Criticism of Noam Chomsky Talk

Noam Chomsky Speech This is old early 2019. I’ve had it stowed away in a section called comments and exchanges that no one has probably ever read.


The content of Chomsky’s speech consisted of comparing the rise of right-wing ultra nationalism of today to the rise of fascism prior to WWII while emphasizing that the two are incomparable in degree.  He mentions how progressives are a counter to ultra-nationalism and expresses his opinion of the Green New Deal.   

My Comment: What’s interesting is Bernie Sanders who Chomsky describes as the counter to ultra-nationalism is a key driver of ultra-nationalism. The over emphasis of race, gender, and sexual inequality is largely responsible for the growing popularity of ultranationalist parties and candidates. Sander’s commented in 2016, that “white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor”, which offends since most people who are poor in the United States are white. If you’re white and you’re poor, do you support the guy and the party who doesn’t acknowledge your existence, or do you vote for the other guy who tells you he’s going to make things better for you based on an ultra-nationalist line of reasoning? Does the poor white man vote for the candidate or party that has made race inequality a dominant point of the platform, where everything that can be interpreted as racism is defined as such, and race is pandered to at the neglect of more relevant class-based interests? What are you going to legislate to address the issue, it is already illegal to discriminate based on race and it is socially unacceptable. Yet race is probably talked about as much today as it was during civil rights, even though a black person born to money is born to advantage whereas a white person born without money is born to disadvantage. To remind you, this comment is arguing that so called progressives like Bernie Sanders mentioned by Chomsky are a driving force behind ultra nationalist popularity.

Today on my way home from a job NPR was reporting on women’s soccer, stating the woman’s championship team is paid about 25% less than a men’s championship team and implying from what I heard that this is a gender issue. I surmise the difference in revenue between what men’s soccer generates and what woman’s soccer generates is probably greater than 25%, meaning despite the woman’s team being paid less than the men’s team in overall dollars, the men are probably underpaid in proportion to overall revenue. It is these kinds of issues, the senseless accusations of sexual harassment over comments that used to be called compliments, that reduces the credibility of progressives. Credibility that should be reduced because these candidate’s motivation is a great distance away from their rhetoric.

The third aspect of the progressive wedge is the over emphasis of LGBT discrimination, which is less about equality and tolerance and more about promotion. There are children thinking about their gender identity, and certainly some weighing the value of gay orientation based on the attention and the protection it may provide. I have no issue with what people choose to do that doesn’t impact the liberty of others, and no one should, but when a great amount of attention is directed at a problem (intolerance to sexual preference), and the prevalence of true incidents is not great, people recognize the disparity and it compromises the credibility of the candidate and party.

Progressives are not a counter to the rise of ultra-nationalism, they are the driver, and I speculate that a great number of people who vote for Trump, do so solely because they hate the racist, feminist, LGBT prioritizing platform of progressives. The counter to ultra-nationalism is the perceived driving force which goes beyond the issues I’ve raised, and race being much more substantial than the second two. What is interesting about it is, typically you would increase promotion of the counter, but the problem is the counter promotes the thing it is promoted to counter. And whether it’s ultra-nationalism or progressivism, neither addresses the general social, economic, or political issues that exist.  Progressives rhetorically, but not substantively or feasibly.  

He mentions the democrats may have given Trump the 2020 election with their focus on Russian collusion allegations, something I agree with and wrote a few months ago, a point of concurrence.  

I don’t understand the point of comparing the rise of fascism to the rise of ultra-nationalism while emphasizing the ideologies are mildly similar but far from the same. I guess it is a good way to waste 10 minutes in an hour long talk and promote the term ultra-nationalism.

What are the functioning democracies? Which states function as democracies?  As in the interests represented through the state reflects the will and interest of the public? 

Very good point in regard to the CEO of JP Morgan, he can take an ethical stance on investment in fossil fuel which will lead to his replacement, or he can continue JP Morgan’s investment in fossil fuels. Either way, JP Morgan is going to continue investing in fossil fuels.

