Monday, October 20, 2008

October 20, 2008

Chomsky says pick the lesser of two evils

Noam Chomsky: People should vote against McCain and for Obama - but without illusions

Chomsky says while it's true that the two parties are essentially like factions of one party - the party of business - the differences do matter to ordinary people. If you are living in a swing state, there is nothing wrong with picking the lesser of two evils.

Chomsky says pick the lesser of two evils


Noam Chomsky has written and lectured widely on linguistics, philosophy, intellectual history, contemporary issues, international affairs and U.S. foreign policy. His works include: Aspects of the Theory of Syntax; Cartesian Linguistics; Sound Pattern of English (with Morris Halle); Language and Mind; American Power and the New Mandarins; At War with Asia; For Reasons of State; Peace in the Middle East?; Reflections on Language; The Political Economy of Human Rights, Vol. I and II (with E.S. Herman); Rules and Representations; Lectures on Government and Binding; Towards a New Cold War; Radical Priorities; Fateful Triangle; Knowledge of Language; Turning the Tide; Pirates and Emperors; On Power and Ideology; Language and Problems of Knowledge; The Culture of Terrorism; Manufacturing Consent (with E.S. Herman); Necessary Illusions; Deterring Democracy; Year 501; Rethinking Camelot: JFK, the Vietnam War and US Political Culture; Letters from Lexington; World Orders, Old and New; The Minimalist Program; Powers and Prospects; The Common Good; Profit Over People; The New Military Humanism; New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind; Rogue States; A New Generation Draws the Line; 9-11; and Understanding Power.

Comments from Registered Users

jpeterse 2008-10-20

Too much deference is given to Chomsky. He’s a man worth criticizing, if nothing else then because every celebrity desires to protect their fame by not risking the wrath of the powerful. But also because he argues the small differences between the two elite parties prove consequential over time. He doesn’t emphasize though that it ‘s always a compromise between different elite interests, that our interests will always be secondary under this system. He pointed out that one sector of the elite began advocating health insurance, because it was profitable. He doesn’t recognize the implication that elites will only advocate popular interests when it is profitable. It's not practical to compromise with the lesser evil, if the lesser evil is beholden and loyal to the greater. All the constitutional structures are there, the opposition groups, the possibilities of internet communication. It's not money or some mystical power that keeps elite autocrats in power. It's our pathologi

geoff29 2008-10-20

Quite a coupe landing Chomsky for an interview with TRNN!! I like the hushed deferential tones of Paul Jay! Where's Aijaz Ahmad???? Is he ever coming back?

droolmaster0 2008-10-20

A couple of comments...I think that what he's saying is quite rational - that despite the small differences between the 2 parties (both really part of an elite business party), real people will be helped over time when the Democratic party is in power. So, it's up to you to decide whether, in any individual case, these differences are too small to vote for a Democrat over a third party candidate, or not voting at all. I think that in this particular election, he does think that it's worth it to vote for Obama, but I did not infer at all that he thought that the other 2 choices were bad ones. Clearly he recognizes that under Obama, things will only change a little. I do disagree about his take on 9/11. He has always written that he's not one to think that conspiracy theories are important - that they are mostly a distraction from the deeper issues of the systemic problems in our society. From the little that he's written about 9/11, I'd say that he discounts that it was an inside

yellowdog 2008-10-20

what if find interesting here is the "deep thinkers" that are responding to this feature. oops wrong room! however, VOTE, OBAMA/BIDEN 2008, for higher road taken.

Jimmy 2008-10-20

loveandwar, he does suggest that swing states "vote against McCain which means voting for Obama" around 4:15 in the video. Just an fyi. :)

loveandwar 2008-10-20

I have some issues with the way this interview is presented. The title and tag line aren't completely accurate. What Chomsky said was not that people "should" vote for Obama, rather that there is nothing wrong with voting for Obama, despite the fact that he is clearly only the lesser of two evils. However, he also said that voting Green and not voting are two other valid options, and that people have to make that decision for themselves. I think that to present this interview as if it is a PSA from Chompsky saying "Good God, people, please vote Obama!!" (which is kind of what I expected after reading the tag line) is misleading.

otrovagomas 2008-10-20

In defence of Noam Chomsky (as if he really needed it). Some other comments qualify Dr Chomsky as a tired & dotty ol' man. There is and old Spanish proverb "Más sabe el diablo por viejo que por diablo" (Greater is the knowledge of the devil for his old age than for being the devil.) The views of Dr Chomsky might seem cynical or tired. Nonetheless, when sociological and historical forces are pondered in a passionless manner, his conclusions are difficult to negate. As he said, short of a very unlikely revolution (or a collapse of the system,) these forces will continue to guide the political events regardless. It is certainly not a reason not to try to make a change, but it is a warning to those who seek this change, that they must address profound forces in national history and culture, and not mere lip-service to real change (or profound engagement to a superficial one,) to achieve a paradigm shift.

