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A Warning From Noam Chomsky on the Threat of Elites

Posted on Jun 6, 2010
AP / Hussein Malla

By Fred Branfman

It was not by making yourself heard but by staying sane that you carried on the human heritage. ... [Doublethink is] to hold simultaneously two opinions which cancelled out, knowing them to be contradictory and believing in both, to repudiate morality while laying claim to it. ... [Continuous] war involves very small numbers of people, mostly highly trained specialists. … The fighting … takes place on the vague frontiers whose whereabouts the average man can only guess at. …

—George Orwell, “1984”

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[The treatment of the] hapless race of native Americans, which we are exterminating with such merciless and perfidious cruelty, [is] among the heinous sins of this nation, for which I believe God will one day bring [it] to judgment.

—John Quincy Adams, cited in Noam Chomsky’s new book, “Hopes and Prospects”

Noam Chomsky’s description of the dangers posed by U.S. elites’ “Imperial Mentality” was recently given a boost in credibility by a surprising source—Bill Clinton. As America’s economy, foreign policy and politics continue to unravel, it is clear that this mentality and the system it has created will produce an increasing number of victims in the years to come. Clinton startlingly testified to that effect on March 10 to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:

Since 1981 the United States has followed a policy until the last year or so, when we started rethinking it, that we rich countries that produce a lot of food should sell it to poor countries and relieve them of the burden of producing their own food so thank goodness they can lead directly into the industrial era. It has not worked. It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake. It was a mistake that I was a party to. I am not pointing the finger at anybody. I did that. I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did, nobody else.


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Clinton is to be praised for being the first U.S. president to take personal responsibility for impoverishing an entire nation rather than ignoring his misdeeds or falsely blaming local U.S.-imposed regimes. But his confession also means that his embrace of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization and NAFTA “neo-liberalization” destroyed the lives of many more millions well beyond Haiti, as U.S. support for heavily subsidized U.S. agribusiness damaged local agricultural economies throughout Latin America and beyond. This led to mass migration into urban slums and destitution, as well as increased emigration to the U.S.—which then led Clinton to militarize the border in 1994—and thus accelerated the “illegal immigration” issue that so poisons U.S. politics today.

Clinton might also have added that he and other U.S. leaders imposed such policies by force, installing military dictators and vicious police and paramilitary forces. Chomsky reports in “Hopes and Prospects” that in Haiti, semiofficial thugs empowered by a U.S.-supported coup murdered 8,000 people and raped 35,000 women in 2004 and 2005 alone, while a tiny local elite reaps most of the benefits from U.S. policies.

Clinton’s testimony reminded me of one of my visits with Chomsky, back in 1988, when, after talking for an hour or so, he smiled and said he had to stop to get back to writing about the children of Haiti.

I was struck both by his concern for forgotten Haitians and because his comment so recalled my experience with him in 1970 as he spent a week researching U.S. war-making in Laos. I had taken dozens of journalists, peace activists, diplomats, experts and others out to camps of refugees who had fled U.S. saturation bombing. Chomsky was one of only two who wept openly upon learning how these innocent villagers had seen their beloved grandmothers burned alive, their children slowly suffocated, their spouses cut to ribbons, during five years of merciless, pitiless and illegal U.S. bombing for which U.S. leaders would have been executed had international law protecting civilians in wartime been applied to their actions. It was obvious that he was above all driven by a deep feeling for the world’s victims, those he calls the “unpeople” in his new book. No U.S. policymakers I knew in Laos, nor the many I have met since, have shared such concerns.

Bill Clinton’s testimony also reminded me of the accuracy of Chomsky writings on Haiti—before, during and after Clinton’s reign—as summed up in “Hopes and Prospects”:

The Clinton doctrine, presented to Congress, was that the US is entitled to resort to “unilateral use of military power” to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.” In Haiti, Clinton [imposed] harsh neoliberal rules that were guaranteed to crush what remained of the economy, as they did.

Clinton would have a cleaner conscience today had he listened to Chomsky then. Many more Americans may also benefit by heeding Chomsky today, as U.S. elites’ callousness toward unpeople abroad is now affecting increasing numbers of their fellow citizens back home. Nothing symbolizes this more than investment bankers tricking countless Americans out of their life savings by luring them into buying homes they could not afford that were then foreclosed on.

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By BcCanuck, October 18, 2010 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks Fred Branfman. This the best book review/critical anlysis/character description/long overdue tribute I have read on Noam Chomsky…ever. And I have been at it for a while now. Logically organized with an impressive knowledge of recent history and of Mr. Chomsky’s works, it is wonderfully written throughout. It is rare to be at the same time thouroughly informed on those crucial events and at the same time deeply touched ...Thanks again

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By Nozomi, June 13, 2010 at 3:34 pm Link to this comment
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Chomsky exhibits exceptional courage that is rarely seen in all academic and political spheres when he rightfully indicts Israel and US as neo-fascist terrorist organizations on the world stage. He brings light to the dark sea of lies that has virtually swallowed Washington. Yet, intellectually knowing something appears to be not enough to counteract the apathy and cynicism so prevalent today. What does the world really need beside truthful analysis? Here is the revised version of my recent blog entry, Examination of Logic: Nader VS Chomsky.