I think Chomsky overestimates the significance of Anti-Ballistic Missiles treaty. The only explanation I read I’m almost embarrassed to express because of how obviously incorrect it is. The reasoning stated if one power was close to a 100% efficient anti-ballistic missile system the other side may launch a preemptive strike, rather than lose their deterrent capacity. I’m sure Chomsky probably has another reason, but this reason for an ABM treaty is wrong because technological advances could render the systems useless, meaning the loss of the deterrent capacity due to a break-through in ABM, is at worst a technological problem which will be overcome. And they did. The US has ABM systems but they are useless because of the cost of defense verses the cost of attacking. It’s a hat on a hat, and the attacking side can deploy more warheads, some of which can be conventional warheads not nuclear as decoys, and enough nuclear warheads will get through. While I don’t think a first strike caused by developing an ABM system is realistic and neither did the Soviet Union, the idea was proposed by McNamara. If he proposed the idea, he proposed it because in considering ABM systems, first strike is something he would at least consider discussing with a president or recommending it if the Soviet Union would have been near developing a 100% effective ABM system.

Chomsky is disingenuous or plain wrong in his assertion about the GND that the disagreement is it should be a little different here or there.  That it’s doable.  He doesn’t cite the legislation; he cites an economist who has done what?  Accounted for the cost of replacing fossil fuel generated energy with renewable energy?  The measurement of costs, anticipated gains made through construction and permanent jobs in the expansion of a new industry.  Measures of anticipated indirect benefits of public investment in the economy?  It is whatever anyone says it is, because you can accomplish the goals listed in the bill on paper however you want to.  

With what political will?  This is the main argument against a GND that no one brings up.  You don’t’ pile the mission statement of 30 bills into a single piece of legislation and try to pass it.  As I wrote about in an article on Bernie Sanders GND, some items will be easier to pass than other and some may serve interests that will aid in their passage.  Yet these interests that benefit from 1 item might be averse to the other 29, and in this, the 1 item you could pass, is locked in a cell with 29 others that you can’t.  Some of these items in the GND have nothing to do with climate change.        

In what way is the Green New Deal a remarkable accomplishment?  The sources I’ve read about the feasibility and economic effect of something similar to GND, are little more than measuring energy demand and comparing the cost of energy production from renewable sources, which says nothing to most challenging aspect of it which is implementation.  Once we’re past this, the problem of the GND is there is no GND. I’m so tired of writing this but the GND is a list of problems, goals, and the creation of a select committee to work on achieving those goals along very unspecific guidelines. I saw a headline that read “We need to fund the green new deal”. There is no GND to fund, the only appropriation is to fund the research of a select committee. These are indisputable facts that somehow the people of this country fail to acknowledge. Republicans don’t mention it because it makes more sense to perpetuate the myth and equate the GND with socialism, the GND with progressives, and socialism with totalitarianism and the failed attempts at socialism undermined by US and other western interference. (Previous sentence of associations means in short, that the republicans see the GND as something that is more valuable to call socialism than it is to expose as being nothing, although I did hear at least one republican whose name I don’t remember stating essentially that, that it is nothing.)

NOTE: This speech and most of my comment was written prior to Sander’s GND, which while still vague in many aspects, does explain how grid energy infrastructure will be placed under the Power Marketing Administrations, and fossil fuel power generation will be regulated out of existence, which is something I support, but as these Green New Deals go, it represents only one of the stated goals. 

Chomsky continues to reinforce the non-impactful efforts of activists who comprise most of his acolytes by stating climate change being at the forefront of discussion is a tremendous change. Climate change has been at the forefront of discussion. Obama campaigned on climate change. It is the proliferation of information related to climate change and the impact of climate change which has it at the forefront of discussion, which takes place outside of activist circles. He makes this point to stroke his base probably knowing full well he’s full of shit. Funny part about that, I paused the video just prior to the applause after he said “that shows you the type of things that can be done” while I wrote the comment. Which is to say the applause reinforced my conclusion that “he makes this point to stroke his base”. You don’t know it happened like that but I do so I thought I would share my personal affirmation.

Additional commentary: It’s almost embarrassing to have missed this, actually the fact I wrote that reveals it is, but I implied in the comment that the comparison between the fascist regimes of the 21st century and the alt-right ultra-nationalists of today served no purpose, and was an intentional waste of time.  

