Thursday, July 28, 2011

Chomsky Korea Union Solidarity - Kim Jin-suk

Overseas express solidarity with Kim Jin-suk Kim's aerial protest has gained international attention, boosting support from prominent overseas individuals and groups

» Kim Jin-suk, a Direction Committee member at the Busan office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

The Hope Bus Campaign is establishing itself as an icon of resistance to employment anxieties that are threatening worker and working-class livelihoods. The Hope Bus Campaign was launched with the goal of supporting embattled union members and Kim Jin-suk, a member of the Busan chapter of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). Kim is currently in the 186th day of an aerial protest calling for the withdrawal of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) layoff plans from the No. 85 crane at the company's Yeongdo shipyard in Busan. The buses aspire toward a "world without layoffs and temporary workers."

Kim Jin-suk

Kim Jin-suk, of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, on a crane at Hanjin Heavy Industries in Busan, where she has been holding a sit-in since January 6.

Amid heavy rains Saturday afternoon, a caravan of around 150 Hope Buses and 50 vans headed for the shipyard where Kim is protesting along with six union members who have tied themselves to the crane with the stated goal of protecting her. While the first round of buses had around 700 riders, some 5,000 people from all over the country got on board for this second round.

The range of participants is also more diverse. In addition to citizens unaffiliated with any group and representatives of political parties, labour activists, university students, health care professionals, religious figures, and legal professionals, the latest round saw large-scale participation by members of socially vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, sexual minorities, eviction protesters, migrant workers, and youth.

What is the reason behind this voluntary uniting of people from different backgrounds in a show of solidarity for a labour-management conflict involving layoffs at a single regional workplace?

Not Just Someone Else's Problems

Hope Bus riders said they felt a sense of profound concern about the experiencing of HHIC union members, which "no longer seemed like someone else's problem." Poet Song Kyung-dong, who suggested the bus idea, also views this as the reason for the event's increased scale.

"With increases in temporary positions and layoffs, we are living in an insecure society," Song said.

"People do not talk about it, but there is an inherent anger about this, and this is where the solidarity has emerged from," he said.

At a time when the social safety net is inadequate, the increase in layoffs and temporary positions threatens the survival rights of the working-class. People who have experienced this situation directly or indirectly are lending their support to Kim's dedicated struggle.

"On the surface, the HHIC issue and issues involving people with disabilities do not appear to be connected with each other," said Moon Ae-rin, 31, a participant in the second round of Hope Buses who is confined to a wheelchair with cerebral palsy. "But the reality is that working conditions are poorer for people with disabilities."

"What they are going through is what I am going through," Moon said.

Police use water cannons

Police use water cannons to prevent citizens walking toward the Yeongdo shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC). (Photo by Ryu Woo-jong)

Dongguk University Student Council President Kwon Gi-hong, 23, who took part in the fight for a 50 per cent reduction in tuition fees, said, "We become workers when we graduate, and unless there are changes to the reality [of pressures on workers], what happened to the HHIC union members could happen to us."

The Hope Buses' impassioned call for a solution to the HHIC layoff issue appears set to develop into a larger demand for controls on corporate greed in seeking profits even at the expense of employment.

Office worker Park Jeong-hui, 27, who rode during both Hope Bus trips, noted, "In her speech, Kim Jin-suk used the expression, 'People I cannot turn my back on even if they turn their backs on me,' and I had the sense she was referring not only to HHIC union members, but to all of us who lack power and support and could be fired at any time."

"The important thing about the HHIC issue is that it is opening up a forum for questioning how society should be controlling the unjust pursuit of profits by business," Park added.

Intimately familiar with employment insecurities, workers engaged in long-term battles at Ssangyong Motor, YPR, and Valeo Compressor also began a two-day stay Saturday looking for "hope" in Busan. Thirty in-house subcontracting workers at Hyundai Motor who lost their jobs after demanding conversion from irregular dispatch worker status to regular worker status, rode into Busan from Ulsan on "Hope Bikes."

"Hyundai Motor's irregular workers are suffering oppression, with 104 of them dismissed over a 25-day period last winter sit-in protests, and around 1,000 having their bank accounts garnished as punishment," said Park Yeong-hyeon, one of the Hyundai Motor in-house subcontracting workers.

"After seeing the citizen solidarity symbolized by the Hope Buses, we are considering getting back up to fight again," Park added.

Second Round of Hope Buses

The second round of Hope Buses also drew Busan residents in their 40s and 50s back into the streets. While a number of assemblies had been held since HHIC made plans for layoffs in December, participation from citizens was slack.

"I made a promise to meet my old university friends from the 1980s at Busan Station, and I came racing here," said a 54-year-old from Changwon, South Gyeongsang, identified by the surname Park.

A 44-year-old homemaker surnamed Shin from Busan's Changseon neighborhood said, "It seemed like I could learn a lot just from watching, so I took part in the event with my two elementary school-age children."

But the riders did not have the chance to meet Kim Jin-suk. Despite struggling empty-handed to burst through the police line, they were helpless in the face of the water cannons, tear gas, and batons.

Around 3,000 participants stayed until morning occupying the eight-lane highway in front of the Bongnae intersection protesting the police suppression and mass arrests. National Assembly lawmakers from four opposition parties, including Chung Dong-young, Cho Seung-soo, and Kwon Young-ghil, met with Busan Metropolitan Police Agency Commissioner Seo Cheon-ho to demand the release of all detainees.

Seo refused the request, saying, "The release of detainees must be at the direction of prosecutors."

A key figure behind the second round of Hope Buses said, "We have resolved to organize a large-scale third round of Hope Buses within a month's time to return to Busan to protest excessive suppression tactics by police and show support for Kim Jin-suk."

