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George Orwell: Diaries

George Orwell: Diaries

Edited by Peter Davison

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A Countercultural Conversation With Noam Chomsky

Posted on Aug 5, 2010
Mr. Fish

By Mr. Fish

(Page 4)

MF: Well, you’re right about fashion sometimes being just fashion. Sometimes fashion can actually confuse a person into thinking that he or she is being politically active when he or she is really just posing. Maybe I’m talking about the personal statement more as a reflection of a public expression of dissent versus a private one. Let me make my point this way: As strong as the political satire is that comes out of Jon Stewart and “The Daily Show” or Steve Colbert or Bill Maher, the experience of sharing their disdain for lousy politics is a private act—it happens in the living room, behind closed doors, and never threatens to spill out onto the streets. Where in the ’50s and ’60s, with somebody like Mort Sahl or Lenny Bruce or Bob Dylan, you had to leave your home to go into the community to really see them. You had to occupy a public space and to be seen with other people, communally. It was a physical act that required some small measure of bravery. It was, in fact, a political act because you were supporting something not sanctioned by the dominant culture, by decent society. Nowadays, with the co-opting of progressive and formerly dissident labels such as the peace sign and the anarchist “A,” and the privatizing of formerly public acts of anti-establishmentarianism, it’s very easy for people to trick themselves into believing that they’re being politically active or heavily engaged in social issues when really they’re not. Get a T-shirt from the Gap with a peace sign on it and, all of a sudden, you think you’re in the peace movement, when you haven’t done anything—in fact, all you’ve done is given more money to a major corporation that actually functions as the antithesis to the values you believe you’re supporting. Buy the Lennon [CD] compilation for Darfur and you’re selflessly rescuing Darfurians, laugh at “Politically Incorrect” when you’re all alone in your bedroom—you don’t even need to be wearing pants!—and believe you’re shaming George Bush so severely that he won’t be able to look in the mirror the next morning. You have to ask yourself, what is the ultimate effect of a bunch of people who believe they’re progressives because they can parrot the language of the movement but aren’t actually engaged in any genuine political activity? People end up marginalizing themselves.

NC: There’s plenty of pressure to privatize your existence in every respect. Take sports, for instance. I can see with my own grandchildren, or even in the suburb where I live, you do not see children engaging in sports—the reason is it’s all organized. You do not see kids the way we grew up, or my kids grew up, where you just go out in the streets and you meet some people and you play. Everything has to be organized and controlled and run by adults, and run in crazy ways. For example, one of my grandsons is kind of a jockey kid, who’s 8. He came back one Saturday afternoon, very disconsolate, from a baseball game. He was playing for whatever the local team is—everything has to be in teams—and I asked him what the problem was and he said they had to call the game off because the other team was one player short. I mean, these poor kids. The adults can’t let them play baseball—can’t take a kid off the bench and put him on the other side. Can’t do it, got to win. Those are control mechanisms, too, and that’s all through the culture and I’m sure it affects the arts as well. It’s just something else to struggle against and it can be done. Take, say, the international solidarity movements. There was never anything like that in the ’60s. They just didn’t exist. Now they’re all over the place and they’re significant. 

MF: What did exist in the ’60s, though, that doesn’t exist now is an arts community capable of inspiring people to political action. John Lennon did a tremendous amount for the peace movement, for example—more than just about anybody. 

NC: Again, we should remember exactly what happened. The activism against the Vietnam War was late ’60s. There’s no event in the world going on now that comes even close to what the U.S. was doing in Indochina then, and part of the reason is that the public won’t allow it. Public opposition to the Iraq war was way beyond what it was to Vietnam at any comparable stage. Just think back to when there were 150,000 American troops in Vietnam and there was nothing going on—nobody was talking about withdraw, nobody. There’s a higher level of consciousness now and it’s a constraint on policymakers, undoubtedly. Take, say, what’s going on in Iraq. The Maliki government is doing stuff that the Bush administration just doesn’t like. The Diem government was doing stuff the Kennedy administration didn’t like, so they organized a coup and threw him out. Can’t do that now. They can’t even contemplate it. Maybe they’ll think about assassinations, but they can’t contemplate a military coup that will put things back on track to what Congress wants. In ’63 it wasn’t even a question—they just did it.

MF: [The U.S. government] is still fearless about perpetrating massive international crimes. Regardless of how massive the protests were against our invasion of Iraq—and the protests were worldwide and I was part of them—[the U.S.] still invaded.

