Sunday, February 03, 2008

Noam Chomsky on Obama

"When I was driving home the other day and listening to NPR - my masochist streak - they happened to have a long segment on Barack Obama. It was very favorable, really enthusiastic. Here is a new star rising in the political firmament. I was listening to see if the report would say anything about his position on issues - any issue. Nothing. It was just about his image. I think they may have had a couple words about him being in favor of doing something about the climate. What are his positions? It doesn't matter. You read his articles. It's the same. He gives hope. He looks right into your eyes when you talk to him. That's what's considered significant. Not 'Should we control our own resources? Should we nationalize our resources? Should we have water for people? Should we have health care systems? Should we stop carrying out aggression?' No. That's not mentioned. Because our electoral system, our political system, has been driven to such a low level that issues are completely marginalized. You're not supposed to know the information about the candidates."

Chomsky, What We Say Goes

*on edit: while you're checking out this post and the many comments below it would be nice if you also checked out The front page of the blog.


Jason said...

Maybe, just maybe, you should read his book Audacity of Hope. Maybe, then will you realize that news media is designed to give very quick synopsis of people, places, things and ideas. Conversely, seeking out information and taking the time to read a persons own words will you begin to answer your questions.

Keeping the Faith!

J. Marley

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, just perhaps, you could travel to a country outside the US and observe a staunch difference in the way public policies are discussed in other news media. Then perhaps you would see that Chomsky was making a point that even a publicly funded network like NPR is deceptive in the fact that it supports superficial synopsis about "being a nice guy" instead of defining their political stance. If your read his book then why can't you at least give us that?

Yes, keep your faith in a benevolent president in which you know nothing about.

Jason said...

In fact, I've met Senator Obama on a couple of occasions. I can say that he is a human being, which makes him worthy of making a mistake like a regular human. Conversely, he is a Christian that realizes the sins of man kind and leaves his personal devotions to a higher power. I have also conversed with residences of his political influence and have first hand seen results of his political decisions.

In contrast, there are others who believe they are the ultimate power of human being, in mind, body, spirit and soul. I would argue that Senator Obama does stand for something that people can relate to and his ideas resonate with individuals to motivate them move, put forth action and believe they can make a difference.

What makes your assumption that I have not traveled beyond the boarders of the United States or even the Western Hemisphere? In fact, I have on many occasions visited other Countries on extended study abroad experiences. In which, I have lived, studied and learned from many diverse cultures. Which is why, I believe American is the best country in the world, even with all of it's past and present mistakes and faults. I know better to discount the blood, sweat and tears of those that came before us to provide what we are accustomed to today!

I have worked for a NPR station and interned for a BBC affiliate. I know there are people in power and position to portray what they wish for any story or audio bite. This surfaces in each individuals biases against what is perceived as their idea and reality. We all do this, even Chomsky. He is brilliant, I would only wish to be able to develop ideas such as he does one day. But, until then, I take my personal experiences and interpretations of people, places and things with more credibility than any media outlet or blog posts.

So, Ananymous, I recommend you take the first step in personal experiences and believe in yourself and create your voice with a presence, who are you, do you exists in this world, do you value your individual opinion and can you stand firm for what you believe to be reality, perception and truth from your perspective?

"If your read his book then why can't you at least give us that?"

I give you nothing...

J. Marley

John Madziarczyk said...

Actually meeting him or reading his book isn't necessary. The reason for meeting him is really easy to get in that we shouldn't have to physically meet a public figure to get a good idea of what they're about. With the book, although it would be good to read it, you know that the majority of people in the United States who are going to vote in November will not have read his book.

Obama is running for President. If he can't effectively communicate what he has to say, and needs people to recommend reading his book when his speeches and his positions on his own website don't give a good idea of what he's really about then he both shouldn't be running for president and shouldn't be elected President.

What are some concrete things either in his book or in his work with his constituents that fit with what you say that we can discuss? It should be easy to come up with them without saying either "Meet him", "Read his book", or "Meet the people who he represents". I'm not going to get on a plane and fly to Chicago, so it would be good to have some of this summarized.

As for media, blogs, etc.. have you ever heard of an adversarial press? What about the phenomenon of people researching critical, scholarly biographies of people that are received horribly by the person who's the subject because they come up with an analysis that they don't like? By writing from some distance I retain a sort of objectivity that would harder if I traveled with the Obama camp and drank the kool aid, as it were.