Solidarity with the Bus of Hope Movement

Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) needs no special introduction as the conscience and the intellect of our era. Chomsky has sent a special message to the "Bus of Hope" event currently in progress in the southeastern port city of Busan.

The police fire water cannons

The police fire water cannons at citizens' peaceful protests in the early hours of July 10. Participants of the Bus of Hope Campaign were shot by tear-gas water cannon!

He expressed his support for the courageous and honorable actions and efforts for peace and justice of the Korean citizens allying with fired workers at Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC), and hoped that there would be no "sabotage such as the use of governmental force."

Chomsky's hopes that the citizens' just efforts would not be met with sabotage, however, were betrayed by indiscriminate and hard-line suppression on the part of police.

On Saturday (July 9), the police sprayed water containing dissolved tear gas, now known to have been mixed with a carcinogenic substance, at around 10,000 "Bus of Hope" participants who were heading to HHIC's Yeongdo shipbuilding yard.

Participants, including disabled people, were arrested at random. Police did not hesitate to engage in excessive behaviour, including constantly striking down with their shields upon citizens who had fallen over after being pushed back, while those that were hit by teargas-infused water jets are said to have shown symptoms of chemical burns.

In this process, Democratic Labour Party president Lee Jung-hee and others blacked out after being hit by tear-gas water, while several tens of participants in the rally were injured.

It is impossible not to feel anger and regret at the police's outdated behaviour in using such hard-line suppression, as if carrying out a military operation, on citizens who were trying to hold a peaceful protest. The identity of those who gave the order for and those who carried out such anti-humanitarian suppression must be revealed, and they must be made to take heavy responsibility.

Despite, to use Chomsky's expression, the "sabotage" by the police, hope for Korean society could be felt among the warm, firm alliance shown by the participants in the Bus of Hope. These included prominent opposition party politicians and civic movement leaders, but the majority of them were just everyday people. They consisted of fathers who took the bus with their high school student daughters to show them what kind of place the world really was, teachers who believed their students must see for themselves the kind of irregular employment and staff curtailment that awaited them, and disabled people that regarded the HHIC situation as a universal human rights problem.

People did not regard irregular employment and staff curtailment as targets for pity and compassion, but as "my problem and our problem," and were rallying as comrades in arms of the fired workers.

Most precious of all was the fact that these people did not regard irregular employment and staff curtailment as targets for pity and compassion, but as "my problem and our problem," and were rallying as comrades in arms of the fired workers.

The authorities and HHIC must now face the fact that the staff curtailment situation has caught the attention of the world's intellectuals and foreign news agencies, and must take active steps to solve the problem.

The "Bus of Hope" has already gone far beyond the level where it will disappear from public view after just firing tear-gas water from cannons and forcibly dispersing crowds.

The more this spontaneous movement on the part of citizens is suppressed and ignored, the more powerful and wide-ranging the "Alliance of Hope" will become. •

Editorial, The Kyunghyang Daily News, July 11, 2011.

Noam Chomsky in Beijing Peking China

Prominent overseas intellectuals are sending messages of support for Kim Jin-suk, a Direction Committee member at the Busan office of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU). The intellectuals are also issuing calls for a solution to the situation triggered by the company's layoffs. Kim is currently more than 200 days into an aerial protest in a Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction (HHIC) crane.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Professor Emeritus Noam Chomsky, who recently declared his support for Kim, sent an additional message of support Wednesday. The message of support from Chomsky and eleven other critical intellectuals came in response to a e-mail appear for support in resolving the HHIC situation by the National Association of Professors for Democratic Society, the Korean Professors' Union, and the Korea Progressive Academy Council.

"I would like to express my support for your courageous and honorable actions in solidarity with Korean workers, and your efforts to support peace and justice generally," Chomsky wrote in his message.

"I hope and trust that your initiatives will proceed, as they should, without attempts at disruption by the government or anyone else," he continued.

Progressive labor theorist and director of Germany's Social Economic Action Research Institute Holger Heide also expressed his heartfelt support for the battle of the HHIC workers.

Cultural researcher and Professor of Taiwan's National Tsing Hua University Chen Kuan-hsing said, "As a country famed for capturing political democracy through struggle, South Korean is rapidly losing trust by tacitly condoning HHIC's secretive layoffs."

"The South Korean government needs to make efforts to revolve the issue, and Hanjin needs to take concrete actions so that Kim Jin-suk and her colleagues can return to work," Chen added.

Central University of Finance and Economics professor and Chinese market authority Li Peng said, "I hope the resistance and fight for survival rights and justice can meet with a satisfactory resolution."

Also expressing messages of support were Simon Fraser University chair professor Michael Lebowitz, a former policy adviser to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez; Jean-Yves Fortand, professor of France's University of Nancy; Jose Alcides Santos, a professor at Brazil's Federal University of Juiz de Fora; Arnulfo Arteaga Garcia, professor at the Metropolitan Autonomous University, Mexico; and Yun Geon-cha, professor of Japan's Kanazawa University.

Please direct questions or comments to []

By Lee Moon-yeong

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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Murdoch Press Power revealed - Democracy?