I imagined some complacency for a man who has been doing something for so long, and preaching to an audience that usually misses many of the points he makes judging by some of the questions during Q&A portions of talks I’ve seen.  Despite his best efforts to inform, and his advice about organizing, and still saying in 2019 that a sit in strike is one step away from a revolution, nothing has changed.  We can argue about the significance of social changes, and I’m not saying woman’s suffrage and civil rights were insignificant, but neither affected the power structure.  Women being included in the illusion of a representative government doesn’t compromise the interest of industry.  Civil rights didn’t compromise any businesses interests either, being a necessary social progression to preserve order, which is good for business.  Power is where it has always been, beyond the reach of the common people, whose efforts are under rewarded and maintained through the manipulation of their values.  I imagined he made those comparisons (ultra-nationalism and fascism) while stating they weren’t really comparable to run the clock and get back to something more interesting.  

In the sorry job of editing I’m doing for my book, this talk was brought back to my attention.  What are the purposes of comparing groups whose similarities are so far apart in terms of degree, that it renders the subjects incomparable?  The leaders of these ultranationalist countries are not even using violence to impose their ideologies or maintain power, which is a significant distinction from the fascist regimes he’s making comparisons to.  Israel is not the exception of ultra-nationalists not using violence, since violence against the Palestinians and the cause of Israeli expansion has been going on for over 60 years, and what is being called ultra-nationalism represented in the regimes of today, are less than a decade old.  Even Sisi in Egypt is probably no more repressive than Mubarak, and unlike the fascists of the 20th century, Egypt isn’t invading anyone and is in the sphere of US subordinate states.    

What purposes does this serve?  Chomsky protects himself by stating on more than 1 occasion the two are not comparable.  Then why compare them?  Almost immediately after saying they’re not even comparable, he contradicts the sentiment by quoting Mark Twain, saying “history doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes”, going on to say “there are too many similarities”.  He fails to qualify the assertion of similarities with any direct comparisons between the ideologies or actions of regimes today to the regimes he mentions. 

The comparison causes his audience (which includes more than those who are in attendance, this video which is probably not the only upload of it on the internet received over 200,000 views) to associate the fascist regimes he mentions, with the administrations of right wing elected leaders of today.  It doesn’t matter that the two are incomparable and Chomsky points that out, he has already made the association between them, meaning the value of one is affected by the value of the other.  Trump supporters are not only bad for what they believe or what the radical left says they believe, they’ve been made worse because they share unspecified similarities with Nazis.  Although as Chomsky says it’s nothing near what those 20th century regimes were, the “too many similarities” can be perceived as something that can grow in degree over time.  The comparison, introduces the possibility of a negative outcome, (growth of ultra-nationalism towards fascism), and uncertainty, which are the ingredients of fear.  

As a result of this kind of propaganda, you have the emergence of groups like Antifa, who think they’re the last line of defense before some white national socialist party captures the white house and congress, dismisses the supreme court and rewrites the constitution.  Interestingly enough, while Trump supporters or even the patriot types will defend themselves when attacked, Antifa is intent on attacking people for their cause against fascism.  There are videos and reports of the group beating up veterans, and attacking people for their presumed political beliefs.  This is much more similar to fascist by way of comparison of the tactics than the ultranationalist regimes they claim to oppose: the use of force to impose your ideology on others.  

It is interesting that Chomsky’s efforts to inspire people to action against ultranationalism, is likely contributing to grassroots fascism, that claims to be against itself.  I mentioned elsewhere the example at Berkeley where leftist protestors attempted to prevent a speaker from speaking and her audience from gaining access to the venue.  Am I doing what Chomsky is trying to do by conflating Antifa with fascism?  No, because I’m not alluding to “too many ” ideological similarities without mentioning any examples, I’m making a direct and observable comparison of behavior, which is the use of violence to impose your ideology on others.  That is something that the fascists of the 20th century did, and that is something Antif does and expresses interest in doing.  

This would be a good experiment for Seq Comp, to measure the effectiveness of this propaganda.  I define propaganda as any information with a bias which means the information by nature is an effort to manipulate value.  I have a true bias (truth over everything), it represents my highest value because I believe truth is essential to communication, understanding and correcting problems, and is required for the liberation of the species, an endeavor that has value in the liberation of myself, communicatively as well as circumstantially, and value in the pride of the accomplishment or progress towards the accomplishment.  The purpose of propaganda is inherent in the bias, the purpose of the material is creating the same value of the subject that you have of the subject through the facts and reasoning provided.  This could be measured.  It would be interesting to have a 1000 people of different backgrounds and political affiliations watch the first 11 minutes of the talk, and ask questions about how that information influenced their opinion of ultra-nationalist states and members.  An explanation of ultra-nationalists as Chomsky intended the word, followed by a brief survey.  They watch the video, and take the survey again but are also asked questions requiring a written response, to gauge how likely they believe the ultra-nationalist wave of states could evolve into anything comparable to the 20th century fascists?  Measure the change in value and measure the answers to questions like the perceived probability of the rise of fascism.  I anticipate, the propaganda would be most effective in persuading those who have a moderate or low opinion of ultranationalists, and probably less effective in persuading those who have a positive opinion of those who the term identifies.  

