Passing Noam on My Way Out, Part 2: Chomsky vs.

Aaron Swartz
Posted on January 31, 2014
In my last post, I accused Chomsky of whitewashing U. S. domestic repression when he described it as “undetectable” in comparison
with the rest of the world. This incited some haggling with fans who think it’s reasonable to temporarily disappear, for rhetorical
effect, two million people languishing in U. S. prisons, based on a percentage contest with Palestinians.
No doubt these bean counters consider themselves internationalists the way Chomsky does, but it’s actually the height of
parochialism to measure horror with census figures. For the person consigned to a cage, it’s hardly mitigating that he shares his
condition with one in one hundred residents of some place, rather than with one in ten in some other. This should be obvious, but
this is the discourse you get when people like Chomsky are the official guiding lights.
To show that the whitewashing I mentioned in the last post was by no means a one-off, and to examine some
additional problems, I am going to turn now to a lengthy interview Chomsky did last year in March at the British Library
with Jonathan Freedland. At one point, Freedland asked:
Can you give an example of a dissenter who is, kind of, pushed aside by the system — the example
of Aaron Swartz at your own university, MIT…did you have a response on that?
Chomsky’s answer is long but revealing. I am going to take it in three parts. Part 1:
The number of dissenters that are pushed aside is almost universal, either they’re in jail… if it’s
Latin America they get their heads blown off. In the United States they’re marginalized in
various ways. The United States is a free country…there is more protection for freedom of
speech [than in Britain]…But essentially they can’t get jobs, they’re marginalized, they’re vilified.
All sort of things, not much punishment, frankly, but, it’s real.
Once again we see the whitewashing of domestic repression that I touched on in Part 1 and this time I am going
to refute it at greater length. First of all, being vilified and made unable to support oneself is actually quite a lot
of punishment, if your baseline is ‘not persecuted’ as opposed to ‘not murdered.’ But the repression of U.S.
dissenters doesn’t end with extreme marginalization. It’s beyond scope here to list all the U. S. political dissidents whose
persecution exceeds trifles like ostracism and financial ruin, especially if we don’t limit our timeframe, but the following should
suffice to make the point:
Ali al-Timimi, a Muslim cleric in Virginia, sentenced to life in prison for exhorting his followers to fight for
the Taliban following 9/11
Anwar al-Awlaki, executed without due process for extolling violent resistance to the United States. His 16-
year-old son was murdered a few weeks later with no official justification.
Samir Khan, executed without due process for editing a magazine allegedly connected to al-Qaeda.
Tarek Mehanna, sentenced to 17 years in prison for translating publicly available pro-jihadist documents and
The Rancid Honeytrap
O Rancid Sector of the extreme left…
posting them online.
Chelsea Manning, at the time of the interview, in prison for almost three years without trial and subjected to
brutal conditions. She recently received a 35-year sentence for leaking military and State Department
documents.
John Kiriakou, former CIA officer, sentenced to 2 1/2 years for disclosing classified information to
journalists while blowing the whistle on waterboarding.
Any consideration of how “free” US society is must also factor in the harassment, raids and stings used against Muslims,
anarchists, hacktivists, militant environmentalists and animal rights activists; the brutality and arrests routinely unleashed by
militarized police on peaceful protesters; and the mass incarceration of African-Americans and other marginalized communities
which is, among other things, a pre-emptive measure against political mobilization. Chomsky is aware of these particulars, which is
why his overall sanguine assessment is, at first glance, extremely odd. Things don’t improve when he gets to Swartz:
Aaron Swartz is a different case and a very interesting one. He was a very bright young kid, a
hacker, did very interesting work on computers. He was part of the hacking community which is
in favor of opening up all sources. And the way he went about it was he broke into the MIT
computer system, and what they call “liberated” Jstor. . .[a service] that takes articles and
professional journals and libraries or individuals can subscribe to it, and then you can get
Internet access to articles coming out in journals.
So Aaron, is a [unintelligible] very nice kid, um, he committed suicide. What happened is that he
broke into the MIT system, he freed up JSTOR. JSTOR pressed MIT to do something about
it, he was stealing their stuff, [MIT] didn’t know who he was and they called the police, they
identified him. Then the Federal prosecutor got involved, and the State prosecutor and proposed
a ridiculous sentence, she said he had to go to jail for 40 years, and he committed suicide.
Actually there was an offer, that he should agree to a jail sentence for a couple of months but the
family didn’t want that and he committed suicide. It is a terrible event, everyone involved should
have pressed the prosecutors not to do anything.
Whether deliberate or not, there’s a lot of misrepresentation here. First of all, Swartz did not “[break] into the
MIT computer system.” MIT provides JSTOR access to anyone who is on campus. Swartz simply logged in with
a guest account. That he “liberated” and “freed up” JSTOR is also misleading. He used a program that enabled
rapid downloading, but he wasn’t publishing it anywhere. It was being saved to a laptop he had hidden in a
closet. What he intended to do with the files is still not known. (source)
I have found no account claiming that JSTOR pressed MIT to call the police. They simply cut off MIT’s access to
their repository. (source) MIT was at liberty at that point to just pull the plug on Swartz’s guest account and
harden security, but they called Cambridge police and the Cambridge police brought in the feds. JSTOR
removed itself early, discouraging prosecution and settling for payment of $26,000. When Chomsky says
“everyone involved should have pressed the prosecutors not to do anything” he means MIT. (source)
The proposed plea deal was for six months’ jail time, not Chomsky’s “couple months” and it required that Swartz
plead guilty to 13 felonies. It was not his “family” that rejected it. It was the 26-year-old Swartz and his attorney
who wanted to force federal prosecutors to justify their pursuit. A trial risked a jail term of between 7 and 35
years. Swartz and his attorney proposed other plea deals, but prosecutors rejected them. (source).
If you’re wondering if perhaps there’s a bias in Chomsky’s skewed account — exceeding even his loyalty to MIT — let him explain:
…there is another issue that has to do with freedom of information: if you take JSTOR and make it public, JSTOR
goes out of business. We live in a capitalist society, they can’t survive if they don’t get subscriptions, if JSTOR goes
out of business nobody gets access to the journals. So the next step is, OK, let’s ‘liberate’ the journals. In that case the
journals go out of business and nobody has anywhere to publish. You can’t just ‘liberate’ things pretending you
don’t exist in the world. A lot of young kids think you can do that, they are not thinking it through.
Well, there are ways around this, but they involve collective action, of the kind that doesn’t fit
with the new spirit of the age. What ought to happen is that there ought to be a public subsidy for
creative work, and there would be no copyrights, no patents, there would be huge savings and
everything would be open. But that requires we do something together and we are not allowed to
do that, we have to be out for ourselves. . .
For students of political repression, the Swartz case is rife with dots to connect: the federalizing of local police, the draconian justice
system, the military-academic complex and the government’s intense dread of hackers. So it’s shocking that Chomsky is clearly more
vexed by Swartz’s “stealing” of JSTOR’s “stuff” than by anything else, and turns Freedland’s interesting question about dissent into
an opportunity to defend privatized scholarship, denounce Swartz and distort the record.
We know by the end of Chomsky’s reply what he meant at the outset when he said Swartz is “a different case.”
He meant he wasn’t a real dissident. He was a “kid”, in thrall to the anti-collective “spirit of the age”, out for
himself, too young and selfish to realize that there is only one way to democratize academic information: spend
a lifetime petitioning the state to subsidize it. If he were a real dissident, he might have only been marginalized,
subject to “not much punishment, frankly” instead of driven to bankruptcy and suicide by vindictive
prosecutors. What happened to Swartz was a tragedy, “a terrible event”, but it wasn’t repression. The United
States is a free country.
Chomsky’s sales job for institutional power requires that he misrepresent Swartz’s politics more recklessly even
than he misrepresents his case. So he can’t even see Swartz as a resourceful agitator, whose civil disobedience
would complement Chomsky’s imagined mass movement to make state subsidies flow. Instead he rips Swartz’s
JSTOR intervention entirely from the communal spirit of the Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, and from the
context of Swartz’s hybrid politics which, as his work on SOPA made clear, did not preclude the kind of activism
Chomsky approves of.
It’s disquieting that Chomsky thinks that minimizing Swartz’s dissidence and, by extension, the significance of
his death, is so very important that he’d already preached his Swartz sermon, word for word, in a Young Turks
interview, only weeks after Swartz’s suicide. There is no point in going over this sermon a second time, except to point out that his
condemnation is more explicit, aligning Swartz’s direct action with the “pathologies of our society”, and stating that the “obvious way
out”, which apparently Swartz hadn’t considered, is to have creative work “subsidized by the government.” In the same interview,
Chomsky also preemptively whitewashed MIT’s complicity before the investigation of its conduct had even commenced:
Cenk Ugyur: Have you put any thought into the culpability of MIT there and do you have any
thoughts on it?
Chomsky: To be precise, MIT didn’t pursue charges against him. MIT was culpable in my
opinion, but for what they didn’t do. MIT didn’t intervene to try to block the charges. . . MIT did
provide the police with the information that someone had broken into the computer system, but,
you know, that you’d expect. Then came these extremely harsh charges from the prosecuting
attorney and what MIT should have done is taken some initiative to protest the severity of the
charges and they didn’t and I think they’re culpable for that.
While it is true that MIT didn’t pursue charges, the school’s complicity in Swartz’s persecution went well beyond
standing silently aside:
MIT technicians installed the video camera in the wiring closet where Swartz had stashed his laptop. A video
of Swartz entering the closet led to his arrest. (source)
MIT’s police identified, chased down and arrested Swartz, confiscated his USB drive and turned it over to the
Secret Service.
MIT never told the feds that Swartz hadn’t hacked into JSTOR but had accessed it by the same means
afforded all visitors to the campus, even though the bulk of the allegations against Swartz dealt with him
“exceeding authorized access” under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
MIT padded its account of expenses, bumping them into felony territory.
IT staff from MIT helped Secret Service agents hack into Swartz’s confiscated laptop.
(source)
It’s impossible to know if Chomsky knew any part of the above when Ugyur interviewed him, but a year later,
after the information had been made public, Chomsky’s spin hadn’t changed:
“The MIT investigation seemed to me reasonably well done. MIT’s contribution to the tragedy
was mostly negative: It didn’t take aggressive measures to try to free him from the charges, or at
least mitigate them, as it should have,” Chomsky told HuffPost.
He’s also still swinging at Swartz for rejecting the plea deal:
“Part of the tragedy is that there were apparently very good opportunities to reduce the
punishment to something fairly limited, nothing like the crazy threats of the prosecution in the
early days.” (source)
I complained in my last post that Chomsky spends too much time telling everyone how horrible things are while
offering too few specifics on what to do. But after reviewing his conduct toward Swartz I may have to revise that,
because between his words and his actions, it’s really all right there. It’s just not worth knowing.
End of Part 2. (Series to be continued)
——-
Thanks to RH commenters @lastwheel and Ned Ludd for inspiring this post.
Related
Passing Noam on My Way Out, Part 1
Good Whistleblower/Bad Whistleblower
The Toxically Useful Idiocy of Amy Goodman
A Heat Vampire in Search of a Movie Deal
A Harbinger of Journalism Saved
Dr. Rosen and The Snowden Effect
The Cable News Heroism of Chris Hayes
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146 Responses to Passing Noam on My Way Out, Part 2: Chomsky vs. Aaron Swartz
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Passing Noam on My Way Out - Part 1 Passing Noam on My Way Out: Intermission The Cable News Heroism of Chris Hayes
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With 47 comments
mspbwatch says:
January 31, 2014 at 4:42 pm
Chomsky is also wrong about the incentives with JStor:
“Just two days before internet folk hero Aaron Swartz took his own life, online journal archive JSTOR announced an
expansion of its free-access “Register & Read” program, from 76 publishers to over 700. The move is a crack in the for-profit
academic publishing stronghold’s armor, but not the paywall-demolishing revolution of the open-access movement’s dreams.
Swartz, 26, was a prominent activist in that open-access movement, advocating that academic research funded by taxpayers
should be made available to the taxpayers for free online. At the time of his death, Swartz was facing over 30 years in prison
for allegedly downloading nearly 5 million academic documents from JSTOR in what is thought to have been the first step in
a radical plan to liberate the data. There is widespread speculation that the severity of the punishments he faced may have
been a factor in his decision to take his life.
The Register & Read program allows anyone to read up to three articles every two weeks online from selected offerings in
exchange for some personal information, such as occupation and institutional affiliation.”
http://scienceprogress.org/2013/01/working-toward-a-more-fitting-tribute-to-aaron-swartz-than-jstor%E2%80%99s-
register-read/
Chomsky is turning out to be a fraud. Thank you for this information.
Reply
Duck says:
February 1, 2014 at 10:55 pm
“Chomsky is turning out to be a fraud.”
To be fair, the guy is 85 years old. To judge an octogenarian with quite a track record for meaningful anlysis, even
dissent, as a fraud based on this admittedly ill advised defense of his long time employer is to paint with a bit of a
broad brush. I agree with the general critique in the above piece. But Chomsky’s record suggest he deserves better
than our scorn.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 11:06 pm
To be fair, the guy is 85 years old…
I was wondering when someone was going to say this, not least because I initially had some concerns
about that myself. But the problem is that Chomsky is quite lucid and very much himself in the rest of the
video and in other appearances. He gave this Swartz eulogy, which is far worse than ‘ill-advised’, at least
twice in the same year, as my post pointed out. A year after Swartz’s death, he was still whitewashing
MIT’s complicity.
Old age alters faculties, but doesn’t in my experience radically alter values. I have had relatives who got
both kinder and more politically astute as they got older. I therefore see no reason to credit Chomsky’s
remarkable consistency on Swartz, intellectual property, and MIT’s complicity to too little blood to the
brain. Far younger people in the same milieu also had weird reactions to Swartz’s death. Chomsky’s
reaction is very consistent with everyone else around him.
The point of the post is not scorn, though I don’t fault people for being disgusted. I am simply attempting
to demonstrate the ways Chomsky serves power, something that didn’t begin in old age. I happen to think
all iconic lefts are frauds in some way or another – they wouldn’t be icons otherwise – so I am fine with
mspbwatch’s indictment.
mspbwatch says:
February 1, 2014 at 11:16 pm
Between this post and part 1, where Tarzie described how Chomsky refused to apply his Propaganda Model to
himself, and in the background of the Heat Vampirism model, I think Tarzie made the case that he is a fraud.
