Saturday, June 02, 2007

Chomsky the Hedgehog + cartoons

unpublished? Censored?

Time Discovery Channel poll:

End of May 2007

WTPRN 2007-05-28-Mon 10pm Hr.2
Carol Brouillet

Do you think the Bush administration is using the threat of terrorism or the terrorism alerts for political reasons?

49% YES
45% NO

Do you believe the US's involvement in the war is hurting or helping the war on terrorism?

54% hurting
4% helping

Do you think Saddam Hussain, the former Iraqi leader, was personally involved in September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center

53% NO
38% YES

Anti-Chomsky hatred, yes already back in the 1970s. Nothing has changed!

Could Things Be Worse?

AN EYE FOR THE DRAGON: SOUTHEAST ASIA OBSERVED: 1954-1970 by Dennis Bloodworth. 414 pages. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $8.95.

AT WAR WITH ASIA by Noam Chomsky. 313 pages. Pantheon. $7.95.

The British philosopher Isaiah Berlin once divided thinkers into Hedgehogs and Foxes. The Fox roams freely, a random chaser of unknown intellectual scents, a case of pure curiosity organized only by the zigzag of the hunt. The Hedgehog bounds his territory, reduces it to a unity. He starts with his own terms and squeezes the universe inside them.

Dennis Bloodworth (The Chinese Looking Glass) is a journalist, since 1954 a Far Eastern correspondent for the Observer—and a Fox. Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at M.I.T., a New Left ideologue (American Power and the New Mandarins), a leading protester against the war in Viet Nam —and a Hedgehog.

Corruption of America. Bloodworth sees Southeast Asia as so complex, so varied and contradictory that he can hardly write a book about it. His chapters, like his subject, separate into archipelagos and a thousand tiny islands. The dust jacket shows the head of a dragon: violent, mysterious, serpentine, finally inexplicable except as a myth.

Chomsky's dust jacket presents a photograph of a beefy American G.I. leading a frail, blindfolded, near-naked Viet Cong out of a helicopter by a rope around the neck. For Chomsky, Indochina is a kind of parable. Viet Nam is the historical misadventure that has exposed the corruption of America—its materialism, its hypocritical democracy —to itself and to the world. If Americans cannot see this and reform, he says, they will destroy themselves and quite possibly everybody else.

Alongside Chomsky's apocalyptic posture—historian as moralist and trac-tarian—Bloodworth has the slouch of a cynic. He is the professional journalist, selecting the amusing or exotic tidbit for the reader's jaded palate. He has seen too much to be shocked by anything or to believe in anything. He survives by his reflex for flippancy. Yet, by a curious paradox, Bloodworth's book eventually seems wiser and even more serious than Chomsky's.

Foreign Devils. Bloodworth cannot resist comparing Indonesia's Sukarno to "a slightly passé Hollywood corespondent on the beach at Cap d'Antibes." Nor can he pass up the insignificant but tourist-thrilling fact. Example: anyone can buy a murder contract in the Philippines for as little as $250, $25 down. (Try a syndicate called the Beatles.)

Despite his role as lively guide, Bloodworth, by a kind of Oriental indirection, gets his major points across. He makes it unmistakably clear that the one goal all Southeast Asian countries share is independence—merdeka in Malay, doc lap in Vietnamese. Big Brother is not wanted, whether he is American, Russian or Chinese.

Bloodworth makes it equally clear that even without its foreign devils, Southeast Asia would be no Garden of Eden; its corruption is not an Occidental import brought in by missionaries and gunboats. The native pattern has found "browbeaten peasants" regularly caught between bandits and greedy oligarchies. Revolution, the "habit-forming" coup, has meant exchanging one tyrant for another. "Communism," says Bloodworth, is just "the devil the poor don't yet know."

If independence is the shared future dream of Southeast Asia, poverty is the shared present condition that Bloodworth cannot escape, from the crate-size, tin-and-tar-paper shacks on Hong Kong's hillsides to the shantyvilles of Djakarta. Behind all the suicidal politics —the "demons of division" that set Indonesians against Malaysians, Vietnamese against Cambodians, and Cambodians against Thais—leers the real face of the dragon: famine. "By the year 2000," Bloodworth calculates, "Asia will have to feed more people than there were in the whole world in 1968."

