Well, America is definitely ready for a change every year. Every party manager knew that. In fact the polls tell you 80% of the public thinks that things are going in the wrong direction. Now that tells every party manger would better focus on change. So both campaigns — Obama and McCain — highlighted change.
sociopolitical analyst and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky
The following is a Press TV interview with sociopolitical analyst and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky on the policies of the new US administration and the chances of ‘change’ under President Barack Obama.
Chomsky: The best comment on [this issue] was made by advertising industry. They give a prize every year to the best marketing campaign of the year and for 2008 they gave it to Barack Obama. He beat out Dell computers and Apple computers. And the executives said that…exalted this [saying] “as we have been marketing candidates like commodities ever since Ronald Regan, I think, this was the best we ever did.” That is when it changed the atmosphere in corporate boardrooms about how to manipulate and manage and so on. And that is about right. It was a very effective advertising campaign. They did what they have to do. Elections are pretty much run by the advertising industry. And they read polls, they know what people think, and they pay a lot of attention to them. So they know that, on a great many issues, both political parties are well to the right of the population. So it is a good idea to keep away from issues and to focus on personalities, body language, qualities, and, what they call, values and things like that.
Press TV: Do you think that America was ready for this change or is this even a change?
Chomsky: Well, America is definitely ready for a change every year. Every party manager knew that. In fact the polls tell you 80% of the public thinks that things are going in the wrong direction. Now that tells every party manger would better focus on change. So both campaigns — Obama and McCain — highlighted change.
But does that mean there is going to be change? No, not necessarily. There will be some changes but one change is that the Bush administration was very unusual in American history. There is a pretty narrow spectrum within the political range, but the Bush administration was way off the spectrum. Especially the first term was unusual in its brazen arrogance…, its offensive manner. It has alienated even allies. Its violence and aggressiveness…. And, in fact, the attitudes towards the United States throughout the world just plummeted in reaction to this. Now, the second term they sort of moderated that stance to some extent, but it was pretty clear that any candidate who comes in is going to move back more toward the normal centre and Obama has, in fact, done so.
Press TV: So, do you think that the Bush legacy will be marked by these things that you noted?
Chomsky : Well, the Bush legacy will be marked by a series of just incredible catastrophes. Everything they touched turned into a disaster, whether it was the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan or Hurricane Katrina or the financial crisis. There are few things, which did, had a positive impact. A couple of things…. For example, they played a constructive role leading to a partial peace treaty in Sudan between north and south, increased aid to Africa…. So, there were some positive developments, but, by and large, it is a record of just unusual catastrophes. Which is why, if you look at the 2008 elections, it was unusual in that both parties ran against the incumbent president. The Republicans also ran against him because he was so unpopular.
Press TV: There is a perception right now here in the United States right now that with the “Wind of Change” prevailing in the Washington DC, that “we are seeing the end of American capitalism as we knew and the end of American imperialism as we knew it.” Would you agree with that theory?
Chomsky: No. For one thing…. The American capitalism…. What is happening now in the financial industry is unusual. The government is stepping in entirely to partly manage and take over part of the financial institutions. But that is the norm. That has happened all the time in the industrial circuit and even in financial institutions. So, for example, Citigroup is now being bailed out with a huge amount of tax payer funds. Ronald Regan did pretty much the same thing in the early 1980s. I think the whole of the advanced industry, the HIGH-TECH industry, comes out of the state circuit, places like MIT is among the places that develop the computers, the internet, lasers, most of HIGH-TECH economy that includes pharmaceuticals and so on.
I mean, the system that we have, which is called capitalism, is basically a system in which the public pays the costs and takes the risks and profit is privatized. That is something of an exaggeration but it is very largely true. In fact, if you take the financial institutions, I mean, a common phrase in Washington and the media these days is “too big to fail”.