Does this mean that Chomsky hasn’t made useful contributions to society? No, of course not. But where it
matters–providing solutions or approaches to challenge and confront inequities in society, Tarzie nailed it.
There are too many examples of insidious, oppressive, disempowering and authoritarian methods employed
by too many influential leftists. This needs to be exposed.
Duck says:
February 2, 2014 at 9:46 pm
I guess I don’t disagree with either of you on the points. I am hoping you are wrong about motives. Even one
as smart as Chomsky can be a tool without being cognizant of his complicity.
But the question is begged though. If Chomsky is on some level aware of his ethically dubious defense of
power, like that evinced by the Swartz comments, how deep does it go? As has been stated in previous posts,
one of Chomsky’s major contributions to political thought is his understanding of the way debate is defined
within allowable boundaries of a left-right dichotomy. Is Chomsky aware of his role in this vein? Has he long
been aware of it?
Tarzie says:
February 2, 2014 at 10:00 pm
I am hoping you are wrong about motives… Is Chomsky aware of his role in this vein? Has
he long been aware of it?
I just don’t think his motives matter that much. I really regret that so many of these conversations are
about discerning the secret moral essence of these people. In this case, certainly, his motives for
diminishing Swartz and protecting MIT/Intellectual Property on two successive occasions don’t alter the
results at all.
But since you care, it seems to me that just from a purely empirical standpoint, there is definitely a lot of
intentional shittiness here. He is misrepresenting the Swarz case in one of two ways:
1. He doesn’t know the facts, in which case he just makes shit up that suits his agenda.
2. He knows the facts, but because they don’t sync up with covering for institutional power, he distorts
them.
I am hard-pressed to pick the one that makes Chomsky look well-intended but wrong.
With all of these people, as with the media that Herman and Chomsky applied their lens to, I think there
are varying levels of self-awareness. I think Chomsky does kind of hold himself separate from the system
of punishments and rewards that shapes our discourse in the same way Greenwald does, but with a good
deal less narcissistic clowning.
But again, I feel that attempting to suss it out is part of the disease that makes left discourse more akin to
religion than to politics. You’ll never know how these people see themselves and it doesn’t really matter
anyway except to make fans feel better or worse about their power-serving conduct. FWIW, Chomsky felt
that most journalists were entirely self un-aware about the extent to which they served the establishment
because they had simply internalized its values. He thought the better ones were aware, and would play
along but look for openings to inject more truth than the system generally encourages. In my view, in
relation to Swartz, Chomsky is actually going above and beyond what I think the system even requires, so I
am hard-pressed to put him in the second group.
guest77 says:
February 13, 2014 at 2:12 am
Chomsky has laid the foundations for much of the critique of US foreign policy and media behavior. To say humanity
owes him a debt of gratitude is not, I don’t think, hyperbole. And the author of the opening piece, to his credit,
acknowledges to some degree. And the critique offered is very interesting, and quite valid. Certainly of all the
critiques about Chomsky one reads this seems honest, seems to come from a good place politically.
But after reading this thoughtful criticism of this person, you boneheadedly decide to say:
“Chomsky is turning out to be a fraud.”
So all those decades of scholarship and activism down the drain because of his opinion on this matter? Chomsky
maybe is wrong on Swartz. Perhaps people should do a little thinking instead of simply lionizing him. But you suggest
to people that he is simply “a fraud” and Case Closed. This is the same kind of Manichaeism the author talks about on
this blog. And he talks about it because that kind of black and white thinking is dangerous and foolish.
It goes without saying that, for whatever their faults, there are far worse people than Chomsky and Greenwald in this
world. In fact, as people go, they’re in the 99.9% percentile of “good people”, certainly when we compare them to the
people DOING the spying, the people running the wars, running the banks. So while we naturally agree with rational,
valid, honest criticisms like the author has made in the article here, how do you make the leap to “fraud”? The
Corporate/Security State is out there and, in the end, certainly the real enemy. And you just taking a sh|t on Chomsky
probably brings a smile to their face.
I guess my point is there is a difference between what the author did, and your inane poo-flinging. If we take this stuff
seriously, and we should, then what you did is pretty ignorant.
Reply
BRUCE TYLER WICK says:
January 31, 2014 at 4:47 pm
Magnificent! Not a single false note.
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 4:49 pm
Wow. Thanks.
Reply
MickStep says:
January 31, 2014 at 4:56 pm
I’m on my phone atm in a noisy environment, so I can’t verify by watching the video. But I watched the video yesterday and I
am 90% certain Chomsky didn’t say Aaron was “not very nice”.
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:12 pm
I put lastwheel’s video there so people could make up their minds.
Reply
MickStep says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:19 pm
I think it’s a total mistake. Can you really imagine Chomsky would say that, I know he reads all Glenn’s
articles And Glenn was singing Aarons praises. He said Aaron is a nice kid. His entire point is that Aaron is a
hopeless idealist. If you keep it there you are just asking to get torn apart.
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:26 pm
No, what would be a total mistake would be if people got the idea that this was vastly more important than
everything else he said. I’ve put a question mark by the ‘not’ and provided a video that people can look at
and judge.
I would scrub it entirely if I thought for sure I knew what he was saying. But I don’t.
MickStep says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:39 pm
I would say assume good faith on something you admit to being unsure of, especially since it’s so irrelevant.
I haven’t read the whole peice yet, looking forward to finishing it.
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:43 pm
I hear ‘not’ when I watch the video, so that’s what I transcribed. Assuming good faith does not mean
changing the text. I have only modified it because people like you are derailing potentially more
interesting conversations. Now that I’ve made the modifications, please stop.
lastwheel (@lastwheel) says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:56 pm
I made the video and I clarified by thoughts below but it’s odd that you comment without reading (and viewing) the
article in full, yet you mount a kneejerk response for Chomsky over a trite issue. This hints at an emotional deference
over-powering intellectual rigour. You said it yourself faith in him makes it unthinkable:
Can you really imagine Chomsky would say that, I know he reads all Glenn’s articles And Glenn was
singing Aarons praises.
He called him a thief, a thief, a thief, and that’s far worse. If it applies to you then that’s precisely the dangerous
thinking Tarzie has covered as it smacks of the whole “Glenn would never sell out to a billionaire” pseudo-defense
that persists in people who should know better.
Reply
MickStep says:
January 31, 2014 at 9:05 pm
That’s ridiculous, I said what I said because I have seen the video before multiple times and my ears hear it
that way, and whats more the demeanor of his entire bullshit defense of MIT and JSTOR portray Aaron as a
naieve, misguided, romantic idealist who should have known the consequences.
From Chomsky’s position it makes a hell of a lot more sense to not say Aaron was a bad kid, then only to
proceed to belittle him.
That was not a defense of Chomsky I did, it was a defense of Tarzie.
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 9:11 pm
I think suggesting that my post reflect the complete lack of consensus on what Chomsky said was a good
one, and I’m glad I finally accepted it.
I don’t agree, though, that Chomsky’s meaning or intentions are unambiguously clear, but I also don’t
think there is much profit in arguing about it.
MickStep says:
January 31, 2014 at 9:29 pm
I don’t want to argue about it either, all I was doing was watching your back because you got something
factually wrong because it was about to potentially blow up in your face.
Nathan Goodman (@dissentingleft) says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:00 pm
Great post. As someone who broke away from liberalism and moved towards anarchism largely due to Chomsky’s influence,
this kind of whitewash from him is very disappointing to me. His misrepresentation of the Swartz case and his appalling
apologism for copyright and corporate paywalls are particularly egregious. But his erasure of domestic political repression is
also appalling to me as a prison abolitionist who has followed a lot of cases of political prisoners in the US.
Reply
lastwheel (@lastwheel) says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:33 pm
Tarzie missed the obvious: Chomsky is a heavy contributor to JSTOR’s walled garden. He did spot that odd utterance
however, and for the record I’m not completely sure if this was some sort of Freudian slip or oratory fumble. It’s odd that his
hands, eyes, voice and head all said no possibly confirmed by his equally odd non-correction of “he committed suicide”, but
it’s not really important because the contempt he has for the data thief is clear elsewhere. For an exceptional linguist he has a
peculiar grasp of semantics: “broke” was simply the opening of a door IIRC, and “theft” requires a deprivation of property but
JSTOR’s originals remain intact. What Chomsky is really sad about is that Swartz committed unauthorised copying which
only is a violation if one ascribes to authoritarianism.
In 2009, as part of a larger question Chomsky was asked:
[...] If I go to my computer and download the latest U2 album “illegally”, is that justified?
His reply:
Well, again, depending on how broadly we cast the net, in a very narrow sense I think a case can be made
saying it’s illegal – here’s a creative artist who created a song and wants to survive, and he can’t survive if
people just steal. So in a very narrow sense, yes [copyright laws are] justified. As a broader question,
however, why do we have copyright laws? Is that the moral way or even the economically efficient way to
support the creative arts? I don’t think so; there are better ways. For example, it should be, in a free
democratic society, a sort of responsibility arrived at by democratic decision to maintain adequate support
for creative arts as we do for science. If that were done, the artists wouldn’t need copyrights to survive. That’s
economically more efficient, I believe, and morally more justified.
I have to assume Chomsky is unfamiliar with Bono if he thinks he is just scraping by and there is that odd use of language
again, “steal”. If a methodology is toxic, it’s toxic, it doesn’t suddenly become “just” if it aligns with one’s personal interests
and anyone that promotes the phantom concept of intellectual property needs to be thought of as a social pariah. While
Chomsky retains copyright for himself he gives the same legal conceit to Murdoch, Warner Bros, and the Olympic shit show.
Want to see an end to a manufactured consent? You take away the funding model and the ability for anyone to think or share
uninhibited does just that. One would even help kill a second bird because the surveillance industry is indistinguishable from
the ad industry.
Chomsky’s plan already exists in some countries in the form of a levy on private copying where taxes exist on black cassettes,
DVDs and other storage. Should the state be the collector there exists the “left’s” eternal problem: how does that big pot of
tribute trickle down to the artists? How do you prevent that big pot being “invested” furthering the assault on the intellectual
commons?
It takes a great deal of cynicism (and fear mongering) to think that “the arts” collapses without an enclosure of the
intellectual commons under state subsidy. Luckily there are people willing to throw off neoliberal strategy. It’s sad that
Swartz couldn’t hang on a little longer because he could have gone with the NSA’s Claptrap defense: data collection only
happens if one opens and reads the files.
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:38 pm
Tarzie missed the obvious: Chomsky is a heavy contributor to JSTOR’s walled garden.
Whether or not that’s what motivated his remarks is a matter of speculation. As a professor at MIT everything he
does under their auspices is already public. But in any case, certainly readers are free to infer that self interest is in
play without my help. I don’t find it particularly interesting, since I don’t find the argument over intellectual
property to be the most compelling thing here. My point has always been that Chomsky serves power, and
certainly his own class interests factor into that.
Between haggling over IP and whether or not Chomsky said ‘not’ this thread is promising to disappoint.
Reply
lastwheel (@lastwheel) says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:44 pm
Yeah I saw the “not” thread and actually reworked the comment to include my thoughts which is ultimately
irrelevancy because you don’t call a nice lad a thief several times in numerous interviews. I’d certainly prefer
to just be called un-nice than have an admired elder condemn my actions as criminal and it’s interesting to
think whether the pair ever spoke about the event. I could imagine an exchange along the lines of:
Well, you can’t just go and steal thousands of documents, you need to collectively organise a
subsidy for us.
I don’t believe there is record of Chomsky lobbying for defense pre-suicide and it’s easy to backhandedly
condemn when all too late. Although it’s again odd that he sees it as theft but said nothing should have
happened to Swartz which perhaps hints at exceptionalism for a MIT peer (of sorts).
As for IP (as a general topic) I think it’s dreadfully important because it’s a measure of a person that can leave
other condemnation moot, and I agree it’s tedious because there shouldn’t even be argument. Specifically it
reveals Chomsky as using the same mechanism of ladder climbing as his opponents whilst offering some
really vague faux-solution along the lines of voting in a government to outsource our aesthetic tastes. The
Sistine Chapel is a beauty but ultimately state propaganda.
Like with the death of journalism being a potential non-loss, which has been an idea in this part of the
intellectual space for some time, what do we really get or lose when the established pillars of academia fall? A
lot less debt for starters.
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:51 pm
I think it’s dreadfully important because it’s a measure of a person that can leave other
condemnation moot, and I agree it’s tedious because there shouldn’t even be argument.
Right, but my interest is not really in the measure of Chomsky. The fact is, if he were anything but what he
is, or something similar, he wouldn’t be where he is. Agonizing over these people’s individual failings is
not where my focus is. That’s why I didn’t feel the need to demonstrate anything beyond Chomsky’s
service to power — including his own — of which his defense of IP is but one part.
@umfuld says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:43 pm
When Chomsky says the U.S. is less repressive than other nations I don’t take that as a sanguine assessment but rather as a
condemnation of us all. We have more freedom to act and more power (including more global influence) to gain than perhaps
any other people in history.
Maybe he’s saying the rest of the world might think championing an activist who killed himself at 26 rather than spend 6
months in jail to be extremely odd?
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 5:47 pm
When Chomsky says the U.S. is less repressive than other nations I don’t take that as a sanguine
assessment but rather as a condemnation of us all.
I think that condemnation trivializes what we’re up against when we resist and in so doing, whitewashes domestic
repression.
I detest these politics of blaming people for not getting their heads bashed by cops. It’s religion.
Reply
@umfuld says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:03 pm
He’s not whitewashing anything: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/noam-chomsky-obamas-attack-
civil-liberties-has-gone-way-beyond-imagination
Our level of repression, while real and growing, is less than just about anywhere else, ever. Why do you want
to tell a scientist he can’t state a fact?
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 7:34 pm
Our level of repression, while real and growing, is less than just about anywhere else, ever.
Why do you want to tell a scientist he can’t state a fact?
I don’t agree with the first part of this construction, first of all, especially if you take our entire history into
account. But it’s beside the point, because I am not objecting to acknowledging that other places are worse.