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By Leefeller, June 12, 2010 at 8:15 am Link to this comment

I just came from the Zionist site, well everyone blames the problems of the world on the Zionists and Chomsky blames the elite, for some reason Chomsky s alleged synopsis seems more palatable.

The unpeople and the elite seems to make sense, but I still prefer to blame the gays, the Jews, the aliens and anyone else one can conjure up.

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By Anarcissie, June 12, 2010 at 6:37 am Link to this comment

cripes, June 11 at 4:47 pm:
‘Yes, things have changed some since Power Elite was
written, and the criteria he set out was not absolutely, completely exhaustive.

It goes without saying that nearly all the representatives of political, corporate and military elites he described attended college, and maintained ties to that network throughout their lives. Think Skull and Bones. But the incorporation of academia into the military-industrial complex didn’t exactly elevate academia into a power center equal to those dominant institutions….’

It seems to have become rather important after World War 2 for several reasons.  I recommend reading “How Harvard Lost Russia” ( for a glimpse of the arcane world of academic power politics.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be anyone like C. Wright Mills around today with the time, energy and knowledge to analyze the present situation.  Academia is no longer merely a class and ideology filter.

I doubt if Chomsky is privy to any of this sort of thing.  From MIT’s point of view, he’s probably seen as a pet or mascot.  Had he stepped out too radically before he got fame and tenure, of course, he might well have been dismissed as was the anarchist David Graeber at Yale.  But they’ve learned to live with him.  In an earlier age they used to keep pet Communists around.

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By LocalHero, June 11, 2010 at 7:36 pm Link to this comment

I know one law that would accomplish everything that needs to be done. One law that would level the playing field and allow the “unpeople” to sue for redress of grievances.

I just signed into law a bill that increases the tax on the gross income of corporations to 50% for five years. On the 6th year, the tax rate increases to 70%. On the 11th year, the tax rate increases to 90%. By the end of that period, there wouldn’t be a single corporation left standing & they could be utterly outlawed for eternity along with their “limited-liability” BS that lets them get away with (literally) murder. Then we let the lawyers hunt them (the executives) down and tear them apart.

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By cripes, June 11, 2010 at 12:47 pm Link to this comment
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Yes, things have changed some since Power Elite was
written, and the criteria he set out was not absolutely,
completely exhaustive.

It goes without saying that nearly all the
representatives of political, corporate and military
elites he described attended college, and maintained ties
to that network throughout their lives. Think Skull and
Bones. But the incorporation of academia into the
military-industrial complex didn’t exactly elevate
academia into a power center equal to those dominant

Larry Summers is a perfect example of an
academic/corporate/government mutt, but Mills also
discussed the game of musical chairs these characters
play in our governing institutions, so his analysis
actually holds pretty well.

My point to dimwit Rico is that using his teabagger,
knee-jerk definition of “elite” renders the term useless
(except for teabagger propaganda) since only tobacco
chewing rednecks are proletarian pure enough for him.

Anyway, Chomsky (did have) a little media respectability,
and many have suggested he may act as a limited hangout
for limits on acceptable criticism of imperial policy.
Fair enough. But as an elite, he is no more than part of
the linguistics perfessor elite, and has made some real
contributions to critical thinking on the imperium.

When people can’t hold a discussion without mangling the
shared understanding of terms, there can’t be a
discussion. That’s probably why they do it. Mr. Rico
would do better to study linguistics, and write less.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 11, 2010 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Chomsky was the test case or token example and he was too hard to handle so in most cases no others had the chance because he is too good. More get a chance on MSNBC but only if you have cable.

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By Anarcissie, June 11, 2010 at 8:46 am Link to this comment

The Power Elite is an interesting book, but it was already a bit out of date when it was first published.  Otherwise, it would have noted the great importance of academic institutions in the structure of the state.  If such a book were written (accurately) today, it would have to notice the curious careers of people like Henry Kissinger and Larry Summers, which loop in and out of the government, foreign relations, the media, academia, and private industry.  One would also want to notice the role which (for instance) Yale University played in the formation of the CIA and the NSA.

In regard to this, the case of Chomsky is rather interesting.  People used to complain that Chomsky was on television (apparently the only thing anyone got information from in the old days) once in a blue moon.  However, no other radicals got to appear at all.  Television generated a kind of One-Negro Syndrome for radicals.  Was this deliberate?  Was Chomsky considered “safe”?  It would be interesting to know the hows and whys of his peculiar prominence.

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By cripes, June 10, 2010 at 10:37 pm Link to this comment
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Suave, Rico is confusing being an academic with being a
member of the “elite.” Of course, you can call anyone an
elite in the limited sense of being at the top of their
particular profession. There are elite movie stars, dope
dealers and whores, but they don’t run the goddamn
country. I don’t chew tobaccy either, does that make me
elite? But that’s not what’s at issue. A short history
lesson is in order here, before he starts babbling about Volvo-driving, latte-sipping “elites.”

