by: mary at September 8, 2003 12:42 PM

A lot of this really is just reacionary partisan bullshit.

This is absolutely true -- one of the largest reasons behind my opposition to the war came from the fact that I was certain that Bush was simply not intelligent, democratic (small d), or honest enough to handle the aftermath. I hate being right.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 8, 2003 12:44 PM

If you read Marcuse or other leftist wackos you understand that the idea of Chomsky and Nazimedia et al is NOT to spread their version of the truth, but to DESTROY THE IDEA OF TRUTH. Their mission is "culture jamming" - to muck up the "system" to speed up the Revolution.

Dumb proles (like us of course) simply repeat what the Capitalists and Corporations (Jews of course) tell us what to say (manufactered consent). Reality and indeed the Truth itself are hidden by the evils of capitalism.

The only way to be liberated from this "propaganda" is by Revolution, which will occur when Chomsky and Indymedia and other Far Leftist "culture jam" out the evil Capitalist signals. Tin foil hats work just as well.

Posted by: Scrooge McDuck at September 8, 2003 12:53 PM

Kimmit, I doubt Bush is the most honest person, or even the most honest President. But your man Dean said the other day that he "promised us peace". Where's the honesty in that?

I'm willing to fall on my sword if you can actually point me to where Bush promised us peace, but I really don't think it ever happened. Am I wrong? I'm suprised that he hasn't been jumped all over for that comment, but I'm really skeptical that even Bush would have said something so asine as "I promise you peace".

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 8, 2003 01:04 PM

Pierluigi wrote: "The US media exhibits a degree of conformism and servilism that is unseemly in a country that so celebrates "debate."

I believe that's true. But not in the way Pierluigi might think. From my viewpoint, most of our mass media - and almost all TV news - is biased far to the left.

I suppose, though, that to someone sufficiently far left, even a moderate would seem to be a flaming conservative.

Posted by: Mike at September 8, 2003 02:17 PM

The way I see it, our media is either biased too much to the left, too much to the right, or annoying bland and uncontroversial to a fault. I'd like to see diversity within single media outlets rather than have them so segregated from each other.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2003 02:54 PM

Good point MJT. And it also depends on one's perspective. It's interesting to see the often diametrically opposed takes on deficiencies in media coverage offered by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting and The Media Research Council. Like talking to two witnesses at a traffic accident or crime scene.

Posted by: Cosmo at September 8, 2003 03:18 PM

Lot of people on the right see the media biased to the left. Lot of people on the left see the media biased to the right. That tells me something right must be going on.

Posted by: Mason at September 8, 2003 03:48 PM

Responding to Bleeding Heart.

You have hit upon the central dilemna of our time. In an era where all the earth at least pays lip service to the notion of government by consent and where the idea is firmly entrenched in Western Political thought, what confers legitimacy to a regime? The treaty of Westphalia which holds all countries have a right to sovereignty within their borders is on its last legs. Why should a murderous dictator who holds his population in abject terror or who governs through the use of violence and propoganda be respected as legitimate. It is a difficult question but we need to ask it? Where do we draw the line. The Jimmy Carter's of the world give some kind of magic to "elections" regardless of how legitimate they are. Conventional opinion still speaks of Arafat as the "elected leader" of the Palestinians even though he ran without real opposition and has not stood for election again (and allows no dissent) As a starting point let me suggest that any ruler or ruling class that does not govern to some extent for the benefit of its population is not legitimate. Under this formula, I believe the Chinese government, as oppressive as it is, is worthy of international legitimacy. The government of North Korea is not. Most of the Arab nations would not, including Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Their governments seem to exist for the purpose of securing the national wealth for a small plutocracy. Realistically, the U.S. is not going to withdraw its recognition from these countries unless they are undeniably terrorist states. But the next time you hear some bozo from the UN carp on about international law, realize that the United States now has its own philosophical approach to international law (for better or worse) that does not support the interests of the despots.

Posted by: Doug at September 8, 2003 07:53 PM

Hang on a second -- Castro's regime is awful, but we must keep in mind that Fidel Castro was the head of a popular uprising against a brutal, explicitly US-sponsored dictator.

The media is biased to the Right, by and large (Fox News, ferchrissakes); but what they mostly are is painfully incompetent, and each side sees errors in reportage which put them in a bad light as being proof of bias, rather than mere failure of craft.

