Political philosopher Noam Chomsky discusses the dismal state of the American media and the collapse of democracy in preparation for the release of a new documentary about his life.
Though he originally entered academia as a linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky has become famous for his controversial, thought-provoking writings on global politics and social justice. Indeed, his popularity soared in the late 1960s due to his fierce criticism of the Vietnam War and U.S. foreign policy.
Now 86 years old, Chomsky’s opinions are more respected than ever and his work continues to reach new audiences. “Requiem For The American Dream,” a crowdfunded documentary about his career and views, premiered Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival, where Indiewire called it a “Must-See Film.”
Russia Today, or RT, published an in-depth interview with Chomsky on Sunday. In addition to discussing the documentary and its provocative title, the interview touches on America’s “Cold War version 2.0” with Russia, warmongering by Western forces in Yemen and the Middle East, and the conflict in Ukraine.
But the first topic directly related to RT itself. The network, which is openly backed by the Russian government, has come under increased pressure from the U.S. government this year. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland called it a “broadcaster of untruths,” while the chair of the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors compared RT to a terrorist organization. Indeed, it seems the U.S. government can’t stop talking about RT — last week, during a congressional hearing, House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Ed Royce accused the network of “weaponizing information.”
But when it comes to propaganda and weaponized information, Chomsky would rather turn his sights closer to home. He told RT that, “If there were any imaginable possibility of honesty, he [Royce] could be talking about the American media.” This represents a recurring theme in Chomsky’s work: The American mainstream media produces propaganda which keeps its citizens in the dark about the real state of the world and the true nature of U.S. actions in it.
The contradiction is especially clear when it comes to the many wars the United States fights for what it calls “humanitarian purposes.”
“The assumption is, when the United States invades, it kills a couple hundred thousand people, destroys the country, elicits sectarian conflicts that are now tearing Iraq and the region apart, that’s stabilization. If someone resists … that’s destabilization,” Chomsky said in Sunday’s interview.
To further his point, he cites the recent normalization of relations with Cuba, which the media sees as a sign of the success of U.S. policies in South America. Yet, Chomsky said, “It’s exactly the opposite.” Due to U.S. policies of destabilizing local governments and sanctions that have severely hurt the lives of Cuban people, he says the U.S. “is isolated in the hemisphere.”
Chomsky goes on to criticize the ways in which endless war has become normal for the American people and media. He told RT:
“The major newspapers in the United States — the New York Times and the Washington Post — have recently published op-eds by prominent figures calling for bombing Iran right now. How would we react if Kayhan, say, or Pravda, or any newspaper, published articles by leading figures saying ‘let’s bomb the United States right now’? I mean, there would be a reaction. There would. But if this happens here, it’s perfectly fine.”
According to U.S. media, he says, all the civilized world is in agreement with U.S. policies. Countries which do not support the American agenda are excluded from consideration in the media. He uses the recent talks over Iran’s nuclear program to back up his point — based on the mainstream press, all of the West agrees with Washington.
That analysis, however, overlooks an entire coalition of countries which supported Iran’s nuclear program, even before the recent deal:
“The latest meeting of non-aligned countries — the large majority of the world’s population … vigorously endorsed Iran’s right to pursue its nuclear programs in accord with the provisions of the non-proliferation treaty, which allow that. But they’re not part of the international community [to the U.S.].”
And international law has always been powerless to stop a superpower from expansionist warmongering. “International law cannot be enforced against great powers. There’s no enforcement mechanism,” he said.
As for the state of American dream, he says it may not be time to hold a funeral as the title of the new documentary implies, but its health is failing fast.
“Even American democracy — which is presented as a model to the world — is very remote from democracy,” Chomsky said, before concluding:
“Democracy functions formally: you’re free, I’m free, anyone’s free to express their opinions. I can vote any way I like in the coming election. If I feel like voting Green [Party], I can vote Green. There’s not going to be very much fraud, it’s mostly honest. So the formal trappings of democracy do exist, which is not a small point. But the functioning of democracy has very severely declined.”