On his last point, although correct about the point of Russian interference not playing a significant role in influencing public opinion or the elections, his example of Israel interfering in US elections is not an example of that.  Netanyahu meeting with congress to criticize the policy of the president doesn’t have an impact on elections, it has an impact on policy.

I anticipate Chomsky would probably attempt to undermine my points by reducing this criticism to an assertion that he is responsible for the formation of extremist groups like Antifa, to repel it away as an exaggeration.  To what extent this group is influenced by Chomsky I don’t know, although I imagine at least some members are familiar with some of his work.  That is not the point.  The point is that Chomsky made comparisons between two groups, without providing any substantive examples of the similarities, and nothing that improves the understanding of either group through the comparison.  The only purpose this serves is to influence the value of one by comparing it to the other.  Whether this is a conscious intent only he knows, but it will accomplish those purposes.  The assertion is Chomsky is manipulating value through association, not allowing substance to influence value through the merit of the substance as it relates to an individual’s existing values.  

The purposes are probably perceived as justifying the means, where although value may be affected, the effect of the propaganda is good because it inspires people (some through fear) to become more active civically.  I diverge from this line of reasoning because I think it contributes to false perceptions that obstruct communication and cause poor prioritization in strategy for addressing issues of popular importance.  Outside of this example, the idea that deception or misleading people is justified by the ends of gaining or amplifying a person’s willingness to participate to advance the causes of a group, is a common issue with propagandists who do most of the thinking for people in this country.  

After this criticism of Chomsky, you may be surprised to discover that I think Noam Chomsky is one of the greatest human beings who has ever lived.  He is a store of knowledge and understanding of history, public policy, public relations, as well as other subjects that is unrivaled in breadth and depth by any other organic reservoir of intelligence.  Which doesn’t mean everything he says is correct, but he can be trusted as a credible source of facts even if you draw different conclusions from those facts, or recognize when he’s using his knowledge to change people’s value of something based on association and not on substance.  

Discovering Chomsky was key to my intellectual development, not based on the little bit of his material I read, or lectures and interviews I heard from him, but in the material and people he brought up.  A few examples are represented in this book.  I only know of Robert A. McGuire’s research because Chomsky mentioned him, which caused me to read his paper that summarized the key findings of his research, which then led me to Charles Beard, other articles, and Chomsky brought up the constitutional debates which I began reading.  All of this contributed to my understanding of the intents this country emerged from.  The same is true of Thomas Ferguson who was referenced by Chomsky, as well as others like Lippmann, Dewey, and Bernays.  I read the Occupation of the Philippines by Blount because I was skeptical about statements he made concerning the occupation.  Those statements relating to the order by Jacob H Smith who commanded occupying forces in the Philippines near the beginning of the 20th century to “kill everyone over the age of 10”.  

Chomsky was key in directing me to sources early on in my awakening.  In the last 4 years or so, outside of this referenced talk, I may have viewed one interview, or on one occasion I went to his website to find a quote from his material.  He isn’t involved in research that interests me, and his role as it relates to the general public is that of an analyst and interpreter of information.  I think for myself, and I have pretty much the same access to information with the exception of some academic journals, so I don’t keep up on what he’s saying or doing unless he’s on Democracy Now.  

If I had an interest in some area of public policy history, foreign or domestic, in the last 60 years, the first book I would read is a book by Chomsky on the subject because I know he is going to supply information from credible sources, and include and address popular misconceptions or opposing conclusions, which positions me to weigh the evidence and the assembly of that evidence, and decide what I believe is true, moral, efficient, agreeable, and what interests it serves or is trying to serve.  