The elite being discussed here was described in C. Wright
Mill’s 1956 book “The Power Elite.” in which Mills wrote
that the power elite refers to”

“those political, economic, and military circles, which
as an intricate set of overlapping small but dominant
groups share decisions having at least national
consequences. Insofar as national events are decided, the
power elite are those who decide them.”[5] According to
Mills, the governing elite in the US primarily draws its
members from three areas: (i) the highest political
leaders (including the president) and a handful of key
cabinet members and close advisers; (ii) major corporate
owners and directors; and (iii) high ranking military
officers. The elite occupies what Mills terms the top
command posts of society.[6]

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By Vic Anderson, June 10, 2010 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment
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Noam is NOT the only “last man”.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 10, 2010 at 11:55 am Link to this comment

CMSM for Corporate Main Stream Media ; most leave out the “corporate” part when they talk about the owners of 95% of it in this country.

You confuse accomplishments with status in our top down owned and controlled society. He is among those who are left out of it. That is where the “elite” comes in as a social position. He is much accomplished but he isn’t of the elites who control things. Not a bit of it. Which is why you are more likely to have seen a Wm. Buckley on TV and in the newspapers for decades than Dr. Chomsky in either more than once or twice. Does that clarify things a bit?

How are equating the Bildebergs in any way equivalent to Chomsky? They are rich from rich and control banks. They could buy coverage if they wanted it. I’ll say they don’t.

Did the Wikipedia entry mention how he lives his private life? Since he moves in Liberal circles they don’t have much money. Now if he wanted it he could have just sold out to right wing corporatists who have oodles of money they lavish on turncoats. Then he would be all over the place nad shunned by us. He didn’t so he isn’t visible here unless you look real hard and deep.

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By P. T., June 9, 2010 at 6:31 pm Link to this comment


It is not at all hypocritical of Noam Chomsky.  And it is not hypocritical of Democrats to criticize the Democratic Party or of Republicans to criticize the Republican Party.  If Chomsky was the one making policy and he attacked the policy, then the situation would be different.

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By Jean Gerard, June 9, 2010 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment
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Ignoring or despising thinkers and writers like Chomsky is routine with
Americans.  They are following a long history of anti-intellectualism on the theory
that “too much knowledge is a dangerous thing” - an idea linked to religions
which preach the primacy of “faith” (in religious doctrine) is superior to “action”
(meaning everything not covered in religious doctrine, such as pursuing truth,
questioning, doubting, challenging.)

Popularization of this scorn for knowledge is perhaps the most destructive aspect
of current American “culture” and is actively destroying democracy.

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By Ralph, June 9, 2010 at 4:38 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Astounding! I surely thought Chomsky was the elitist!

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By Scott, June 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm Link to this comment
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Amazing that some would place Chomsky in the category of elites. Just amazing.
I’m sure these people have never read anything by Chomsky, or at least
misunderestimated the word itself. I guess if he could touch his nose with his
tongue that would be enough for some to mark his as elite.

More to the point, I have to read more Chomsky. My understanding of the world is
so much wider after a good read from such an “elitist”, and I so quickly slide into a
comfortable numb like so many Americans if I forget to wake up to reality by
reading such “elitists”.

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By rico, suave, June 9, 2010 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment

PS. If being on corporate TV is a prerequisite to being “elite”, then I guess he’s not. Then again, neither are 3/4 of the Bildebergers.

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By rico, suave, June 9, 2010 at 2:30 pm Link to this comment

What does “C"MSM mean?

Chomsky has his own entry in Wikipedia. He’s on the faculty of MIT. I Googled “Noam Chomsky” and ten pages popped up. The first page was littered with his accomplishments as a writer, thinker, speechifier, etc. I’d venture to say none of the entries therein describe him as a regular joe out mowing his lawn before he drops by your house for some burgers on the grill and a cold beer.

In my book, that qualifies for elite status. What about yours?

By the way, ditto your post to “nfamous”. Mossad indeed!

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By Night-Gaunt, June 9, 2010 at 1:17 pm Link to this comment

Why should he go out on that shaky limb? It wouldn’t help him or us just you if he did. Good for him.

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By tazdelaney, June 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm Link to this comment

i started reading ‘covert action bulletin’ (later ‘covert action quarterly’) when it was typewritten, xeroxed and stapled together in the late 1970s. i
helped get them into desktop publishing in the late 1980s. throughout the good years there, noam chomsky was the foremost contributing editor.

CAQ was ridiculed by the grey lady of the new york times as “the conspiracy theorist’s baedeker.’ then CAQ won major awards for its investigative journalism into such things as US-israeli backing of south african apartheid (which, after all, they backed til botha’s end in 1993…) then the new york times begrudgingly started calling CAQ ‘the trade journal of the intelligence community,’ (with tongue in cheek.)