I'm not sure what you're looking for with the "promised us peace" comment -- one can find various Bush campaign statements about how he was going to increase the size and capacity of the US military and guarantee peace, or how the US was not going to engage in "nation-building" or that we'd have a "humble" (heh) foreign policy. Or that, hey, the capture of Osama bin Laden was going to be a priority until it became a success. There are so many ways to justify the "promised us peace" line that I'm not certain of what you're looking for.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 8, 2003 08:12 PM

"The media is biased to the Right, by and large (Fox News, ferchrissakes);"

One cable news station does not mean the entire media is "biased to the Right". Christ. I'd no idea CNN, NPR, the NYTImes, were all biased to the Right. Please. Just because wacko-style Meacher articles are not brandished on US tv or in the US papers does not mean the entire industry is the government's pet, especially since it's so diverse it simply cannot be controlled.

The media's real problem is incompetence and laziness as well as sycophancy and a tendency to follow the leader (they're lemmings). All human traits and all impossible to eradicate.

Posted by: linden at September 8, 2003 08:43 PM

Kimmitt: Hang on a second -- Castro's regime is awful, but we must keep in mind that Fidel Castro was the head of a popular uprising against a brutal, explicitly US-sponsored dictator.

Hitler had grievances, too. So what? Why must we hang on a second?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 8, 2003 09:52 PM

Kimmitt, Dean said, and it's a direct quote, that Bush "promised us peace". And he didn't do that. So, Dean either lied or was really unforgivably mistaken. You can't have it both ways--one of the following statments is true:

A: Bush promised us peace
B: Bush did not promise us peace

You candidate claims A, but it's really pretty apparent that B is true. There's no way that any of the (to use campaign rhetoric terminology) clarificatins you provided above can make A true and B not true. Can I lay it out any more simply? What he said wasn't true, prima fascie.

I'm sorry, among Democratic candidates I really want to like Dean, but saying shit like that is just stupid. It's a base, cheap political statement, the kind of simpleminded trash I'll be expecting from the Bush campaign in 2004, and I thought Dean for one had a chance of rising above it. I really, really want a Democrat I can vote for, but it's looking like Dean's not it.

Posted by: Christopher Luebcke at September 8, 2003 10:16 PM

Why must we hang on a second?

Michael, I'm surprised at you. It's obviously because criticizing Castro would detract from important matters, like defeating George Bush in the next election. Besides, didn't you hear? The USA is a terrorist nation, too.

Now, the above was sarcasm, but unfortunately some people apparently honestly believe this. You know, people like Chomsky - hey! We're back on track for this thread. :)

Posted by: Moe Lane at September 9, 2003 06:16 AM

Kimmitt responded to:

A lot of this really is just reacionary partisan bullshit.

with:

This is absolutely true -- one of the largest reasons behind my opposition to the war came from the fact that I was certain that Bush was simply not intelligent,

He's a dodo head. His mama was so dumb he doesn't even know dumb from stupid.

democratic (small d),

You are so right. Like all new leaders of nations when handed ultimate military power, he purged all dissent with violence and then spent years ruthlessly consolidating power.

or honest enough to handle the aftermath.

Aftermath's are SO easy to explain in 10 second soundbites so obviously he's stupid, as we already proved.

I hate being right.

Or maybe you could just admit that your reasons for being against the war were because you are simply a reactionary partisan.

Nothing you wrote in your 10 second soundbite showed anything intelligent or democratic. Therefore sir, you are a blah blah blah.

Oh, I don't have to hate being right about you because I don't have the hubris to believe I am, especially when my arguments are not based on any actual knowledge, but merely impressions from reading this media.

Posted by: Van Gale at September 9, 2003 07:03 AM

Posted by linden at September 8, 2003 08:43 PM

> The media's real problem is incompetence and
> laziness as well as sycophancy and a tendency
> to follow the leader (they're lemmings). All
> human traits and all impossible to eradicate.

So true... no one is putting a gun to their head telling them to do poor, shallow, conformist reporting... it's just easy...

Then again, there are always books. I read Fast Food Nation a year ago and really enjoyed it as 'reporting'... Didn't agree with all the political commentary but the reporting was excellent...

Posted by: Thomas at September 9, 2003 12:59 PM

Hitler had grievances, too. So what?

1) Thanks for noticing that, actually.

2) So if we want to understand what the hell is up with Cuba and Castro, we might keep in mind that he's a nationalist hero as well as a Communist dictator. The two coexist.

You are so right. Like all new leaders of nations when handed ultimate military power, he purged all dissent with violence and then spent years ruthlessly consolidating power.