I am objecting to the dishonestly hyperbolic way he’s putting it. The assertion that U.S. political dissidents
are punished almost solely with vilification and joblessness is simply false. The fact that in Latin America
dissidents ‘get their heads blown off’, doesn’t make it more truthful.
If you’re going to argue with me, argue with the particular things I’ve said and also the particular things
Chomsky’s said with which I am taking issue. No need to link to Chomsky articles. I’m aware of his work.
lastwheel (@lastwheel) says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:04 pm
He would become a felon possibly suffering exclusion from VISAs, easy dismissal from job interviews, and other
social impacts so it’s not just a 6 month thing. Freedom of speech is nothing if your voice is drowned out by
overwhelming misinformation, and it’s insignificant without the freedom of action which seems non-existent in the
US unless you are paying hard cash. You have everything from home raids on domestic horticulture to assassinations
for those that meaningfully resist.
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:06 pm
yeah, but other places are worse so it’s totally cool for Noam to call things like murder and long prison
sentences ‘undetectable’ and ‘not much punishment.’
Ned Ludd says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:35 pm
I used to volunteer with an advocacy group that helped the homeless. When you get out of prison, if you are a felon,
no one will hire you. No one will rent to you. You will be homeless. Swartz’s legal defense fund was trying to raise
funds before he committed suicide. He had no money; he was broke.
Swartz was looking at a future of desperation and homelessness. Let us know how your life turns out after you plead
guilty to 13 felonies. There are plenty of activists engaged in civil disobedience that would benefit from your
fearlessness.
Reply
@umfuld says:
January 31, 2014 at 7:24 pm
I’m gonna giggle myself to sleep tonight at the idea of someone like Swartz sleeping on a pile of snow like I
have many times.
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 7:25 pm
You know your comments should come with a disclaimer: ‘Thinks Snowden Leaks are a plot to undermine
the holy goodness of state power.”
Ned Ludd says:
January 31, 2014 at 7:39 pm
As a follow-up, the request for help from his legal defense fund came about 4 months before Swartz killed
himself. According to Lawrence Lessig, Swartz was broke and was facing a million dollar trial. umfuld finds
this all very funny. Unfortunately, people responded with the same sort of callousness.
Now let me see if I got this right:
1. Brilliant programmer gets chance of a lifetime.
2. Turns that into lots of money early in life.
3. Decides to change the world in his own way.
4. Consciously & purposefully breaks the law.
5. Has a webpage to get others to pay his legal bills.
I’ve never met Aaron but I’ve always enjoyed his writing and looked forward to meeting him
one day. But there is something seriously wrong about this.
Aaron should man up, take responsibility for his actions, and pay his own bills.
And if this is his idea of changing the world, perhaps he should reconsider his choices and find
a better way of paying it forward to other brilliant programmers who never got the breaks he
did.
The founder of Hacker News, Paul Graham, is the venture capitalist who provided the initial funding for
reddit and brought Swartz together with the other reddit founders. He often comments on Hacker News, but
he did not lift a finger to defend Swartz in the comment thread; never mind helping him raise legal defense
funds. Once Swartz was arrested, he was persona non grata. After he committed suicide, reddit deleted the
early morning post about the suicide that had reached the #1 spot on the site. They did not allow any posts on
Swartz on the front page until the end of the day, when the news continued to dominate other sites, and
reddit finally released a brief statement.
@umfuld says:
January 31, 2014 at 7:15 pm
As far as “I’ve had this discussion several times already, so I’m gonna pass this time” goes – I’m addressing the
specific topic you’ve raised in part 2 of a 3 part series on this very specific topic.
I’d like to take you seriously. Ball is in your court.
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 7:28 pm
When Chomsky says the U.S. is less repressive than other nations…
That’s not the phrasing I am taking exception to. I am taking exception to Less Repressive = ‘Undetectable by
comparison’ (part 1) and Less Repressive = ‘Not much punishment, frankly’ (part 2)
Reply
circadianwolf says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:16 pm
Chomsky’s comments about repression within the US are interesting given the oft-stated line, in response to idiots going
“why don’t you care about what [some other country] does?”, that he focuses on the US because he’s an American. (A line we
often hear from others as well, e.g. Greenwald.) But his comments you’ve documented here demonstrate that he is interested
only in certain kinds of actions by the US – actions abroad against non-Americans.
Which, to fit in with your general point, are precisely the actions ordinary Americans have the least ability to change. We
have almost no ability to put pressure on the military or defense contractors or the Washington bureaucracy, because they
have no presence or relationship with most of the American population anymore; the process of war has been outsourced or
localized, and increasingly so with the use of drones, etc. There are at least pressure points to push against if we want to act
against police repression, domestic spying, economic disenfranchisement, etc, despite the very real threat of violent reprisal.
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:21 pm
Well said.
Reply
Ned Ludd says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:17 pm
One thing I noticed, and was surprised by, is that Chomsky uses the hardships in other nations to minimize the hardship that
people face in the U.S.
Chomsky: But essentially [U.S. dissidents] can’t get jobs, they’re marginalized, they’re vilified. All sort of
things, not much punishment, frankly, but, it’s real.
If you can’t find work, you can’t afford food or shelter. For Chomsky, apparently, this is “not much punishment”. His father,
William Chomsky, became faculty president of a private college about the time that Noam Chomsky started attending private
elementary school. It seems that Noam Chomsky is just another member of the elite, brought up in affluence and dismissive
of how horrible it is to be poor and unemployed in this country.
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 6:23 pm
Yeah. It’s very dismissive of what it means to be unable to get a job in a place that has a very weak safety net. But
it’s even worse to pretend that punishment for dissent pretty much ends there. Inspired by your comment, I’ve
added language to take account of both.
Reply
diane says:
February 1, 2014 at 7:34 pm
Thanks for that Ned – The Woolley Mammoth …. balancing on a stool, at the ‘kitchen table’ whose proprietors never
acknowledged, wanted, nor invited to ‘the party.’ I always read your comments when I see them, as I feel a kinship
with much of what you express. I certainly always did when I commented at Naked Capitalism, before Lambert
twisted (“edited “) more than one comment I made. Just delete it if you don’t want a certain opinion expressed , or
believe it is not relevant; but, when one heads into changing the entire meaning of a comment they just edited (which
is what he did), and blocking the commenter from clarifying what they actually meant (which is also what he did),
they clearly indicate that they are part of the problem.
(and, Tarzie, read your comment policy link, are you really serious about meanness is okay [as long as it holds
interest?], I thought that was what was being battled? Where did i go wrong in life? I have no humor left, I actually
believe older people are generally wiser (and tend to be far kinder, though certainly not all) than younger ones (that’s
logical! ….since they’ve lived longer, under this mess) am not ‘well read/literary’ because it was always the exclusive
‘white’ boyz bookz that were promoted, and I despise meanness and gratuitous SNARK. Not to say that I don’t
generally agree with questioning why Greenwald and Noam should not be considered bought sell outs, just to say:
meanness is okay? Really????????)
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 7:42 pm
meanness is okay? Really????????)
Diane, if I didn’t allow for a little meanness, I would be a bigger-than-usual hypocrite.
diane says:
February 1, 2014 at 8:13 pm
I don’t buy that Tarzie, as meanness is intentional harm against someone who isn’t deserving of that harm.
Meanness is not unintentional and misdirected. Again, welcome meanness??????
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Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 8:58 pm
I think we’re at an impasse.
haptic says:
January 31, 2014 at 8:17 pm
Genuine question.
What would constitute a counterexample to the idea that “if he were anything but what he is, or something similar, he
wouldn’t be where he is” ?
I worry about these constructions, because although they seem to impart some new information, I don’t know how they are
not tautological.
Reply
Tarzie says:
January 31, 2014 at 8:32 pm
It’s not an attempt to impart new information. I am simply explaining where Chomsky’s individual qualities sit in
relation to my interest in him. His individual qualities and beliefs are useful to me only inasmuch as they confirm
or refute my belief that he serves power in a way that is consistent with every other left celebrity. I don’t care
whether or not he’s essentially good or essentially bad, a hypocrite or what his intentions are.
Anyone who wants to refute me should find an explanation other than service to power for why strikingly similar
dead enders all cluster around the margins of our discourse. Or they could show that in fact that’s not what
actually clusters around the margins.
My comment is akin to what Chomsky said to Andrew Marr when he was misunderstanding Chomsky’s media
critique: ‘If you didn’t believe everything you say, you wouldn’t be sitting in that chair.’ I made it in part because I
didn’t want this discussion to be all about intellectual property. The extent of Chomsky’s wrong-headedness is not
the point of this post.
Reply
haptic says:
February 4, 2014 at 7:56 am
Gotcha, but I wasn’t really asking you to tell me how to refute you.
I’m not really interested in undermining your critique of Chomsky. Have at it.
I think your critique is substantive, I just see people (not you) so frequently elevate that tautology in order to
short circuit critique. Such that the fact Chomsky is successful in communicating what he thinks indicates a
priori that nothing he says is genuinely subversive. Such a heuristic would make your critique unnecessary,
but that would be a loss.
I suppose I am suspicious of the tautology as anything other than a device to explain the more substantive
critique of an entity’s propaganda function.
I also find myself wondering what it would look like if Chomsky was less of a heat vampire. And what
counterexamples to the propaganda model could possibly look like. And whether the consequence of stating
the import of the propaganda model as a tautology is a pre-emptive conviction that no possibly media
happenings can be truly subversive.
I wonder whether the tautological statement of the propaganda model carries forward a little too much of
what you correctly identify in Chomksy as a disempowering streak, in that it encourages us to believe that the
system is entirely self-completing. That is a disempowering thought, right?
I wonder in the same vein whether it is more empowering to return to the original meaning of the term
“propaganda” and whether the point is make sure that subversive propaganda is produced and successfully
promulgated within a propaganda system.
And I wonder if that type of “propaganda model” could give us a more precise way of evaluating the
subversive function of Heroes of the Left.
Tarzie says:
February 4, 2014 at 1:56 pm
Ah, the first time around I wasn’t quite sure what you were getting at so simply guessed and failed. This
had nothing to do with how you put it. It has to do with my own language limits.
So that my description/prescription complaint isn’t entirely hypocritical, I am hoping there’s still an
intended ‘What now?’ post in me that might touch on some of these questions. In the meantime:
I suppose I am suspicious of the tautology as anything other than a device to explain the
more substantive critique of an entity’s propaganda function.
I’m not sure what this means. Are you saying it’s too simplistic to imply, as I have, that the less obviously
subservient side of a heat vampire’s critique is, in effect, a ruse and nothing else?
I also find myself wondering what it would look like if Chomsky was less of a heat vampire.
In terms of what he’d say or do or what his standing would be in the world or both? It’s easier for me to
imagine a less constrained system than to imagine a less constrained Chomsky. Without the usual
constraints, I imagine a constellation of left luminaries who more closely resemble the left outside the
margins: more marxists, more anarchists, more repudiators of state legitimacy, more hacktivists, more
racial and gender diversity…more organizers/agitators as opposed to intellectuals and journalists. Put
more generally, a higher prescription/description quotient. I think Swartz makes a good comparison. Also
David Graeber. I think Ned Ludd’s comparison of MLK to Chomsky was useful.
If your question is how someone of enduring high status could be less power-serving with everything else
remaining just as it is, I have to admit I’m stumped. I think they would have to be someone who eats away
at the system in some way that looks entirely like something the system had no built-in filters for.
I wonder whether the tautological statement of the propaganda model carries forward a
little too much of what you correctly identify in Chomksy as a disempowering streak, in
that it encourages us to believe that the system is entirely self-completing. That is a
disempowering thought, right?
Only if a warning label on a jar of drain opener is disempowering. I think knowing what something is good
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for and what it isn’t is overall more empowering than not knowing. I think the idea that people like
Greenwald and Chomsky emerge organically based on the happy intersection of their merits and the left’s
requirements is a deception that has all kinds of disempowering, even dangerous, effects. Even if on close
analysis one draws the conclusion that fucking with the state is far more dangerous than the luminaries let
on, that’s information that imparts where one should put one’s energies and one shouldn’t.
I wonder in the same vein whether it is more empowering to return to the original meaning
of the term “propaganda” and whether the point is make sure that subversive propaganda
is produced and successfully promulgated within a propaganda system.
I dunno. This seems somewhat bound up with the heat vampire description/prescription emphasis. I think
we are getting diminishing returns from information at this juncture. Perhaps rather than focusing on how
to produce propaganda that gets around existing constraints, it makes more sense to be more deliberately
analytical about where the openings for change are, where in that is change most needed, and the best
means of bringing it about. The better propaganda would be part of this I guess, but only a small part.
Reptation (@thisold) says:
January 31, 2014 at 10:04 pm
I saw Chomsky once or twice in Boston and was annoyed/sickened by the sycophantic nature of his followers. Every question
was, “What do you think about so and so?”, asked in such a naive way that his response had some scriptural quality rather
than just being some old (pretty informed but) academic guy’s opinion. I also thought Chomsky’s dismissal of libertarian
fringe candidates was, to say the least, trite and regretable in its lack of thoughtfulness.
Reply
thedoctorisindahouse says:
February 1, 2014 at 12:20 am
There is nothing as monstrous as attending lectures by an author. It’s more sycophantic than questions from
trembling college students to a snipish professor. At best a passing wave of disruption might occur when someone
dares a challenging question but it’s all forgotten as the audiences gives up on its critical thought as soon as the next
sycophant comes up to the mic.
Reply
Ned Ludd says:
January 31, 2014 at 10:36 pm
Fred Hampton was murdered by the government. Judi Bari was almost killed by a pipe bomb, and then the government
targeted her for prosecution. Timothy DeChristopher was sentenced to 2 years in jail for derailing a federal oil and gas lease
auction, even though “environmentalists had pooled together to pay what DeChristopher owed”. He spent at least two weeks
in an “isolation unit”.
In Washington, anarchists were incarcerated for five months, including two months in solitary, as part of “a fishing
expedition targeting those who identify as anarchists or associate with anarchists.”
And if you protest in this country, and if you step outside of the state-approved free speech zones, you will be beaten, tear-
gassed, pepper sprayed, and then arrested for unlawful assembly and failure to disperse.
Yet, to Chomsky, “The United States is a free country.” Dissidents face “not much punishment, frankly.”
