Noam Chomsky: Slavery and White Fear of Revenge ‘Deeply Rooted in American Culture’

Chomsky looks at the roots of American racism and genocide.

American culture is imbued with fears that African Americans will someday repay the violence and oppression that has marred their history in this country, according to linguist and cultural critic Noam Chomsky. Speaking with philosopher George Yancy about the roots of American racism, from Native American genocide to anti-black discrimination, Chomsky emphasized the ongoing impact of black enslavement and subjugation in the U.S., saying “fears that the victims might rise up and take revenge are deeply rooted in American culture, with reverberations to the present.”

Chomsky was speaking with Yancy as part of an ongoing New York Timesseries of discussions around race. Early in the conversation, Yancy noted that contemporary American conversations about terrorism often omit “the fact that many black people in the United States have had a long history of being terrorized by white racism.” Chomsky cited the fact that slaves had arrived in the colonies 400 years ago, and were largely responsible for America’s early economic strength.

“We…cannot allow ourselves to forget that the hideous slave labor camps of the new “empire of liberty” were a primary source for the wealth and privilege of American society, as well as England and the continent. The industrial revolution was based on cotton, produced primarily in the slave labor camps of the United States.”

Slaves were highly efficient producers, Chomsky states, and “[p]roductivity increased even faster than in industry, thanks to the technology of the bullwhip and pistol, and the efficient practice of brutal torture.”

With the end of slavery came an immediate need to criminalize African Americans to ensure a bustling—and free—labor force. Chomsky notes “that blacks were arrested without real cause and prisoners were put to work for these business interests. The system provided a major contribution to the rapid industrial development from the late 19th century.”

More recently, Reagan helped drive this process of profiteering off the criminalizing of black bodies through the war on drugs. Chomsky says the policy “initiated a new Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s apt term for the revived criminalization of black life, evident in the shocking incarceration rates and the devastating impact on black society.”

Chomsky also discussed America’s long history of atrocities toward its native population, and the historical revisionism of figures such as Teddy Roosevelt, who pretended that white colonizers had been benevolent invaders. He noted that in reality, America’s native peoples had been “extirpated” or “expelled to destitution and misery.”

“That’s only a bare beginning of the shocking record of the Anglosphere and its settler-colonial version of imperialism, a form of imperialism that leads quite naturally to the ‘utter extirpation’ of the indigenous population, and to ‘intentional ignorance’ on the part of beneficiaries of the crimes.”

The refusal to acknowledge this history of oppression, violence and genocide may be the most disturbing and terrible tendency of America’s dominant culture. “Perhaps the most appalling contemporary myth is that none of this happened,” said Chomsky. He added:

“There is also a common variant of what has sometimes been called ‘intentional ignorance’ of what it is inconvenient to know: ‘Yes, bad things happened in the past, but let us put all of that behind us and march on to a glorious future, all sharing equally in the rights and opportunities of citizenry.’ The appalling statistics of today’s circumstances of African-American life can be confronted by other bitter residues of a shameful past, laments about black cultural inferiority, or worse, forgetting how our wealth and privilege was created in no small part by the centuries of torture and degradation of which we are the beneficiaries and they remain the victims.”

Chomsky and Yancy touched upon Ferguson, Gaza, and the similarities between the two, and Islamophobia in the post-9/11 age. As they closed, Yancy asked Chomsky about possible ways of putting an end to racism.

“Racism is far from eradicated, but it is not what it was not very long ago, thanks to such efforts,” Chomsky said. Cautiously hopeful, he added: “It’s a long, hard road. No magic wand, as far as I know.”

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Noam Chomsky Talks About How Kids Acquire Language & Ideas

These days Noam Chomsky is probably most famous for his consistent, outspoken criticism of U.S. foreign policy. Yet before the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, Chomsky became internationally famous for proposing a novel solution to an age-old question: what does a baby know?

Plato argued that infants retain memories of past lives and thus come into this world with a grasp of language. John Locke countered that a baby’s mind is a blank slate onto which the world etches its impression. After years of research, Chomsky proposed that newborns have a hard-wired ability to understand grammar. Language acquisition is as elemental to being human as, say, dam building is to a beaver. It’s just what we’re programmed to do. Chomsky’s theories revolutionized the way we understand linguistics and the mind.

chomsky gondry

A little while ago, film director and music video auteur Michel Gondryinterviewed Chomsky and then turned the whole thing into an extended animated documentary called Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (which is currently available on Netflix’s streaming service).

Above is a clip from the film. In his thick French accent, Gondry asks if there is a correlation between language acquisition and early memories. For anyone who’s watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you know that memory is one of the director’s major obsessions. Over Gondry’s rough-hewn drawings, Chomsky expounds: “Children know quite a lot of a language, much more than you would expect, before they can exhibit that knowledge.” He goes on to talk about new techniques for teaching deaf-blind children and how a day-old infant interprets the world.

As the father of a toddler who is at the cusp of learning to form thoughts in words, I found the clip to be fascinating. Now, if only Chomsky can explain why my son has taken to shouting the word “bacon” over and over and over again.

To gain a deeper understanding of Chomsky’s thoughts on linguistics, see our previous post:  The Ideas of Noam Chomsky: An Introduction to His Theories on Language & Knowledge (1977)

Related content:

Noam Chomsky & Michel Foucault Debate Human Nature & Power (1971)

What Makes Us Human?: Chomsky, Locke & Marx Introduced by New Animated Videos from the BBC

The Secret Cause of World War 3

By Truth Never Told

“We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.” Why is this the case? The Council on Foreign Relations recent announcement that Al Qaeda is now our friend should be your first clue about the war-on-terror scam. More clues in the video below.