News International: Lifting the veil

The ripping back of the curtain has felt liberating

The Guardian, Fri 8 Jul 2011 22.10 BST

There comes a moment in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy's dog, Toto, tears back a curtain to reveal an old man pulling levers and speaking into a microphone. This extraordinary week has had something of that feel about it. A generation of people in British public life – including politicians, police officers and, yes, journalists – have lived with the increasing power of one person, Rupert Murdoch. He was a bad man to upset, and so most people kept their heads below anything that looked like a parapet. Politicians, in particular, paid court to him and to his lieutenants. They felt they needed Rupert Murdoch's support in order to win power, or stay in power. This suited Mr Murdoch very well: he had things he needed from them, too.
These individual relationships weren't in themselves corrupt, nor is Mr Murdoch the purely malign caricature of some imaginations. But the effect of this power was indeed corrupting. And that is why this week's ripping back of the curtain has felt so liberating. First one politician, then another, has spoken out. Numerous journalists have (at last) joined the fray. The police have rediscovered their purpose. The regulator has (probably too late) located its spine. Both Ed Miliband and David Cameron have made remarkable interventions – the prime minister frankly conceding that he, along with other party leaders, had turned a blind eye to abuses of press power because of the need to curry favour. Mr Miliband has spoken powerfully about the need to challenge all forms of private power – explicitly linking the banks with the more unfettered regions of the media. These, a week ago, would have been suicidal things for any leader to be saying.
Events have been moving so fast that it has been difficult to keep abreast of them. The Press Complaints Commission looks to be dead in the water. The media regulator, Ofcom, has announced that it is now actively keeping a watching brief on the question of whether News Corp passes the "fit and proper person" test to own a broadcasting company – not just the 61% of BSkyB it has its eyes on, but the 39% it already owns. A newspaper has been killed off: another almost certainly waits to be born. The prime minister's former spokesman, Andy Coulson, has been arrested. Two public inquiries have been announced. News Corp's American shareholders have woken up to the potentially toxic damage – or worse - that is being inflicted on the company globally.
Four important matters stand out at the end of this week. One concerns the press in general. The stampede to find tougher forms of regulation is understandable and, indeed, right. But we should avoid a rush towards statutory licensing of "print" journalists, if only because of the difficulties of definition. How would the Telegraph online be regulated in comparison with the Huffington Post? The next concerns what Cameron's appointment of Coulson – ignoring all warnings – says about his judgment. Attention must also focus on his cosy relationship with News International's chief executive, Rebekah Brooks – particularly his contacts at a time when News Corp was bidding for full control of BSkyB.
Next there is that issue of the BSkyB takeover, which is still on track, despite Ofcom's announcement that it is now keeping a close eye on things. It is inconceivable that this could now take place while criminal proceedings are active, and the sooner someone says so the better. Finally there is the question of the cover-up of the truth that undoubtedly took place within News International over the past two and a bit years. James Murdoch's statement this week has partially addressed this, but only partially. There is still little confidence that Mr Murdoch and Ms Brooks are the right people to be overseeing either scrutiny or renewal. And there is a sadness that a newspaper has been sacrificed without any adequate explanation.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN?      The Perception Management by private corporations will continue

CHOMSKY says it in short words:
Take Rupert Murdoch. He owns a good part of the press. Is that a good thing? What would be a good thing is democratic control.
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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

'Extreme Dishonesty' – The Guardian, Noam Chomsky and Venezuela

Noam Chomsky on Venezuela – the transcript

After being found out to be a shitty biased newspaper.
The Guardian publishes a transcript of its interview with Noam Chomsky about Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, and the Afiuni affair

    We reported on Sunday that Noam Chomsky had accused Hugo Chávez of amassing too much power and making an "assault" on Venezuela's democracy.

    The article was based on a telephone interview with the scholar on the eve of Chomsky publishing an open letter which criticised the jailing of a Venezuelan judge, Maria Lourdes Afiuni, after she made a ruling which angered Chávez.

    Chomsky subsequently told a blogger that the article was "dishonest" and "deceptive", an accusation that has been reported elsewhere.

    Below is a transcript of the original interview between the reporter, Rory Carroll, and Chomsky.


    Rory Carroll: A few questions about the [Afiuni] case. Do you believe Judge Afiuni could receive a fair trial in Venezuela?

    Noam Chomsky: Well as far as I'm aware she's not receiving any trial at all. I rather doubt, I'd be sceptical about whether she could receive a fair trial.

    I mean it's kind of striking that, as far as I understand, you probably know better, other judges have not come out in support of her. Which seems rather strange given the circumstances. If Amnesty International does I don't see why judges in Venezuela shouldn't. That suggests an atmosphere of either intimidation or unwillingness to consider the case seriously. I don't know. My suspicion is she would not receive a fair trial.

    RC: And what would this case then tell us about the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela? Is there independence of judiciary here or does the executive control it?

    NC: You would know better than I do. I can only cast suspicions. I haven't investigated it closely. My suspicion is that the judiciary is not as independent as it should be. We may compare it to Colombia next door. Colombia's human rights record is incomparably worse. The judges in the constitutional court have been investigating cases of corruption, crimes at the highest level, and they have been intimidated. They have received death threats, and they have to have bodyguards and so on. And apparently that's continuing under [President José Manuel] Santos.

    RC: But in the case of Judge Afiuni what do you make of the intervention of the president calling for her to be jailed for 30 years – what should one conclude from that?

    NC: It's obviously improper for the executive to intervene and impose a jail sentence without a trial. And I should say that the United States is in no position to complain about this. Bradley Manning has been imprisoned without charge, under torture, which is what solitary confinement is. The president in fact intervened. Obama was asked about his conditions and said that he was assured by the Pentagon that they were fine. That's executive intervention in a case of severe violation of civil liberties and it's hardly the only one. That doesn't change the judgment about Venezuela, it just says that what one hears in the United States one can dismiss.

    RC: Some would say that in the case of Venezuela leftwing thinkers have been reluctant to criticise things that have been criticised by Amnesty International and so on because the government is seen as a champion of leftwing values and basically [has] had a free pass in term of leftwing critiques. What do you think?