NC: We shouldn’t underestimate the impact. It was the first in the history of Western imperialism that a war had been massively protested before it was launched and it imposed constraints and you can see the constraints. They don’t want Iraq to have the degree of independence that it has now, but they were forced to permit it. They couldn’t send half a million troops to go over and slaughter everybody and take over. It’s because the public is more opposed. That’s a consequence of the ’60s activism. Things are bad, but you should never overlook the progress—and that’s a lesson. It means we can do more.

MF: Iran is a good example of what you’re talking about. A year ago, everybody was convinced that we were going to war with Iran. Scott Ritter even wrote a book about it, how Bush and Cheney had already decided and that it was a done deal. The fact that the idea seems preposterous now is a testament to public disdain of the idea. It’s heartening.

NC: It is, and there, incidentally, direct political activism has had an effect. The press won’t report it, but Congress over the summer [of 2008] was considering a resolution, which is still alive, that was getting near passage, which would’ve called for essentially a blockade of Iran, which is an act of war. It was being heavily pushed by the Israeli lobby and it was blocked by the peace movement lobby. That’s quite an achievement. Of course, the press won’t report it because people aren’t supposed to have that information, but it happened.

MF: Which is exactly my point. If the press won’t report such things because they’re part. …

NC: Part of the repressive system, so why should they report it?

MF: Right, which means the responsibility of the arts community to tell those stories. …

NC: Absolutely, truth can reach the public in other ways. In fact, you can even shame the press into reporting it. Actually, cartoonists do that.

MF: I know.

NC: It’s an old story. Even in totalitarian states, cartoonists were given a lot more leeway. In fact, it goes back to the medieval period. The court jester was given leeway that other people couldn’t have.

MF: Well, I guess we figured it all out.

NC: Yeah.

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By BabyJay, September 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Fish,  Please make that picture of Chomsky available on a T Shirt.  I would love to buy it! :D

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By Leefeller, August 9, 2010 at 12:51 pm Link to this comment

Chomsky, as many peoples tin god, seems to have been hooked by a fish.

This article seems to portray Chomsky as having swallowed many lead sinkers, while learning how to swim?

Good job Mr. Fish

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By lpat, August 9, 2010 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Less Fish, more Chomsky.

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By NYCartist, August 9, 2010 at 6:07 am Link to this comment

Ah, Mr. Fish - it takes guts to interview Chomsky.
Chomsky’s replies are marvelous.
My perspective is from:
  I was in my 20s in the 1960s, having just begun my art career after 5 years of public school teaching in NYC (social studies major who wanted to be an artist since age 10).  Spent 2 years in NOLA, with first spouse, a community organizer in antipoverty program.  Beginning my art career, doing civil rights volunteer research work and what peace protest was in NOLA.  Then one year in midwest before back to NYC.

    It took me decades to perfect my skills at political art, while having started as a sculptor.
As Chomsky has said elsewhere, “every bit helps”.

    Chomsky makes good points about the personal vs organized.  I think whatever one can contribute toward change is a good thing…doing as can for as long as one can.  Viva Chomsky.  Thanks, Mr Fish, for all the fish.

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By Egomet Bonmot, August 8, 2010 at 10:24 pm Link to this comment

I like Chomsky but he clearly knows nothing of his “friend” Norman Mailer’s work.  The gaps here are embarrassing.

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By MarthaA, August 8, 2010 at 7:42 pm Link to this comment

Tony Wicher, August 8 at 11:19 pm,

The reason newspapers are dying is because they quit reporting a balance between liberalism and conservatism in their news reporting, and choose strictly to report news favorable to conservatives, and television media also did the same thing, therefore the internet became the only liberal tool for the populace.

If newspapers would choose to be at least half way liberal, they would be able to remain, but in the media, Conservatism’s Republicans reign, which has no benefit whatsoever to the populace.

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By Tony Wicher, August 8, 2010 at 7:19 pm Link to this comment

RE Anarcissie, August 6 at 12:09 pm

However, the reason the newspapers and so forth are dying is because of the Internet, and that is not (yet) under government or corporate control.  And so we see a spectrum of reportage and opinion ranging from Wikileaks to your wacky 9/11 theories, none of which could ever have appeared in an old-time newspaper or television program.  Things have changed, and not necessarily for the worse.


