Why do we love Noam Chomsky? He's been a hero of mine for years. He had one of the biggest influences on my intellectual and moral development. As a young man of 19, I read "The Political Economy of Human Rights, volumes I & 2?" and it changed my life. Here was a man exposing the biggest crimes against humanity fearlessly. A man of courage (though he calls himself a coward for choosing the pen over the sword), integrity and values that I deeply believed in and shared.
There's a good reason Chomsky is one of the single most cited scholars in human history. He takes the burden of proof extremely seriously. Read ANY Chomsky book and stand amazed at the massive and meticulous bibliographies that prove the veracity of his writings. This is a man that takes the burden of proof on authority very seriously and backs his authority with sound morals.
Who would I be now if I'd never read "The Political Economy of Human Rights, volumes I & 2?" Reading those books was incredibly painful and incredibly awakening. It was like an intellectual initiation, like walking through fire. The details of the crimes the government commits in your name (and with your tax dollars), the scale of them... too heartbreaking to imagine. It was at once soul crushing and liberating. A fire of rage lit up inside of me against injustice and immorality, and depression at seeing the corruptibility of man, but then there was budding a self-confidence too. Now that I knew about this evil, I was empowered to try to stop it. Knowledge is power, and it is a truism that in our society Power's control lies in manipulating what people know. Without knowledge, people have no way to stop evil, let alone know it is happening.
The basic premise of all Chomsky's writing is that "any form of authority and domination has a burden of proof to bear and demonstrate that it is legitimate no matter what it is."
Question. Power. Make it prove its utility to society. One of the authorities Chomsky questions the most is the media. In A Propaganda Model Chomsky explains how propaganda works in a free society, and how to engage in "intellectual self-defense" so that you're intellectual sovereignty isn't compromised. This is a critical component of Power's control over society--shaping what people believe. In a free society people shouldn't have to question whether the news they consume is tainted by propaganda. They shouldn't have to worry that corrupt media will mislead the public into believing in fake Iraqi WMDs so that their government can commit war crimes in their name and with their tax dollars.
Understanding the role the media plays in shaping public opinion and defining our understanding of the world around us is critical to your intellectual sovereignty. To have a free mind, you have to be able to think critically, and it helps to understand the media's priorities as private companies owned by conglomerates full of big military contractors.
When you emancipate your mind from domination, you'll cease to be a victim. When you see a news organization owned by a military contractor promoting war, you won't suffer from immediate patriotic reflexes, you'll immediately doubt the narrative. That's what it means to free your mind. It means seeing through lies so you can decode the truth and make a sound moral judgement. And with the state of the media as it is, few things could be more important. The media is getting only more concentrated and corrupt. Seriously, how difficult do you think it is for 6 entities to set an agenda? Oligopoly anyone? So for a course of Intellectual Self-Defense we suggest Chomky's A Propaganda Model and Manufacturing Consent.
Honestly, Chomsky should be required reading for everybody. It is essential to one's own humanity to be able to resist manipulation, resist propaganda, resist control and never to surrender your intellectual sovereignty. It's tremendously important with consequences for everyone. When you're talking about things like war crimes that kill millions and global warming, the fate of mankind literally hangs in the balance. And as beings on top of the food chain, the health of the planet is pretty much our responsibility isn't it?
We are all responsible. In fact, it is a moral truism that in a democratic society we are all responsible for the crimes of our governments.If our governments commit war crimes and kill millions of people, we bear a burden of guilt as accessories.That's the hard truth. And a standard we should all know and hold ourselves to. But if we're not to be unwitting accessories, then we must know. We must have the intellectual capacity to recognize propaganda and criminal behavior, prevent it and punish it.
Gen. Efrain Rios Montt, the former dictator who ruled Guatemala during two of the bloodiest years of the country's decades-long civil war, was convicted in a Guatemalan court of genocide and crimes against humanity, on May 10, 2013. He was a vicious, genocidal maniac installed thanks to a CIA-orchestrated coup which took out the country's democratic government. At the height of his power Montt was called a "man of great personal integrity and commitment," by President Reagan.
As a young man, I read about how US-trained Guatemalan "security services" dragged children over barbed wire in front of their indigenous Guatemalan campesino parents. Afterwards, they defiled the children's decapitated heads before their parents' very eyes and then killed them too. That's the depraved savagery that were both prescribed and supported by the US. Can anyone imagine living through that? Can you imagine the terror these parents and children experienced? Can you imagine that happening to you and those you love?
Torture, fear and death, all paid for by otherwise good citizens' tax dollars. And for what? Were Guatemala's indigenous people threats to US national security? Were they Marxists dedicated to serving the Soviet Hydra? No. Guatemala at that time was a capitalist democracy modeled on Roosevelt's New Deal.
This is the model the US used in dozens of countries around the world by US president after president: Crush democracy and any kind of nationalist independence movements; ensure US access to resources and US corporate dominance of their economies.
That's why the mainstream media treat Chomsky like a scourge. He is persona non grata at any US major news network. Is it any surprise? Give him five minutes and he'll destroy their whole business. He'll show them as the propagandists they are and the corporate/government connections that explain their corruption. The man is just not conducive to their whole propaganda program. That's why the media won't invite the most quoted man alive--one of the 10 most-quoted sources in the humanities--along with Shakespeare and the Bible--on their shows. He is Kry-pto-nite.
Despite these efforts at suppressing truth and criticism, Chomsky's exposure of US crimes and hypocrisy has had far-reaching impacts. He's the most visited human on the internet, and as such his moral rigor and optimism have influenced and empowered people throughout the globe. And I'd say that's something we should rejoice. It means people want to be empowered, they want to understand their world and they want it to be a moral one. That makes them all heroes too doesn't it?
So that's why we love Chomsky. He gave us the "intellectual self-defense" and the research necessary to be intellectually sovereign. Now I have the agency to be a force for good and stand against criminality and corruption. My mind is free and I can cultivate my humanity to be like his: heroic, fearless. Founded on values of love, compassion and integrity.
To conclude, I'd like to apologize to Mr. Chomsky. Although he is a hero of mine, this article and adulation are not what he wants. He did after all say “We shouldn't be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.” Well spoken sir!