CAQ was exposing at least one conspiracy and atrocity per page and was intensively vetted, unlike most any other publication.every page had footnotes and sometimes the footnotes took up more of the page than the text.

these exposes included reportage on the later-admitted tuskegee syphilis experiment of the late 1940s in which some 80 black men were intentionally infected with syphilis and turned loose to spread the disease… also a massive two issue article in 1987-88 about AIDS-as-CBW, CIA involvement with idi amin and the role played by the US in initially empowering pol pot. CAQ was precisely the kind of magazine we now lack. no wonder the govt sent
saboteurs to destroy it inside. they despised CAQ as they now do wikileaks.

noam was always a bit of a dry academic, but… over time i have pretty much lost faith in chomsky as a result of a couple turns of his which strike me as having been gross, inexcusable errors.

to backtrack… in about 1991-2, i read an extensive article in CAQ in which ‘former’ agents of CIA/MI6/DTS spoke about having been involved in
‘false-flag events.’ that is, producing a ‘terrorist’ incident mimicking the way say, the IRA, baader-meinhof, red brigade or an islamic militant group would do it. these said that one key element to these was that they involve no more than 50 in-the-know participants. otherwise, the risk of exposure was too great and a ricochet on such a deed would be disastrous to such agency and its government.

in 1997, in discussion with a couple friends of mine as to what we would do to gain our wish-list if we were the shadow government of america,
(pentagon, NSA, CIA, etc.) what we foresaw was to the letter of what went down on 911.

in 2000, when bush was running for the white house, he said that “after the bible, the American Enterprise Institute has been the biggest influence on my politics.” in 1999, the decades-old rightwing group AEI published its PNAC, the project for a new american century. in that document, the AEI spoke bluntly about the US being in empire phase; that it
needed to achieve “global domination across the spectrum” including the ability to win in conflicts on 4 different fronts across the world. it also
stated that “what is needed is an event like pearl harbor… to galvanize the public behind wars we deem necessary.” i was by no means the only person
to put the two together when 911 happened.

but to my shock and dismay, noam chomsky refused to consider 911 as a false flag event despite the mountains of evidence that such was likely the case. perhaps he was afraid to be ridiculed as ‘conspiracy theorists’ like the others of us have been. you would think that noam should have learned to accept that back in his years at CAQ.

but he could have just kept to himself about it. instead… a group of women in new jersey and new york, many of whom were survivors of men who died from ‘the air is safe’ on 911. they pled with noam to represent their case, including many factual points and many, many points of suspiciousness in the
USG’s official story about what occurred on 911. noam speared them with barbs and ridicule; utterly refusing to help them whatsoever; a ridiculing
snub one would more expect from say glenn beck.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 9, 2010 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

He may have reached the top of his class but he is not “elite” as you term it. He is in fact mostly an outsider which is why you never see him on corporate TV. [He is much better known outside the USA.] Why he is rarely quoted anywhere on the CMSM. Wouldn’t you agree rico, suave? (You ignored me before with this so here goes again.)

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By rico, suave, June 9, 2010 at 10:41 am Link to this comment


How do you know I disagree with Chomsky? I love Chomsky! But for him, one of THE elites of academia, to complain about elitism is a little hypocritical, don’t you think? That’s all I was getting at. Far be from me to deconstruct Chomsky.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 9, 2010 at 10:36 am Link to this comment

Nfamous what world do you come from? It definitely isn’t here with your off the mark observations so far.

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By Tycho Brahe, June 9, 2010 at 6:21 am Link to this comment
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Without banners, drums, and massive crowds of screaming citizens we have become the Master Race. Our destiny is to rule the world. We are the Herren Volk and all others must bow to our might or perish from the earth. We have not yet started gassing the undesirables, although in the past we did not hesitate to sterelize some of them. However,  there are massive piles of dead men, women and children all over the world that give witness to our activities in the past and our plans for the future. Our SS is headquartered on Wall Street and although its members wear two thousand dollar suits, if you look closely, you can see that all of them have caps with the death head made of pure gold. They don’t line people up against the wall and machine gun them but they do kill millions of people through the skillful use of greed and arrogance. Our press functions in a fashion that would make the late Dr. Joseph Gobbles envy what a magnificent provider of lies and distortion we have developed. Our police forces are militarized and only one step removed from the Gestapo. Torture is the only way to the truth. Arbeit Mach Freiheit but there is no work for huge masses of our population who are too poor to be housed in anything except cardboard boxes and are the equivalent of economic untermenchen if not less. Our Supreme Court more and more resembles the Peoples Court of R. Freisler, a rabid Nazi, who sentenced those who conspired to kill Hitler to by hanged with piano wire. The driving force behind these horrors is unregulated capitalism and the remarkable belief that corporations are people. The vast majority of people are not engaged in the destruction of the earth by polluting the water, poisoning the water and creating new forms of life which may ultimately result in world wide famine. The vast majority of people have no say in the construction of the laws under which we are governed. The governmental agencies which are responsible for overseeing the safety of our food , drugs, and environment are under the complete control of the industries which they are charged to supervise. The MMS is a show piece; similar “oversight” can be found in the FDA and the Department of Agriculture. We the people are the enemy and we should by happy and greatful for the manner in which our government sees that our interests are protected in this this best of all possible countries.
Seig Heil!