Now, what does that mean? It means when you have an institution like, say, Citigroup or Bank of America, it is so big that the government can not allow it to fail and then the public will have to pay in or step in and make sure it continues to function pretty much as before. Well, that is a is insurance policy, a publicly-granted insurance policy which permits huge institutions to undertake a very risky behavior, from which, of course, you make a lot of profits but, if anything goes wrong, the public pays. Now, that is high-level protectionism and it undermines competitors who do not have that insurance policy. That is just one of many ways which can go on and on in which the United States departs very sharply from market systems.
Now, will that system remain? Well, we can not be sure but the Obama administration is certainly trying very hard to maintain its structure. So, for example, if it takes a Citigroup or Bank of America or General Motors, it would be much cheaper to buy them than to bail them out but that would mean that they are nationalized and under the public control.
Press TV: Is this almost a loophole? The protectionism that that we are seeing on the part of the government…. Is it a loophole towards nationalization?
Chomsky: It has just…. It has always been like that. As I say, the HI-TECH economy is, to a large extent, publicly subsidized. No, that is protectionism; it is just not called protectionism. The terms are used in such a way that they do not really describe…. They have ideologically tinged the terms that we use.
Press TV: Why are Western societies intimidated by these terms?
Chomsky: They are not intimidated. They act the same way. I mean, that is for economic history. The reason that there is a First World and a Third World…, the large reason, part of the reason, is that, from the 18th century, the European societies and their offshoots like the state the United States relied on a very high level of state intervention. Protectionism, subsidy worked in such a way in which the powerful states intervened and they had their economy developed. The colonist societies…, they were subjected to free market principles and they declined, they stagnated. Those are some of the major principles of economic history. I mean, let us take look…outside of the European-US world. There is one country that developed, Japan, and that is the one country that was not colonized.
Is that accidental? No, in fact, if you look at the East Asian growth system, you know one of the miracles of took place in the 20th century, they ruled by following pretty much the kinds of policy that the Europe and the United States had followed in their own development. They rejected the rules of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and developed through various kinds of state intervention.
So, it has changed with time. After the Second World War, when the economy allowed much more hi-technology innovation, the government role increased substantially. And so that is why you have places like MIT. Public-funding mostly extended from funding to develop what became a new economy.
So, these are just general features of the economic history. In fact, it is kind of dramatic right now….it is interesting that nobody notices it… Suppose that a Third-World country has an economic, national crisis, say, Indonesia. The IMF comes in….
They come in. They tell…. They give lectures and instructions to Indonesia as to how to deal with the crisis. First, pay off your debts to us. Second, raise interest rates which lower the crippling economy. Third, the population has to pay for the structural adjustment. And fourth, privatize so we can pick up your assets….
Those are the instructions given to the third world uniformly…. If fact they are given right now, Suppose we had the crisis as we do now. The instructions are the opposite. Forget about the debts…. Lower the interest rates. Just do everything to stimulate the economy. Do not suffer as long as you can and do not privatize. Nationalize, but do not call it nationalization. Just help the public to move a couple of bad assets and subsidize.
So, exactly the opposite prescriptions. Now, all this passes without comment. And, I think, the reason is deeply ingrained in the imperial mentality that we act one way and our subjects act the different way and that traces back through modern economic history and it is a large part of the reason for the split between first world and the rest of world.
Press TV: You have constantly warned of propaganda and how the mainstream media is essentially employed to coy the population into submission, if you may. What role do you think the mass media plays in the current American political system?
Chomsky: They pretty much represent the standard ideological framework that grows from the structure of power in the society. I do not think they are being deceptive…. It is their belief. It is their understanding. I mean, if you had a religious theocracy, the media perfectly honest with you and repeat the claims of the religious theocracy. They may do it by force. They may do it because they believe it…. It is not deception. That is what educated, cultivated people believe and that is deeply rooted in the imperial mentality and has developed over hundreds of years. And the class mentality the rich are supposed to do well and the poor have to pay for it. No, it is pretty natural, belief of a part of privileged people.
To be continued…