    NC: Well I don't [think] there's an organised leftwing that one can speak for. But my impression is that such reluctance as there is, is because Venezuela has come under vicious, unremitting attack by the United States and the west generally – in the media and even in policy. After all the United States sponsored a military coup which failed and since then has been engaged in extensive subversion. And the onslaught against Nicaragua – against Venezuela – in commentary is grotesque. So I think it's natural that the leftwing commentators won't want to join in it. That's pretty standard. Take the Soviet dissidents: the more honest ones would not have wanted to join Pravda's and Izvestia's denunciations of alleged US crimes.

    RC: Is this letter the first public criticism that you have made of human rights issues in Venezuela?

    NC: I don't recall but probably not. I am constantly involved in such protests all over the world ranging from Syria to Cuba to Iraq. So there may have been others in Venezuela that I don't remember.

    RC: Was there any response to your original letter? I understand that in December you sent a private letter to the authorities here over the Afiuni case. Was there any feedback from that?

    NC: The [initiative] was jointly with the Carr Centre for Human Rights at Harvard, which actually initiated it. So if there was any response they would know. There may have been an indirect response. Other than that I can't tell. It is the case that after that letter and other internal discussions that Judge Afiuni was released to house arrest with better conditions and medical care. Whether there was a connection I don't know.

    RC: You have been described as an anarchist libertarian. From that perspective what's your take on the enabling laws and the evolution of executive power in Venezuela?

    NC: I am opposed to the accumulation of executive power anywhere. One would have to ask whether there is justification for them in terms of the security situation and the attacks on Venezuela. I personally don't think so. But that would be the one consideration that I could think of that would ameliorate it.

    RC: So that does mean you think the enabling powers are unjustified?

    NC: In my view they are not justified. I can see room for debate about it but my judgment in that debate is that the arguments in favour are not persuasive.

    RC: In your visit here in 2009 you said a better world was being created. Is that still the case?

    NC: Actually what I said is that there are steps towards a better world in Venezuela and as far as I know that's true. There have been some significant steps – the sharp poverty reduction, probably the greatest in the Americas, the [social programme] missions, and the self-governing communities look like promising initiatives. It's hard to judge how successful they are but if they are successful they would be seeds of a better world.

    Also the international initiatives I think are quite significant. Venezuela has played a significant role in very important developments in South America and Latin America. Particularly the steps towards unification and integration which are a prerequisite for independence. Venezuela played a leading role in initiating Unasur [Union of South American nations] and the Bank of the South, and most recently the formation of Celac [the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States] which is to have its first meeting this July. Celac, if it works, will be the first functioning organisation in the western hemisphere that includes every country in the western hemisphere except the United States and Canada, and that would be quite an important step towards integration and independence. So yes I think these are positive initiatives which have to be balanced against other things.

    RC: With Hugo Chávez in Cuba the last several weeks a lot of people are saying this shows there is too much reliance on one man because everything appears to have almost stopped in his absence, at least in the political sphere. What's your take? Is there too much reliance on one man and his charisma?

    NC: Anywhere in Latin America there is a potential threat of the pathology of caudillismo and it has to be guarded against. Whether it's over too far in that direction in Venezuela I'm not sure but I think perhaps it is.

    RC: What makes you say that? Is it a recent thing or a trend over the past few years?

    NC: It's a trend which has developed towards the centralisation of power in the executive which I don't think is a healthy development.

    RC: Specifically are you thinking of the judiciary or other factors?

    NC: Decision-making powers generally seems, eh, the constraints imposed by the legislature are there but they seem limited.

    RC: If you were to come back here what would be your advice to the president, or your reflections to him?

    NC: I didn't give advice [during the previous visit]. I was there just a few hours and I was mostly listening to his account of how his role in Venezuelan policy has developed. But I don't think he would come to me for advice.

    RC: More generally about Latin America, looking around the region, given the election of recent governments, are you optimistic? Is this headed in a positive direction?

    NC: I think what's happened in Latin America in the past 10 years is probably the most exciting and positive development to take place in the world. For 500 years, since European explorers came, Latin American countries had been separated from one another. They had very limited relations. Integration is a prerequisite for independence. Furthermore internally there was a model that was followed pretty closely by each of the countries: a very small Europeanised, often white elite that concentrated enormous wealth in the midst of incredible poverty. And this is a region, especially South America, which are very rich in resources which you would expect under proper conditions to develop far better than east Asia for example but it hasn't happened.

    And in the past 10 years for the first time there have been significant steps towards overcoming these problems. First of all towards integration. And in some of the countries also towards dealing with these devastating internal social problems.

    Now when I say there have never been attempts before that's not quite true. There have been attempts but they've typically been crushed by force. Take say Lula's Brazil, the most important country in the region.

    Now the United States picks Lula's Brazil as their fair-haired boy but his policies are not so very different from those of [President Joao] Goulart's government of the early 60s. At that point the Kennedy administration was so horrified by these policies that they organised a military coup which took place right after Kennedy's assassination. It instituted the first of the vicious national security states in Latin America which spread like a plague throughout the hemisphere. Well OK now they've got a degree of independence and freedom which enable them to proceed. That's all very important. In fact it has a certain similarity to the Arab spring of the past few months. Maybe there are steps in the Middle East region to separating themselves from the control of the traditional imperial powers and moving towards a degree of independence and addressing their own internal problems. They've a long way to go but those are very important developments in the world and I think the ones in South America are the most important.

    RC: Finally professor, the concerns about the concentration of executive power in Venezuela: to what extent might that be undermining democracy in Venezuela?