I’ll agree with you there. The Internet is our last best hope.

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By MarthaA, August 8, 2010 at 6:29 pm Link to this comment

The culture of Working Farmers and Laborers, the American Populace, definitely do need to be bold, and creatively claim their culture, separate from the culture of the Academic Professional New Class and the Elite/Corporate Capitalist Class, as the Academic Professional New Class culture has separated itself from the American Populace culture leaving the 70% Majority Common Population, the Working Laborers including Welders, Plumbers, Auto Mechanics, etc. and Farmers that are the United States of America’s majority population in need of claiming their own culture and constituency; otherwise there will never be representation of the American Populace of the United States in the halls of Congress.

It is time for the Democratic Party to return to representation of the entire population of the United States or provide another political party that is equal to the Democratic Party.  1952 must have been the last year that Farmers and Laborers were mentioned as being important to the democratic Left, the Democratic Farmer and Labor Party, because leaders of the party took Farmers and Laborers out of the party and quit representing farmers and laborers objectively.
One must remember that there is no democratic Right, except subjectively, and it is mighty hard to pay ones bills on subjectivity, as the Right contends for being democratic, but are full fledged autocratic and all are conservatism conservatives, and the party will kick out members that are concerned about the populace as not being conservative enough.  Political conservative is NOT fiscal conservative.

Therefore, it behooves the American Populace to unify within their culture and constituency and take the Democratic Party back for Farmers and Laborers.  Minnesota keep the name of the party, but the party significantly changed after the overthrow of the populace by Republican Conservatism.

Culture is that which is passed down from generation to generation of which unions and community are a part.  The American Populace must not allow the other cultures to steal the culture of the 70% majority common population, the American Populace.

Conservatism is the thief.  Conservatism does not belong in the American Populace.  The American Populace as a whole are liberal, but have been propagandized into voting conservative Republican against their own best interest as a class and culture, otherwise there would be an American Populace class and culture and a unified constituency of the populace.

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By alyceobvious, August 8, 2010 at 7:23 am Link to this comment

dear mr. fish, thanks for the excellent interview - much-needed inspiration and encouragement for those of us afflicted with the desire to write or make art about our culture’s ills, and who are fully aware that change will never happen from the inside (like a “happy cancer” - heh). really eye-opening to see how many disparaging comments are here - gads, really says something about the state of our society when world-class activists can’t even get support from those on his/her own team!

i no longer live in a loft - now it’s a backwoods off-grid hovel with satellite internet on the roof. i’m a conceptual artist and social and environmental activist - and great appreciator of your work.

thanks again.

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By Anarcissie, August 7, 2010 at 7:52 pm Link to this comment

gerard, August 7 at 9:18 pm:

‘gerard: Well, maybe.  Who knows anything for sure?  But judging from the days of the John Birch Society .....’

I recall the JBS saying everyone was a Communist (including Eisenhower) but I don’t recall them flogging the racial and religious stuff.  Of course in those days there were plenty of other people to do it.  And my memory could (heh) be just a bit defective.

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By Anarcissie, August 7, 2010 at 5:46 pm Link to this comment

rico, suave, August 6 at 6:59 pm:

‘... Given that Democrats run the country, why shouldn’t Tea Partiers be worried about police action? Do you really believe that Obama presides over a conservative/reactionary corporate/bureaucratic state that wants to see the Tea Party succeed?’

I wrote quite awhile ago that I thought the most likely effect of the Tea Party would be to split the Republican Party.  Now I hear that Democrats are contributing to Tea-Party candidates with precisely that purpose in mind.  I would not expect less from machine politicians like Obama, the Clintons, Larry Summers and so forth.  The Tea Partiers, far from being any sort of threat, is proving to be a useful instrument.

The people the Democrats really hate are leftists, but they’re used to being threatened and persecuted, so this is not going to be a big surprise for anybody.  Business as usual.

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By gerard, August 7, 2010 at 5:18 pm Link to this comment

rico suave: Well, maybe.  Who knows anything for sure?  But judging from the days of the John Birch Society .....

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By Tony Wicher, August 7, 2010 at 4:16 pm Link to this comment

@ John Ellis:

One other point I would like to make about what you said is that the only people made “prosperous” by the defense industry are defense contractors and oil companies - the rest of the nation is being impoverished to the point of economic collapse.

