These are my quick notes of the conversation between Jonathan Freedland and Noam Chomsky at the British Library on March 19th 2013:
“I remember my parents listening to Hithler’s speaches on the radio, and their expressions. We were the only Jewish family in a Catholic and Christian neigbourhood. But my parents lived in a jewish community, they were all bilingual Hebrew-English. I have never talked about this to my parents, in that time children did not talk of personal things to parents. But I remember being afraid to Hithler speaches in my childhood.
In general, I can’t cope with emotional speaches. Not even with those of Martin Luther King, although I admire him I don’t like emotional speaches.
About ‘Manufacturing Consense’ (1988)
It has been missunderstood by journalists. This book was the opposite to criticism of journalism. It was a defense of journalism against the atack of ‘freedomhouse’ liberals. It’s a defense of Journalism that journalists didn’t like. Journalists are honest professionals. Working in the field needs a lot of courage. But when they do report the framework it is essentially a patriotic framework. They accept the frame and locate themselves according to circumstances.
The book makes reference to all the Intellectual class, who are servents of power. All the criticism to the media that you can read in the book apply to also to them. And to corporate structures, advertisers… The outcome is pretty much the same
Media are huge corporations. They sell a product to the market and people to advertisers (and to other corporations).
There is always a frange of dissidents, they are treated badly. It already happened in classical Greece; there are also biblical records of people we would call “intellectuals” but the Bible calls ‘Profets’ (a bad translation of hebrew, they were dissident intellectuals). How were they treated? They were put in preason or thrown into the desert…They were all treated badly. I don’t know a society where that is not true.
But dissidents may also turn in a popular movement. That’s for example what happened to Martin Luther King: if it haddent been for young students (dissidents) nobody would have heard of him.
On Aaron Schwartz
The number of dissenders that are pushed asside is almost universal, either they are in jail. if it is Latin America they get their heads blown off. In the United States they are marginalised in various ways. The United States is a free country, there is more protection for freedom of speach. But essentially you can’t get jobs and you are marginalised. All sort of things, not much punishment, franchly. Aaron Schwarz is a different case and a very interesting one, I don’t know if it was reported here: he was a very bright young kid, hacker, very instinct worker on computers. He was part of the hacker community which is in favour of opening up all sources. And the way he went on about it is he broke into the MIT computer system, and what they called “liberated” jstore (a system that takes articles and proffesional journals and libraries or individuals can subscribe to it, and then you can get Internet access to these contents. Aaron was a very nice kid, he commited suicide. What happened is that he broke into the MIT system, he freed up jstore, jstore pressed MIT to do something, they didn’t know who he was and they called the police, they identified him. Then the Federal prosecuter got involved, and the State prosecutor and proposed a ridiculous sentence, she said he had to go to jail for 40 years, and he commited suicide. Actually there was an offer, that he should agree for a jail sentence for a cupple of months but they finally didn’t want that and he committed suicide. It is a terrible event, everyone involved should have pressed the prosecutors not to do anythin.
However, there is another issue that has to do with freedom of information: if you take jstore and make it public, jstore goes out of business. We live in a capitalist society, they can’t survive if they don’t get subscriptions, If jstore goes out of business nobody gets access to the journals. So the next step is, OK, let’s ‘liberate’ the journals. In that case the journals go out of business and nobody has any place to publish. You can’t just ‘liberate’ things pretending you don’t exist in the world. A lot of young kids think you can do that, they are not thinking it through. There are ways arounfd this, but they involve collective action, of the kind that does not match with the spirit of the age. What ought to have happened is that there ought to be a public subsidy for creative work, and there there would be no copyrights, no patents, a huge savings and everything would be opened. But that requires to do something together and we are not allowed to do that, we have to be out for ourselves…
The explosion of Internet and Social Media
Can we still talk about dominant media in a world with so many sources of information and proaganda?
Internet is not not a great change. In the 1930’s there were all source of radical newspapers.
As a kid, in the public library, I spent saturday afternoons reading radical periodicals. Internet access makes it easier to access to more information but is not that different. The information is still coming from journalists in the field.
The Internet and Social Media were used to organise protests in Egipt’s Tahrir Square, but when Internet was stopped people met face to face and the protest went on..
Internet may be a source of dissaction
The appearance of Internet is a change much smaller than that of the creation of libraries. Whe libraries were opened for the first time, that gave people access to a huge amount of material. In comparison, Internet is a small change. I am using it all times, I am not critisising it, but I consider it a smaller change than the appearence of libraries.
In libraries, people could be confident that what they read was serious. In Internet ther is a lot of garbage, it may be a source of dissaction
The internet, libraries and the invention of printing press
The biggest change was the invention of telegraph, instead of waiting for months stimboats to get in. The printing press was a huge change. Libraries were a major change. The internet, from this point of view, is a small change. There is no quality control. Its ok, people can say anything they want, but this lack of quality control makes it much less useful that libraries. To exchange ideas it’s ok.
It’s like the invention of indoor pluming, it had a much bigger effect than modern medecine. All this things are fine but we do not have to exagerate…
I don’t like social media because they create very superficial relationships. A kid may think he has 100 friends because he has 100 likes in its Facebook! It is replacing real friends by digital friends.