Reply
michael g says:
February 4, 2014 at 2:02 pm
There’s a sense that we all know how bad it is, but that it comes in levels and layers, and I’m just not that confident
about it being clear all the way to the dismal bottom of it.
Fred Hampton’s state-sanctioned state-delivered murder, Judy Bari’s attempted assassination, or more accurately
the initiation of her actual assassination over time, it’s not like that’s the moral bottom of it all.
And that level’s not even on the table for most of the disputants.
What I’m saying is w/o evidence, so assertion, but it’s an assertion that it’s much worse.
High-profile take-downs weren’t all that happened even then.
There were all along Chelsea Mannings and Aaron Swartz’s we never even heard about before they were swept away.
This is a dark faith not covert history.
Still what we do know about things,and agree w/each other about as well, refutes Chomsky’s almost lighthearted
acceptance of repressive conditions in US. My point is it’s thus making it easier to rest the analysis there. Not Tarzie
and others here but the larger forum. We can see Chomsky refuted by the historically validated marginalized crimes
of the state’s enforcement agencies, we can only suppose and worry and suspicion about the further depths of that
oppression.
Until we’re staring across the line at howling paranoia.
Danger of knowing it’s worse than Chomsky’s trivial hypocritical claims, but then stopping at that lower threshold.
How much worse, kids?
You get this always from striving optimists yeah?
“C’mon it’s not that bad. For me. For us.”
Oh to be an us. A real one.
Thanks Ned Ludd for bringing those wounded and unhealed places forward.
And Tarzie’s work in this post 1&2 is brilliant and essential soul-mind nutrition.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm
There were all along Chelsea Mannings and Aaron Swartz’s we never even heard about
before they were swept away.
This is something I have been thinking about lately. It’s highly depressing but must be reckoned with. It
speaks to the need to analyze the state not in terms of what is officially part of the repression record — as
imparted to us by compromised systems and individuals — but a careful consideration of the power the
state has, and what it logically would do with it. I have rare optimistic moments, though, where I think we
greatly overestimate the state’s power to know and to act, for both technical reasons and also the
constraints of morals and norms acting on many of its agents. If we had a real discourse, this is the kind of
thing our luminaries would examine in closer detail.
michael g says:
February 4, 2014 at 6:54 pm
where I think hope we greatly overestimate the state’s power to know and to act…
One thing you’re bringing that is really rare on the internet is a gentility of response, in major evidence
during the back-and-forth with that “git” person.
It’s exemplary, not least for its lived values, but it has a kind of repercussive effect too.
It’s a tutorial.
Tarzie says:
February 4, 2014 at 8:11 pm
This is actually new.
thesystemoftheworld says:
February 4, 2014 at 10:46 pm
I have rare optimistic moments, though, where I think we greatly overestimate the state’s
power to know and to act, for both technical reasons and also the constraints of morals and
norms acting on many of its agents.
Like you do here, I think it is important to remember that a state is more than a bureaucratic abstraction that
can helpfully diffuse responsibility (mistakes were made), but composed of actual people who make decisions
that others have to live, or die, by. Beyond the ones listed, I gather that another limiting factor is intelligence.
I don’t see a lot of philosopher kings ascending to prominence, but rather a bunch of Tracy Flicks. From what
I can tell, unending reservoirs of ambition and energy are needed, as well as an easily recalibrated moral
compass. Real self-reflective intelligence may be an actual detriment.
I think that the Coen’s underappreciated Burn After Reading would be an interesting view, particularly in
the…middle?…beginning?…of the Snowden affair, if only as a corrective against some of the more chest
beating, cloak and dagger, spitting in the face of danger stuff that’s out there.
Although, given the very real power of a modern state like the US, contemplating the consequences of
incompetence at the top might not be very comforting.
thedoctorisindahouse says:
February 1, 2014 at 12:46 am
1. I think he said “He’s a N– VERY Nice kid” as in, he stopped the word “nice” to precede it by “very” because he thought “a
nice kid” will come off douche-y (he knows what he is).
Looking back at my quote, it looks like I’m about to accuse him of calling Swartz “the n-word N–”.
2. I wonder if, in the spirit of charitably reading the privileged, rich, platform enjoying, never lacked for airtime, white
professor dude, we couldn’t imaging that Chomsky is so fixated on the problems of the Palestinians that he has literally
decided to sacrifice all concerns about domestic oppressions in order to hyperbolize in favor of raising awareness of the plight
abroad.
Which brings me around to
3. To the extent that America does cause more harm abroad than can be tolerated by an informed citizenry and to the extent
it’s their responsibility to right it and reign in the government operating in their name, wouldn’t and shouldn’t the first order
of business be to ensure the conditions for citizens that would allow them to resist?
Shouldn’t they come first, in order to empower them to do something?
The reason Chomsky focuses on international oppressions abroad is that he doesn’t feel there are any meaningful
oppressions at home. Just like he says.
It’s equally a further sign of his stupidity, just on logical analysis and deduction, that he points to other countries being more
oppressive of their dissidents and activists.
He ignores that those regimes are more vulnerable to dissidence because they are smaller economies, less militarized, less
effectively policed. On the basis of actually getting anything done, one can measure the activist out of context or regime they
are agitating against. He chooses to blame the victims here while focusing on the victims there. There’s often very little
attention to the actual structure of force that the propagandized are faced with.
The propaganda model assumes that the real power lies in propagandizing people because people hold the real power. It
confuses marketing with social activism, just like the marketers want every consumer to when they try to sell them that their
purchase will be ethical and life altering.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 12:51 am
The propaganda model assumes that the real power lies in propagandizing people because people
hold the real power.
This is exactly right. Even his propaganda model presupposes a democracy that functions so well it requires
endless opinion management. At the same time, it can also just make oligarchy function more smoothly. If
everyone’s clued in, oligarchy is susceptible to death by a thousand cuts. Also, if people have nothing to lose,
they’re more willing to resist.
Reply
thedoctorisindahouse says:
February 1, 2014 at 12:56 am
I forgot to include that this fixation on the little people and victims, ignoring the structure of the powers doing the
propagandizing and repression in their respective countries, avoids the kind of analysis that might conclude that, if
the US government were ever threatened with any meaningful influence by its own citizens, it would push down at
last just as brutally as any of these teetering banana republics have to do on their seemingly small time community
organizers.
He is measuring the kind of activism that happens in Colombia or Palestine and implying that those actions threaten
their regimes as much as they would if it were Americans doing it at home.
When in fact, before we get straight to activists being shot in the head or bombed, they’d need to AFFECT their
government the way those foreign activists affect theirs. The truth is American activists would have to go farther at
home than other countries’ activists have to go over there, simply because the US police state is so much more
prepared to control dissent and manage disruptions.
He, of course, never gave a shit about doing anything, only about being a star who brags about how bad it is.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 1:03 am
Yeah, there is a suggestion that the US is inherently less repressive rather than simply being as repressive
as it needs to be. It’s shown itself to be as ruthless and violent as any other regime when the need arises.
He’s 84, he knows all this.
Or his point could be that we’re morally obliged to agitate at least until the US state is as repressive toward
the domestic population as, say, Israel is to the Palestinians.
thedoctorisindahouse says:
February 1, 2014 at 1:12 am
A good question. Is he as purely moralistic, as Christ on the Cross self sacrifice as Chris Hedges? I don’t
know.
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 1:18 am
It’s proof of how fucked this shit is that we have to guess what he means. Certainly most of the people that
have argued with me over his sacred right to minimize state repression think the US is inherently less
repressive.
Ned Ludd says:
February 1, 2014 at 11:47 am
When Chomsky uses suffering abroad to minimize suffering in the U.S., he is revealing his own social function. Compare
Chomsky with Martin Luther king, Jr. In Beyond Vietnam (audio, pdf), Martin Luther King, Jr. connects “the war in Vietnam
and the struggle I, and others, have been waging in America.”
It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor – both black and white – through the poverty
program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched
this program broken and eviscerated, as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on
war… So, I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
King later shows that, on a more fundamental level, the people who profit from exploitation are similar, whether in the U.S.
or another country.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With
righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge
sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social
betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of
South America and say, “This is not just.” […]
A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social
uplift is approaching spiritual death.
King was mobilizing people and building global solidarity; he connected the suffering in the U.S. with the suffering caused by
U.S. militarism and foreign exploitation. “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go
out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”
In contrast, Chomsky uses suffering abroad to minimize suffering in the U.S. Instead of mobilizing people, Chomsky
demobilizes the poor and other marginalized people who are struggling to survive and do not have time to participate in
someone else’s struggle while neglecting their own. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached solidarity; he rallied poor and exploited
people in the U.S. to fight for a larger global cause while fighting for their own.
In contrast, Chomsky guides his readers to focus on foreign affairs and separates their activism from the local struggle
against domestic repression and economic deprivation. He weakens activism. This is his social function.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 12:10 pm
Hence Chomsky is 85 and still ticking.
Nice contrast. There’s also a lesson in how icons are now fundamentally chatterers, not organizers. That’s really
the difference between Chomsky and Swartz, so it’s really remarkable to watch Noam attempt to negate Swartz as
even a legitimate dissenter.
If such ‘radicals’ as Chomsky didn’t exist, the oligarchs would have to invent them. What’s amazing is how taken in
people are, including me at one time. I heard Chomsky say “America is a free country” a gazillion times, and while
it struck me as odd, I never gave it any real thought.
Reply
Wendell Dryden says:
February 1, 2014 at 1:49 pm
“There’s also a lesson in how icons are now fundamentally chatterers, not organizers. ”
Which, if I understand you, is at the heart of heat vampirism?
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 2:12 pm
Which, if I understand you, is at the heart of heat vampirism?
Well that depends. Put simply, the real essence of heat vampirism is compliance in the guise of defiance. A
heat vampire throws of an aura of dissent to attract real dissent and bring it to heel. Movements and
activists can lead people down culs de sacs as well or better than intellectuals, even if they don’t intend to.
From a tactical standpoint, I think there is less onus on an intellectual or journalist to make actual
recommendations about social change than there is on someone whose star power comes from actual
agitating. So, as an intellectual, Chomsky can go a lifetime making people feel depressed and be celebrated
for it in a way that he couldn’t if he were an organizer. It goes in tandem with the trend toward consuming
information and handwringing as substitutes for actual engagement.
Ned Ludd says:
February 2, 2014 at 11:20 pm
There’s also a lesson in how icons are now fundamentally chatterers, not organizers.
In the community that I wrote about in the comment below, your political identity was demonstrated by how
you organized. Socialists elected leaders, voted on decisions, and had marshals at their protests to direct the
crowds. Anarchists made decisions by consensus, instead of voting. At protests, anarchists formed affinity
groups that acted autonomously.
There was no significant discussion of political theory. Politics was about how you organized a protest and
how you ran a bookstore or a grocery store.
Carolyn Clark says:
February 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm
Chomsky is the most prominent Left Gatekeeper on 9/11 dissent. Of course, he has plenty of company. Like Greenwald and
the others, he remains willfully ignorant of the scientifically rigorous and exhaustive research done by Architects and
Engineers for 9/11 truth, among others.
http://www.911review.com/denial/gatekeepers.html
“Denial lies at the heart of this unusual Left reaction. Many activists have looked at the questions, thought about the answers
for a bit, and retreated in horror in the face of implications. If the government had foreknowledge and let the attacks happen,
or worse, actually took part in facilitating them, then the American state is far more vicious than they could have imagined.
And if so, what would happen to them should they vocalize this? Needless to say, this would greatly raise the stakes of
political action well beyond the relatively superficial level that even many leftists operate at. It would be impossible to go on
living as before, being essentially a spectator whose life is work/shopping/entertainment, with the occasional political rally,
lecture or movie to spice things up and make one feel involved. People like that, or even ones more involved with some
regular effort at political reform, could no longer feel that the political situation could be changed for the better through
small, incremental steps, a 100 year or even 500 year plan. This prospect is thoroughly unsettling, and is easier to deal with if
simply dismissed outright. …”
Reply
john says:
February 1, 2014 at 5:36 pm
and what would greatly raise the stakes beyond the relatively superficial level of Architects and Engineers for 9/11
truth is the work of Dr. Judy Wood, i.e. ‘Where Did The Towers Go?’
Reply
Carolyn Clark says:
February 1, 2014 at 7:26 pm
I’m not sure what you mean by the “relatively superficial work” done by Architects and Engineers. Would you
elaborate?
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 7:40 pm
Hey, newcomers, I’m happy you stopped by, but I would greatly appreciate your staying on topic. Thanks.
Comments Policy.
lastwheel (@lastwheel) says:
February 1, 2014 at 2:47 pm
Has Chomsky “tutored” any notable protégés?
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 2:51 pm
I can’t speak to linguistics. In politics, there is none that I’m aware of, but he’s certainly given his blessing to
Greenwald, who is his obvious successor in this-far-and-no-more service to power.
Reply
Carolyn Clark says:
February 1, 2014 at 8:17 pm
Sorry if I violated the comments policy. I understand why this policy exists, but at the same time I’d rather have the freedom
to have an intelligent conversation with someone who makes a comment I would like clarified.
I’m not saying that this applies in the case of this blog–I have no history here by which to judge–but I personally detest the
way many blogs/websites censor comments questioning the government’s own ridiculous conspiracy theory about 9/11. I
mean people are allowed to make the most ignorant, asinine comments about any other topic under the sun without their
right to make their stupid comment being questioned, but when someone mentions 9/11, monitors clutch their pearls and
faint.
I haven’t ever had my own blog and if I did might be forced to have a “Comments Policy” also, even though I would prefer
not. I would definitely have nested threads, so those not interested in a train of thought can skip that sub-thread without
wading through it. With that in place, I’d let the comments rip, as long as they do not contain personal threats. Is that naive?
Maybe so but that’s how I would do it.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 1, 2014 at 8:57 pm
When you have your own blog, you can let the comments rip, but remember that people say ‘Don’t read the
comments’ for a reason. Most comment sections suck. Mine doesn’t. I urge people to stay on topic fairly often so
you’re not being singled out.