shmooth 2008-10-20

I will always vote conscience and never for corporate militarism when people are dying all over world unnecessarily. I think Chomsky would suggest this strategy is morally perverse, because 'small changes in systems of immense power can mean big differences' on the ground. If you're suffering at the hands of the U.S. government, those folks want us to be realistic - they don't have a problem with us voting to keep the most dangerous people out of power.

otrovagomas 2008-10-20

Noam Chomsky should council someone like Ron Paul, to try and break the status quo. Between the two of them, they might actually crack a breach wide enough as to let real democracy creep into the USofA political system. Win the elections might be an economical impossibility in the USofA plutocratic system, but winning a couple of "dirt cheap" states, like Oregon, Hawaii or Alaska might actually create breaches in the system, giving hope to that "other America" that changing the system is indeed possible... one State at a time.

deyegoroe 2008-10-20

I appreciate the great comments here. My take is that the US system of global capital is the neo-colonialism. In the old days, colonialism "grew from the barrel of a gun." Today one need only look at China; hundreds and hundreds of Walmarts, McDonald's, Starbucks... all extracting capital and resources out of local economies and concentrating it in a tiny percentage of the political donor class. It is sad; consumers have drunk the kool aid of the ultimate drug; credit and the illusion of a better life for one's self through things at the expense of sustainable living.

gthompson 2008-10-20

Chomsky may be thinking strategically long term since the Green Party and Nader have little chance against the ignorant and brainwashed American populace due to the corporate mainstream media and general lack of interest in politics beyond symbolic presidential elections every four years. I will always vote conscience and never for corporate militarism when people are dying all over world unnecessarily. How long should we wait before doing the right thing? Nothing will change at the next presidential election either. Chomsky is not the great man many think him to be. He also completely denies any alternative theories on 9/11 despite the massive evidence to the contrary. He dismisses the evidence patently without even a casual observation. You don't have to be a physicist to know that buildings that collapse without controlled demolition don't fall at the speed of gravity and don't pulverize into fine dust. There should have been huge chunks of debris, not a pyroclastic cloud of dust

fizwort 2008-10-20

However; what we now have, ten years later, is an almost completely disappeared radical left , involvement with wars and lies and the destruction of countless people, no improvement in foreign policy, and by an insidious back door, the most surveillance per head of population in the world, our National Health Service is on it’s last legs, our welfare provision has become obtainable to only the very poorest ( although they are getting to be a larger and larger section of our society), and we are about to have all of our individual communications monitored………….. Time is running out for us to find a better way, we urgently need to be having fervent debates about how to do things completely differently. I fully understand why left thinkers draw this lesser evil conclusion and I am a very great admirer of Chomsky, but I urge you to study what has happened in the UK. The short term fix left the revolutionaries holding the wet end of the lollypop. I apologise if making 2 posts is uncouth,

goonigan 2008-10-20

How can anyone expect any change in this country if they sell themselves short like this. I think "tired old man" really does sum it up; Chomsky has put himself worlds apart from the youth that do happen to care about the future with just a few empty and tired words. Vote for what you believe is right and you will never be giving a vote away. And if old Chomsky has indeed "sold out" as some have suggested, it's only because the system is getting nervous and needs guys like him to spew propaganda. Lets bring some competition back into politics, we'll all be better off because of it. "Lesser of two evil!!??" Listen to what you are saying!! For F@#$ sake America wake up, turn off the T.V., put down the fast food, and stop feeding this broken system.

fizwort 2008-10-20

The lesser of the two evils idea sounds horribly familiar to me. We heard all of these arguments in Britain when the election was held that ousted the most unpopular leader in decades ( sound familiar?) Margaret Thatcher and brought in the oh so reasonable Tony Blair who’s promise of saving us from the horrors of the Tory attacks on the working class that decimated the unions and linked us firmly with the “popular as a rat sandwich” Reagan. (sound familiar?). On election night I argued and argued with my two labour party supporter friends that this would not ameliorate our lives in the long run. One of the left wing parties argued for this: “ Vote Labour – no illusions” Sure enough; less than three months later came the first attack, on the welfare of disabled Britons, and that was just the start. We appeared to be having a better time as house prices rose and rose to silly numbers and the false boom appeared to indeed make things better. However; what we now have, ten years later,

markmason 2008-10-20

Eisenhower's tag, military-industrial complex, might be legitimately expanded to "military-industrial-media complex." Maintaining elite control over government actions and policies would not be possible without the collusion of the media, most of which is owned by the "industrial-financial complex." General Electric manufactures devices for the military while also "manufacturing" news as owner of NBC TV.

geraldine 2008-10-20

The Real News Network will remove any offensive or derogatory comments from this comment string. We encourage all contributors to be respectful. Enjoy the discussion.