Why bother, when it's so much easier to paint anyone who critizes you as antiamerican and let the folks who own the voting machines nudge your folks to victory? Even in Rome, the Senate had enormous theoretical power for decades; the Emperors played political games to make things look nice, but at the end of the day, they got everything they wanted.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- if the 2004 election comes within the margin of error, Bush simply will not hand over power. For that matter, even if it doesn't, I am honestly concerned that he will provoke a Constitutional crisis of some kind. Time will tell, I suppose.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 9, 2003 02:41 PM

Kimmitt, you say Castro is a nationalist hero. Again, so was Hitler. So what? I'm really not sure why I'm supposed to keep this stuff in mind. I know it already, and I don't see what is has to do with Noam Chomksy's imbecility.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 9, 2003 02:48 PM

Yeah, I don't know what's up with Noam. He comes out with this great shit in "Manufacturing Consent," and then he goes off and whitewashes a bunch of dictators. I mean, Cuba's still a better place to live than, say, Guatemala, in any number of ways, but it's not like it's an ideal to be emulated in any way.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 9, 2003 06:51 PM

I wonder if it's really better than Guatemala in any way. At least Guatemala no longer has political prisoners, though it is still a very dark place in many ways.

I will visit Guatemala for the first time in November. I'll have a full report with photos when I come back.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 9, 2003 08:26 PM

It's the "life expectancy" thing. To wit:

US: 77.1
Cuba: 76.8
Guatemala: 65.2

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 10, 2003 01:27 AM

Kimmitt wrote: "I hate being right." If I consistently rooted against the success of my country out of partisan hatred, I'd hate my own thoughts just like you.

Posted by: rds at September 10, 2003 04:28 PM

Mm, the Antiwar = Antiamerican meme. It's like mint; it's easy to mix in with other things, it tastes great to those who like it, and one absolutely cannot kill it, so it overgrows and chokes out everything else eventually.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 10, 2003 04:35 PM

Kimmit: It's the "life expectancy" thing.

Ah, yes, so Cubans live (according, no doubt, to Castro's official statistics, which cannot be independently verified) 11.6 years longer than Guatemalans. I'm sure that's a big comfort to the ones rotting in Castro's gulag.

I suspect black slaves in the United States outlived their contemporary counterparts in Africa too, as no doubt black South Africans outlived their Rwandan counterparts under apartheid. My guess is that the South Africans and slaves probably didn't quite see their situation in such positive terms, though.

Posted by: Chris Lawrence at September 11, 2003 05:05 PM

If you would be so kind as to both back up those statements and retract the insinuation that I would support racial slavery under any circumstances, I would be obliged to you.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 11, 2003 11:21 PM

Kimmit: "... retract the insinuation that I would support racial slavery ..."

He didn't say that. ("racial slavery" - what about other kinds?) He was calling you on your simplistic one-dimensional comparision based on (dubious, in the case of Cuba) official stats of life expectancy.

Posted by: Eric E. Coe at September 12, 2003 12:10 PM

if we can judge society (as we always do) by the actions/words of their representatives, indeed this site gives the "outsider" an "inside" look into the United States...for example, we say, Cuba is an undemocratic country coz of the actions of Cuba...Surely, we may as well agree that the United States is a democracy were bitterness, contempt, obsenity is the way to express political debates. why should you reduce yourselves to disgrantled people with your own countryman in such crude language? is this what we hear named "freedom of expression?" You lose sense in your words and we "outsiders" lose track. Having said that, I must comment on the assumption that the US media is a free press. Oh! look at how Bill Maher was surreptitiously "excused" from ABC last spring because of "expressing his freedom of speech". then who was the other NBC or NYC journalist who gave airtime to Al Jazeera and before he got home, his job was no more. Come on, do yourselves a favor and travel [at least virtually travel] to the million e-press from around the world and read the coverage of international news from outside the US media. Is it so hard to differentiate between "balance" and "bias?" what picture does it potray? And btw, simply because Cuba does not follow the same government system of the US does not mean it's undemocratic, each society has its own system of governance so, back off. Just like nobody from Cuba tells you who to vote for your primaries. If Cuba is such a bad place, why does the US still maintain base at Guantanamo? And because you are so priviledged to listen to Chomsky, do not assume that the many arabs and muslims detained in US prisons, deported to nowhere, held in guantanamo bay or occupied in IRAQ, Afghanistan, and other people threatened by stationed US troops [in Qata, Djibouti, Bahrain, Phillipens, Cuba, Puetro Rico, Nigeria, Equatoria Guinea, Colombia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Kuwait...oh! what an exhaustive list] do not want to share of this "freed man of speech"

Posted by: tiredandsick at September 24, 2003 08:07 PM



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