No one is attempting to censor the TRUTH about 9/11 on this blog and I said nothing about your first comment
which was on topic. I agree that Chomsky’s anti-conspiracism is part of his whitewashing. But then a fellow
traveler came along and you both seem poised to have a completely unrelated chat in which I am not interested. I
have politely asked you not to and you are just at the brink of ‘You’re suppressing the truth’ mode. I tend to
discourage conspiracism around here, for a reason that is entirely separate from the theories themselves: I dislike
the culture that comes with it.
I am not going to delete your posts, nor will I block you unless you go wild. I am simply expressing my preferences
which you can politely honor or rudely ignore or something in between.
Reply
Carolyn Clark says:
February 1, 2014 at 9:37 pm
I specifically said I was not referencing this blog since I was not familiar with it. So how did you assume I was accusing you of
suppressing the truth? I was stating my opinion about comment sections in general. That’s all. Sorry to have infected this
pristine comments section with my opinions. Be assured I will not defile it again.
Reply
john says:
February 2, 2014 at 6:16 am
a quick response and i’m outta here…for me the most compelling evidence behind the twin towers attacks is in Dr.
Wood’s book, ‘Where Did The Towers Go?’ and 911 truth has attacked her pretty viciously. any “truth” movement that
avoids confronting solid evidence is, in my book, seriously compromised. peace
Reply
Kevin Dooley says:
February 2, 2014 at 2:13 am
I think the most objectionable part of Chomsky’s reaction to the Schwartz case is how dismissive he is of anyone who
disagrees with him tactically. He seems to think “young kids” like Aaron are so eager to change the world that they haven’t
bothered to think things through. It never seems to occur to him that Aaron, who was not a kid, may have carefully
considered the problem and come to a different conclusion. Apparently one isn’t existing in the world if they go beyond the
tactical boundaries Chomsky sets for us.
But Noam is hardly alone in his tactical self-assurance without much to show for it. As he scolds a deceased dissident for
actually trying to do something, heir apparent Glenn Greenwald is busy leading a remarkably conservative reporting process
(that NC supports, obviously), while also finding the time to dismiss and mock all his left critics as more-radical-than-thou.
Now that we’re 7+ months into this spectacle, the inevitable reforms that don’t actually reform anything are beginning to
emanate from Washington and Glenn is none too pleased. I mean, they are still going to be spying on innocent people AND
James Clapper gets to keep his job?! It’s almost like the system doesn’t work after all!
But instead of reconsidering the reporting process he has pursued and relentlessly defended, Glenn has taken to twitter to
mock Obama’s bland proposals. This is especially rich as Glenn is one of the few people personally responsible for helping to
cap the potential for a stronger, more disruptive global reaction to these revelations by sitting on the vast majority of the
material he’s been given. It seems that speaking 1% of the truth to power in a fake democracy doesn’t achieve a whole lot.
Now I’m obviously not suggesting we blame Greenwald and Chomsky for our existing democratic deficit, but people ought to
attack them and anyone else who uses their platform to advocate tactics that would only have utility in a functioning
democracy. We aren’t living in one, so perhaps there is a better way to proceed.
I think existing in the world (as Chomsky put it) should be evaluating the real conditions as they are and choosing the tactics
that properly respond to those conditions. To me, that means supporting people like Aaron, who are willing to take direct
action to serve the public, while criticizing people like Glenn who indirectly cooperate with the state, to the public’s
detriment, and then express outrage when their cooperation doesn’t result in meaningful reform.
Reply
thedoctorisindahouse says:
February 2, 2014 at 11:07 am
I had taken Chomsky’s use of “kid” to describe Aaron as a sympathetic portrayal, pushing his innocence or rather
softening the blow of his subsequent idiot-jacketing of Swartz.
Why I can’t imagine, now that you pointed out its function.
His point that Aaron didn’t know what he was doing is based on his disagreement on substance, not on any analysis
of Swartz’s motivations (that’s not to say he doesn’t also pathologize Aaron’s actions, making them out to be ignorant
instead of opposite to his own but still valid).
Chomsky equates info with power, hence the sacredness of info. Hence the materialism of info, a commodifiable
good. Really, Chomsky is a believer in the capitalization of info and not being an anti capitalist but a mere civil
libertarian, wants to see private enterprise protected, not forced to be as open as individuals, who have free choice.
There goes his admiration of America’s great Free Speech protections, while only paying lip service to the
complications that commerce brings to how Free we are to Speak.
Another corporatist who thinks if the cops aren’t pumping bullets into your thought crime filled brain, everything is
just fine, so QUIT YER BELLYACHIN.
Reply
Ned Ludd says:
February 2, 2014 at 4:42 am
How did Chomsky become a prominent figure within radicalism? In the mid 1990’s, I was part of a collective that ran an
anarchist community center and bookstore. My recollection is that no one talked about Chomsky, and no one had any
particular interest in his contemporary works. He had written a well-regarded book called Turning the Tide, about U.S.
intervention in Central America; but that was originally published back in 1985. He co-wrote Manufacturing Consent: The
Political Economy of the Mass Media, which was published in 1988; but he switched to a major, corporate publisher
(Pantheon Books, owned by Random House), so it didn’t get much traction in radical, left-wing bookstores. Also, since
Herman was listed first on the cover, the work was credited more to Herman than to Chomsky.
Chomsky became to be seen as a prominent radical because of the film Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the
Media, which gained wide release in the U.S. in 1993. Without that film, Chomsky would today be just another obscure
academic. I saw the film, and I found Chomsky interesting, but I came away with the view that either he or the film-makers
had no idea what anarchism was. This was the takeaway in The New York Times:
Whether or not you agree with Mr. Chomsky’s conclusions, his reading of the American scene is persuasive:
that the government is most responsive to the wishes expressed by the minority of citizens who vote, which is
also one of the principal points made by John Kenneth Galbraith in his recent book “The Culture of
Contentment.” As Mr. Chomsky sees it, his mission is to wake up and activate the electorate.
In 1997, I went to see Chomsky speak at the student union on the main campus of the state’s public university. He was not
sponsored by radical groups; instead, he was brought to campus by the College of Liberal Arts and a program within the
School of Public Heath. Also, I was expecting around 50 people. I was shocked that more than 800 showed up. My friends
and I ended up at the back of the auditorium. I was surprised that Chomsky had become so popular, so quickly.
Chomsky’s star seemed to to rise in concert with a shift away from anti-establishment and anti-capitalist radical politics.
Young people, in their late teens and early twenties, had in earlier years provided new energy for anti-capitalist groups. In the
mid-1990’s, this was no longer the case where I lived. The newly-formed Green Party (which had earlier been a green
movement, operating outside of the electoral system) helped steer young radicals back into electoral politics. Radical
anarchist and socialist groups – which focused on direct action, building collectively-run organizations, international
solidarity, and tearing down established institutions of power (instead of cooperating with them) – dwindled away as older
people left and no new young people joined.
Chomsky helped shift the focus of activism into documenting and publicizing an exhaustive litany of atrocities and
exploitation. Radical activists that worked outside of electoral politics and shunned capitalist organizations like Random
House were replaced by celebrity book authors who found endless endless ways to document over and over again just how
bad everything was.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 2, 2014 at 11:34 am
Thanks for this history. I had been wondering about the trajectory of his career and when and how, exactly, he
became an icon. My impression was that it happened sooner, when he protested the Vietnam War and wrote a
widely read piece in the New York Review of Books (or something similar) about the role of public intellectuals. In
either case, it does seem that mainstream endorsement, less than the admiration of organizers and activists, is
what moved things along. It would be interesting to look more closely at his career and the specific influences that
shaped it. Your view from inside 90s anarchism is very interesting.
I agree with you about his anarchism. To me, it starts and ends with his admiration for Spanish anarcho-
syndicalism. He defines his anarchism very broadly, to simply mean all hierarchical authority must justify itself
and if it can’t justify itself it should be dismantled. It doesn’t seem to inform his politics much at all, which run
more along the lines of state socialism/social democrat. Certainly a lot of anarchists don’t rule out provisional
statism — I don’t — but with Chomsky it seems more bred in the bone. His repudiation of Swartz doesn’t seem to
fit even within his own very broad definition.
Reply
adam says:
February 2, 2014 at 11:57 am
Hi Tarzie, I have read you for a little over a year but have hardly ever commented. I have really enjoyed your thoughtful and
challenging posts — I used to hold up the likes of Chomsky and Greenwald as sacred cows, but your writing has forced me to
think deeply about their role in policing the left. Have you ever considered compiling in a post some of the various
books/texts/news sources/authors that have been foundational in your political and intellectual development? I’m sure there
are many like me who are not regular contributors to the comment threads but have nonetheless had their horizons
expanded by your writing and would be interested in exploring some of what has shaped your worldview. Thanks and keep
up the excellent work.
[Apologies if you've already done this in an earlier post]
Reply
Git, Tarzie! says:
February 2, 2014 at 12:18 pm
Chomsky couldn’t have known any of this when Ugyur interviewed him, but a year later, after the above information had
come to light….
Couldn’t have known? Really? Why not? Oh that’s right. It hadn’t yet “come to light.” We all have to wait for things to “come
to light” before we can try to know them. Therefore, being gay is not innate, but arises the first time Tarzie enjoys holding
another boy’s penis at age 6.
Pretending to dissect, latent bolstering.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 2, 2014 at 12:22 pm
Couldn’t have known? Really? Why not? Oh that’s right. It hadn’t yet “come to light.”
That’s actually a fair point and in fact my original language suggested less certainty. Original was probably better.
Reply
Git, Tarzie! says:
February 2, 2014 at 12:23 pm
It’s certainly not possible for MIT’s leading apologist and leading father-figure on The Left(TM) to learn what is being
done on a hot-button issue that could smear MIT’s reputation. They’d never want him to know what he can apologize
for, minimize, rationalize, explain-away. Never. They’d keep him in a Knowledge Isolation Cell, where he’d be
immunized against information.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 2, 2014 at 12:28 pm
I think you’re right to suggest I might have a preemptive blind spot. My view of Chomsky in this is that he
simply has an institutional and class bias that serves as well as deliberate collusion and cover-up, but there
is no basis for ruling out something more deliberate, especially considering that even after MIT’s
investigation had concluded, he was still whitewashing. I’ve modified the language.
From a practical standpoint, though, not sure how much Chomsky could have known only a couple weeks
after Swartz’s death, which is when the ass-covering no doubt commenced. For an institution to cover its
ass, it has to know the extent of what it’s done. Stuff like the help the Secret Service received in hacking
into Swartz’s computer seem like things that would likely only come to light via an investigation. Hard to
imagine Chomsky knew about that in January 2013, but you’re right, I can’t be certain.
thedoctorisinthehouse says:
February 2, 2014 at 9:36 pm
How directly do you think policing the borders affects or is even intended for the mainstream?
It prevents the mainstream from hearing whispers of extreme voices or it prevents radicals from hearing those voices. To the
extent that it osmoses, is there a dynamic between the margin and the center or is the center always creamy regardless what
the margins do, putting all the effect of gate-keeping squarely on the marginal, potential (ha!) activist zone?
Reply
thedoctorisinthehouse says:
February 2, 2014 at 9:38 pm
If I could add a bit. Is Chomsky’s voice an effect on Swartz doing things or an effect on people who might be attracted
to Swartz and does it bleed into the CNN viewer in any manner? CNN reported on Swartz as a pointless,
sensationalist suicide story with lip service to overzealous prosecution. They never touch Chomsky. Then they move
on regardless, ideologically unaffected.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 2, 2014 at 10:15 pm
It doesn’t matter how Chomsky’s message affects the mainstream, at least not most of the time, because
the audience for Chomsky’s message isn’t the mainstream. All the left chatterers, from, say, MSNBC on
out, are various brands of the same swill sold to their particular customers. The branding comes in the
descriptive side which is permitted to vary. The prescription — compliance — varies much less. Chomsky
sells compliance to the leftmost part of the spectrum. Chomsky also helpfully indicates what leftmost
means for everyone else.
Tarzie says:
February 2, 2014 at 10:17 pm
Policing the borders affects the mainstream to the extent that it keeps the people at the borders from encouraging
people in the mainstream to do something else. It’s about containing social change, which is, of course, going to
start at the periphery, as it always has. It’s also not just about the individual effect of some individual talk that
Chomsky gives at the British Library. It’s about the collective effect of everyone in public life selling the same swill,
as if no other rational possibility exists. It’s sorta like what I think JK Galbraith said about car ads. They’re not just
about getting people to buy a Chevy or a Ford. It’s about selling them on the necessity of a car.
Reply
Steve says:
February 3, 2014 at 4:12 am
Being new to your site, it will take me some time to bring anything meaningful to the discussion, but it has had the effect of
sending me here and there, so I thought I would send along the following:
Regarding “permissible dissent”, “gatekeepers”, and the like, I found some stuff over at Dissident Voice like this, this, or this
with which you may or may not be familiar.
And yes, I went back and checked and it was your link that took me to Knight (thanks) and, after having read his article, the
thought that kept coming back was “cognitive dissonance” or something like that. Almost every time I read or watch
Chomsky, Goodman, or Moyers (whose interview style I find particularly annoying – his scripted naïveté for example), I
come away with a feeling of frustration, a sense of having been hoodwinked, of having witnessed a clever sleight of hand.
Your analysis of the Chomsky-Goodman method helped clear away a lot of the dissonance.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 3, 2014 at 10:25 am
‘Sleight of hand’ is a good way of putting it.
Reply
Steve says:
February 3, 2014 at 10:48 am
Why didn’t the links come through?
Tarzie says:
February 3, 2014 at 10:51 am
Links are allowed so perhaps the html was not properly formatted. If you try it again, I’ll delete your other
comment.
Steve says:
February 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm
I brought up these links not to start a discussion about Jewishness or racism or any of that stuff, but to point out that I agree
with your analysis of the margining/gatekeeping of certain left voices, no matter how that comes about nor from where it
comes.
http://www.gilad.co.uk/writings/the-meaning-of-dieudonne.html#entry34602607
http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/02/state-repression-in-france-only-makes-the-resistance-grow-stronger/
What I appreciate about Soral is that he is open to any discussion that opens up any can of worms.
Reply
Git, Tarzie! says:
February 3, 2014 at 1:23 pm
Oh fucktardia, oh shitheelia, we croon for your nonthinking selves!
From a practical standpoint, though, not sure how much Chomsky could have known only a couple weeks after Swartz’s
death, which is when the ass-covering no doubt commenced.