    NC: Concentration of executive power, unless it's very temporary and for specific circumstances, let's say fighting world war two, it's an assault on democracy.

    RC: And so in the case of Venezuela is that what's happening or at risk of happening?

    NC: As I said you can debate whether circumstances require it – both internal circumstances and the external threat of attack and so on, so that's a legitimate debate – but my own judgment in that debate is that it does not.


July 06, 2011

'Extreme Dishonesty' – The Guardian, Noam Chomsky and Venezuela

The headline of last Sunday's Observer article on Venezuela set the tone for the slanted and opportunistic piece of political 'reporting' that followed:

'Noam Chomsky denounces old friend Hugo Chávez for "assault" on democracy'.

And then the opening line launched into a barrage of spin:

'Hugo Chávez has long considered Noam Chomsky one of his best friends in the west. He has basked in the renowned scholar's praise for Venezuela's socialist revolution and echoed his denunciations of US imperialism.'

The ironic sneer directed at the Venezuelan president apparently basking in Chomsky's 'praise', and the sly hint of robotic 'echoing' of his buddy's rants, were indicative of the bias, omissions and deceptions to follow.

Reporter Rory Carroll, the Guardian's South America correspondent, had just interviewed Chomsky and set about twisting the conversation into a propaganda piece. (For non-UK readers who may not know: the Observer is the Sunday sister publication of the Guardian newspaper).

Carroll's skewed view was clear and upfront in his article:

'Chomsky has accused the socialist leader of amassing too much power and of making an "assault" on Venezuela's democracy.'

As we will see shortly, this was a highly partial and misleading account of Chomsky's full remarks, leading him to declare afterwards that the newspaper had displayed 'extreme dishonesty' and that Carroll's article was 'quite deceptive'.

The news hook was the publication of an open letter by Chomsky pleading for the release of Venezuelan judge María Lourdes Afiuni who is suffering from cancer. Afiuni, explains Carroll, 'earned Chávez's ire in December 2009 by freeing Eligio Cedeño, a prominent banker facing corruption charges.' After just over a year in jail, awaiting trial on charges of corruption, the Venezuelan authorities 'softened her confinement to house arrest'.

In the open letter, prepared together with the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, Chomsky says:

'Judge Afiuni had my sympathy and solidarity from the very beginning. The way she was detained, the inadequate conditions of her imprisonment, the degrading treatment she suffered in the Instituto Nacional de Orientación Femenina, the dramatic erosion of her health and the cruelty displayed against her, all duly documented, left me greatly worried about her physical and psychological wellbeing, as well as about her personal safety.'

He concludes with the plea:

'I shall keep high hopes that President Chávez will consider a humanitarian act that will end the judge's detention.'

Towards the end of Carroll's article, the journalist injected some token balance:

'The Chávez government deserved credit for sharply reducing poverty and for its policies of promoting self-governing communities and Latin American unity, Chomsky said. "It's hard to judge how successful they are, but if they are successful they would be seeds of a better world." '

But the blatant spin of the headline and the article's lead paragraphs had already done the required job – President Chávez is so extreme that even that radical lefty Noam Chomsky, one of his best friends in the West, has now denounced him.


Chomsky Responds: 'Extreme Dishonesty' And A 'Quite Deceptive' Report

Activists and bloggers were quick to email Noam Chomsky to ask for his response to Rory Carroll's article in the Observer. In particular, Chomsky replied as follows to one aggressive challenger who made a series of personal attacks on him:

'Let's begin with the headline: complete deception. That continues throughout. You can tell by simply comparing the actual quotes with their comments. As I mentioned, and expected, the NY Times report of a similar interview is much more honest, again revealing the extreme dishonesty of the Guardian.

'I'm sure you would understand if an Iranian dissident who charged Israel with crimes would also bring up the fact that charges from Iran and its supporters cannot be taken seriously in the light of Iran's far worse abuses. If you don't understand that, which I doubt, you really have some problems to think about. If you do understand it, as I assume, the same is true. That's exactly why bringing up [the jailed US soldier Bradley] Manning (and much more) is highly relevant.'

Joe Emersberger, an activist based in Canada, also approached Chomsky for a reaction to the piece:

'The Guardian/Observer version, as I anticipated, is quite deceptive. The report in the NY Times is considerably more honest. Both omit much of relevance that I stressed throughout, including the fact that criticisms from the US government or anyone who supports its actions can hardly be taken seriously, considering Washington's far worse record without any of the real concerns that Venezuela faces, the Manning case for one [Manning is the alleged source for huge amounts of restricted material passed on to WikiLeaks], which is much worse than Judge Afiuni's. And much else. There's no transcript, unfortunately. I should know by now that I should insist on a transcript with the Guardian, unless it's a writer I know and trust.' (Joe Emersberger, 'Chomsky Says UK Guardian Article "Quite Deceptive" About his Chavez Criticism', Z Blogs, July 4, 2011)

In fact the very next day after Carroll's article appeared, and no doubt stung by the rising tide of internet-based criticism, the Guardian took the unusual step of publishing what is presumably a full transcript of the interview. (Also unusually, the Guardian did not allow reader comments to be posted under the transcript.)

But the transcript only served to prove Chomsky's point about the 'deceptive' nature of the printed article.  His comparisons to the justice system in the United States – in particular, the torture and abuse of Bradley Manning – were edited out. Carroll had asked him about the intervention of the Venezuelan executive in demanding a long jail sentence for Judge Afiuni. Chomsky replied:

'It's obviously improper for the executive to intervene and impose a jail sentence without a trial. And I should say that the United States is in no position to complain about this. Bradley Manning has been imprisoned without charge, under torture, which is what solitary confinement is. The president in fact intervened. Obama was asked about his conditions and said that he was assured by the Pentagon that they were fine. That's executive intervention in a case of severe violation of civil liberties and it's hardly the only one. That doesn't change the judgment about Venezuela, it just says that what one hears in the United States one can dismiss.'

