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The nation is continuing to grieve the 11 Jewish worshipers who were gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday in what is being described as the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. Funerals were held Thursday for three more victims of the shooting: husband and wife Sylvan and Bernice Simon, and Richard Gottfried.
Robert Bowers, who is accused of the mass shooting, pleaded not guilty Thursday. Bowers is charged with 44 counts, including murder and hate crimes. We speak with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned professor, linguist and dissident, about the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and other recent white supremacist and right-wing attacks.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I'm Amy Goodman. The nation is continuing to grieve the 11 Jewish worshipers who were gunned down at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday in what's being described as the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. Funerals were held Thursday for three more victims of the shooting: husband and wife Sylvan and Bernice Simon, and Richard Gottfried.
Robert Bowers, who's accused of the mass shooting, pleaded not guilty Thursday. He's charged with 44 counts -- including murder and hate crimes -- over 30 of which could be subject to the death penalty. Bowers has a history of posting anti-Semitic and xenophobic content and was posting on the far-right social media site Gab until just before the shooting. He referred to the migrant caravan as an "invasion," repeating the words that President Trump uses.
We continue our conversation now with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned professor, linguist and dissident. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- Chomsky was. I asked him about the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh and other recent right-wing attacks.
NOAM CHOMSKY: When I was a child, the threat that fascism might take over much of the world was not remote. That's much worse than what we're facing now. My own locality happened to be very anti-Semitic. We were the only Jewish family in a Irish -- mostly Irish and German Catholic neighborhood, much of which was pro-Nazi, so I could see it better on the ground.
What we're now seeing is a revival of hate, anger, fear, much of it encouraged by the rhetorical excesses of the leadership, which are stirring up passions and terror, even the ludicrous claims about the Nicaraguan army ready to invade us -- Ronald Reagan -- the caravan of miserable people planning to kill us all. All of these things, plus, you know, praising somebody who body-slammed a reporter, one thing after another -- all of this raises the level of anger and fear, which has roots.
The roots lie in what has happened to the general population over the past 40 years. People really have faced significant distress. An astonishing fact about the United States is that life expectancy is actually declining. That doesn't happen in developed societies, apart from, you know, major war or huge famine. But it's happening because of social distress, and not necessarily impoverishment. The people who are demonstrating this fear and resentment may be even moderately affluent, but what they see is they're stagnating. In the past, there was -- you had this dream: You worked hard, you could get ahead, your children would be a little better. Now it stopped. It stopped for the last 40 years as a result of very specific socio and economic policies, which have been designed so that they sharply concentrate wealth, they enhance corporate power, that has immediate effects on the political system in perfectly obvious ways, even to the point where lobbyists literally write legislation. This onslaught has literally cast a bunch of the population aside. They're stagnating. They are not moving forward. They see no prospects. And they're bitter and angry about it.
And this anger and bitterness can take pathological forms. It could take very constructive forms. It could lead to popular organized movements, which would dedicate themselves to overcoming these blows against decent human existence, which certainly can be done. The groundwork for that has been severely undermined, for example, by the destruction -- careful, planned destruction -- of labor unions, the main force, historically, for leading the way towards more progressive, humane policies. All of these are a package. They've all gone together for 40 years -- there's precursors, of course -- and it has led to a situation where you get an outburst of what Gramsci once called morbid symptoms, pathological developments, of the kind that you mentioned, growing out of a soil that is rich in incitement to such things happening.
AMY GOODMAN: So, and then, if you could talk about specifically the targeting of the Jewish worshipers, I mean, and the clear connection that the shooter made between this temple and HIAS, what's formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the group that has helped to resettle refugees of any religion for well over a hundred years? And he repeated words that Trump has begun using more and more about, you know, they're helping the "invaders" come in. If you could respond specifically to that?- Advertisement -
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, I think it's pretty clear that he's whipping up terror about invasions, people pouring across the border to plan to kill us all, to destroy our civilization. You take people who are already somewhat disturbed and living under harsh conditions, this can incite them to acts of extreme violence against targets like the Jewish temple. All the anti-Semitic tropes are pointing in that direction, but most -- also against Afro-Americans, immigrants, any vulnerable population or population that's easy to target for lots of cultural and historical reasons, all this amplified by the loud speaker up in the White House and his minions, who are doing what they can to terrorize the population, create the conditions under which you can get something like the attack on the synagogue.
AMY GOODMAN: So, I wanted to turn, then, to a clip of the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, who was interviewed by Ayman Mohyeldin on MSNBC on Sunday, so it was soon after the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre. Dermer was asked if Trump's rhetoric is in part to blame for the massacre.