Internet and the fragmentation of the big media
In the 19th centure there was a huge diversification of media and of labour press. Working people in England had a reacher cultural live than aristochrats. In my child there was a wide prolification of newspapers. if you look over the last 70 years there has been a sharp narrowing of media. As late as in the 1960’s British tablods were serious newspapers. They were serious newspapers that people participated in. The New York Post was the leftist newspaper… But they couldn’t survive concentration and advertising.
Divergences between the corporate sector and state are extremly interesting and very revealing. Take for example US crussade against Cuba. It’s very vicious, it includes terrorism, strangulation of the economy, and it is persisting. Public opinion on this has been studied dyuring 40 years. Public opinion is for normalization but corporate sectors and people who set policy oppose.
International affairs and mafias
International Affairs can be understood in the mafia model. The godfather does not break disobedience. Cuba is again a good example on this. Primary concept about Cuba under Kennedy…
Freedom of speach in the US
US is a very free country: you can check documents. But nobody does it. The US has very little government cohersion but it has enormous obedience.
Propaganda and Advertising
Us propaganda is much more sophisticated than Chinese. When advertising was created, it was then called “Propaganda”.
Take for example the founding creation of PR, that considers that: “People are stupid and ignorant. For their own benefit we have to take care of them”. That’s identical to what Lenin thought: “People don’t understand, we understand and for their own benefit we have to create consent”. That’s what state or commercial propaganda is for.
Goebbels was very impressed by American poropaganda (advertising we call it now): simple images that appeal to the emotions. The nazis took it. The bolchevics also tried, but you can barealy beleive their propaganda.
Chinese media is a joke. When I visited China some time ago I realised that anything in written was so comical… When I got back to the US I discovered that there had been a massive traffic jam from Mongolia to Beiging and nobody knew it in China!
It is very common to talk about US decline. Is America over? The pick of american power was in 1945, the US dominated the world: half of world wealth, enormous power. American planners understood it. That started to decline in 4 years. One of the plans was that the US would dominate all of Asia. That’s why most of the asian countries refused to participate in the San Francisco Peace Agreement.
In 1949 a very significant event occurred: the lost of China. China was supposed to be part of the American empire. The Who is responsible for the lost of China is one of the main topics in the US Int Policy. And the same can be applied to the lost of the Middle East. “We owned the world and we lost it!”
Then the decline continued. The world became more complicated.
Scheptical about the rise of China
China is a very poor country. Its got enormous internal problems: ecological, labor movements… It’s a major manufacturing exporter but it is mostly an assembly plant. IPads are assembled in China but almost all comes from surrounding countries and from the west. I am scheptical about the rise of China.
Would it be better to live in a world dominated by China? It is like asking about a marcian dominating the world. US decline has continued. World power is much more diverse than it was in the past.
For example, the USA has also “lost” domination of Latin America. It was supposed to be the back pocket of the US, and now it has become much more independent.
Chavez’s death coverage in the US was astonishing! Talking about Ahmanajad and all those bad boys that attended the funeral…
Equador, under the presure of indigenous communitites, it is the only oil exporter that is trying to leave the oil in the ground.
Should we demand improve in standards of manufacturing in 3rd world countries or should we stop buying those products?
If you eat your dinner, a lot of it is coming from super-exploited farmers… Iphones made by underpaid labour? I don’t have an opinion on that, but if people have it there is nothing wrong in it.
If we don’t succeed in destroying civilization historians will be astonished. Humans have come to a point that we can and probably will destroy the chance of a live on Earth. The effects are interesting. There is one out of 110 relevant countries that has no national program for enviroment and renewal energy: the US.
The manufacturing of consense in environmental issues is extremly interesting. There was a huge propaganda campaign of the Chamber of Commerce, lobbies run a huge campaign to convice people that it is all nonsense.
And it had effect on Americans, but not a huge effect: American population is much closer to scientific consensus than to what media try them to think.
For example, ALEC, a corporate lobby: They are concerned about the fact tha American population is taking too much attention to scientifc consensus and they are prommoting a “Balance Teaching”: teach climate change denial. It shows the desesperation of corporate propaganda system in its falure.
Media / not impressed by Internet
I am not impressed by the internet. It was developed in the MIT lab were I was working in the 50’s and 60’s. We have a dinamic and creative state sector. The whole IT revolution was developed in the state sector places like MIT. That is where the serious work was done.
Newspapers and information
I read several newspapers:The Guardian, The independent… But if I had to chose one newspaper I would read The New York Times, because it’s coverage is so much deeper… I come to England and I have to buy 5 newspapers to get the same information as in the NYT!
What I also like of NYT is its selective criticism. What reporters report is usually quite accurate.It is a very good source. I read it every morning. The Wall Street Journal has also very good newsreporting. Business press trusts its audience, its audience are the guys that run the world.
Decline in party membership in western countries
Its a reflection of the fact that democracy is collapsing: people don’t bother participating. This is one of the main topics in Political Science today, you find a lot about those attitudes. Why bodering going to the vote if political parties don’t take care of voters…?
Who cares about the deficit? Not population. They think big issue is lack of jobs. Not the business press, who thinks that deficit should be bigger. People who don’t like deficit are the wealthy and financial institutions. They have become so powerful that they dominate polytical system.
You can see it in polls. When people are asked: “Does Congress represent population?” you only get single digits for ‘Yes’. It is reasonable and natural of people stoping participating.
Another very dramatic illustration is attitude towards taxes in the US… “They still our money!”