Chomsky added:

'Venezuela has come under vicious, unremitting attack by the United States and the west generally – in the media and even in policy. After all the United States sponsored a military coup [in 2002] which failed and since then has been engaged in extensive subversion. And the onslaught [...]  against Venezuela in commentary is grotesque.'

Nothing of that appeared in the published Observer article.

Also given scant notice were Chomsky's observations about positive developments in Venezuela and Latin America generally in trying to overcome the horrendous impacts of over five centuries of European, and latterly also US, colonialism and exploitation:

'I think what's happened in Latin America in the past 10 years is probably the most exciting and positive development to take place in the world. For 500 years, since European explorers came, Latin American countries had been separated from one another. They had very limited relations. Integration is a prerequisite for independence. Furthermore internally there was a model that was followed pretty closely by each of the countries: a very small Europeanised, often white elite that concentrated enormous wealth in the midst of incredible poverty. And this is a region, especially South America, which are very rich in resources which you would expect under proper conditions to develop far better than east Asia for example but it hasn't happened.'

The above quotes by Chomsky are only extracts of the longest answers, by far, that he gave in his interview with Carroll. But they didn't fit the journalist's agenda of setting up Chomsky in 'denouncing' Chávez's supposed 'assault' on democracy.

Carroll once accurately declared that he is 'not a champion of impartiality'. Indeed, Joe Emersberger has done much sterling work, exposing and challenging Carroll's biased journalism from Latin America. Carroll and his editors clearly have supreme difficulty in answering Emersberger's cogent emails, judging by their repeated failure to respond. 

Readers may recall that the Guardian has a dubious track record in recording and accurately reflecting the views of Noam Chomsky; that is, when it doesn't conform to the usual pattern of completely ignoring him. The Guardian's smear of Chomsky in 2005 marked a real low in the history of this 'flagship' newspaper of 'liberal' journalism. See 'Smearing Chomsky - Guardian in the Gutter', 'Smearing Chomsky - The Guardian Backs Down' and the external ombudsman's report.

Perhaps what is most noteworthy about this whole episode is best summed up by Emersberger:

'This is not the first time Rory Carroll has taken a highly selective interest in Chomsky's views on Latin America. When Chomsky signed an open letter in 2008 critical of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Rory Carroll also jumped all over it. At about the same time, Chomsky signed an open letter to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe about far more grave matters but it was ignored by the Guardian. At the time, I asked Rory Carroll and his editors why they ignored it but they never replied to me. They also ignored an open letter to Uribe signed by Amnesty International, Human Rights watch and various other groups. I asked Carroll and his editors why that open letter was ignored and - as usual - no one responded.'


Concluding Remarks

Noam Chomsky was once famously described by the New York Times as 'arguably the most important intellectual alive'. And yet, as mentioned earlier, the Guardian is normally happy to ignore him and his views. But when Chomsky expresses criticism of an official enemy of the West, he suddenly does exist and matter for the Guardian. That indicates what we already knew: that the liberal press is perfectly aware of the importance of Chomsky's work. They just ignore it because it undermines the wrong interests.

Rory Carroll's article is a wonderful glimpse of the kind of status Chomsky would enjoy if he promoted the myth of the basic benevolence of the West, and focused on the crimes of official enemies. He would be feted as one of the most insightful and brilliant political commentators the world had ever seen. He would be far and away the world's number one political talking head. His face would be all over the Guardian, the Observer, the Independent, the BBC, the New York Times and so on.

There is a humbling lesson here also, of course, for those people who are all over the media. In important ways, the media is a demeritocracy. 



The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Write to:

Rory Carroll, the Guardian's South America correspondent



Alan Rusbridger, Guardian editor



Please blind-copy us in on any exchanges or forward them to us later at:

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posted by u2r2h at 6:02 AM 4 comments

Friday, July 1, 2011

Michael Brull about Chomsky and Australia - East Timor

From Australian Public-owned broadcaster ABC:

1 July 2011
Noam Chomsky, 2010 (Khalil Mazraawi : AFP)

The boring truth about Chomsky: he does not support Pol Pot

Michael Brull
Michael Brull

One does not have to agree with Chomsky to recognise his enormous influence and prestige throughout the world.

Virtually every political essay Chomsky has written since the '60s has included harsh attacks on the New York Times. Yet one could read in the NYT that:

Judged in terms of the power, range, novelty and influence of his thought, Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive.

Similarly, the Guardian noted that:

Chomsky ranks with Marx, Shakespeare and the Bible as one of the 10 most-quoted sources in the humanities - and is the only writer among them still alive.

After he was banned from visiting the country, liberal Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz editorialised that other than Israel:

It is hard to imagine any country that would not feel honoured to be visited by Chomsky.

Ha'aretz went on to call the ban "harmful folly", noting that:

"One does not have to be an ardent supporter of Chomsky in order to agree with his view that Israel is behaving like South Africa in the 1960s"

Keith Windschuttle – no admirer of Chomsky – notes that Chomsky "is today the doyen of the American and much of the world's intellectual left".

Chomsky began his life as a public intellectual with his trenchant essay, The Responsibility of Intellectuals. The most left-wing story permissible in mainstream political discourse in America is that because of overflowing benevolence, the US fought a war in Vietnam to protect its people from communist tyranny. However, because of some variety of blunders, it was unable to achieve this lofty goal, and perhaps committed some cruelties along the way.

