noam chomsky on marginalization and the super bowl

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 min­utes.

THIS IS AN INTRODUCTION to Noam Chomsky—linguist, philoso­pher, cog­ni­tive sci­en­tist, lo­gi­cian, po­lit­ical com­men­tator, and so­cial jus­tice ac­tivist who just may be the Fa­ther of Modern Lin­guis­tics. He is also a major figure in an­a­lytic phi­los­ophy. He has spent most of his ca­reer at the Mass­a­chu­setts In­sti­tute of Tech­nology (MIT), where he has au­thored over 100 books. He was voted the World’s Top Public In­tel­lec­tual in a 2005 poll.

“Pro­pa­ganda is to a democ­racy what the blud­geon is to a to­tal­i­tarian state: the means by which leaders keep the masses in line. In Media Con­trol, Noam Chomsky looks at Amer­ican pro­pa­ganda ef­forts, from the war­mon­gering of Woodrow Wilson to the cre­ation of pop­ular sup­port for the 1991 mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Kuwait, and re­veals how fal­si­fi­ca­tion of his­tory, sup­pres­sion of in­for­ma­tion, and the pro­mo­tion of vapid, empty con­cepts have be­come stan­dard op­er­ating pro­ce­dure for the leaders of the United States in their ef­forts to pre­vent cit­i­zens from raising awk­ward ques­tions about U.S. policy.” (Goodreads)

Chomsky is never at a loss for words and has been per­haps the most sought-after non-politician Amer­ican speaker/lecturer al­most every­where in the world but in America! Here’s one of my fa­vorite ob­ser­va­tions of his:

“As long as people are mar­gin­al­ized and dis­tracted, [they] have no way to or­ga­nize or ar­tic­u­late their sen­ti­ments, or even know that others have these sen­ti­ments. People as­sume that they are the only people with a crazy idea in their heads.

They never hear it from any­where else.

No­body’s sup­posed to think that.

Since there’s no way to get to­gether with other people who share or re­in­force that view and help you ar­tic­u­late it, you feel like an oddity, an odd­ball. So you just stay on the side and you don’t pay any at­ten­tion to what’s going on. You look at some­thing else—like the Super Bowl.”

I don’t know

I re­member reading an in­ter­view with Noam Chomsky in ‘Z’ mag­a­zine (?) in which he dis­cussed a trip he just made to South America. There, the peas­ants were using low wattage radio broadcasts—sometimes with a range mea­sured in city blocks!—to com­mu­ni­cate, to or­ga­nize so­cially and po­lit­i­cally, and to make things happen for them­selves and their fam­i­lies and neigh­bors that ac­tu­ally ben­e­fited them­selves and their fam­i­lies and neighbors.

The con­ver­sa­tion ended with what was a first for me: Noam Chomsky on mar­gin­al­iza­tion in Amer­ican voting was un­able to an­swer a di­rect ques­tion (and I am para­phrasing below from memory be­cause I could not find the in­ter­view online).

In­ter­viewer: “Why do Amer­i­cans con­sis­tently vote against their own self interest?”

Chomsky: “I don’t know . . .”

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I’m glad for the Chomsky ref­er­ence. I don’t re­member if I told you or not about the issue he took up in the ‘fifties (though I didn’t know it till way later [the ‘eighties, I think]) that made him a hero of mine, right off the bat. It was his knocking B.F. Skinner catawampus. Not wanting to get re­dun­dant, I’ll wait for you to tell me.