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By Tony Wicher, August 7, 2010 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

Re John Ellis, August 7 at 4:05 pm

Tony Wicher
“The most elementary science clearly demonstrates
that the Twin Towers and Building 7 were
demolished by high explosives.”

To except the reality that our government did it, that by controlled demolition all of the World Trade Center was sure to be leveled flat to the ground, not for a second is it to be contemplated by all who have been enriched by the misery of it.  For ours is a defense economy and the greater the enemy the greater the prosperity.



Mark Twain once said, “Show me where a man gets his corn pone, and I’ll tell you his ‘pinions.” That is generally true of human beings and particularly true of intellectuals, although they are alleged to be dedicated to a truth that is presumably independent of where they get their corn pone. Chomsky has frequently observed this himself about other intellectuals, although I supposed he thinks his own trenchant critique of power makes him an exception to this rule. But I’m not so sure, not after his attitude toward 9/11, which consists in the utter, unquestioning acceptance of the fantastic government story about 9/11 and an adamant refusal to look at any of the scientific evidence himself, even after he has been told that the science involved is so elementary that any reasonably well-educated person can understand it.

Here is Chomsky making a fool of himself on the subject:

So come on, any reasonably well-educated person out there, look at a couple of videos of the buildings collapsing, read the following scientific paper about the explosives found in the dust, and let’s talk it. Let’s just stick to the facts, and not to a prioi opinions about what we think could or couldn’t have happened. 

North Tower Exploding:

Fall of Building 7

Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe

Authors: Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones, Kevin R. Ryan, Frank M. Legge, Daniel Farnsworth, Gregg Roberts, James R. Gourley, Bradley R. Larsen

Finally, here is Chomsky pontificating about 9/11 a couple of years ago.

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By Not One More!, August 7, 2010 at 12:11 pm Link to this comment

>>>>>By rico, suave, August 6 at 6:59 pm
Given that Democrats run the country, why shouldn’t Tea Partiers be worried about police action? Do you really believe that Obama presides over a conservative/reactionary corporate/bureaucratic state that wants to see the Tea Party succeed?

That is exactly what I think, that Obama would rather have the tea party succeed rather ran implementing a truly progressive policy (single payer health care, reduction of military and stopping use of private mercenaries, immediate closing of Quantanamo, prosecution of war crimes but of course it is hard to prosecute yourself, and not to mention stop mailing out the corporate elite).

Support republican extremest policy,
vote for a democrat.

(because didn’t we call it fanatical when Bush carried out identical policies?)


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By Tony Wicher, August 6, 2010 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment

Things were worse in the 60’s? How can Chomsky say such a thing? Instead of sending 500,000 draftees to kill and die in Vietnam, we have a mercenary army to fight our puppetmaster’s imperial wars, and kids with video game skills bombing weddings in Afghanistan with remote controlled drones from the safety and comfort of military bases in the U.S., coming home to shtup their wives after a hard day’s work at the office. Maybe Chomsky thinks this is an improvement. I sure don’t. And the control of the mass media is far tighter than it ever has been. So tight, in fact, that even Chomsky believes the fantastic government propaganda about 9/11, bin Laden and the 19 hijackers, when the most elementary science clearly demonstrates that the Twin Towers and Building 7 were demolished by high explosives. See for the details.

Also, the economy was fantastically wonderful in the sixties compared with what it is now. Then, the economics of the New Deal had not yet been completely undermined and replaced with the oligarchic fascism we have today. The gap between rich and poor was much smaller then, now it is the greatest in history.

Chomsky’s tone sounds smug to me. He’s been sitting over there at MIT getting his ass kissed by the left wing too long.

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By Tony Wicher, August 6, 2010 at 8:53 pm Link to this comment

Obama doesn’t preside over much of anything. He’s a puppet, same as the last five or six presidents.

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By Edmond, August 6, 2010 at 3:24 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is a very unique interview. While most other journalists defer (or parrot right-wing attack points), MF deftly presses Chomsky, while still being respectful. The professor has a repertoire of canned answers, and, knowing that, MF tries to elicit some original responses. Often, he succeeds.

While few, if any, can compete with Chomsky on political matters, I think he’s surprisingly devoid of insight on the topics of art and culture and comes off rather poorly. He belittles Norman Mailer, makes a point of saying he can’t be bothered with American movies (though maybe a European film will do) or with television, and he seems to dismiss the potential of art in creating a more humane society. A novel doesn’t have to outline a political program and speak explicitly about public events in order to spark social consciousness.