Smelly and Enchanting. In contrast to Bloodworth's mixed actuality ("strange, smelly and beautiful, revolting, enchanting, an offense and an addiction") stands Chomsky's loaded abstraction: Asia with the rope around its neck. Chomsky sees U.S. policy as pure imperialism, a conspiracy of Yankee guns guarding Yankee dollars. He believes Washington's intention in Southeast Asia is "to suppress an emerging, peasant-based movement of national independence" under the pretense of fighting Communism. He does not hesitate to make comparisons to the aggressions of Tojo and Hitler.

As might be expected, Chomsky also doubts promises to withdraw from Viet Nam. On the other hand, he says, if U.S. troops stay in Southeast Asia, there may be "a general war with the people of Asia." He assumes America could not survive the economic and moral costs. His position on Viet Nam: "Either the war will have to go, or the democracy."

Hedgehog Chomsky is certain of one thing: the situation could not be worse. Fox Bloodworth knows many things and is certain of none. Chomsky tells what he thinks in black and white. Bloodworth tells what he has seen in Technicolor—and dares his readers to become Hedgehogs if they will. More in agony than in amusement, he quotes the official who spluttered: "Anybody who thinks he understands the situation here simply does not know the facts." Melvin Maddock


‘Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media’ (NR)

By Joe Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 30, 1993

A movie review, to borrow the words of media critic and activist Noam Chomsky, "requires necessary illusion and emotionally potent oversimplification provided by the mythmaker {me} to keep the ordinary person {you} on course."

So here goes: "Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media" is a juicily subversive biographical/philosophical documentary bristling and buzzing with ideas -- it may have you groping in vain for the remote control to rewind back to that last thought. The film is politically and intellectually potent, even infuriating, whether you agree with Chomsky or disagree with him.

An early moment demonstrates how this elegant, wittily constructed (and irreducible) film works: We see and hear a newspaper blurb describing Chomsky, an author and professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as "arguably the most important intellectual alive." Then we see Chomsky: "You have to watch those things," he says, chuckling. "The next sentence says, 'Since that's the case, how can he write such terrible things about American foreign policy?' "

Directed by media-savvy filmmakers Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick with an entertainingly fluid montage of sound and vision, the three-hour (with intermission) film is divided into two parts, "Thought Control in a Democratic Society" and "Activating Dissent," both examining how mass media organizations shape public perceptions and behavior, and reinforce the status quo.

In part one, Chomsky cries "propaganda," essentially. "Propaganda is to democracy," he says, "what violence is to dictatorship." This kind of talk has made him extremely unpopular in media and government circles, understandably.

Among his innumerable controversial assertions presented here is his contention that 20 percent of the population is indoctrinated to support and manage cultural life. "Then there's maybe 80 percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not to think . . . And they're the ones who usually pay the price."

Chomsky's wide-ranging critical eye eventually zeroes in on all areas of the culture at large, including, of course, entertainment. Sports, for instance, Chomsky calls "another example of the indoctrination system . . . it offers people something to pay attention to that's of no importance, that keeps them from worrying about things that matter to them."

"Manufacturing Consent" is not a hagiography of Chomsky -- he is perpetually confronted in it, by the likes of William F. Buckley Jr. (who threatens to "smash him in the goddamn face") and "Nightline" producer Jeff Greenfield, who says Chomsky's ideas "come from Neptune."

In fact, Chomsky at one point amusingly resists being myth-made into a "movie star," dismissing the "whole notion of developing public personalities as stars of one sort or another, where aspects of their personal life are supposed to have some sort of significance." t the Key.


Political cartoons

01.06.07: Martin Rowson on Tony Blair's defence of 'liberal interventionist' foreign policy
01.06.07: Martin Rowson on Tony Blair's defence of 'liberal interventionist' foreign policy

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posted by u2r2h at 5:52 PM


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