Despite his reliability as a source of information, I imagine there is probably more that I disagree with, than I agree with him about, although some of it may speak to different interests.  I don’t share his enthusiasm for progressive democrats.  I recognize they are disingenuous, knowing better than what they sell to the public, paid public spokesman for the discontent of the public, while overemphasizing prejudice, and unable to accomplish anything meaningful for the public.  I think Chomsky recognizes the election of the rhetoric as some material evidence of what him and activists have contributed to.  He has an interest in the credibility of, and the enthusiasm in progressive politicians, which potentially compromises his ability to judge between the rhetoric, and what someone like Bernie Sanders has accomplished in 30 years.  This guy is a politician, and he will say whatever it takes to get elected, and I don’t like people creating disappointment for others for their own gain, and worse yet, deceiving people into thinking someone is going to solve their problems when their problems are not addressed in his plans, and those plans he cannot get through congress.  Through Chomsky’s endorsement of these figures, I associate their positions on other matters with his which adds to the presumed differences.  

As to the contradiction where he is manipulating value by associating facism with the modern right, without providing a basis for similarities, this incident does not compromise the quality facts and interpretations he has provided over the years and I believe I understand his motivation if it were done with conscious intent.  It is the same as the motivation of other activist types where the manipulation of value is done intent on inspiring people to action.  The problem is it fuels passion without laying the foundation of understanding to guide that passion towards practical aims.     

I contacted Noam Chomsky to inform him of this criticism and this was his response, followed by my conclusion.  

Noam Chomsky

Thanks for your thoughts

Sanders may have occasionally misspoken, but it’s not true that he overemphasizes race, gender, and sexual inequality.

I agree with historian of fascism Robert Paxton and the many others who think it is worthwhile to consider the echoes of the 30s today, while emphasizing the crucial differences, as I did.

My Conclusion: Chomsky doesn’t address the major sources of criticism related to his statements about the GND, my assessment of what an economist favorable to the GND is actually measuring, and most importantly, why he would tell an audience that ultra-nationalism shares “many similarities” with fascism without providing the basis for the statement. That is the core of the criticism.

He says that Bernie Sanders may have misspoke in reference to white people don’t know what it’s like to be poor, to live in ghettos, or to be harassed by the police. He misspoke because it resulted in criticism, otherwise, if there was a positive response, he would have made more statements like that. Ironically, the statement was in response to his “racial blind spots”, where Sanders is doing the classical liberal I’m not racist, and I’ll prove it by telling you white people are racist, because they don’t know what black people go through. It reveals his own prejudice against white people, and is significant because it reveals he has racial priorities. Sanders in effect doubled down on the statement the next day saying he meant to say that traditionally when you’re talking about ghettos you’re talking about African American communities, and white people don’t know what kind of pressure they’re under. It didn’t impact his campaign much, because white Sanders supporters are among those who overemphasize racial discrimination, those leftist types who typically have never been poor, or in a ghetto, who think every white person comes from where they come from, because these are the only people they’ve been exposed to.  

I don’t have a concise way to summarize the overemphasis or racial discrimination, although there are some examples in this book, and I do have an idea for research to quantify the assertion. For now, he says Sanders doesn’t overemphasize racial discrimination, and I say it is overemphasized not only by Sanders, but in this country as a whole.

He mentions Robert Paxton and others to qualify the similarities between ultra-nationalism and fascism, and I don’t deny that there is probably some loose comparative basis, although I would guess most of the comparisons used between ultra-nationalists and fascists, could probably be made between ultra-nationalists and other administrations in US history. My point isn’t that there is no comparative basis between fascists and ultra-nationalists, as a creative mind can draw similarities between even unlike groups. My point is, that these similarities were invoked in a talk by a person who is regarded by many on the left as foremost authority on political subjects, without citing any examples of these similarities. Many people are not going to read Robert Paxton, and making the claim to this audience causes the audience to associate ultra-nationalists with fascism, and this substancelessly changes their value.  It is a substanceless change of value because it associates the modern right with fascists without any explanation to justify the association.  

Without understanding Seq Comp, it is difficult to infer the reason and the significance of comparing two unlike things as similar without example.  In recognition of the mind assigning value to the object ultranationalist and the mind assigning value to the object facist, an association with one another causes the value of one to influence the value of the other depending on the description of the association.  It’s clear, whether conscious intent or not, the only purpose of comparing two unlike things for similarities without example or explanation, is to baselessly transfer value through association.  To put it another way, it causes a person to like something more or less absent the changing of understanding.