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By rico, suave, August 6, 2010 at 2:59 pm Link to this comment


I was in college in the late sixties. I think back then we were just as worried about the things you list then as they are now. Maybe more so, since “the 60s” was a brand new experiment.

Given that Democrats run the country, why shouldn’t Tea Partiers be worried about police action? Do you really believe that Obama presides over a conservative/reactionary corporate/bureaucratic state that wants to see the Tea Party succeed?

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By REDHORSE, August 6, 2010 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment

Art is expression, and experience, of living soul, within and without.  Often cultural, and often trancendent of time and space, its valuation of true universal human consciousness, dispels false manipulative propagandist political materialistic illusion, and merges infinite and finite reality, as it restores sanity. Huxley, Castaneda and Leary sought it with drugs, but they’re not necessary. It is the rumored “New Age of World Consciousness”, and the humbling doorway, through which one enters Christs present on Earth, Kingdom of Heaven, the Buddhas Nirvana or the Native American Great Mystery. It is not filled with magic chrystals or little pink cherubs. It offers a terrible freedom in which one discovers that he/she is both the good guy and the bad guy. A place for compassion and discovery of our interdependency and personal fragility.

    People avoid this terror at all cost. Those who pursue it for humanitarian purpose often die. It represents such direct engagement with the deadly and destructive forces of change that it often kills one outright. Freedom Riders, the Mary Knoll Sisters, Dr. King, Ghandi, Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy are quick examples. One literally loses ones life to save it. Chomsky points directly at the problem. The cat can be belled, it just can’t be done without risk of personal safety. That’s what fascist police states are about. Get it??

      For me, the poet Charles Baudelaire said it best (paraphrase): “—the study of beauty, is a duel, in which the artist shrieks with terror, before being overcome—”. Try to remember our first fire—reach for the experience. Ask yourself who you love and who loves you. Is your childs future safe?

      Suit up or shut up!!

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By Richard Nixon, August 6, 2010 at 12:28 pm Link to this comment

I think what happened to my generation is pointed out in the famous adbusters
article ‘The Dead End of Western Civilization’

Today the ‘counterculture’ or popular youth movement is hipsterdom.

Basically it all about self image that is brought about from purchasing. These
people think that you’re rebelling, when actually they are just heavily immersed
in the mainstream corporate world and so deeply invested in maintaining their
own image, they don’t in any way defy the power structure.

‘We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated
into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum. So while hipsterdom is the end product
of all prior countercultures, it’s been stripped of its subversion and originality.’

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By anyfreeman, August 6, 2010 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

I seek Chomsky’s comments. Mr. Fish is a relevant social observer. This interview suffers as a result. Here’s what bothered me - the generational and aspirational chasms between the two men prevented them from even agreeing violently. Chomsky seems pedantic and removed “I don’t have time for television” while Fish insists on attempting to fit his nostalgia for   lost generations into today’s zeitgeist.

If Howard Zinn had interviewed Chomsky…..

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By wildflower, August 6, 2010 at 9:10 am Link to this comment

Re: “A Countercultural Conversation With Noam Chomsky”

So what Chomsky is saying is that the difference between “now and then” is only a matter of hard work and organization - until hard work and organization become popular again things will remain the same . . .

NC: Well, I didn’t go to the panel, but what the panelists should have told [the audience] was to try to organize enough mass popular pressure so that whoever is in office will have to react to it.

MF: But, you see, that just sounds like more work to people.

NC: Well it is work. And it’s hard work.

MF: Sure it is, but I wasn’t inspired to become politically involved from somebody talking about work. I learned about humanitarianism and dissent from art and popular culture, which made it cool and sexy. I joined the movement because I wanted to grow my hair, to piss off intolerant people, to own myself.

NC: That’s just a personal statement. What really changed things in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s was popular organization. I mean, the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement, the environmental movement, the women’s movement, and so on, there were personal statements, but that was only a small part of it.

MF: The personal statement is what gets people involved.

NC: It may get people involved, but the personal statements are all fine for you, but when you want to organize an anti-nuclear movement or a solidarity movement with Central America, your personal statements don’t matter.

MF: But they’re indispensable with issues of sexism and racism and classism. They’re uniforms—unifying ones.