Chomsky raised a different issue: that the US had no right to invade a country on the other side of the planet to install its own preferred puppet government, in defiance of the wishes of that country's population. In the leading journal of the American liberal intelligentsia, Chomsky basically accused America's liberal intelligentsia of moral bankruptcy.

In Chomsky's typical fashion, it was written in calm, rational manner, carefully documented, and was deeply revealing. It was politically courageous, and undoubtedly alienated the sober, serious-minded people who edit such journals, and who restrict themselves to the question of how countries like ours can most effectively crush resistance to American imperialism. The millions killed in the war, and the devastation of Cambodia and Laos were not considered moral questions, but tactical ones: American righteousness was presumed by right-thinking intellectuals.

Chomsky raised the fundamental moral question, and so, soon became unwelcome in mainstream American media. This exclusion from the Western media makes his continuing influence all the more remarkable.

As Chomsky is prevented from presenting his views, and refuses on principle to sue for defamation, it is easy to fabricate horrible charges against him, which have lingered for decades, despite easy refutation. As long ago as 1985, Christopher Hitchens went through the dull task of exposing the tedious and scurrilous lies that one finds circulating about Chomsky. The favourites of Chomsky's critics - who rarely show any sign of having read any of Chomsky's work - are that he ignored, downplayed or celebrated the atrocities of Pol Pot. The other is that he supported Robert Faurisson's Holocaust denial (the truth is simply that he supported the freedom of speech of a Holocaust denier).

The basic facts of the Cambodia issue are these: In June 1977, Chomsky and Edward Herman published a study in the Nation, in which they reviewed how scholarship and the mainstream media treated different reports of atrocities in Cambodia. One of the books they reviewed was in French, by Francois Ponchaud. They wrote that his "book is serious and worth reading, as distinct from much of the commentary it has elicited. He gives a grisly account of what refugees have reported to him about the barbarity of their treatment at the hands of the Khmer Rouge". However, they did find it was flawed in many ways. They go on to critique a review of this book by Jean Lacouture, which Lacouture agreed was full of errors. Lacouture response in the New York Review of Books included considerable praise of Chomsky:

Noam Chomsky's corrections have caused me great distress. By pointing out serious errors in citation, he calls into question not only my respect for texts and the truth, but also the cause I was trying to defend. ... I fully understand the concerns of Noam Chomsky, whose honesty and sense of freedom I admire immensely, in criticizing, with his admirable sense of exactitude, the accusations directed at the Cambodian regime.

Ponchaud, in the preface to the American version of the book (translated into English), wrote about the Lacouture review:

With the responsible attitude and precision of thought that are so characteristic of him, Noam Chomsky then embarked on a polemical exchange with Robert Silvers, Editor of the NYR, and with Jean Lacouture, leading to the publication by the latter of a rectification of his initial account.

It was dated September 20, 1977. The British version of the book - amazingly, contained a very different preface, dated for the same day. It began:

Even before this book was translated it was sharply criticised by Mr Noam Chomsky and Mr Gareth Porter. These two "experts" on Asia claim that I am mistakenly trying to convince people that Cambodia was drowned in a sea of blood after the departure of the last American diplomats. They say there have been no massacres, and they lay the blame for the tragedy of the Khmer people on the American bombings. They accuse me of being insufficiently critical in my approach to the refugees' accounts. For them, refugees are not a valid source…

Perhaps Ponchaud believed that the British version would escape their notice.

Let us consider the general tenor of Australian recapitulations of this. Robert Manne - in a 1979 essay for Quadrant, reprinted in Left, Right, Left, explained that Chomsky was part of a "campaign" to deny atrocities were taking place in Cambodia, instead atrocity stories could be explained "as deliberate fabrications of a corrupt and mendacious press in the service of the established order". To prove that Chomsky and Hermans' critique of Ponchaud's book was specious, Manne quoted from the British preface above, saying it "could not be bettered". Sadly, "the former supporters of Pol Pot" won't be "deflated by the fact that concerning their estimation of him and his odious regime they were wholly, shamefully and ludicrously wrong. Pol Pot has passed; Noam Chomsky, I fear, persisteth". In a 1982 follow-up essay, Manne again endorsed the preface which attacked Chomsky as "mild and utterly reasonable", expressing confusion as to why Chomsky and others regarded Ponchaud's attack in that preface as outrageous. Manne went on to claim that Chomsky does not "place any responsibility for mass murder on the ruling clique or cadres of the Cambodian Communist Party". Instead, "sole responsibility" for "the present suffering of the Cambodian people" belonged to the US. Remarkably, Manne wrote this in an article including Chomsky and Herman's comment: "a grisly account of what refugees have reported to him about the barbarity of their treatment at the hands of the Khmer Rouge". Internal consistency would undoubtedly have made the attack on Chomsky more difficult.

Though these polemics against Chomsky have been going on for decades, the intellectual and moral level of them has remained at about the standard set by Manne. Windschuttle, for example, explained that:

In 1975, Chomsky was the most prestigious and persistent Western apologist for the Pol Pot regime.

Presumably, he had the work above in mind: Windschuttle was presumably untroubled by the perhaps trivial fact that Chomsky didn't write anything on the subject until 1977. Funnily enough, Robert Manne later advanced the thesis – without any relevant quote – that Windschuttle was a "Pol Pot enthusiast". With good reason, Windschuttle regarded this as an outrageous slur.