Plus, you know that books by Presidential candidates in lead ups to elections are mostly propaganda pieces, right? What makes you think that Obama's is any less so than Huckabee's? Saying you met him doesn't count as evidence on this one.

Jason said...

Hello John:

It's good to meet you! The power of the Internet space is amazing...

To clarify, I don't have an intimate relationship with Senator Obama, I was just making a simple point that it is possible to cross paths with a politician and the fact of this particular person being as real as his persona is portrayed in books, magazines, television and such...

"his speeches and his positions on his own website don't give a good idea of what he's really about then he both shouldn't be running for president and shouldn't be elected President."

Well, the reason I personally buy copies of his book and share them with friends and family as gifts is because they are his thoughts and words articulated from his personal experiences. I don't believe any of the other candidates running for President of the United States have taken the time to articulate their true thoughts, ideas and perspectives on such issues as Values, Politics, Opportunity, Faith, Race, Family and Historical Events. Which is only portions of the book, personal experiences from town halls to farm houses will also get you to think about what America is really comprised of.

Reading the book will make you feel as if you just had a very long and deep discussion with this individual, as most good literature does. Now, I say his words are his because there was no one who sat with him to interview him and record his thoughts, this is a book by Barack Obama. Not an experienced marketing and publishing guru. In my humble opinion, this speaks volumes of desire to express one's perspective, no matter if your running for President of the United States of America or class President of America Elementary School.

I would love to read a book written personally and solely by other candidates, without other publishers guiding the words, direction or perspectives.

To touch on your point, of course it is not necessary to read a book or be in the physical presence to understand someone. You could just as easy get sound bites, read articles or watch television interviews and debates to understand an idea of that person. Conversely, when those images become so "perfected" it would be difficult to really understand ideas and perspectives and beliefs of that individual without referencing something other than ones own words...

So, without writing too much, I would challenge you to really investigate the issues, stances and ideas of Senator Obama and his campaign. First, by absolutely visiting his web site where most of your questions will be answered in relation to views on Presidential Issues. In fact, this is the url:

There is a tab called "Issues" and you can select from the many that are on the American peoples hearts and minds, not just for this Presidential election, but for quite a long time. For example, the following links represent some issues and are copied and pasted from the site itself:

You get the idea. This is very good reading and gives a great perspective for understanding the potential of his transformational leadership skills.

"What makes you think that Obama's is any less so than Huckabee's?"

From my perspective, he just resonates with a my ideas of what America was suppose to be and that ordinary people can do extraordinary things... It's that simple, to me at least!

Thanks for you discussion, it truly is a remarkable part of the times in which we live in...

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with your comments on Sen. Obama and you give excellent arguments to support you point. I am not impartial here because he is very much "my candidate", but the reason why I

To "Anonymous" - I was born in Russia, lived there and in Ukraine and Hungary, traveled to 22 countries altogether (and went to 4 universities in 3 countries and I speak 3 languages) and lived in 5 states and DC in the US - there is indeed a STAUNCH difference in the way public policies are discussed in EVERY country, and I suggest that you should be the one who travel and realize that while there is a LOT that is wrong with our country, the same could be said about every country (well, not unless you read and listen only to Chomsky and Moore who somehow prefer to live in this horrible-horrible "totalitarian dictatorship" and none of whom by the way speaks ANY language other than English!) Travel and live elsewhere, then you will be able to compare.

And oh - YES, WE CAN!!! :)

Anonymous said...

I think that what Chomsky was getting at had nothing to do with Barack Obama, and had more to do with the media system, whether it be a publicly-funded one like NPR or otherwise. Simple as that. But I'm glad to see there's still people that don't immediately sling mud at each other for their preferred candidates, and rather, talk it out and provide details. But frankly, the fact that we have to pick up the slack, ourselves, for the mainstream media is a bit alarming.

In my opinion (because no one can really read minds), I think he was talking about the lack of scrutiny by the media, which is one of the fundamental roles that the media is supposed to fulfill, but in the case of the 2008 election, in Chomsky's opinion, it is failing miserably at this.

From what I've seen, Chomsky tends to focus more on how the media works and how it's being and has been corrupted from its original purpose. A good analysis of this that he did was the Propaganda Model of the media that he put forth in conjunction with Edward Herman, it's a good read for anyone interested in this kind of stuff.

