University of Tennessee - Nice summary of his speech yesterday
Noam Chomsky lectures on nation's problems
Topics presented to packed crowd included role of government, public relationsRenowned linguist, philosopher and political activist Noam Chomsky spoke to a packed house Tuesday night.
An emeritus professor of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chomsky opened the lecture by telling the audience he wanted to address "some serious problems we're having here at home."
"The guiding principle (for American government) is that as long as the public is under control, everything is fine," he said. "(The traditional argument is) the powerful should gain ends by any possible means. As long as the public is kept under control, public will doesn't matter."
Chomsky referred back to this principle many times throughout his lecture and said it was the base of many of the nation's problems.
He said the principle was a security threat to the U.S. and was at the root of both terror and the huge military budget that is strangling the economy.
"The military budget is half of the deficit," Chomsky said. "The other half is the heavily privatized health care system. We would not have debt and might even have a surplus if we did not have (the health care system)."
Chomsky also discussed terrorism and the post-Sept. 11 United States.
"Bush said terrorists committed crimes because they hate our freedoms," he said.
Contrary to this statement, Chomsky said that Muslims actually hate our policies, not our freedoms.
Chomsky said United States' policies actually benefit Jihadists.
"The U.S. remains Bin Laden's only ally," he said.
Chomsky discussed the United States' support of dictatorships in Egypt, Tunisia, Georgia, Jordan and Colombia. He said this too falls under the "guiding principle."
"A post-Sept. 11 poll showed anger because of U.S. support of dictatorships and blocking democracy," he said.
Though Chomsky said the "guiding principle" was apparent in all aspects of government, he also said it could have very severe consequences.
"The most serious case is in Pakistan where there is a threat of radical Islamists getting a hold of nuclear weapons," he said.
Chomsky said this "guiding principle" is not a recent thing, though.
"Throughout American history, there has been a constant struggle over who should control and who should obey," he said. "The Founding Fathers were ambivalent about democracy."
Chomsky added that James Madison, one of the framers of the Constitution, was concerned that if voters could determine policy, it would challenge the privileged.
"This is why he put the power in the hands of the Senate, whose primary task is to protect the opulent minority against the majority," he said.
Chomsky also discussed the history of the labor movement and how it applies to issues today.
"The United States has a violent labor history," he said. "The rallying cry of the late 19th-century labor movement was, 'Those who work in mills should own them,'" he said.
Chomsky said this holds significance today, specifically with the automobile industry.
"Obama took over the auto industry, so the government owns it," he said. "The government is closing plants when they could turn them over to the workers and let them run it for profit."
He also discussed how history plays a role in today's public relations and marketing industries.
"By World War I, the business class realized that because of new freedoms, it was impossible to control the public by force, so they need new means," he said. "They tried to control of opinion and attitude to divert people from the public arena. This is why the public relations industry was started."
Chomsky called elections today "public relations extravaganzas."
"You don't want to provide information about the candidates; that's the last thing you want to do," he said. "So you delude people with slogans."
In regards to political parties, Chomsky said they have shifted sharply to the right.
"Democrats today are what used to be moderate Republicans, and today's Republicans are so deep in the pockets of business, you have to have a magnifying glass to find them," he said.
Chomsky also discussed tax cuts and their benefit to the wealthy.
"There has been a spectacular increase in wealth in the top 1 percent of the population," he said. "The Bush tax cuts of 2011 were made to benefit the rich but were crafted so people would not realize what was happening."
He said Social Security also plays into this.
"Social Security is actually in good shape, despite what you read," he said. "The rich want to get rid of Social Security, because it is based on the principles of compassion and solidarity, and (the spread of these principles) could be dangerous for the rich."
Students said they gained valuable insights from Chomsky's lecture.
"I though he did a very good job of historically representing what has been covered up in this country," Cori Kunberger, senior in psychology, said.
Chomsky ended his lecture with a question for the audience.
"Will we subject ourselves to the guiding principle?" he said