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By Fat Freddy, June 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment

The real choice, Chomsky makes clear, is not free enterprise versus statism, but state capitalism for (A) the few or (B) the many.

It is clear that Chomsky is part of the problem, and offers no real solution. His “solution” is to use government power to attain what he feels is the best interest of the country. We’ve been having this debate since the enactment of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887. It’s a debate about who should benefit from the government, when the debate should be about whether anybody should benefit from the government. Every thing that the government does helps some people, and hurts others. Everything the government has to give, it has to take from somebody. Libertarians believe that the government should not hurt, or take, from anybody. Today they may take from your neighbor, tomorrow they may take from you. It has happened, and will continue to happen until we begin to limit the power of government.

When Tea Partiers speak of “limited governemnt”, it’s been my experience that what they really mean is that government should limit spending on social programs, except of course, Social Security and Medicare. When Libertarians speak of limited government, we mean limit the power of government. That includes limiting the power of government to wage wars, to close borders, and to force morality on people. It also means limiting the ability of the government to grant special favors to specific, individual corporations and financial institutions such as, tax loopholes, no-bid contracts, subsidies and grants, oh and, of course, bail outs.

Here’s an example of some of the tax loopholes granted to “Big Oil”:

It is true that certain corporations use their “influence” to buy government “favors”. This will always happen. Corporations will always be in the market to buy government power. The best way to limit this activity, is to limit the amount of power that the government has to sell. Anyone who advocates increasing government power in any way is only going to get more of the same; collusion and coercion, at the expense of workers and consumers.

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By Ralph Kramden, June 8, 2010 at 3:42 pm Link to this comment
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“1984” was written by someone who became a fink for MI5. Orwell only focused on the threat by the left. A much better book is Huxley’s “Brave New World” where the language is “newspeak.” Chomsky is a secular saint. Why hasn’t he gotten the Nobel Peace prize instead they give it to that wimp in the white house?

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By Ed Harges, June 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm Link to this comment

I don’t know why Truthdig has moved the Israeli Gaza flotilla murders off its front
page. Passengers, including Americans, are finally getting their side of the story
out, but Truthdig is no longer paying attention.

Here is an Irish-American ex-marine, Ken O’Keefe, who tells what happened on

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By still trying, June 8, 2010 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment

It has been many years since I read Orwell’s 1984. So I was more than a little foggy as to exactly what he meant by “doublethink”. Wikipedia has a very illuminating article under that heading, that is also quite scary, considering the Kafkaesque world we now live in.

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By Night-Gaunt, June 8, 2010 at 11:53 am Link to this comment

However if you recall what happened at the end of “1984” you would not smile. He even at the center of it all finally succummed to the propaganda and believed it all the same when he heard the “news” report about a military victory. The final warning Eric Blair gave to us.

Dr. Chomsky isn’t part of the moneyed and political elites he speaks out against. Not even among the political intellectuals he is blacklisted from. He may be among the greatest of intellectual speakers but don’t confuse them with the elites that run things. They are quite separate rico, suave. You should know and understand that.

However I don’t see Clinton & Obama as “innocent” I see them as corrupt and power hungry as the Republicans. In fact they are part of the same Neo-Liberal party that own Washington, DC. Maybe Carter simply because he has gone out on a limb on may things that have come back to burn him.

The last time I saw Dr. Chomsky on regular TV was on the News Hour back in the 1990’s, it just happened to be the one time they didn’t replay it later that night. I wonder why?

The problem is that since 1980 the Middle Class has been beset by an internal attack to dismantle them lock, stock and barrel. It has succeeded.

So far the Reich wingers here have little to add but much to dissemble. I would like some more meat with that bone, less gelatin.

However the gov’t/public partnerships he spoke of wasn’t the continuing monopolies & oligopolies that get to keep their profits but get bailed out with tax payer money on their failures. However he knows it can’t be done to shift away from more centralized gov’t to a smaller laid back decentralized one too quickly. He was speaking against the present fascist corporate melding we have right now. Where the Exxons and PB’s have sway over our political officials over the rest of us. That is what he meant.

The death toll of Iraq from 1990 onward is closer to 3 million + and counting.

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By eso, June 8, 2010 at 11:46 am Link to this comment
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I liked reading the review, and apparently agree with much of Chomsky’s trend of thought. I try to bolster my ad hominem arguments by being a not-voter. If you not-vote, you may be boarding a slow train, but one that will not fall off the bridge.

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By Anarcissie, June 8, 2010 at 10:57 am Link to this comment

Percy Dovetonsil, June 7 at 9:27 pm:
‘Anyone ever notice that Orwell’s definition of Doublethink listed above is •identical• to John Keats’s idea of negative capability?  Interesting that the one has been cited so approvingly over the years as a sign of intellectual maturity.’