Yes, because what Swartz did had nothing to do with MIT, but instead was a CalTech matter and you’re right, Noam
Chomsky isn’t a professor at CalTech. Why would he care about some “nice kid” at CalTech accessing a doc archive and
pulling dox to read/distribute? He’s at MIT, not CalTech!
I don’t know why you credit yourself so highly and imagine yourself so insightful when all you do is fellate these heroes you’re
pretending to criticize. How fast can Tarzie backpedal? FAST, motherfucker! And he can hit one back from between the legs
like Yannick Noah in a baseline corner!
At least you wear the right shoes and have a tasteful haircut, and impeccable fashion sense where clothing, fine dining, and
home accoutrements are concerned. That’s a bonus. Why aren’t you on the staff at Gawker yet?
Reply
Git, Tarzie! says:
February 3, 2014 at 1:26 pm
It’s quite obvious that the only person who would/could have known about Swartz’s nice kid heroism is the (at-the-
time) long-dead Richard Feynmann. He was at CalTech.
He also wouldn’t have shucked and jived with rhetorical head fakes and hip shifts like the Prince of Zion does.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 3, 2014 at 2:06 pm
Yes, because what Swartz did had nothing to do with MIT, but instead was a CalTech matter and
you’re right, Noam Chomsky isn’t a professor at CalTech
Consider the possibility that I really do think all the different arms of the MIT octopus, including the arm
Chomsky rides on, probably weren’t aware of all the different ways in which MIT was complicit in the few weeks
after Swartz died. Consider that I have come by this position honestly, even if it’s wrong.
Consider also that I don’t really think it matters as much as you do, since I have shown Chomsky covering for MIT
and spitting on Swartz even after the facts had come to light. I don’t think speculating about how much Chomsky
knew before the facts were public serves my purposes, when I have no evidence and when everything on the
surface is quite damning on its own. You want to focus on individuals, and apparently feel that in failing to root
out the secret evil essence of Greenwald and Chomsky, I am actually covering for them. I think seeing things that
way covers more asses than what I’m doing — as rooting out bad apples always does — but suit yourself.
Reply
Git, Tarzie! says:
February 3, 2014 at 3:10 pm
You want to be assessed by your proclamations of what you do, rather than by what you do, fine. Hypocrisy is
what you embody.
You say you’re analyzing, deconstructing, and busting myth but you are actually rewriting myth and
confirming heroism, though you do admit the heroes have chinks in their armor suits. You spot a few chinks,
but leave the armor otherwise uncriticized and your shots never aim at the armor’s weak points, nor at the
body parts uncovered by armor.
But you say you’re taking them apart.
It seems you imagine yourself in a gunfighter duel, and instead of killing the other guy after you get the draw
on him, you shoot his pistol hand and end the duel that way. That’s pretty much you, in a metaphor. You give
the other fellow credit for honorable dueling practices, but there’s no reason to give him such benevolence.
He’d just as soon throw a knife at you when you holster your weapon.
You know, snarky backpedals where you try to insult me from your weak position of non-criticism, they may
win points when you’re out drinking alcoholic Slurpees adorned with umbrellas at Chez Fancy, but they’re
not really proving you’re adept at criticism.
Really, you need a place at Gawker. That’s where your brand of “insight” (mostly misdirection, with a bit of
tepid criticism concerning process and other matters of fashion) would play best.
Tarzie says:
February 3, 2014 at 3:20 pm
You know, snarky backpedals where you try to insult me from your weak position of non-
criticism, they may win points when you’re out drinking alcoholic Slurpees adorned with
umbrellas at Chez Fancy, but they’re not really proving you’re adept at criticism.
I’ve strained to restrict myself to the substance in what you’re saying and I’ve freely admitted that there is
some. I even changed some language in my post on your account. Pretty sure I haven’t deliberately
insulted you at all in this exchange unless it’s an insult to note that your focus on individuals differs from
mine. Furthermore, I have entirely ignored the insults you’ve been freely lobbing at me, as if all your robo-
trolling til now never happened. Still you complain about my manners with all the self-awareness of my
boyfriend Glenn.
How about we both try to stay on topic? To that end, you can put me in my place and also raise the bar
around here if you give me pointers on how you would take Chomsky to task over the same issue, and had
the same resources available to you that I did, without covering for him the way I apparently have. Also,
curious to know what part of this post makes Chomsky out to be a hero.
areallysmallfarm says:
February 5, 2014 at 12:55 am
Chomsky says of dissenters in the USA: “But essentially they can’t get jobs, they’re marginalized, they’re vilified. All sort of
things, not much punishment, frankly, but, it’s real.”
Damn right it’s real, Noam! You are so fortunate to have a tenured position at MIT. For the rest of us it is a choice between
living according to our conscience or not living at all. Try living here without a job, without money.
Reply
Steve says:
February 5, 2014 at 12:56 pm
Agree. According to Tarzie’s Knight link (http://www.chrisknight.co.uk/category/noam_chomsky/), Chomsky is a
very good shape-shifter, always looking for that one advantage, that little pond where he can be the biggest fish, able
to set the terms of the argument, to “frame it” as Lakoff would say, so there you have his casual, self-satisfied
flippancy when it comes to actually defending anything, because he doesn’t, really.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm
Yeah, the ‘framing’ is what’s crucial. The framing is completely counter to the details he laboriously
provides. In a weird way the gory details legitimize the rosy framing. Inevitably when I start talking about
how he whitewashes repression, people point to places where he has gone into laborious detail about, say,
civil liberties infringements. But the two are separate lines of his discourse. Greenwald is a variation on
the same thing: lengthy, largely repetitive, increasingly dull exploration of NSA ends up being a whitewash
of the surveillance behemoth. This juxtaposition is the essence of all establishment left discourse. The
legitimating of lies with hard truths.
Bill Wolfe (@WolfeNotes) says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:02 pm
In correctly presenting and critiquing Chomsky’s significant errors in this matter, I think you completely fail to recognize and
disrespect why Chomsky has such a mistaken and negative view of Swartz and what he did.
The conflict flows from what you do note in Chomsky’s quotes excerpted (which fairly represent his views in my opinion)
about the “spirit of the age”.
Where you miss the argument is in failing to present Chomsky’s rationale – in his view of solidarity, mutual support, and
collective action.
Chomsky was somewhat (but to completely) mistaken in this regard with respect to specifics in the Swartz matter – but he
has larger and valid concerns that are not well presented or respected here.
In short, I find this a hit a job. Like all hit jobs, it has grains of truth and valid argument.
Reply
Bill Wolfe (@WolfeNotes) says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:07 pm
BTW, while part 1 trashed Amy Goodman, did you see her show on Swartz?
It agreed with your point of view and brought out most of the facts you present.
Ironic, given part 1, no?
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:18 pm
Nope. Not ironic at all, since I never said she wasn’t capable of good journalism.
Also, didn’t see the show; have no grounds to take your word for anything. No grounds at all.
thedoctorisinthehouse says:
February 6, 2014 at 2:36 pm
Born on the eve of 1929, Chomsky is old. He’s ooooooold. But he’s not THAT old. I don’t like infantilizing
children anymore than the next anarchist but I’m not sure you can say he “came to his politics” during the
depression were he even a dust bowl farmer at the time. Much less that someone becomes a leftist and a
specific leftist like Chomsky by the mere fact of enduring the depression as a child.
One of the weirder things about leftist analyses is that criticism from the left is defended equally with
criticism from the right but in the opposite way.
What I mean is, a right winger will put down a left intellectual for being too far left, not conservative and
therefore not serious. The leftist fans will reply with demands that the right accept their leftist idols because
leftism is good and they should.
Critics on the left point out the ways in which a left idol is in fact too far to the right. Again they will be
answered but with the justification that they are in error, that any further left would be unrealistic and
anyway the idol is as far as their critics deny AND more.
What a celebrity culture for those who’ve lost the libido to whack off to Perez updates on the uglies of
Hollywood.
Tarzie says:
February 6, 2014 at 3:27 pm
The leftist fans will reply with demands that the right accept their leftist idols because
leftism is good and they should.
Critics on the left point out the ways in which a left idol is in fact too far to the right.
Uh, what? Depends on where the criticism is coming from and who it’s aimed at. Chomsky and Greenwald
enthusiasts might complain that, say, Maddow is too right-wing, but that’s not how they approach people
who attack the idols of the margins, like Greenwald and Chomsky, Then it’s all ‘posturing’ this and ‘holier-
than-thou’ that. I think you’re still confused if you’re not seeing that these icons are largely about policing
just how far the left goes. On what planet is a left that habitually votes for neoliberal Democrats always
insisting that people aren’t left enough? I want to go to there.
There’s a difference with the right, for sure, but it’s not the one you mean. There is no one policing the
borders of the right in the same way. There is almost no outer limit on that side.
Depression story is a non-starter and needs no rebuttal other than that Chomsky’s family weathered the
depression in affluence, as I’ve already pointed out. Wolfe is just makin’ shit up.
Tarzie says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:12 pm
Chomsky was somewhat (but to completely) mistaken in this regard with respect to specifics in the
Swartz matter – but he has larger and valid concerns that are not well presented or respected here.
Oh god. Nothing was misrepresented. Chomsky’s views speak for themselves: ‘collective’ means petitioning the
state as part of some obedient mass — y’know because it works so well — and clearly doesn’t even include acts of
civil disobedience like Swartz’s because, well, ‘we live in a capitalist society’ and if JSTOR doesn’t make money, the
whole of western civilization will collapse. Which is fine. Chomsky can cling to his failed, acquiescent politics til he
kicks off.
What’s not fine is for Chomsky to misrepresent Swartz’s politics, either because he’s too arrogant to actually know
anything about them before spouting off, or because he’s content to lie about them outright. Did I distort the
record here? You’ve admitted yourself he got Swartz wrong, pursuant to defending MIT and intellectual property.
And he did this only weeks after Swartz’s suicide and to the near exclusion of any serious reflection on the social
forces that all converged on Swartz to destroy him. What part of this account is false? What’s the difference
between recounting facts and a hit job? It seems to me you want me to do a better sales job on Chomsky’s politics,
but for what reason exactly? To make this revolting power-serving speech on Swartz’s grave less revolting? More
justified?
I notice your comments don’t bother with the whitewashing he did for MIT at all. Probably a good thing, because
it’s even tougher to spin your way around that with nauseating condescension about failing to comprehend the
nuanced views of our most beloved dead-ender.
We keep the bar high around here. Do better.
Reply
Bill Wolfe (@WolfeNotes) says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:32 pm
Fuck off. Chomsky is an old man, and came to his politics on the street in depression era NY discourse and
mutual support. To try to discredit him and his ideas on the basis that he was wrong on one matter is absurd.
Many of your cohort liberation anarchists could give at rats ass for effective organized political action. Not all
collective socail reform efforts are “government”. Reactionary BS.
Tarzie says:
February 6, 2014 at 2:42 am
Fuck off. Chomsky…came to his politics on the street in depression era NY discourse and
mutual support.
Nope, wrong. Noam grew up in an affluent family in Philadelphia. Yes, it was during the depression, but
his father became faculty president of a private college about the time Noam started elementary school. So
the depression didn’t hit the Chomsky family very hard. Noam went straight from high school into the
University of Pennsylvania. That’s Philly too. He had a radical uncle who lived in New York, of whom
Noam was fond, and Noam visited him occasionally and sometimes hung out with his anarchist buddies.
But Noam’s parents, with whom Noam spent more time, were ‘Roosevelt Democrats’ and it’s clear they
rubbed off on him too. From where I sit, Uncle gave him the anarcho branding. Mom, Dad, Penn and MIT,
the key ingredients.
Not all collective socail [sic] reform efforts are “government”.
I know this. Aaron Swartz knew this. But poor Noam, having lived in symbiosis with state power for so
long, seems oddly confused.
What ought to happen is that there ought to be a public subsidy for creative work.
What is meant by ‘public subsidy’ if not government? Did you even read my post? Did you watch the
videos I quoted? If Noam isn’t talking about government there, what does he mean?
Let Noam spell it out for you more explicitly, via the Young Turks interview I also linked to:
The obvious way out of this is to have creative work subsidized by the general community,
which means by the government
See what I just did? I showed how you were 100% wrong about everything you just fucking said. You
should be embarrassed. Study up, next time, bub. Or come on a little less strong.
To try to discredit him and his ideas on the basis that he was wrong on one matter is
absurd.
I actually think this incident is so revealing of the team Noam bats for, that all by itself it warrants
distrusting him generally. But this is one in a series, and I’m not done yet.
Bill Wolfe (@WolfeNotes) says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:38 pm
You think Chomsky is a propagandist and defender of MIT?
This is the kind of silly BS that reveals how absurd and ineffective your analsysis is in the real world.
Tarzie says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:44 pm
You think Chomsky is a propagandist and defender of MIT? This is the kind of silly BS that
reveals how absurd and ineffective your analsysis is in the real world.
‘The real world’ Now where have we heard that before? Well, from just about everyone who ever wanted us
to make common cause with power. Yes we need more realists like Chomsky, misrepresenting the politics
of actual activists while whitewashing their persecution by the state and the complicity of institutions like
MIT.
Now as to your latest risible attempt at having a point:
Look at the list of things MITs own investigation revealed about the school’s complicity. Then see
Chomsky’s remark about it, in which he says: ‘MIT is culpable for what they didn’t do’. Nope, sorry, Noam
that’s another lie. MIT’s also culpable for what they did, which was quite a lot. And then he takes one more
swing at Swartz for not pleading guilty to 13 felonies. No wonder this guy’s a radical icon! How has he
escaped the state’s wrath for so long??? Why, because we’re “a free country”, natch! But then what about
Aaron? Oh, right, Aaron wasn’t a dissenter.
You think this bullshit is acceptable. So acceptable, in fact, that you’ve dropped by here to lash out rather
than argue a single fucking point. That makes you an even bigger asshole than he is because one, you
probably don’t work at MIT and two, you probably don’t have forty+ years of failed, dead end, acquiescent
politics to rationalize. But then, producing people like you, who expect literally nothing from left discourse
besides handwringing rituals, and who froth at people who require more, is what icons like Chomsky are
manufactured for. Turning potentially rational adults into infantile, self-combusting automatons like you
is their whole reason for being, whether they know it or not.
thedoctorisinthehouse says:
February 6, 2014 at 3:43 pm
Criticism OF the left was my only focus and how the left responds to it depending on who it’s coming from, from the
left and from the right. I skipped over that.
