Monday, October 19, 2009

Chomsky compares US to Weimar Republic

Anyone who has watched Fox 'News' for five minutes, or read or heard anything from Rush Limbaugh or Anne Coulter and the like, or watched the bizarre 'tea party' movement, could be forgiven for being alarmed at the degenerate state of political discourse in the United States.


I'm not really thinking about the entertainment aspect of the media, though, yes, it's significant. I'm thinking about the part that has substantive content, crazy content. But it is substantive. It does give answers. I mean, the people who for the last 30 years have seen their wages, income stagnate or decline, their benefits decline, services decline, there's nothing for the children. World's out of control. These are the people who on polls maybe 80 percent of them say the country's going in the wrong direction. The government's run by the few and the special interests not the people and so on.

You know, they're not wrong. This is all happening to them, and the answers that they're getting from say Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, the rest of them, are, "Well, we have an answer. The rich liberals own everything. They own the corporations. They run the government. They run the media. And they don't care about people like you. They don't care about the flyover people between the east coast and the west coast. They only care about giving everything you work for away, to, you know, to illegal immigrants or gays or something. So we gotta protect ourselves from them. And furthermore, they run the government. When they put up a health program, it isn't to give you health. It's to kill your granny, you know." And that's an answer to something. It's a terrible answer, but it is an answer. And if you do suspend this belief, you forget about what's happening in the world really, it's a coherent answer.

Now they're not hearing anything else. And the memory that comes to my mind - again, I don't want to press the analogy too hard - but I think it's worth thinking about - is late Weimar Germany. There were people with real grievances. The Nazis gave them an answer: "It's the fault of the Jews and the Bolsheviks and we've got to protect ourselves from them, and that'll take care of your grievances." And we know what happened. Germany in the 1920s was you know the most civilized, at the peak of Western civilization, in the arts, in the sciences, highly democratic, functioning democratic institutions. A decade later, it was, you know, the pits of human history.

Again, the analogy is not, it's not close, but it's frightening. And unless an answer can be given to these people, unless they can be led to understand what's really happening to them, we could be in for trouble.

Ironically, the person who posted this piece appears to be one of these very right wing loons, as he comments: "Actually, Noam, we're already in trouble because people like you get paid to voice such invective. Be afraid, America. Be very afraid."

Sometimes it's hard to believe or understand how people can be so out of touch. First of all, unlike Rush Limbaugh, he's not getting paid to say stuff. Need we go further?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Public Broadcasters Threat to News Ltd

"There is a land grab going on - and it should be sternly resisted. The land grab is spearheaded by the BBC. The scope of its activities and ambitions is chilling." (James Murdoch, 'Put an end to this dumping of free news', Guardian, August 29, 2009)

Murdoch made a noble plea for press freedom:

"Above all, we must have genuine independence in news media. Independence is characterised by the absence of the apparatus of supervision and dependency. Independence of faction, industrial or political. Independence of subsidy, gift or patronage. [...] people value honest, fearless, and independent news coverage that challenges the consensus."

Murdoch wrapped up his speech with "an inescapable conclusion":

"The only reliable, durable, and perpetual guarantor of independence is profit."


No, this isn't The Chaser or Onion News Network, apparently it's real.

I don't think public broadcasters have had it in mind to cause the ruin of News Ltd. On the contrary, that surely would have been the last thing on the mind of John Howard, Janet Albrechtson or Keith Windschuttle.

But an unexpected opportunity presents itself here. If in coordination with Murdoch's carefully planned suicide public broadcasters like the ABC were to suddenly increase their online content by 50 or 100% over the next year or so, perhaps News Ltd would indeed pass from the earth. Something greatly to be wished for.