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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 6/16/14

American Socrates

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"There were only a few fringe dissenters. Bertrand Russell went to jail. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were killed. Randolph Bourne was marginalized. Eugene Debs was in jail. They dared to question the magnificence of the war."

This war hysteria has never ceased, moving seamlessly from a fear of the German Hun to a fear of communists to a fear of Islamic jihadists and terrorists.

"The public is frightened into believing we have to defend ourselves," Chomsky said...

"This is not entirely false. The military system generates forces that will be harmful to us. Take Obama's terrorist drone campaign, the biggest terrorist campaign in history. This program generates potential terrorists faster than it destroys suspects. You can see it now in Iraq. Go back to the Nuremburg judgments. Aggression was defined as the supreme international crime. It differed from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows. The U.S. and British invasion of Iraq is a textbook case of aggression. By the standards of Nuremberg they [the British and U.S. leaders] would all be hanged. And one of the crimes they committed was to ignite the Sunni and Shiite conflict."

The conflict, which is now enflaming the region, is...

"a U.S. crime if we believe the validity of the judgments against the Nazis. Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor at the [Nuremberg] tribunal, addressed the tribunal. He pointed out that we were giving these defendants a poisoned chalice. He said that if we ever sipped from it we had to be treated the same way or else the whole thing is a farce."

Today's elite schools and universities inculcate into their students the worldview endorsed by the power elite. They train students to be deferential to authority. Chomsky calls education at most of these schools, including Harvard, a few blocks away from MIT, "a deep indoctrination system."

"There is the understanding that there are certain things you do not say and do not think," Chomsky said...

"This is very broad among the educated classes. It is why they overwhelmingly support state power and state violence, with some qualifications. Obama is regarded as a critic of the invasion of Iraq. Why? Because he thought it was a strategic blunder. That puts him on the same moral level as a Nazi general who thought the second front was a strategic blunder. That's what we call criticism."

And yet, Chomsky does not discount a resurgent populism.

"In the 1920s the labor movement had been practically destroyed," he said...

"This had been a very militant labor movement. In the 1930s it changed, and it changed because of popular activism. There were circumstances [the Great Depression] that led to the opportunity to do something. We are living with that constantly. Take the last 30 years. For a majority of the population it has been stagnation or worse. It is not the deep Depression, but it is a semi-permanent depression for most of the population. There is plenty of kindling out there that can be lighted."

Chomsky believes that the propaganda used to manufacture consent, even in the age of digital media, is losing its effectiveness as our reality bears less and less resemblance to the portrayal of reality by the organs of mass media. While state propaganda can still "drive the population into terror and fear and war hysteria, as we saw before the invasion of Iraq," it is failing to maintain an unquestioned faith in the systems of power. Chomsky credits the Occupy movement, which he describes as a tactic, with "lighting a spark" and, most important, "breaking through the atomization of society."

"There are all sorts of efforts to separate people from one another," he said...

"The ideal social unit [in the world of state propagandists] is you and your television screen. The Occupy actions brought that down for a large part of the population. People recognized that we could get together and do things for ourselves. We can have a common kitchen. We can have a place for public discourse. We can form our ideas. We can do something. This is an important attack on the core of the means by which the public is controlled. You are not just an individual trying to maximize consumption. You find there are other concerns in life. If those attitudes and associations can be sustained and move in new directions, that will be important."

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Chris Hedges spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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