That’s a very interesting observation; the sort of thing that keeps me reading stuff in blogs in spite of all the lengthy ranting.

It occurred to me many years ago the Doublethink—the ability to simultaneously maintain two or more contradictory or even world-views—was an extremely valuable talent in terms of survival, and it would be strongly selected for once it appeared.  That is because our knowledge is always incomplete.  Imagine a monkey tripping through the woods; a barely perceived movement up ahead could be a predator, a meal, a possible mate, an ally, an enemy.  Each of these must be dealt with differently.  The monkey does not have time to reason out the most probable interpretation of phenomena; instead, he constructs several contradictory world-views to account for each one.  When more evidence appears, he can act immediately.  If, instead, he had guessed on bananas when the truth was tiger, he would become tiger’s lunch long before he could reconstruct the banana-worldview into the tiger-worldview. 

So I think Doublethink is crucial to survival.  In addition, the ability to construct many versions of the world enables us to lie effectively, both to others and ourselves, which, if it is not a necessity, certainly seems to be a pleasurable hobby.

To bring this back to Uncle Noam, I think many of the seemingly social-democratic notions are a concession to the passionate attachment of the majority to authoritarianism; he does not hope for the autonomous, anarchistic solutions he might prefer.  He is Doublethinking.  No wonder he seems sad; it is a laborious task and a dreary prospect.

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By "G"utless "W"itless Hitler, June 8, 2010 at 8:11 am Link to this comment

There once was a man who drove a flying bus.  His job was very important and he knew he was special because not just anyone could drive a flying bus.  So respected was the flying bus driver that billionaires invited him to join their club in the clouds.  From his new club, the flying bus driver enjoyed looking down on the common people with his billionaire buddies.  The billionaires greatly respected the flying bus driver for the fact the he understood and accepted the order of things—this they repeated many times—and they assured him that because of this understanding and acceptance he would be given the keys to the kingdom. . . someday.  The flying bus driver was very pleased with the way things had turned out and gladly consented to driving his new billionaire buddies to wherever they wanted to go.  And later, because of his understanding and acceptance of the order of things, the flying bus driver was not the least bit troubled when the CEO of the busline he flew for forced him to take a 20% pay cut and work longer hours.  After all, the CEO knew what was best, and besides, he would be a billionaire soon enough. . .

This has been an American dream.

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By Henry Pelifian, June 8, 2010 at 7:51 am Link to this comment

Mr. Chomsky has identified a major gap and disconnect between the needs and requirements of the American people in concert with the U.S. Constitution and the “elites” on each side of the political spectrum which are vying for the support not of the American people who they only try to placate, often through mangled legislation, but of influential corporations and educational institutions which receive collectively hundreds of billions of dollars directly or indirectly through favorable tax legislation.  Of course, these actions benefit the influential groups exponentially more than the American people are benefited. 

Since World War II there has emerged American Mandarins who have misled the country in their own interest and damaged the economy and the freedoms of all Americans.  It is the eternal struggle over how people are governed.  The Constitution itself appears to be sidelined and open to such interpretation that even the Bill of Rights is slowly but surely being negated.

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By omop, June 8, 2010 at 6:20 am Link to this comment

Its inevitable that human beings keep doing what was done in the past by other
human beings. Bill Shakespear said it best, “the world is a stage and us guys
have a ceratin amount of time to do our thing”.

While the Chomskys keep warning us about whats ahead no one has come up
with the ultimate solution to our predicament.

A few realities for pondering; the USA of A is celebrating its longest war ever in
Afghanistan; the Israelis are still using military hardware in killing its neighbors;
criticism of Israel is still a no-no; 300 million americans are out some $700+
billion dollars that Wall Street received from the Bush Co; and some 30 million of
US are still un-employed.

Feel free to add. Why just let the Chomskys live in their own illusions?

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By Fat Freddy, June 8, 2010 at 4:37 am Link to this comment

After reading the article, I believe that Right Libertarians can agree with much of Chomsky’s assessment of the situation. The difference, of course, would be the solution.

Let’s start with his proposal for public/private partnerships to build a clean energy industry. It sounds very noble. But yet, in his previous paragraph, he slams the government for the public/private partnerships that created much of the communications and fossil fuel energy industries. Hmmm? The government helped create Exxon, AT&T, Verizon (formerly Bell Atlantic), and Comcast, to name a few. What makes him believe that a company created by the government for clean energy would not eventually become the same type of monopolistic giant as say, Comcast? What makes him believe that a clean energy monopoly would not behave the same as a communications monopoly? His argument is non sequitur. All public/private partnerships have resulted in monopolistic giants. The intent is irrelevant. When ATT&T was formed, it was believed, at the time, that providing telephone service to Americans was a “good” thing. Chomsky himself alludes to the fact that it is monopolistic giants that create distortions in, and manipulate the free market. Something I agree with. So, creating “new” monopolies, is not going to solve anything, it may actually, make things worse. Sorry Noam, strike one.

