The sovereign can no longer say, "You shall think as I do on pain of death;" but he says, "You are free to think differently from me, and to retain your life, your property, and all that you possess; but if such be your determination, you are henceforth an alien among your people."

(Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835)

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

"We honour the commisars and we condemn the dissidents"

Sometimes it just happens that I read someone's ideas and I think that this idea is pretty obvious and plausible - why didn't it come to me myself? Well, here is another of those examples, this time in an interview with Noam Chomsky. In line with the basic idea of this blog and the quote on top, two ideas struck me most:

Firstly, Chomsky speaks about the reasons why he was never invited to a popular talk-show called 'Nightline'. The reason is, he explains, that he lacks concision. If you want to repeat the mainstream opinion, you can do that between two commercials. The kinds of things that Chomskey would say cannot be said in one sentence, because they depart from standard mainstream. If you want to question the mainstream you are expected to give evidence, which is per se good, but too time consuming for talk-shows.

It's terrific technique of propaganda. To imposing concision is a way of virtually guaranteeing that the party line gets repeated over and over again, says Chomsky.

Breaching this 'censorship' is difficult but separates the intellectuals from the courtiers. When it comes to our enemies, such as the Soviet Union, we understand this principle easily: we honour the dissidents and condemn the commissars. When we turn around at home, we honour the commissars and condemn the dissidents.

Secondly, Chomsky speaks of double standards. We accept those because we lack knowledge of particular issues. He outlines the examples of Iraq (the interview was recorded in 2002), South-Eastern Turkey, Kosovo and Indonesia. We support dictatorships, such as Egypt, Jordan, Saudi-Arabia, who commit atrocities against their own people, and agitate against Iran, or Iraq at the time, blaming them that they commit atrocities against their own people.

Apart form corrupting our moral and integrity, I believe that this hypocrisy does not do us any good. It will come back to us and haunt us. And it doesn't do any good to the countries that we uncritically support. We deprive these people of their chance to choose their own fate and antagonise people who will in return seek revenge. In order to continue with this policy we have to accept that it requires a massive military power and the suppression of the majority of the people of the world who do not have the privilege of having be born in the West.

Take an hour and watch the interview!

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