LiberalChiroDoc 2008-10-20

Chomsky and Chalmers Johnson are the 2 preimere authors on American foreign policy. Great, great interview REPLY TO "GEORGEB.MARTIN'S COMMENT": George, you said that ew're the biggest creditor nation in the world. We're actually the biggest DEBTOR nation right now.

Cheesemaster 2008-10-20

While there are those here who say that voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil, this ignores the fact that currently no other candidate with the actual interests of the people at heart has a legitimate chance of succeeding to office, and quite possibly never will (the nature of American democracy, as it was designed by the founding Fathers). Nader has come a long way and the system needs people like him to demonstrate the severe disadvantages of the two-party regime. Real change comes through civil unrest and protest, just like Chomsky said. Revolution, not voting for Nader, would truly be best to address the corrupt core of the two-party system, but the likelihood of that happening anytime soon is slim. As such, the "best" option left on the table (as of now) is Obama.

DIM-school 2008-10-20

Chomsky is right in many ways. In my opinion tThere are also not enough entrepreneurs in the States. Example: take away all the money from everyone, throw it on a pile, give everybody the same chances, and within a year the money is sitting again in the same pockets. What's you opninion?... Best regards from Belgium!

kaijansen78 2008-10-20

Vote for the next 3rd Party candidate you come across. If enough of you do this, you can swing your State. Contact the RON PAUL office and they will inform you no doubt as to who is running where! Be organised in this choice NOT habitual and resigned to a so-called lesser of two evils. You've got to be kidding! It's about time the human race learnt to grow up and stick together! Talk to your friends, relations and get them to change their minds before it truly is too late. One of two things will happen if you don't: Obama will be elected and will continue the Clinton subversion of civil liberties. For his troubles though, he may end up like Kennedy. I hope and pray not, but personally, I think Obama has been set up to take the fall...


Chomsky on Presidential Elections
Paul Jay

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: As the financial crisis and the economic crisis deepens, working people are asking, "How bad is it going to get?" and "How will it affect me?" To help us answer those questions, we're joined by Professor Noam Chomsky, who needs no introduction. Thanks for joining us.


JAY: So a few weeks ago, on George Stephanopolos's show, George Will said the following:


GEORGE WILL, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Surely in a democracy it's time for us to stop being sentimental and say the question we settle in an election is not whether elites shall rule but which elites shall rule.


Which was a rather candid moment to see on television. But for people, ordinary people, working people in swing states now, where their vote might help determine which section of the elite is going to rule, should it matter to them?

CHOMSKY: Not only it should matter, but it does matter and has mattered right through American history. Actually, George Will is essentially correct in the terms of the framing of the way American democracy is supposed to work. James Madison, the main framer, his main view, as he expressed at the Constitutional Convention, was that power should be in the hands of the wealth of the nation, the responsible set of men—men, of course—who respect the rights of property; and the goal of the government should be to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority. And that thesis runs right to the contemporary period. The perhaps most famous exponent of it was the leading figure in American media, the public intellectual in the 20th century Walter Lippman, who wrote progressive essays on democracy. He was a Wilson-Roosevelt progressive. His view was that the population should be spectators, not participants. He called them ignorant and meddlesome outsiders who have to get out of the political arena, and we smart guys who have to run things have to be protected from the trampling and the roar of the bewildered herd—that's you guys out there. On the other hand, the population has never accepted this, has always struggled against it. The Jacksonian democracy is a famous case. But it continues. The benefits, the freedom that we have now is because of popular struggles. Popular struggles in the 1930s compelled the government to create New Deal measures, and in the 1960s it led to civil rights, Medicare, welfare state measures, women's rights, and so on. Every single one of them, if you look, is the result of people simply not accepting the doctrine of elite rule, and it's true today. You just take a look at polls. A spectacular 95 percent of the population—which is amazing for a poll—object that the government doesn't pay attention to popular opinion.

JAY: There's been sort of a traditional analysis on the left of there's a section of the elite that's more connected to the military-industrial complex, a section of the elite that's more connected to domestic economy, needs a more vigorous domestic purchasing power, you know, certainly overlap. Does that analysis hold up? And if so, for ordinary people is it better to have one section of the elite in power or the other? I mean, right now, if you're in a swing state, you're going to decide McCain or Obama. Is there a decision that matters to people? And what would you suggest if you were in a swing state?