Kimberly said...

I completely agree with the interpretation of the last anonymous poster: Noam Chomsky's comments had nothing to do with Obama and everything about the low quality of America's media. Today, most reports do little to no journalistic investigation; instead, they prefer to play clips of sensational drama or mudslinging gossip in order to entertain the population and make as much money as possible. The media no longer serves its initial purpose of defending democracy by presenting diverse perspectives and finding the truth... instead they have become a privatized company monopolized by Rupert Murdoch and his crew.

To address the previous comment about Obama's book (Dreams from my Father) being propaganda: the reader should know that Obama wrote it when he was only 21 years old, far before he planned to run for the President. There is nothing political about it. Read it before you dare to make such comments!

John Madziarczyk said...

Wow, a representative Obama supporter: Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky somehow feel that this is a totalitarian society. I challenge anyone to find that in any of their writings.

Especially Michael Moore's.

Nope, Chomsky wasn't talking just about NPR, and it wasn't just a reflection of the poor quality in our media. Besides, NPR isn't Fox News. If you're going to make the argument that the media is really, really, terrible it might not be such a good idea to use the flag ship of
decent radio reporting to make your point.

Pacifica is wonderful, but most people are more familiar with NPR.

Obama lies his fucking ass off about his positions. If you read the fine print his Hopey McChangealot attitude, as Tom Tomorrow calls it, turns into much more smoke and mirrors than the faithful would care to think about.

But all of you are gullible liberals, so you don't think that much. If you were true radicals you wouldn't be so easily fooled.

By the way, the book in question was "The Audacity of Hope", which is the one constantly hawked by virtually every bookstore up here. Hope and Change, change and hope, those have been the constants through this campaign.

Instead of defending Obama why don't you get a fucking viewpoint of your own and stop hero worshipping.

Oh, and I own this site, so I'll dare to say whatever I feel like about St. Barack the self righteous.

Jason said...

Well, I congratulate you on owning a site, which enables people to “freely express” perspectives. Conversely, I hardly consider it necessary to bring forth that fact in order to "pull weight" with posters. However, it is just my opinion and as it may seem, you have the "power and option" to recreate or otherwise "edit" posts that may not align with your perspectives (I trust this is not the case)...

However, the tone of the words you provide may give the wrong impressions of your true passion. Conversely, I am a firm believer in self-regulation of media consumption. Meaning, the individual should be able to choose his or her media and thus the perspectives from which that media is presented. This is especially true in an environment such as America where choice of media is almost unlimited and uncensored (this view can be debated, but lets agree on this in theory).

Therefore, in my humble opinion, the individual should be able to choose perspectives, interpretations, point of views and other forms of communication from which they take as actual, true or factual information. I would debate that first person perspective, is more powerful than any media interpretation of perspective. If for not any other reason, commercialized media is FOR PROFIT and in most cases FOR PROFIT FOR STAKE HOLDERS, who have an invested interest in their ability to sensationalize and create ratings, which would induce large audiences to "tune-in" and create the ability to capitalize on selling advertisement from which these mass groups of viewers can be sold products.
Conversely, this same media not only creates products, but also opinions, lifestyles, perspectives and ideas, which are sold to audience(s). The people (consumers of media) should question why some media outlets are so comfortable with keeping the dialog at such a low level as apposed to bringing the dialog into a higher level and more productive capacity.
Again, this is one reason why I applaud individuals, especially political leaders, who self-publish their thoughts, hopes, ideas and visions. This is hard to do, which is why many do not follow this path. Conversely, when they do, there should be a different perspective when discussing this form of media.
John, honestly, if you believe what you posted, “Obama lies his fucking ass off about his positions. If you read the fine print his Hopey McChangealot attitude, as Tom Tomorrow calls it, turns into much more smoke and mirrors than the faithful would care to think about.” Then I would hope that you reconsider in four or five years from now when people realize that, we have more in common as human beings than we do differences as ego’s, opinions and perspectives.
Not to play the role of a media outlet, but you did make some off the wall comments. “But all of you are gullible liberals, so you don't think that much. If you were true radicals you wouldn't be so easily fooled.” – I am not sure, but I would think that my ability to disseminate information and create my own unbiased opinion about the same information is something that I continue to develop in my personal and professional daily work. However, each individual grows, learns and interprets themselves and personal attributes and abilities at different rates, which in my opinion makes it extremely difficult to categorize a group of people as one particular type or attribute one label upon them.