NC: There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re, at most, a first step towards more serious commitments, but not always. Take the civil rights movement. It wasn’t about personal statements. It was SNCC workers riding Freedom buses.

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By Anarcissie, August 6, 2010 at 8:09 am Link to this comment

Tony Wicher, August 6 at 11:11 am:

It seems to me that corporate control of the government and the media has never been stronger or democracy weaker than it is right now. ...’

That may be true of the old media.  As the newspapers and broadcast television become weaker and move towards extinction, they are more likely to come under the control of finance capital.  However, the reason the newspapers and so forth are dying is because of the Internet, and that is not (yet) under government or corporate control.  And so we see a spectrum of reportage and opinion ranging from Wikileaks to your wacky 9/11 theories, none of which could ever have appeared in an old-time newspaper or television program.  Things have changed, and not necessarily for the worse.

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By mitchum22, August 6, 2010 at 7:59 am Link to this comment

Wonderful discussion. Thank you very much.

Chomsky is one of my all-time heroes, but when he talks about pop culture he’s really pretty lame. Many movies from the 40s are indeed high art (Out of the Past, Ambersons, Letter from an Unknown Woman, My Darling Clementine, The Big Sleep). Cary Grant, the greatest movie actor of all-time, WOODEN? And Bogart was indeed subversive.

Mr. Fish’s counter-culture examples aren’t much better. What’s all the discussion about The Graduate? There must be 100 movies from ‘67 better than that piece of middle-brow doo-doo. Regarding the 40s & 50s: “the POSSIBLE exception of Orson Welles and a few others”? Huh?? Peter Fonda? Catch-22?? Mike Nichols!! And why is “Europeanizing”(whatever the hell that means) American cinema a good thing? Actually, Euro cinema was Americanized (in a good way) throughout the 50s, leading to Antonioni, Godard, Resnais et al.

But Mr. Fish’s overall point is right-on. Corporate commodication has swallowed American pop culture whole. (And sports culture as well. Just compare Bill Russell, Ali, John Carlos, Maury Wills[who was suspended by the Pirates for refusing to play the day of RFK’s death] with the nothingburgers such as Jordan, Kobe, LeBron, Tiger.) In particular, vampire capitalism has sucked almost all the fresh blood from publishing and the movie business. (Where are all the independent production companies such as October Films, Good Machine etc. All “acquired”.)

Still, a great read.

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By Tony Wicher, August 6, 2010 at 7:11 am Link to this comment

It seems to me that corporate control of the government and the media has never been stronger or democracy weaker than it is right now. Maybe there is a residual anti-war feeling left over from Vietnam that has prevented sending a half million draftees to war, but instead we have a mercenary army that carries out imperial wars while the people are told to go shopping. Control of the media is so complete that it was possible to engineer 9/11 to gin up the phoney war on terror and keep it covered up under two administrations.

Please see for the facts about 9/11.

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By Bubba, August 6, 2010 at 6:21 am Link to this comment

Really enjoyed this, Mr. Booth.  Thanks for doing it.  You should do more such stuff. 

You mentioned having done other interviews to NC.  Perhaps you could publish those as well?

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By NoMoreSheeple, August 6, 2010 at 5:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The effect of shows such as The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Bill Mahr
should not be dismissed so quickly.  While it is true that watching a TV show in
the comfort of ones home is a passive and private act, these shows nevertheless
allow a large audience to see the hypocrisy of the status quo.  This large audience
is thereby more open to question authority than they would otherwise be.  It is the
accessibility of these shows that has helped galvanize another generation.  Where
they go from there is up to other influences

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By monthofsundays, August 6, 2010 at 5:42 am Link to this comment

As NC states, “one ways to discipline (young people) is
to make sure that when they get out of college they
have a heavy debt and that was very conscious”.

It works just as well with both young and old. I
believe that today’s relative passivity owes a great
deal to the drive to provide the greatest number of
people with the greatest volume of personal debt, both
in the US and in the UK. And yes, it WAS a deliberate

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By John Andersen, August 6, 2010 at 5:37 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I think the corporate teamplayer movement (teamplayermania) launched in the early 1990s, and which continues today has had a huge effect on buying off young people who would otherwise be part of the counterculture.

It’s high time for young people to start rejecting the role of teamplayer, and instead return to standing up to power and speaking the truth.

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By zagostino, August 6, 2010 at 4:37 am Link to this comment

Empirepie: Your words are poetical and moving.