There’s more, but a I have to go to work.

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By still trying, June 8, 2010 at 4:17 am Link to this comment
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Chomsky’s sad smile at the end says it all. Those deeply committed to truth will continue to try to communicate it, in spite of all evidence that very few are listening. The ignorance of the population enables those who would exploit them. The awakening of real conscience should begin early in life, and be the over-riding goal of our educational system, and every parent. How far we are from this simple understanding. Unfortunately it is not possible to repair our world without this basis.

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By P. T., June 8, 2010 at 1:41 am Link to this comment


If you disagree with Noam Chomsky, let us know how.  Your being a smart ass is not useful.  What do you disagree with and why?  Do you even know?

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By Xntrk, June 7, 2010 at 10:59 pm Link to this comment

John Ellis, “...Did you notice how the author’s words were all about Clinton’s words?  Not a word about deeds, as if words could be proved true with something other than deeds.”

That observation is true of most, if not all, the ‘Great Leaders’ of the past 50 years, including those in Europe, and Asia. I’ll include many of the African and other [both North and South] American leaders also, but some of them stand out as men of principle, and most of those spent their lives in prison, or were murdered outright.

Only Fidel survived the attempts against his life and Revolution, and retained power. Of course, like Chomsky he is an intellectual elite who out-thinks his opponents even at 83. I still chuckle at the outrage when we figured out who was included among the Mariel Boat People. Oh, that we could ship our malcontents off to an enemy that is waiting for them with open arms. Think of the great propaganda machine that stuttered and choked when it realized Fidel was emptying his prisons and asylums at our expense.

Does anyone remember Patrice Lumumba and the tragedy of Africa since his assassination? Another great success of the CIA and the Colonial Governments who went back to destroying the land and poisoning the environment to fatten their bank accounts. Of course, those in charge of ‘rape and pillage’ have learned to cloak their actions behind the chimera of the latest puppet who thinks he is running the show.

A lot like our current President if you think about it. Good intentions running of his tongue in an unstoppable flood. But, somehow the Bankers and the Military always get in the way of actions. Too important to kill a bunch of un-people, or steal the wealth of 3rd World Nations.

The article is undeniably relating the history of our era. And if there is any hope at all, it probably lurks in the survival of a few good people who manage to nurture the good and get rid of the chaff. Kind of like a Canticle for Liebowitz, one of them will leave a grocery list laying around and generate a whole new civilization based on an incomprehensible relic.

At seventy-three, I find it hard to be optimistic about the fate of the ignorant elite and wanna-be elite of the Empire and its vassals.

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By Larry Piltz, June 7, 2010 at 10:19 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“To me, at this point in time, you’re Winston Smith.”

I will never forget his reaction.

He just looked back at me.”

Way to go, Branfman. You depressed Chomsky. You cad.

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By Tesla, June 7, 2010 at 8:37 pm Link to this comment

suave rico do you have a point to make? Perhaps you
would care define “elite” in a context of your
choosing, but please be specific because to borrow a
paraphrased quote from the movie Princess Bride ” I
dawn thin it means wot you thin it means”.

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By MeHere, June 7, 2010 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment

The contrition from former government people is extremely irritating. They should
address it to their god if they believe in one. Who really benefits from it at this
point?  Their obligation to us was in the kind of judgement and responsibility they
exercised when they were performing their job. They had all the resources to get
the best advice and information they needed.  If someone like B. Clinton, that
eternal glutton for appreciation, wants to do something for us now, he should be
talking about current -not past- government policy-making. According to him,
now he has better insight.  Who knows, the Clinton woman may do a similar act of contrition a few years from now. Are we ever going to be rid of the Clintons?  Can’t they go and play in their presidential library?

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By gerard, June 7, 2010 at 5:41 pm Link to this comment

“The real choice, Chomsky makes clear, is not free enterprise versus statism, but state capitalism for (A) the few or (B) the many. The latter would include breaking up the banks, a focus on job creation and safety net expansion where needed, single-payer health insurance, higher taxes on the wealthy, far lower military spending, public members on corporate boards, greater employee workplace control and, above all, a new public-private partnership to see America become a leader in a clean energy economic revolution.”
  There we have it in a nutshell.  Take a bite out of any piece that you feel you can possibly influence, or a piece you feel absolutely must be addressed.  Search out others working for a similar cause, join them, give them support.  Little by little becomes larger and larger.  Otherwise, what can you say to your kids and grandkids when they ask you:  “What did you do to help reclaim the United States of America and make the world a better place?”

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By Fat Freddy, June 7, 2010 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment

Just started reading the article, but it’s good to see that Right Libertarians and Left Libertarians can at least agree that farm subsidies should be eliminated.

I’ll finish reading now, and see where we disagree.