Essentially pointing out that left fans police opinion by demanding the right wing move to the left (ridiculous) and
telling dissatisfied lefts that they’re demands and accusations are outrageous and anyway what are they talking about
the left is already at the extremest left possible in this universe.
Ruined!
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 6, 2014 at 3:50 pm
Gotcha. Didn’t realize you meant right-wing of the left. This is some rarefied air we’re breathin’ here.
Bill Wolfe (@WolfeNotes) says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:25 pm
T- I think your failure to understand Chomsky’s PM and power and institutions is indicative of a reactionary streak.
Kind of like the racists who attack affirmative action as reverse racism.
PM is based on institutional power.
Please don’t reply – I want no debate
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 5, 2014 at 10:29 pm
T- I think your failure to understand Chomsky’s PM and power and institutions is indicative of a
reactionary streak. Kind of like the racists who attack affirmative action as reverse racism.
Here we go, it’s dead-ender discourse time: An idiotically baseless smear. A direct quote from God himself. And
then off you go, after telling me to not reply on my own blog. Not an argument, fact, quote to be found anywhere in
your whole spiel this evening. Sorta like Chomsky on Swartz. I guess that’s what they mean by role model.
Why on earth, I ask myself again and again, do people like you even bother, unless their aim is to look completely
asinine. Yep, bub, you’ve worked so hard at being the embodiment of everything that disgusts me about the ‘left’, I
have no choice but to reconsider everything.
Reply
Ned Ludd says:
February 6, 2014 at 8:45 am
A professor at MIT denigrates an activist – who was being prosecuted by the state and killed himself – for
undermining the commercial publishing industry. It is pretty clear where institutional power lies.
Reply
dmantis says:
February 7, 2014 at 2:31 pm
Jesus, Bill…no debate? How utterly juvenile of you. It’s as if you’re retreating back into the dark regions of the
internet with your fingers in your ear.
Let me explain something to you…If there is any university in this country that can claim ‘institutional power’ it is
M.I. [FUCKING] T. The place is a PHD study in the stockholm syndrome. Everyone is patting themselves for being
such radicals and loving the freedom of the nerd environment yet knowing that it is bought and paid for by the
military. For christ sakes, I had a professor say to me once “this is a military research institute that just happens to
teach classes on the side.”
That being said, it is pathetic that you cannot see any indication of Chomsky’s blindspot concerning his beloved
institution. There is no question (nor should there be) of how wrong his statements were and were no doubt shaped
by his position in that institution. The only thing surprising is that he didn’t atleast downplay or criticize Swartz’s
activisim on it merits. No, he actually played the capitalism card and refused to even call him an activist in the first
place.
Grow up, dude.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 7, 2014 at 2:36 pm
No, he actually played the capatlism card and refused to even call him an activist in the
first place.
Clever how he did that really. It was even worse in the Young Turks interview where Chomsky credited
Swartz’s kind of intervention to ‘social pathologies.’
Great quote from that prof of yours.
dmantis says:
February 10, 2014 at 4:20 pm
The disurbing thing about that quote was that was from a professor in a department that would seemingly be
completely seperate from any type of relevant military research. Yet, the sentiment (read: funding) runs that
deep.
It is such a bizarre place.
Steve says:
February 6, 2014 at 5:07 am
Don’t know if you’ve seen this:
http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37554.htm
but it seems to prove your point. An aggregation of a few facts/quotes picked up here and there to burnish his lefty bona fides
in order to slip in this beauty:
“The U.S., conscious of “soft power,” undertakes major campaigns of “public diplomacy” (aka propaganda) to create a
favorable image, sometimes accompanied by worthwhile policies that are welcomed.”
No hint as to what those “worthwhile policies” are.
Kinda like his own strategy. Pilger takes this apart here:
http://roarmag.org/2013/12/john-pilger-apartheid-never-died/
Or his take on EU austerity policies:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-nevradakis/a-conversation-with-noam-_b_1990361.html
where he says that the Fed and ECB had different policies when the book, “Circus Politicus” perfectly illustrates that the US
“encouraged” the formation of the EU all the better to put its bankers in charge, among other things.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 6, 2014 at 11:05 am
I don’t find the first quote too damning. I think its probably accurate.
Reply
not a sockpuppet says:
February 6, 2014 at 12:16 pm
what disturbs me about this presentation is that you rightfully scrutinize Chomsky’s statements, but you do not scrutizine
with the same intensity much of the press about Swartz.
what you say about JSTOR is innaucrate, and what some commentators have written is even more inaccurate. If Swartz did
what he did because of his Guerilla Open Access Manifesto, he chose a very strange target, since none of the things he
complains about in the Manifesto were true about JSTOR. Even at the time Swartz did what he did, JSTOR already gave its
material away FOR FREE to every African institution (mentioned because availability in Africa is one of the main specific
complaints Swartz has).
The problem I want to draw your attention to is that the media story about “open access” and Swartz and so much more is
itself propagandistic in character, and Lessig in particular has a lot of personality responsibility in this story that he is
unwilling to fact. He sold Swartz a bill of goods about the state of academic publishing that is actually inaccurate, and to the
degree that Swartz (not an academic) took Lessig’s word and mentorship at face value, he got himself into a lot of trouble.
Had Lessig not misinformed him so brutally and steered him so forcefully, it is not at all unikely that Swartz would never
have done what he did. Some stories indicate that Swartz himself grew to regret his actions at MIT; nobody knows why, but I
like to think that he himself dug into JSTOR and realized how untrue the story he tells in the Manifesto is of JSTOR–in fact
he could only get into JSTOR to download so much of it *because* it was so committed to open access, which Elsevier (the
publisher Swartz DOES mention in the Manifesto, an extremely different entity from JSTOR) was not, and therefore did not
allow the kind of wide-open access on university campuses that JSTOR used to.
The entire story that got Swartz to take the action he did is based on a terrible misunderstanding of academic publishing and
many other issues, and continuing to perpetuate it without digging into the details threatens to encourage others to accept
the propagandistic parts of this story and take similar actions, which would be a huge mistake. For example, someone above
mentions the presence of Chomsky’s articles in JSTOR. They are there, yet Chomsky receives, like every other author in
JSTOR, absolutely no compensation of any sort for that, nor could he. There is no way, looking at the facts, to connect any
kind of personal interest on Chomsky’s part to JSTOR. There are plenty of official documents on JSTOR’s site that explain
exactly how it works, that nobody has disputed, and that make all of this clear.
I think Lessig, more than any other individual, is responsible for Swartz’s death, if somebody has to be blamed. He filled
Swartz’s head with nonsense, and Swartz was smart enough to see through only some of it. The more you read about Lessig’s
long history with Swartz, frankly, the creepier it becomes. He acted as a Svengali to a brilliant but also very impressionable
young man.
Why this worries me is that your piece here tracks Lessig’s “version,” and disputes Chomsky’s. Yet as odd as Chomsky’s
Leftism is–Lessig’s is much, much odder. Lessig admits that he was once a pretty far-right thinker. He works with Google (a
big force behind Creative Commons). I do not find him very savory and think he deserves the kind of scrutiny you apply to
Chomksy even more than Chomsky does.
Reply
Tarzie says:
February 6, 2014 at 12:41 pm
I don’t find your comments particularly germane to my post. I deliberately discouraged commenters from going
off on tangents about the merits/problems of JSTOR/academic publishing because that is not at all what this post
is primarily about. I find it curious, though, that you say I have misrepresented JSTOR, when everything said
about it in this post comes verbatim from Chomsky.
Putting the merits/faults of JSTOR aside, there is no disputing that Chomsky has, on successive occasions,
misrepresented both Swartz’s case and his politics and whitewashed MITs involvement in his persecution. He
even parrots the prosecutor’s allegation that Swartz ‘broke into MIT’s system’, something that even MIT doesn’t
claim. In the process, he has made it very clear where he stands on both the proper way to produce change and on
the kind of civil disobedience Swartz’s JSTOR intervention represents.
The story here is that by telling lies on Swartz’s grave and entirely ignoring the collusion between Cambridge
Police, The Secret Service, MIT and a draconian justice system, Chomsky is serving power. Chomsky variously lies
about and minimizes the circumstances leading to Swartz’s death, such that it becomes ‘a terrible event’ rather
than the abominable result of political persecution. If you think the truth about JSTOR and by extension the
wisdom of Swartz’s action makes the story something else, you’re either not reading attentively, or your principles
are as fucked up as Chomsky’s. That you think it’s more correct to blame Lessig, rather than prosecutors who
drove Swartz to bankruptcy and then suicide, strongly suggests the latter.
As to tracking “Lessig’s ‘version’”, I have done no such thing. I have very little use for Lessig either, and I don’t
even know what his version is. This post relies overwhelmingly on Chomsky’s own words and the facts of the
Swartz case, most of which were disclosed by MITs own investigation. Try dealing with facts next time, if you’re
going to persist.
Reply
Bitman says:
February 11, 2014 at 12:18 pm
It speaks to the need to analyze the state not in terms of what is officially part of the repression record — as imparted to us
by compromised systems and individuals — but a careful consideration of the power the state has, and what it logically
would do with it.
Yes. The dual securitization logics (corporate and state) are increasingly interwoven in the digitalage, despite the outward
appearance of conflict between the entities carrying them out. At the extremes there is no distinction to be made between
securitization as the desire to secure as in “keep safe,” and the desire to “secure” as in capture, or succeed in obtaining. The
first entails the other, and the first is largely pretextual. Not enough people understand this.
Reply
guest77 says:
February 13, 2014 at 2:22 am
I have the utmost respect for Chomsky and the work he has done. That said, this was a really valuable critique I think.
I do question calling it “a sales job for institutional power” because I don’t think there is malintent there, it is a bad opinion of
many thousands of good ones he has. As for why this one is bad while the others are so “right”: your analysis certainly seems
spot on.
And while we shouldn’t shy away from honest criticism – just like honest criticism should be accepted without calling people
“dumb basement dwelling trolls” as Schaill and Greenwald have – we should be careful that, with what we say, we don’t
devalue very good people. Not that you did that at all.
This was really insightful. Thanks.
Reply
thedoctorisindahouse says:
March 8, 2014 at 9:44 pm
Pingback: Passing Chomsky on My Way Out Part 3: Intermission | The Rancid Honeytrap
This interview with Swartz has a short Chomsky passage. Swartz’s free information activism is an illustration of Chomsky’s
anti-censorship ideology. Yet he comes out swinging against Swartz on an economic justification for censorship as fee-
payment to access. That’s the exact justification always used to sweep away the political cause of censorship in American
Ratings-Based Media.
The solution Swartz offers: we need better dads to explain the world to people. At least history will record him licking
Chomsky’s toes before Chomsky politely threw him under the Google Bus.
http://blogoscoped.com/archive/2007-05-07-n78.html
Is the concept of your book related to the epiphany you’ve mentioned in your blog once… namely, of being
introduced to writer Noam Chomsky’s work?
I am working on a book about that, but it’s a very long-term project.
Have you ever met Mr. Chomsky in person, actually?
Yes, briefly a couple times. Run into him around Cambridge, MA and stuff.
and (along with some Ratings-Based causality for censorship)
What do you consider most important today?
I think we need to do a better job explaining the state of the world to people, which is mostly an old-fashioned
research and writing project. There’s an enormous amount of curiosity these days about how things like the
government and the media work and how, in the US, things have gone so wrong. But nobody is doing a very
good job of providing the answers.
But there’s blogs, mainstream news TV, newspapers, news magazines… aren’t they supposed to help us
understand the world?
Blogs, TV, newspapers, and magazines barely do a good job helping us understand the news of the day, let
alone the larger issues of the world. TV, newspapers, and magazines are largely advertising driven; so
stories that offend advertisers get killed. And blogs can be a little better, but it’s a difficult format for
expressing big, new ideas and mostly people just read blogs about old ones.
Reply
Petropavlovsk Rebels (@pyotr_kropotkin) says:
March 11, 2014 at 3:45 pm
Had a comrade read your first two posts and here’s his response:
Doesn’t seem like a serious post to me even though it raises some issues that one could address to make a reasonable case
against Chomsky. Instead we get hyperventilation over the minutia of Swartz’s suicide and a lot of other half-baked charges
that lack much force in my opinion. I didn’t agree, and still don’t, with Chomsky on the value of Swartz’s activism concerning
JSTOR, and Chomsky even makes an argument almost sympathetic to the conception of copyright, which is extremely anti-
Anarchist. That said, there is a caveat that within the current structure of capitalist institutions it would be a mistake if there
is not an constructive alternative being created. And relative domestic oppression has conflicting tendencies, some of which
are the worst in history today, but on the whole Chelsea Manning’s cruel and violent treatment is an exception for dissidents
and not so much the rule, and Fred Hampton’s murder or say the Red Scare were worse than what we face today.
So ultimately there is not much here to chew on in this needlessly 2 part, tedious piece. Lots of things to question Chomsky
on, but the articles against him are almost invariably hysterical and overreaching.
Reply
Tarzie says:
March 11, 2014 at 3:57 pm
Oh God. You don’t even comment yourself and then pass on comments from ‘a comrade’, most of which are the
typical ad homming I expect from a certain kind of fanboy dipshit. Apart from that, there’s weirdly ambivalent
agreement with Chomsky’s trivializing of domestic repression — which seems to interest your comrade mostly in
relation to one white person in a list of 6 dissidents that was by no means comprehensive.
To say that “Fred Hampton’s murder…or the Red Scare were worse than what we face today” is an idiotic assertion
when you consider that there is also nothing comparable today to the Black Panthers of Hampton’s time — likely
due, in part at least, to the decimating effects of mass incarceration — nor to the Communist Party of the 1950s.
Even if it weren’t idiotic, it still wouldn’t support Chomsky’s ridiculous claim that for U.S. dissidents, ‘there’s not
much punishment, frankly’ and that ‘The United States is a Free Country.’ Since your comrade concedes that some
aspects of domestic repression “are the worst in history today”, I am at pains to see a reason why your pal comes
down on the side of Chomsky’s whitewashing overall other than reflexive deference to status.