But as the transcript of Chomsky’s interview touches
on, it is the absence of Arts - that can inspire a
broad appeal to get involved, like the Arts in the
60’s and early 70’s, that is disheartening.

Art, music, poetry, literature, they exist, your
words, exist, but they are fragments lost in the sea
of noise that is the mass media, that is “Fox and

It’s about Signal to Noise ratio. And your signal,
TruthDig’s signal, is muted in the buzzing public
consciousness, if such a thing exist.

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By ardee, August 6, 2010 at 3:37 am Link to this comment

A citing from this rather on target interview:

You have to ask yourself, what is the ultimate effect of a bunch of people who believe they’re progressives because they can parrot the language of the movement but aren’t actually engaged in any genuine political activity? People end up marginalizing themselves.

Chomsky has that crystal clear perception and vision that cuts through the sham that is today’s progressive activism

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By Not One More!, August 5, 2010 at 11:55 pm Link to this comment

There is a dominant narrative that everything is fine and our elected officials and corporations are working towards democracy and liberty for all, or at least the American people. This is a complete fallacy.

Then there is a secondary narrative that is supported by The Nation and other supposedly liberal websites that the democratic part is the way to achieve democracy, at least for the American people, and that is also a complete and total fallacy.

In fact, only when people stop supporting the corporate/political elite, can a change even possibly occur, but it will be an uphill battle because the corporate elite don’t want to see any change and work to suppress the truth whenever it challenges the dominant narrative.

It is a strange world when conservatives think that the Sarah Palin and the Tea Party are going to save them; and the liberals think that Obama and the democratic party are going to save them.

The reality is that most of the ruling class and corporate elite are only working for themselves and the hell with everyone else. But they do a great job as car salesmen and convince the public to support them while actively working against the public’s interest. Go figure.

Isn’t it great that most liberals still think that Obama really wants to help them but can’t?

Vote third party, don’t support the corporate elite.


“I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don’t want, and get it.” - Eugene Debs

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By jerrygates7, August 5, 2010 at 6:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Maybe American art has fallen off of it’s activist
edge due to atrification of talent, Abusers of gifts
usally fail in their endeavors in the final analysis,
Hitler, A gifted speaker, abused his gifts to incite
rabid nationalism American suffer from that same
malady today, they see self and little else. What art
has made the film industry but the slick fantastic
effects that show hollowness as the strength of
American wonderlust.

  It used to be American to do art for the sake of
art many still do this, they suffer in obscurity to
make what appeals to them as individuals, not homogeneous parts of a nation, but real people with
real ideas who want to show the world diversity,
cultural tolerance or ethnic love, gay rights, animal
rights, clean air, water minds and the dance, music
and showmanship that art is and does for it’s

  Art comes from the soul, Americans are soulful,
artistic, loving and graceful, Conservatives or
liberals, soul is where art comes from, America has
souls, lots of them and they do great art.What compels this right of passage to ethereal bliss and
zealous creation of activist art is inspiration from
like minded souls. People who do art see art, those
who dont appreciate art but may not understand what
they are appreciating beyond there own impressions.

  Palestine does art as well, they have a heart for
the dispossessed and write beautiful poetry from
their souls. Suffering makes for inspiration also,
Palestine suffers , Iraq suffers and Afghanistan
suffers and they create art that depicts their
straights and miseries, which is activist art,
expressing the depths despair.

  When Fish asks Chomsky why there is a dearth of
art, he asks from his mind, not his soul, Chomsky
answers from his mind not his soul, two people
discussing art that cannot create such inspiring
expressions as eliccit more of the same. Art begets
art, we could say if you make it you take it in as it
comes and share it with others. If you fake it who
are you really but some bystander of art that takes
ownership of it by virtue of some inane comment or
curators rights of showing, but this is not art for
art is fresh with vogor and life, and the stuff
tauted as art in museums is stake and lifeless, old
and arcane, which is what Americans do, they recycle
old things and worship them as a cultural identity
that shows class or education but not the creative
energies which priduce new forms with new ideals that
change people forever, not keep them looking at the
same old crap decade after decade. The orchestra, as
nice as it is, rarely shows off itself as new and
different but replays old tomes as their works. This
is not art it is relication, mimicry or false
appreciation for the sake of self esteem built on
specious imagery repeated time after time to hollow
applause, America is stale, reserved and in the box,
art is out of the box, linear and progressive, the US
left is art the democrats and republicans are
repitive stress which leads to the stripping of art
from their constituents, The fifty fifty split in US
thinking is stale, old and dead, art is alive, do art
Noam, just get a baloon and fill it with red pain and
throw it at a wall, maybe in DC, see, it’s red and
dripping, like the blood that the US spills every
second, this is a protest, art and well done. Do art
America, rebel, be fresh and new, be critical, fired
up and edgy, this is art!