Amanda said...

John, I agree 100% with you. Obama is a phony sonofabitch! I used to be an Obama supporter. I was even stupid enough to volunteer at his campaign. But, after listening to his speeches for some time I started to get very disturbed, and it had nothing to do with the Wright fiasco (though that was bad enough). After reading the following article at the below link it confirmed the uneasiness about Obama that I have been feeling for some time.
For all you people who are voting for Obama because you think he's going to end the war and bring in a reign of peace, or because you think it will save your butt from one day being drafted, you need to read this article, and then read between the lines of what Obama's really saying in his speeches and interviews. That's what this British reporter did, which confirmed the same fears I have, and what she's found is terrifying.

Two myths must be exploded: first, that Barack Obama was a principled and passionate opponent of the war in Iraq; second, that if he were installed in the White House he would resist the temptation to launch new wars and would instead usher in an era of peace.

President Obama would be a warmonger. He would be a wide-eyed, zealous interventionist who would not think twice about using America’s “military muscle” (his words) to overthrow “rogue states” and to suppress America’s enemies, real and imagined. He would go farther even than President Bush in transforming the globe into America’s backyard and staffing it with spies and soldiers. He would relish the “American mission” to police the world and topple tyrannical regimes.

If you want more war, vote Obama.

Anonymous said...

To read the comments that these Obama "supporters" leave all over the web is almost overwhelming. They are beyond rational, they take his hope and faith line to the extreme. Or do you suppose that they are paid to be blogging? I don't know but they turn me off and make me fear that he may be president someday. But the pendulum must swing both ways, from Jimmy Carter to our current fellow.

Anonymous said...

Amanda, come on, be honest. You never worked for Obama, and you don't know anything about ideas. I mean Pat Buchanan?! that's your credible source for an attack against Obama!?!You're going to have to do better than tha.t

Menchevik said...

I wrote what you said about Obama's inauthenticity and a campaign being a reduction to the "Hope/Change" slogan that has been omnipresent since the origin of polital candidacies.

None of these zombies investigate his positions and are engaged in nothing better than immature Maoist cult worship. Obama could be leading them off of the cliffs of hell and they wouldn't know the difference. Partisan politics is not a zero sum game, and experience should count for something.

The real crime is the illusion of choice between three, really two, horrible candidates and that the population must draw from one deck or the other. If we had real alternatives that were not subverted by the establishment then actual "Change" could occur and there would be something to Hope for in the future.

seev said...

Well, it's amazing what you can stumble upon here in the blog world. Clearly, I've got a lot of self-education ahead of me. How to think for oneself, that is the challenge! So far, I guess I'm just a naive and gullible liberal who prefers Obama to McCain. But I do remember how Gore lost to Bush because of Nader. This time will Obama lose to McCain because of Chomsky?

Anonymous said...

First of all, I am not sure that is a quote from Chomsky. The style and depth seem different. Second, does any one doubt that in order to make it even close to the White House you cannot be someone who advocates nationalization of resources, you cannot promise to “stop carrying out aggression”, and you must ultimately have a formula the satisfies the Pentagon, its owners, and its clients?

Urosuke said...

Hey, sorry to bother you all but just a few quick things I noticed:

Amanda – I read the article you posted and it is unacceptable. One can assume as much since it's on Pat Buchanan's website and he is a racist and a fanatic. But the actual article failed to be convincing in the slightest. Conclusions drawn from the quotes were stretches. Big stretches. And the final conclusion that he would be worse than Bush was based on 0 evidence. It was the sum of paranoid conjecture. The voting record it brought up is fair enough, but there wasn't a single (truly) anti-war candidate realistically available from either party in the mainstream. By comparison he was one of the better ones.

Ok, that said Obama isn't all he's cracked up to be and I wouldn't vote for him. Someone brought up Nader costing Gore the election and implying Chomsky could cost Obama this one. Look: If your not 'allowed' to vote for the candidate that represents the views you believe in because you would be taking away votes from a candidate that does not represent the views you believe in then that's not democracy. Of course Obama's better than McCain to someone such as myself. But Nader is better.

One last thing cause I've taken up too much time already (sorry about that) the point of the Chomsky article (which I've read before and is him) is a critique of the media, not necessarily Obama. The problem is that even if someone DID agree with the policies of Barack Obama they wouldn't know it. Because the media by and large doesn't tell you.