Though your comrade complains that Chomsky’s views on copyright seem ‘extremely anti-Anarchist’, s/he’s
clearly not bothered that Chomsky made Swartz’s death an opportunity for promoting them. Your comrade also
clearly endorses Chomsky’s judgement of Swartz as a bad boy for taking action without a ‘constructive alternative’
in place. That your comrade concurs with Chomsky on this is perhaps why s/he seemingly shares his lack of
interest in the state and institutional forces that combined, even conspired, to destroy Swartz. My claim that
Chomsky whitewashed MIT’s self-documented complicity doesn’t even apparently warrant comment, apart from
reducing my attempt to illustrate with facts the extent of Chomsky’s distortions to ‘hyperventiliating over the
minutia of Swartz’s suicide.’ I honestly can’t imagine what part of Swartz’s destruction an anarchist would find
trivial.
But way to prove my point about how icons like Chomsky become role models for irrational compliance. If you or
your comrade want to make a serious counterargument, feel free. This only argues for misplaced admiration and
the corrupting effect it has on principles and discussion. A most dismal contribution.
Reply
PJ says:
June 29, 2014 at 2:44 pm
While I understand your point, your analysis doesn’t really stand the test of reality on the ground. Just look at the recent
sentencing of 500+ people to death in Egypt. That is something that would simply not be possible in the US, not at this level.
So, Chomsky is correct, there is a quantitative and qualitative difference. By not acknowledging this difference, in the name of
ideological purity, you are nullifying the efforts of millions of activists who in the past two centuries have spent their life to
improve people’s lives.
Reply
Tarzie says:
June 29, 2014 at 2:57 pm
So, Chomsky is correct, there is a quantitative and qualitative difference
Please point out where I disputed Chomsky’s assertion of a ‘quantitative and qualitative difference.’ My objection
— clear to anyone with average reading comprehension — was in Chomsky’s reduction of US state repression to
‘undetectable’ and ‘not much punishment, frankly.’ I don’t think any disparity between the US and more
repressive states warrants this kind of whitewashing hyperbole. I also objected to his despicable minimizing of
state repression in the Swartz case, which I see very much in the same whitewashing vein.
By not acknowledging this difference, in the name of ideological purity, you are nullifying the
efforts of millions of activists who in the past two centuries have spent their life to improve people’s
lives.
Oh God. If I’m negating activists, please explain, then, the list of persecuted dissidents I provided to dispute
Chomsky’s whitewash. Please explain my defense of the activist Swartz against Chomsky’s lies and smears. By my
lights, it’s Chomsky who’s pissing on graves, not me. It seems to me you and he are touting American
exceptionalism, and doing it under cover of “honoring activists” is particularly sickening. Among other stupid
things, this exceptionalist view — dressed ludicrously in Chomsky’s ‘free country’ bromides — cluelessly ignores
context.
Your implication that ‘millions of activists’ have placed the US immutably beyond overt repression laughably
misapprehends the nature of power completely. Each state will destroy as many lives as it needs to to protect its
interests. The US, in periods of stability, incarcerates 1 in 3 African-American men — which is, among other
things, a preemptive measure against social unrest. If you are certain that a state capable of this atrocity would
never execute people in large quantities during a mass insurgency, you’re even dumber than your preachy little
self-certain comment suggests.
As to my ‘ideological purity’, stick it up your dipshit ass. You idiots really need some new cliches if you’re going to
keep insistently missing the point of everything. It’s not about purity. It’s about having a fucking clue.
Reply
PJ says:
June 29, 2014 at 4:52 pm
The fact that you feel the need to resort to ad hominem attacks simply shows the weakness of your position.
And talking about lack of reading comprehension, I don’t recall ever asserting American exceptionalism.
Perhaps I detect a certain level of projection on your part as you liberally misread what I wrote. My point is
that you seem to focus on tearing down people who are actually doing some good in the world and who have
put their lives on the line in order to do so. Are they flawed, certainly, as we all are. Are they to a certain
extent hypocrites, sure, as we all are. Yet, you seem to put yourself on some kind of pedestal and act as if you
know better then everybody else without offering any type of vision. It’s a pretty sad form of nihilism.
Tarzie says:
June 29, 2014 at 5:06 pm
The fact that you feel the need to resort to ad hominem attacks simply shows the weakness
of your position
I knew this was coming. In fact I deleted a passage in my last comment where I predicted it. If you had any
brains, you’d realize that my argumentative position is quite strong. Your first comment opened with a
straw man and went downhill. So it was easy to show how full of shit you are. I am simply sick of dumb
ignorant people who don’t know how dumb and ignorant they are. So I ad hommed. Whining about my
insults is just an evasion of the points I made against your stupid comment. Because you’re a fucking idiot.
I don’t recall ever asserting American exceptionalism.
So in addition to comprehension problems we must now add a short memory. Claiming that the US is so
uniquely non-repressive that one can say Egypt-style repression in the US is always and forever
‘unthinkable’, or that Chomsky has grounds to call US repression ‘undetectable’ is exceptionalist. When
Chomsky says the US is a “free country” — a view you apparently endorse — he’s being exceptionalist. If
you’re going to dig in your dipshit heels, dipshit, please explain how I’m wrong here.
My point is that you seem to focus on tearing down people who are actually doing some
good in the world and who have put their lives on the line in order to do so.
There is zero evidence that anyone I have ever criticized on this blog is in any kind of danger. Certainly
Chomsky isn’t. He’s lived to a ripe old age and become a millionaire in the process. But here’s someone
who’s life was actually destroyed: Aaron Swartz, and my post aimed specifically at retrieving his legacy
from Chomsky’s disgusting smears, as well as rendering visible a number of dissidents Chomsky’s
whitewashing disappears. It’s incumbent on you, dumbass, to reconcile that to your claim about tearing
people down. You haven’t done that. Clearly you place my tearing down Chomsky in a different class than
Chomsky tearing down Swartz. This makes you a status-conscious shitstain as well as a dumbass who can’t
read and remember things.
you seem to put yourself on some kind of pedestal and act as if you know better then
everybody else without offering any type of vision.
This is 100% pure troll. Also an ad hom like most of your comment. Does this mean your argument is
weak? Since your argument consists entirely of ad homs and straw men, I would say yes.
I reject your trite middle class liberal psychologizing. Critics aren’t required to provide a vision — where is
Chomsky’s after all? But since you brought it up, mine is of a world with slightly fewer ignorant,
infantilized dolts who don’t know anything getting their thinking orders from power-serving father figures
like Chomsky. I’m like a consumer advocate against celebrity left fuckery. What exactly are you offering
here that’s so much better, asshole?
PJ says:
June 29, 2014 at 5:35 pm
Projecting much? Your way of arguing is quite childish, indeed. Once again, you are inferring from the fact that I stated that
in the United States there are certain degrees of freedom that I espouse American exeptionalism which, once again, I never
did. If you had truly understood Chomsky’s and Hermann’s argument, you would have grasped that the reason why
propaganda is so pervasive in this country is because there are certain level of freedoms which don’t allow the government
from directly imprisoning and executing dissidents. Are there different levels of freedom for different people, most certainly.
But that is also true in other countries. The well to do have always enjoyed a greater degree of freedom and protection so,
welcome to the real world. Could it change? Most certainly and, in fact, there is always a struggle. Just like we got here with
struggle we can – and in certain respects we are – regress. Also, different level of freedoms exist in different places. Some
places are freer that others in different respects. There is not one blanket statement that you can make.
And while I agree with you that with don’t need father figures, we should also get over the pretty adolescential stance that
there is nothing we can learn from those who have come before us. Finally, your aggressiveness and need to destroy those
who disagree from you betray the fact that you have internalized a lot of the patriarchal hypermasculine ideology of American
society. The fact that you see me as an opponent also shows that you have internalized the Spencerian ideal of “survival of the
fittest” and Hobbesian view of society of “all against all.” So, once again, I urge you to do some self reflection and try to see
the world in more cooperative and less competitive ways. Putting down others, whether it’s Chomsky, Graeber, Greenwald,
Goodman – who, with all their flaws are fighting the same battles are proclaim you are – or whoever you choose to tear down
in order to elevate yourself is not really the best way to proceed.
Reply
Tarzie says:
June 29, 2014 at 5:37 pm
Putting down others, whether it’s Chomsky, Graeber, Greenwald, Goodman – who, with all their
flaws are fighting the same battles are proclaim you are
No they’re not, a point I attempt to make over and over again on this blog. I think these people are toxic. They are
a barrier. This is why they are celebrated and generously compensated. If they were fighting the same struggles as
the rest of us they would be on the margins too. If you understood power at all you would know this. It’s true
narcissism to insist that I see these people the same way you do. They are not my allies and neither are you. Fuck
them and you.
we should also get over the pretty adolescential stance that there is nothing we can learn from
those who have come before us.
I suppose you’re too dumb to realize this is another straw man. I have specifically said elsewhere that I found
Chomsky useful. In fact, I credit him with giving me the impetus to finally reject him and move on.
Now fuck off you tiresome, supercilious, substance-free little bore. I feel like I have met you a thousand times this
year — there is literally nothing unique or interesting about you — and disliked you more each time.
Reply
PJ says:
June 29, 2014 at 5:48 pm
So, you also have a martyr complex. So, we go back to my original point about your pretense of purity. Yet,
the fact that you have access to sophisticated technology beyond the reach of the truly disenfranchised
doesn’t really put you at the margin, does it?
Tarzie says:
June 29, 2014 at 5:52 pm
You and your pop psychology. How trite you are. And to carp about ad homs as you pathologize and tone
troll and talk to me like a child on your lap. You disgust me.
Was wondering when you would get to the beloved troll trick of deeply stupid false equivalencies. Yes,
because I have an internet connection and a computer I am just like a millionaire left celebrity. It’s
completely irrelevant to the point I made but nonetheless, OUCH!!! That is some incisive shit!
This deeply repellant combo of ignorance, stupidity and cringe-making self-superiority is starting to seem
disquietingly familiar. Is that you High Arka?
Whoever you are, please please please, go be a hackneyed, supercilious dumbass somewhere else. I don’t
respect you and I don’t like you and I don’t find you challenging or interesting. You are adding nothing
here. Now shoo.
Tarzie says:
June 29, 2014 at 6:13 pm
you betray the fact that you have internalized a lot of the patriarchal hypermasculine ideology of
American society. The fact that you see me as an opponent also shows that you have internalized
the Spencerian ideal of “survival of the fittest” and Hobbesian view of society of “all against all.”
Oh my God, I missed this on the first pass. This is some funny stuff. Yeah, when someone opens with a straw man
and proceeds to pathologize and tone troll me, I am not likely to see them as a comrade. God, look in the mirror
you preening little fuck.
Reply
PJ says:
June 29, 2014 at 6:13 pm
Once again, you misconstrue my words in order to validate your martyr complex. I never said you are “like a millionaire left
celebrity.” All I said is that you are not really at the margins of discourse as you would like to believe. Sure, you don’t have a
platform like Chomsky or Goodman or Greenwald but you are still able to make your voice heard in the virtual world –
which, it could be argued, is really not an effective way for movement building. Yet, like all of us here, you are still privileged
compared to the truly disenfranchised 9/10ths of the world who don’t have the luxury to pontificate about others from their
high tech devices on proprietary private platforms.
Reply
Tarzie says:
June 29, 2014 at 6:20 pm
Yes I got your point, which is why I said it was irrelevant.
I brought up left celebrity privileges to simply illustrate that people in power approve of them, likely because they
lead people down the same old cul-de-sacs. If Chomsky were self-aware enough to apply his own analysis to his
own career, he would admit it. Aaron Swartz and Chomsky are a useful contrast. One was destroyed by power
before he reached age 30. The other will die a millionaire in his 80s or 90s. That Chomsky pissed on Swartz’s
grave on behalf of capital and intellectual property is particularly instructive. Clearly that doesn’t interest you.
You’d rather defend Chomsky against my ‘ideological purity.’ This is why I find you so depressingly, irritatingly
dull and stupid. You are a trite little bore but you think you are selling something I haven’t heard 100,000 times
already.
You can’t possibly imagine how completely uninterested I am in your thoughts on movement-building or trite
reminders about how lucky I am. In fact, none of your thoughts interest me — because none of them are new,
original or interestingly expressed — a point that, in your narcissistically oblivious way (see two can pathologize!),
you fail to comprehend, no matter how many times I make it.
Reply
PJ says:
The Rancid Honeytrap
June 29, 2014 at 6:30 pm
Perhaps we are getting somewhere, given the lack of insults in your last reply. I understand your point about
Chomsky and it is well taken. As Marx showed, we all have a certain degree of false conscience so it is
impossible for humans to be fully and always consistent. Yet, there is a difference between pointing out
inconsistencies in people’s behavior and invalidating their entire work for being inconsistent. If we proceed
in this nihilistic manner, no one would be able to survive. The only way to create a large enough unified front
it so start working from points of commonality instead of tearing each other apart. The latter strategy
benefits the powers that be divide and conquer strategy. So, unless that is your goal, I exhort you to see that
there are bigger issues where you could direct your energy towards.
Tarzie says:
June 29, 2014 at 6:32 pm
No I don’t think we are getting anywhere. You’re still insisting that there is a vast chasm between my
insults and yours, as well as a vast chasm between my criticisms of Chomsky and your criticisms of me.
Where does going on and on with your trite pathologizing about martyr complexes and ideological purity
fit in the whole solidarity building thing? <– Rhetorical question!!! No answer required!!!
Please quit with the trite bullshit about “points of commonality” and the powers that be. Chomsky,
Greenwald, Goodman etc serve power. We are not going to ever agree on this. My posts are fair, well-
reasoned arguments about how this is so. People can buy them or not. So shut the fuck up about it. You do
your dull, hackneyed thing and I’ll do mine.
Now, really, I am gonna start deleting your boring, trite shit if you continue to dick up my comments with
it. Go away.
PJ says:
June 29, 2014 at 6:44 pm
And my point is that you are also serving power by tearing down those who, within a inescapable system of power, are
actually doing something to change things for the better. I guess you have a lot of self reflection to do, starting with your
authoritarian ways. Feel free to censor me. It’s the most potent proof of your own hypocrisy.
Reply
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