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By empirePie, August 5, 2010 at 6:10 pm Link to this comment

Predator Lean     empirePie   August 5th, 2010

On the big wheel of life
is the treadmill fueled with strife.

Come stained as you are
we glide on stained…. the come of dynasties
some dried on a blue dress
from the squirts in the oval office to the gusher in the gulf
oil up the machine to predator lean

..... the dead zone is a family affair.

A wedding with a meltdown at the suite
the doorman is sweating but not from the heat;
while the dynasty of super class is sucking at the teat.

Fossil fools keep coming to the wheel.
No need to engage.
No need to feel.

The wheel needs fuel to feed the war machine
to pump more fuel from distant lands to feed
the machine from others sands
to fuel itself for further stands
to find more lands to fuel the blue

fuel on blue,

stain on blue

blue dead zones for Narcissus on the wheel

But the cycle is not complete,
till you join the wheel of the predator shield
for your work is for nothing and your style is for free

Be a wheel

Join the wheel.

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By zagostino, August 5, 2010 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

Enjoyed reading the transcript. The lucidity of
Chomsky is a balm on the brain after listening to
nightly network news cast.

Your comment that the effect of watching Stewart,
Bill Maher, et al, creates a sentiment in the
viewer that he is actually doing or being a part of
something progressive, or part of a counter
establishment was right on point. It is to
political activism what pornography is to Sex; it
provides a release without the danger or reward of
human contact. If you don’t have the former, you’re
condemned to the later.

The desire to bring about a more sane and just
world can only be consummated within a larger
social movement. Presently, I don’t see even the
glimmer of one on the near horizon.

But then again, you never know what tomorrow will
bring….Thanks for for printing the transcript…

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By gerard, August 5, 2010 at 4:53 pm Link to this comment

The draft is one thing, but other issues play into the present situation as well.
  People are afraid to protest for fear of losing the measly job they have for which 1 others are standing in line to take.
  People are afraid of being tazered, pummeled and given a jail sentence that will blackball them from getting a job.
  The peace and justice movement lacks mature leadership to give it the dignity and wisdom it deserves. It is also very difficult to fund because most of the people in it have little or no money, and liberal/progressive organizations are overwhelmed by the current drag of conservatism, and are also without adequate funds; instead are barely able to stay alive.
  One more point:  College tuition being what it is, many students had a hard enough time getting in They ar not likely to give it up for street action—at least not yet.
  Relative to the interview, the best thing about it was to hear Chomsky’s evaluation of the accompishments of the 60s.  That’s also pretty much kept under wraps to discourage contemporary actions.
  Why aren’t the Tea Partiers worried about police action, future jobs etc.?  Because their activities are not a threat to present conservative/reactionary policies of the corporate/bureaucratic state?

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By David Ehrenstein, August 5, 2010 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

True on both counts.

Add to that the fact that conformity is sold as “hipness” and the word “Liberal” has been so demonized that “Progressive” has been invneted to hide behind.

“The Graduate” isin no way shape or form a political film. The most important English- lanuage politcal film of that era was “Privilege” by Peter Watkins.

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By kerryrose, August 5, 2010 at 3:48 pm Link to this comment

It’s funny that neither guy mentioned that the reason there is no counterculture, no war protests is because there is no draft!  Reinstitute the draft and the wars would end very quickly.

The second reason is exact.  There is no social protest, or freedom to ‘do your own thing’ because most people leave college with crippling debt. 

It is a conscious way to get obedient, docile workers.

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By Lanark, August 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Terrible interview. The interviewer, MF, was more interested in asserting his views and personal experiences than listening to what Chomsky was saying. MF would make unsubstantiated, often nostalgic remarks on a period of time that Chomsky lived through, and then get frustrated when Chomsky wasn’t agreeing with his opinions. If MF would have stopped trying to prove his ego as an intellectual and a “real” artist/dissenter, he might have been able to get somewhere with the interview.

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