Hi, everybody. It’s Stefan Molyneux from Free
Domain Radio. I am extremely pleased, of course, to have the illustrious Noam Chomsky who,
I’m sure for my listeners, needs no introduction. A fellow anarchist, a great thinker, an ethicist,
study of language and so on. Thank you so much, Dr. Chomsky, for taking
the time today. Glad to be with you. So one of the things that I’ve always admired
in your analysis, particularly of foreign policy, is your statement that for a moral
principle in particular to have any validity it must be universal. And there’s a weird
kind of thing that happens where we have this private morality that we teach our kids and
we expect from each other, no initiation of force, a negotiation rather than aggression,
and telling the truth; and then we go into the public sphere and everything is completely
reversed. And now lying becomes diplomacy and aggression becomes defense. What do you think the primary mechanisms are
by which we can have these moral reversals and the general population doesn’t even seem
to notice it let alone question it? Well, I’m not sure that the population doesn’t
notice it. But remember, when you turn public policy, you’re not referring to the decisions
and choices of the general public but rather to those who dominate one or another system
of power that vary over the world. But where you look, there’s some kind of system of power
and hierarchy and domination. And that’s where decision making goes along
with the decision that there’s no reason to expect. Those with power may voice the kind
of ethical principles that people like to believe that they follow, but there’s no reason
to believe that that guides their choices and decisions. So for example, if you read even the worst
monsters: Stalin, Hitler, the Japanese fascists and so on; their pronouncements were most
elevated and loving democracy and freedom. Stalin’s constitution was a model of the humanity.
But, of course, it had nothing to do with their policies which have the honesty to recognize
the same is true with us; different structures, different mechanisms. Not everything is identical
but that basic property remains. It still remains true that the people making
the decisions they represent, first of all, the system of power that’s in the state itself
but also their own primary constituencies in the United States. It’s not a great secret,
what they are, the wealthy and the corporate sector, the primary constituency that’s usually
demonstrated and has been demonstrated that even in mainstream political science that
those are the voices — the part of the public whose voices are heard are essentially those.
Most of the public is basically disenfranchised. So the split between private morality and
public policy is not surprising for that reason alone. And then we have to add to it the techniques
that are used by the powerful to try to impose a conformity and obedience on the public often
simply by frightening them. So for example, it takes Obama’s terror campaign, global terror
campaign. Now that’s sold to the public in the basis of inducing fear, but we’re doing
it to protect you. It’s unpleasant, but we got to protect you. That just mirrors that apart from the fact
that this is a monstrous crime in itself, nevertheless it’s even understood by the directors
and perpetrators that they’re generating terrorists faster than they’re killing presumed jihadists.
In fact, they’re even developing a technology of terror which is just tailor-made for jihadists.
It won’t be long before they’ll be using smoke bombs to attack us. In fact, you can read
articles about this in the professional journals. It’s just not a concern. Security of the population
is simply not a concern for state power now. They have other concerns. But nevertheless,
inducing fear in the population is a common, often very successful way of gaining at least
public support for policies that people as individuals would not tolerate. Right, right. One of the things I think that
certainly gives me some hope is the reduction of the power of gatekeepers for cultural conversations.
You used to have to go through mainstream media to be able to get out. And I think you
had mentioned in one of your interviews how crossfire had little interest in you because
you didn’t have the kind of concision where they could fit you in between commercial breaks
and the fact that you can have extended and interesting conversations that can be broadcast
worldwide. We have very little equipment with very little money. To me gives a great deal
of hope that not having to go through the gatekeepers can really help us to elevate
the discussion. Does it give you similar hope or is there
something tragic that I’m sort of missing and looking at it this way? Well, I think it’s a part. What you described
is a very positive development. But as always, the world is complicated. So part of the — one
of the consequences of the proliferation of the media outlets is that it’s partly having
a tendency to try to drive, to compartmentalize people in the sense that people are very likely
to focus their attention on the kind of media outlets that reinforce their own beliefs and
biases and prejudices. So I’m subject to it too. All the blogs that
I look at I would think are the ones that I think I’m going to sympathize with what
the writers are probably saying. We all do that which is okay to a point, but it also
attempts to narrow our own perspectives. We often are not seeing other points of view
which we should expose ourselves to. I think we all are trying to compensate for that.