So I took the advice of Jason and looked Obama's website and read his policies. There is no where near the detail that should be available to a voter who wants to know. But there is MUCH more there than is commonly on CNN or your propaganda outlet of choice. The even more troubling thing, to me, however is that even in this thread – No One Is Discussing His Platform – we got a link to his website. But Jason didn't discuss it directly with us.

This is problematic.

We need to be better than the media. And that shouldn't be all that hard. So here: I'll start (as best I can) with a more or less random policy: Immigration.

His plan has 5 points: Create Secure Borders (via tech, personnel and infrastructure), Improve Our Immigration System (by making it easier to immigrate), Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally (by cracking down on business that exploit illegal immigrants), Bring People Out of the Shadows (which apparently means making them pay a fine, forcing them to learn English and then making them apply [at the back of the line] for legal status) and finally Work with Mexico (to improve their economic standing so people aren't so desperate to leave).

Right so my quick analysis is that some is moral, some is not and all is too vague.

Creating secure boarders sounds like it could create some jobs which is good but also reeks of xenophobia. This is basically just something someone says so they don't get called a wimp by the Right Wing Media. It in no way solves the actual problem. You need to deal with the roots of the illness not the symptoms.

Improve our Immigration System. Obvious. And I agree making it easier to immigrate will probably help the issue, or at least is humane. Still not the root of the problem.

Remove Incentives to Enter Illegally. This is very necessary. These businesses are exploiting people and it has to stop.

Bring People Out of the Shadows. This is pretty scary. Making the poorest aspect of a society pay fines? Then forcing them to conform to the wealthy's idea of culture? I mean there is a pretty big Spanish speaking community in America. English is not a necessity unless you're truly xenophobic. This is immoral.

Work with Mexico. This is the root of the problem. If he abolishes the free trade agreement and helps subsidize Mexican small business and social programs, or give Mexico the leeway to do it themselves then yeah... this immigration issue might just get sorted out. Of course I wouldn't hold your breath... something tells me that's not mister Obama's idea of Working with Mexico.

Shit that's way to much writing. Sorry again. Hope someone else is interested in actually talking about Obama's platform.

seev said...

john madziarczyk makes the statement: But all of you are gullible liberals, so you don't think that much. If you were true radicals you wouldn't be so easily fooled. Talk about your arrogance and intellectual snobbery! Hard to beat that.

Thanks urosuke for some honest attempt at analysis. But I have to say that all you hair splitters and very serious people here overlook the obvious which is that either McCain or Obama is going to be elected. Start your own political party if you think you can, but the world moves on and it's pretty obvious that Obama needs to be elected and not McCain.

Anonymous said...

If personal associates even partially define one's own belief system I don't understand how anyone owuldn't be scarred to death about the prospect of Obama in power.

From his own socialist campaign blogger to Ayres to Reverend Wright.

These aren't just people Obama knows, these are people he's friends with.

Obama's mentors would like nothing more than for America to fail so that the US can become a great, socialist-state with no property rights and all the wealth spread equally among the masses.

What a great place to live that would be!

How bout' Russia as a role model for what America ought to be. Mmmm, Mmmm. Yummy!

Anonymous said...

John...thank you for this post. I just found it and wanted to affirm your observation and assessment of the 'manufactured consent' of the people through media. EVERYONE is drinking the Obama koolaid, and they don't know why (if they are truly intellectually honest about it). For my part, being a fan of Chomsky at least in his institutional analysis of the US, McCain offers little hope as well. These 'leaders' both either already have or will pander to special interest groups and the imperialist machine that is America. I offer no solutions on this point, but, people should really try and seek truth more instead of engaging in endless heated debate about partisan politics which is precisely the type of diversion our rulers prefer us to focus on (eg Robert Litman and 'managing the herds'!). Wake up everyone!

Anonymous said...

Obama, Obama, Obama... a projection screen for hopes (liberals) and fears (conservatives)?
I'm a skeptic trying to see things objectively but even I feel like I'm being pulled along by the undertow of hero worship.
I repeat to myself the Jon Stewart dictum, "Remember, he's not the Messiah!"

Anonymous said...

We see what's going on with companies asking for and getting the taxpayer's money. I really do not believe Obama anymore. Te very first results of his presidency are far from "Faith and Hope"