CHOMSKY: Well, I would suggest voting against McCain, which means voting for Obama without illusions, because all the elevated rhetoric about change and hope and so on will dissolve into standard centrist Democratic policies if he takes office. However, there is a difference, and it's been studied quite closely by political scientists. There's a strong difference over time. You don't see it in any particular moment, but over time the general population, the large majority of the population other than the very wealthy, tends to do considerably better under Democratic than under Republican administrations. And the reason is sort of what you said: they reflect different elite constituencies, and the differences are quite striking and very noticeable. So if that's what matters to you, you know, that's usually a pretty good guy if you're voting. It's not that the Democrats represent public opinion. They don't. In fact, like the Republicans, they're pretty relatively right of public opinion on a host of major issues, including those of most importance to the public. In fact, what's happening now, it's interesting it's not being discussed. It's very striking; it tells you a lot about American democracy. For years, decades, in fact, one of the leading concerns, if not the top concern of the public, has been the health care system, which is understandable. It's a total catastrophe. It has about twice the costs of other industrial countries and some of the worst outcomes, and it's painful for individuals. If you've ever spent a little time at an ER watching people come for a bad cold, then you can see what it's like.

JAY: We've been doing work in various states—in northwest Indiana, Virginia, and other places. It's all people want to talk about is the health care system—jobs or health care.

CHOMSKY: And there's a good reason for it. It's a catastrophe. It's getting much worse. It's going to swamp the federal budget. And the fundamental reason for it is it's privatized. That introduces layer after layer of bureaucracy, cherry picking, supervision, paperwork, and that's hundreds of millions of dollars of waste a year. Well, up until the 2004 election, it was just off the agenda. People mention the Clinton program, but that's a misunderstanding. What the public has wanted is very straightforward: they want a national health care system. Usually people pick Canada as the model, not because it's the best system, but 'cause it's right there. You see it. You don't see the Australian system, which is better. But the public by large majorities has favored a national health care system, say, Medicare-plus it's sometimes called, extended to the population, which would be far cheaper for [inaudible]

JAY: Now, Obama doesn't go there. Obama does not go there.

CHOMSKY: Well, see, it's interesting. It's quite interesting to see what's happened. Up until 2004, nobody went there. So the last debate before the election in 2004 was on the domestic economy and concerns. And, now, 2008 is different. In 2008, both Democratic candidates, Clinton and Obama, did make proposals which, as you say, were not what the public wants but were approaching it. But what happened between 2004 and 2008 to make it politically possible? Public opinion didn't change. What changed is that a major sector of concentrations of real power, namely manufacturing industry, they changed their position. So General Motors says that it cost them over $1,000 more to make a car in Detroit than across the border in Windsor, Canada, because of the inefficient health care system. Well, when a large sector of concentrated capital, concentrated economic power becomes interested in something, it becomes politically possible. So now it's moving to the political agenda. They're not getting there. What does that tell you about the functioning of American democracy? It's very revealing, and it is doubly revealing that nobody comments on it.

JAY: I mean, in this segment of the interview, just to concentrate more on the politics of this election, what do you say to the third-party candidates who say, you know, they are all the same, and that we're locked in this dilemma, they say, of one party or the other, the, you know, lesser of evils and such? What do you say to them when they say it really doesn't make any difference who wins?

CHOMSKY: Well, to say it doesn't make any difference who wins is simply to express your contempt for the general population, 'cause it does make a difference. A lot of what they say is correct: the two parties are effectively factions of one party, the business party, but the factions are somewhat different. And as I mentioned, over time the differences show up in benefits, working conditions, wages, things that really matter to people. So yes, there's a difference. It's a narrow difference, and the spectrum within the political system is well to the right of popular opinion, and certainly the public is well aware of it. So 80 percent of the population say that the government is run by, I'm quoting, "a few big interests looking out for themselves, not the population." And they can argue about the details, but the picture's essentially correct, and they don't like it. Nevertheless, there is some difference and you have to make a choice. If you're in a swing state, you have to ask: is this difference enough for me to pick the lesser of the two evils? And there's nothing wrong with picking the lesser of the two evils. The cliché makes it sound like you're doing something bad, but no, you're doing something good if you pick the lesser of two evils. So is it worth doing that? Or is it worth trying to act to create a potential alternative? For example, should I vote Green because maybe someday their party will be a real alternative? Should I express my disdain for the right-wing orientation of both parties by not voting, let's say? Or should I pick the lesser of the two evils, thereby helping people? Okay. That's a decision people have to make.

JAY: In the next segment of our interview, let's talk about the current financial crisis. And what do people mean when they talk about the financial crisis and the real economy as if they're two different planets? Please join us for the next segment of our interview with Professor Noam Chomsky.

StumbleUpon PLEASE give it a thumbs up Stumble It!
Bookmark and Share
posted by u2r2h at 10:38 PM


Post a Comment

<< Home