I tried my own ways and you’re free to do in yours. But there is one of the effects of the diversification
of media sources is the tendency towards becoming more proverbial and narrow in one’s perspective
on the world, the constant reinforcement of one’s own views less challenging. Right, right. Now, you’ve written quite a
bit about the kibbutzes and some of the ways in which you have admired them. I know you’ve
lived on one as well for a time. And you’ve talked about some of the negatives, some of
the racism towards the Arabs and the fact that they sort to be a feeding conveyor belt
to the Israeli military. But one thing I found quite fascinating with the degree to which
social norms in these organizations are reinforced through social ostracism, through conformity;
and that all sounds sort of bad and negative but compared to government laws which are
almost universally disastrous, it seems to me a very interesting way. And I think this
is one of the ways in which anarchism is supposed to be able to help reinforce social norms. How far do you think social ostracism can
go or volunteerism in one’s relationship can go in enforcing social norms? Well, it’s a double-edged sword. As you say,
it’s better than guns and clubs. On the other hand, it can be extremely psychologically
and personally harmful both to the actors and to the victims. So it’s the kind of thing
that I think one should consciously try to avoid as much as possible. I mean social norms,
they have to be basically accepted and at least to some degree we all have to agree
to drive on the one side of the road and so on, not anywhere we like. There’s many others but it can quickly be
overdone. It has to be tampered by a high degree of tolerance, of sympathy, of willingness
to question one’s own beliefs and the norms that one accepts to listen to, alternatives,
and to treat people with dignity and respect even if we don’t agree with them. So I think
there’s always going to be in a decent social organization, there will always be tensions
between these conflicting goals and resolving them in a civilized and humane fashion as
a real problem that people have to face. We can see it in all sorts of ways around the
world. So just to give one example, by accident I
happen to visit Norway on two recent occasions. One happened to be at the same time that they
apprehended Breivik, the perpetrator of that hideous massacre. And the second time happened
to be at the time when he had just been sentenced. I was quite struck by the attitude, as far
as I could tell, of the public towards these events. When he was apprehended, the attitude, as
far as I can tell and the media and all the people and so on, was not to throw him to
the dogs but he’s a human being. He committed a hideous crime. He has to be given his day
in court. In fact, he was given time to rant and rave in court. And then when I returned
at the time of the sentencing, in the United States he would have been probably hanged
and put in an electric chair in five minutes. He was given I think a 20-year sentence under
conditions that are so decent by our standards that are almost indescribable, not in a maximum
security prison with 24 hours a day of isolation but relatively civilized conditions and a
chance of rehabilitation which nobody expects. These are two pretty similar societies in
many ways, but the attitude of just respecting the rights of a human being no matter how
horrible his crimes to a dignified humane treatment and even potential rehabilitation.
These differences were startling, and it doesn’t go very far back in history. If you look into
the history of Norwegian criminology pretty recent, societies can change. Yeah, it is one of the things that stuck me
recently is Portugal has had a decade long experiment in the decriminalization of drugs
and have seen a 50% reduction in addiction and in drug use because they treat these people
as people who need help, who have some medical issues, who have dependency issues, compared
to this unbelievable gulag fest of the US industrial prison complex. It is positively
medieval. And this is again, as you’ve pointed out many times, how the US is so unbelievably
out of step with the rest of the western world in approaching these issues. That’s true. And it’s also, as you know, even
worse. The drug programs in the United States are basically a race war, and that’s been
true ever since Reagan. That’s true from the mode of police action that’s required to the
sentencing procedures to the form of criminalization and even to the treatment of people released
from prison. It’s, as you said, medieval, brutal, extremely harmful, and very race-oriented. You can see it in incarceration rates the
kind of reminiscent of what happened in the late 19th century after the Civil War. There
was about 10 years militia and freed slaves had kind of formal freedom. But right after
that, after instruction, there was a compact between the north and south which essentially
allowed the south to go over the line and they essentially criminalized black rights. So huge numbers of blacks, originally males
mostly, were sent off prison. In fact, they became kind of a slave labor force in many
ways even worse than slavery because for an employer’s point of view you have to maintain
your labor force in a state prison. And this went virtually to the Second World War. And
then there were a couple of decades of relative freedom again and now returning towards again
criminalizing black rights through the drug war. Now, it has almost no effect on drug use or
in the price of drugs, but it is devastating to the parts of the society that are attacked
by this and also it’s devastating to Latin America. It’s been extremely harmful. Latin
America, they’re the real victims, and you can see what you mentioned about the isolation
of the United States is becoming quite dramatic in the western hemisphere. So the last Hemispheric Conference a couple
of years ago in Zambia, the United States and Canada were completely isolated from the
rest of the hemisphere on the two major issues. One was permitting Cuba back into the hemispheric
organizations or Latin American is in favor of US agenda to refuse. And the second was
moved towards decriminalization of drugs which are going pretty far in some places, in Uruguay,
as far as legalization, other places, decriminalization; some following the Portuguese model but in
general towards more humane treatment and treatment that is in fact effective rather
than treatment that is destructive, harmful, brutal and in our case racist as well. Those
are real major crimes. And just to ask you one more question. I have
a fairly extensive audience that is generally on the libertarian, not the sort of European
libertarian but the American libertarian audience and I’m sort of like the pied piper trying
to get them to become anarcho-curious I guess is the best way of putting it. And one of
the questions that’s often asked is show us an example of successful anarchic experiments
in the world and everybody reads 1984 and animal farm, how many people read Homage to
Catalonia. I wonder if you could just touch on for our
libertarian friends the experiments that were really, really compelling and fascinating
that occurred in the ’30s in Spain in particular which could give people some thing to explore
or something to look at as an example of how effective these kinds of organizations can
be. Well, actually, there was one year of revolution
in Spain, mostly anarchist revolution in 1936, which was actually quite successful with those
crushed by force, and it’s striking that it was crushed by the combined forces of every
power system in the world: the communists, the fascists, and the liberal democracies.