Ben Naparstek, current editor of The Monthly, has also explained that "After Cambodia fell to the Khmer Rouge in 1975," Chomsky's "hatred of American foreign policy led him to write sympathetically about Pol Pot". Perhaps the most revealing thing about Australia's intelligentsia is how unremarkable such a casual remark is considered.

One might suggest that Chomsky's denunciation of much of the Western intelligentsia was never going to make him friends with, for example, what Miranda Devine has called "the vanity publication of a Melbourne property developer".

The latest issue of the Monthly carries an article by Nick Dyrenfurth on Chomsky. Characteristic of his style, Dyrenfurth wrote an article in 2009 with Dr Philip Mendes in which they claimed that an Australian call for an academic boycott on Israel "was directed at the victims of terror". That is, those who called for a boycott supported terrorism against the Israelis civilians blown up inside Israel.

With similar honesty Dyrenfurth sets out Chomsky's views and why they are terrible. Dyrenfurth gets even the most basic facts wrong (for example, attributing a quote to one essay which was actually written in a separate private letter). It is full of innuendos, such as speaking of "many Western leftists" who admire Trotsky, and describing Chomsky as Trotsky's "lineal successor", despite Chomsky's longstanding and well-known contempt for Lenin and Trotsky. Chomsky is also charged with the crime of meeting with Hezbollah (and allegedly issuing uncited praise for them: perhaps properly outrageous praise will be fabricated for the next attack). Unmentioned is the fact that Chomsky also met with Walid Jumblat, who at the time was fiercely anti-Hezbollah (Jumblat's politics swing wildly).

Perhaps one way of explaining the fury Chomsky evokes from the mildly progressive to the reactionary right, is his guiding moral philosophy. Chomsky applies the same moral standards to all atrocities and repression, but he focuses primarily on those for which his country is responsible, because he has the most power to stop them. In 1979, Herman and Chomsky published a two-volume study, The Political Economy of Human Rights. Their major case studies were East Timor and Cambodia. They documented at length that the media ignored evidence of atrocities committed by the West and its client states, whilst expressing enormous outrage at crimes of official enemies, fabricating evidence as needed to prove wrongdoing.

This is considered outrageous, because the respectable Western intelligentsia regards it as morally courageous and important to devote all their attention to denouncing the crimes of official enemies, and even fabricating evidence when needed for such purposes. At the same time, it is their duty to ignore or downplay crimes for which we are responsible, or share responsibility.

Almost 30 years later, Robert Manne wrote critically that:

The willingness of the Australian anticommunist camp to support, in one way or another, one of the great political crimes of the 20th century, the Indonesian mass murder of 1965-6, where approximately as many died as in the Armenian genocide of 1915 or in the Rwanda genocide of 1994 - has never before been discussed by anyone associated with the anticommunist camp. As readers of this exchange will see, Australian anticommunists supported one of the great crimes of the 20th century in a variety of ways - by turning a blind eye to the horror of what had occurred; by openly applauding the consequence of the crime; by failing to discuss the atrocity in an appropriate moral register; by supporting in words and deeds those who helped unleash the mass murder; by denying publicly that these people had been involved, and so on.

Anyone who reads Chomsky would find this very familiar: he has been writing about this for decades. Chomsky also was one of the leading campaigners against Indonesia's brutal occupation of East Timor, which resulted in the deaths of up to 183,000 people. This was almost a third of the population. The slaughter was given crucial military and diplomatic support by Australia and the US, among others.

One of Australia's leading experts on East Timor, Clinton Fernandes, reviewed Robert Manne's record on the issue whilst editor of Quadrant from 1989-1997. Having read "every issue of Quadrant during" these eight years, Fernandes commented on the "paucity of East Timorese voices": instead, space was extended to "a Perth lawyer and poet", Hal Colebatch, who had spent a few days in East Timor nearly 20 years before. Reviewing the handful of articles that addressed the issue, Fernandes concluded that:

Mr Manne railed against crimes that he had no ability to stop, while largely ignoring a privileged opportunity to struggle against crimes in which his government was complicit. This is morally comparable to a Soviet commissar denouncing racism in the USA while saying little about the USSR's support for tyranny in Eastern Europe. Perhaps the comparison is unfair... to the commissar, who had reason to fear for his physical wellbeing in a way that a Western intellectual did not.

This is contrasted with Chomsky's "prodigious and widely-read" speeches and publications "on this topic".

Naparstek, for the record, has claimed in 2008 that "by some accounts" the invasion and occupation "killed more than 100,000 civilians". Naparstek's remark was generally considered uninteresting and trivial, because grossly underestimating and casting doubt on the mass slaughter in East Timor isn't considered significant. Indeed, it was no obstacle to Naparstek becoming editor of the Monthly a few months later.

The lesson is instructive. Chomsky has consistently struggled against atrocities committed by his country and state terrorism by client states for decades. Chomsky has said that "the intellectual tradition is one of servility to power". It is this tradition which Chomsky has denounced repeatedly since his first essay about the Vietnam War. The herd of independent minds has not appreciated his exposure of their loyal service to Western power. However, there are some people who honour the work of a brave dissident and brilliant scholar. Surveying Chomsky's critics cannot begin to do justice to the sheer scope of Chomsky's activism, or the penetrating brilliance of his scholarship and his insight into international politics, Western democracy and the media.

It can simply suggest that Australia should give his writings a fairer hearing than they have received thus far from much of Australia's intelligentsia. Chomsky richly deserves the Sydney Peace Prize. Once again, I salute them for their excellent choice.

Michael Brull has a featured blog at Independent Australian Jewish Voices, and is involved in Stop The Intervention Collective Sydney (STICS).

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posted by u2r2h at 12:29 AM 0 comments