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By Money is funny, June 7, 2010 at 5:35 pm Link to this comment

I don’t know if I could handle his level of awareness constantly. I have to watch a dog flushing a toilet 5 times just to get through the day sometimes. Many people fear that acknowledging these things will create hatred towards us, but it seems to me that most people around the world are frustrated at the way that we ignore our governments behavior.

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By Percy Dovetonsil, June 7, 2010 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anyone ever notice that Orwell’s definition of Doublethink listed above is •identical• to
John Keats’s idea of negative capability?  Interesting that the one has been cited so
approvingly over the years as a sign of intellectual maturity.

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By rico, suave, June 7, 2010 at 5:27 pm Link to this comment


PS- Hang around TD long enough and you’ll see that ad hominem is about all the vast majority of posters have in their arsenal.

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By tumblingweed, June 7, 2010 at 2:50 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I count myself one of Noam Chomsky’s greatest admirers. You, however, have put your finger on the core dilemma…the truth is there, to absorb and appreciate, but the people who need to read his work and understand what he says are not doing so. Even among educated people he is too often the punchline of jokes, someone we have been encouraged to dismiss, however affectionately.  I don’t see much likelihood that large numbers of us are going to wake up one morning, ripe for epiphany and recognize his wisdom. Many years ago, I wrote him a letter, full of despair, and received quite a long and encouraging response.  I tried to take it on faith that there is hope if Noam Chomsky believes there is hope, but when I look around and take stock of the results of humankind’s depredations in the relatively short time we have been masters of the universe, styling ourselves the incarnation of the godhead and “conquering” as much of nature as we can wrap our far too clever minds around, I am more prone to cynicism and sorrow.  Despite Chomsky’s best efforts, I think things are going to get much, much worse.

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By skulz fontaine, June 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm Link to this comment

The “unpeople.” That’s a good one. Unpeople of our world UNITE! Time to throw
off the shackles of bondage placed there by ‘people’.

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By rico, suave, June 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment


Noam Chomsky is one of the elite. If you think being an elite is a bad thing and that my stating the fact is a slam against him, that’s your problem.

I have no problems with elites or elitism. I was merely smiling at one elitist warning us about elitism.

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By Peter Knopfler, June 7, 2010 at 10:28 am Link to this comment

Fred Baby that is a great 4 pages where truth ca be found, THANK YOU FRED. You took the words right out of my mind and put the truth to paper, I read it 3 times taking notes, Fred reminded me of what I had fogotten. Regan nthe byutcher of Nicaragua, Clinton Butcher of Haiti, and they send this idiot to help along with the other fool G.Bush totaly F__KED the Haitians, 35000 rapes who cares This past earthquake 3000,000 dead and only 700 miles from miami, that was done on purpoe first responder Israel& China I can`t thankyou enough dear FRED BRANFMAN. I conly have love for Noam Chomsky, not always agre with him, yet how can you not love Him and the late Howard Zinn Daniel Ellesberg!

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By fwdpost, June 7, 2010 at 9:24 am Link to this comment

Clinton is a pawn of the IMF and World Bank. He is so proud that he cut money to children on welfare and sent our factories overseas. He is a proven liar and after impeachment, he should have gone to jail.

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By Leefeller, June 7, 2010 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

Yeah! I had mine f…. everyone else! Now all I got to do is get it back!

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By EssentialDissent, June 7, 2010 at 7:47 am Link to this comment

@rico: Purely ad hominem attacks are generally a sign that the attacker lacks any substantive arguments, and an admission that their adversary is right. If you could refute Chomsky’s facts and/or logic, you would. But since you can’t, you attack him personally.

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By amex, June 7, 2010 at 6:37 am Link to this comment

Excellent Mr. Branfman,

Now how does one go about waking up the 98% or so of the ignorant sheep walking around out there.

I have lived with many other nationalities and there is a strong understanding of how UN-neighborly the US is in the world hood.

When I offered a small token opinion on the subject of the US being a good neighbor, on facebook, the response was scary - to say the least!  I felt as if those sheep would have stampeded me to death for even offering up an idea.

The USA scares the shit out of me.  There are 300 million people moving towards radical right wingness and there are - what 15 or so aircraft carriers in their name?

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By balkas, June 7, 2010 at 6:22 am Link to this comment

Mns of people over the last 8 k yrs have seen and stated that the ruling class is dishonest, brutal, incivil, etc.

Yes, it is this class of people which have lead us to wars, hatred for one another; imposing all kinds of lawlessness upon us.

Chomsky may have expressed the same fact in own words, but mns take credit for it.
But a ‘jew’ [means cultist] must praise another ‘jew’ who is for robbing pals of their lands and barring their return to their homes.tnx

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By rico, suave, June 7, 2010 at 5:46 am Link to this comment

That’s rich! Good old salt of the earth, tobacco chewin’, dirt farmin’, paycheck-to-paycheck sweatin’ Noam Chomsky warning about elites!

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By Commune115, June 7, 2010 at 2:11 am Link to this comment

Maybe Bill should pass on some advice to Hillary and Obama since they are simply continuing the same, brutal policies as seen in Honduras, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan etc.

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