And then they fought each other, pick up the spoils, but one thing they weren’t going to
tolerate was a free society of people running their own affairs. But there’s plenty more.
I call them pure anarchists by any means but the systems that have many of those characteristics. So take, for example, the Mondragon conglomerate
in Spain, Basque Country in Spain, big conglomerate, worker-owned, partially worker-managed, not
totally. It includes industrial production, including high tech industrial production
and banks, hospitals, living, housing and so on; and it’s quite successful particularly
what’s happening in parts of the old rust belt in the United States where there’s a
spread of the worker-owned enterprises. It’s not huge but developing, very successful.
There’s interesting work on this that are out there that’s particular. These all have a kind of an anarchist flavor
to them. It’s worth remembering considering the way you described your audience that there’s
one crucial difference between American libertarianism and traditional libertarianism. Traditional
libertarianism was opposed to any form of dominance in the hierarchy. One of the slogans
was “No god, no master,” meaning no ecclesiastical dominance, no masters in industry and personal
life and families, anywhere else. American libertarianism is quite different.
It’s perfectly happy to support masters. In fact, it extols them. It’s in favor of it.
It wants no interference with the domination and control of the people in the workforce.
That’s very counter to traditional libertarianism either in Europe or, for that matter, in the
United States. If you go back to the 19th century, early
days of the Industrial Revolution, there were mass popular movements which had their own
journals and so on. They were opposed to the way in which the industrial system was forcing
them to turn into tools of production under someone else’s control and destroying their
independence as free people and also destroying their culture. Their slogan was those who work in the mills
are taken for granted. In fact, it was what they called the wage slavery, wage labor.
It’s not very different from chattel slavery. There was such a popular position in the United
States in the 19th century that there was the slogan of the Republican Party. Wage labor
is tolerable because it’s temporary; that people should control their own industrial
fate. This is as American’s apple pie and quite different from what’s called libertarianism
today. Those are important things to bear in mind. So if I can just dig in for one last question,
it seems to me that the presidency of Barack Obama is quite important historically. One
of the cases I made years ago before he got in for even his first term was that you really
couldn’t have a greater divergence in stated principles or cultural backgrounds than between
the younger George Bush and Barack Obama. But a lot of the hopes of the left seems to
have really collapsed and Barack Obama has expanded a lot of the surveillance status,
you say the war on terror, foreign aggression and so on seems to have really grown. Do you think that this may tempt people on
the left to be more skeptical about political solutions? Is there going to be other things
bubbling up to try and find a way to move us towards a freer society without going through
the often Kabuki theatre of electoral politics? Well, electoral politics in the United States
has become a kind of a theatre. It’s nobody’s secret that it’s mostly bought and mostly
response to the very narrow sectors of wealth and private power. But I think there shouldn’t
have been illusions about Obama in the first place. I don’t say this in retrospect. Actually,
I was writing about them before the first primaries, 2008 Primaries, just looking at
the way he presented himself at his webpage where he was proud of and so on. I felt that
there were — he wasn’t George W. Bush, but I didn’t feel that there was going to be any
really substantial changes and much of what would happen would be negative. I mean I am surprised by some things. I have
been surprised by the severity of this attack on civil liberties. I didn’t expect that.
I don’t understand what’s driving it, not even politically what he thinks he’s gaining
from. But that’s often things that aren’t very well known, like one of the worst Supreme
Court decisions, in my opinion, was what’s called Holder. The Humanitarian Law Project
was brought by the Justice Department, by Obama’s Justice Department against the group
Humanitarian Law Project which was giving legal advice to a group that the government
put on its terrorist list. Terrorist list is something we should be pretty skeptical
about. So for example, Nelson Mandela was on it for
a couple of years ago. And it’s just pure executive authority with no supervision, no
recourse and so on. But the idea that providing legal advice to such a group is the government
calls material assistance to terrorism. That’s a really severe attack on civil liberties.
And in fact, if you read the colloquy of the judgment, it looks as if you, say, advised
one of these groups to turn to nonviolent methods or you just try to research what they’re
doing, that could be called material assistance to terrorism. Things like that are a major attack on elementary
civil liberties. It’s not the only case. And why the Obama administration is pressing this
so hard is a little hard for me to see. But I have to say that most of what’s going on
is not going to be a surprise unfortunately. And I don’t think it should tell people let’s
stop being involved in politics, but let’s stop having illusions about leaders. That’s
not the way things are going to change. Well, I certainly agree with that. And I know
that we’re a little short for time. I certainly do appreciate the conversation as I have for
many years who work particularly at the analysis of foreign policy. We’ll, of course, put your
website on the link to this and I would certainly invite all our libertarian listeners to check
out your work. The On Anarchism I found a great read. And thank you again for all that
you’re doing. Glad to be with you. Take care.