Visit Chris Duane’s podcast at SilverShieldXchange.com

Canadian activists call for global boycott of Air Canada over its outsourcing to Israel Aerospace Industries

Its not just the Canadian government that is complicit with Israeli apartheid . . .

In recent months, Canadian government officials have been working overtime to further cement their outrageous and biased support of Israeli policies. One example is the January 18, 2015 Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries that committed to develop  “a coordinated, public diplomacy initiative both bilaterally and in international and multilateral fora to oppose boycotts of Israel, its institutions, and its people within three to six months”.

This was quickly followed with the Canadian ‘Public Safety’ minister stating at the United Nations that “Canada has taken a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination including rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement”. And the controversial and draconian Bill C-51 now making its way through the Canadian parliament is another ominous sign on the horizon; pro-Palestinian activists are fully aware that all of this will require increased determination in order to continue promoting the Palestinian struggle for human and national rights.

In this context, activists from BDS Vancouver-Coast Salish started a campaign last month to boycott Air Canada, the leading airline in the country. The original impetus was reports from supporters that Sabra Hummus was being served on Air Canada flights. Sabra Hummus has already been an issue of controversy on university campuses in the U.S. and Canada (University of Ottawa) because of the deplorable human rights record of one of its partner companies, Strauss Group. Strauss is the second largest Israeli food and beverage company and is known for supporting two Israeli military units implicated in human rights abuses, the Golani and Givati brigades.

However, further research (like peeling the layers of an onion) revealed that the links between Canadian business leaders and Israeli apartheid run deep. In fact, Air Canada recently signed a maintenance agreement for its B787 jets with Israel Aerospace Industries IAI, a military defense company wholly owned by the government of Israel. IAI is the subject of boycotts across Europe and is well-known for its drone technology and production.

Corporate Watch in the UK says that “IAI was one of the earliest developers of drone technology and launched its first surveillance drone, the IAI Scout, in 1979…IAI writes on its website of its drones ‘unsurpassed track record of over 1,200,000 operational flight hours for over 50 users on five continents’. According to Drone Wars UK, IAI has exported their UAVs, sometimes through joint venture agreements, to various European countries as well as South America, Australia, Canada and India and the company has a growing market in Africa.”

And a recent study entitled “Sleepless in Gaza” by Dr. Atef Abu Saif, Al-Azhar University in Gaza, has detailed the terrifying impact of drone warfare on the Gaza Strip, especially on children, and states – “Since their first use in 2000, drones have led to the death of hundreds of Palestinians and have injured thousands more. In addition, they have directly negatively impacted Palestinian psychological and social life, as well as causing a grossly negative impact on education.”

Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada’s CEO, was part of PM Stephen Harper’s delegation to Israel early last year, along with other top Canadian business moguls. Of course, there is plenty of precedent here, most notably with the Heseg Foundation program created and sponsored by Indigo-Chapter’s CEO, Heather Reisman. Heseg (also known as the Lone Soldier program) offers financial support and scholarships to individuals who have no family in Israel but decide nonetheless to join the Israeli army – an army of occupation.

It is truly shameful that Air Canada is “outsourcing” its maintenance work to this Israeli defense company that is directly responsible for the deaths of Palestinian civilians and has the blood of Palestinian children on its hands. BDS Vancouver called on supporters in its recent fact sheet, done up for Israel Apartheid Week at local campuses, to send the message that Palestinian rights and lives matter & Israeli government abuses of international law will not be rewarded with our travel dollars!

More info at: Boycott Air Canada: Tell Them We are not On-Board with Human Rights Violations

Noam Chomsky: Defeating ISIS Starts with the US Admitting Its Role in Creating

It would take remedying the massive damage inflicted on Iraq in order to deal with the turmoil in the region.

We air the second part of our two-day interview with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. Chomsky is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. As Iraq launches an offensive to retake Tikrit and Congress prepares to debate an expansive war powers resolution for U.S. strikes, Chomsky discusses how he thinks the U.S. should respond to the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

Below is an interview with Chomsky, followed by a transcript:

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2015/3/3/noam_chomsky_to_deal_with_isis

AMY GOODMAN: Today, part two of our discussion with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author, institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he’s taught for more than half a century. On Mondayon Democracy Now!, Aaron Maté and I interviewed him about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech on Iran to Congress. Today, in part two, we look at blowback from the U.S. drone program, the legacy of slavery in the United States, the leaks of Edward Snowden, U.S. meddling in Venezuela and the thawing of U.S.-Cuba relations. We began by asking Professor Chomsky how the U.S. should respond to the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s very hard to think of anything serious that can be done. I mean, it should be settled diplomatically and peacefully to the extent that that’s possible. It’s not inconceivable. I mean, there are—ISIS, it’s a horrible manifestation of hideous actions. It’s a real danger to anyone nearby. But so are other forces. And we should be getting together with Iran, which has a huge stake in the matter and is the main force involved, and with the Iraqi government, which is calling for and applauding Iranian support and trying to work out with them some arrangement which will satisfy the legitimate demands of the Sunni population, which is what ISIS is protecting and defending and gaining their support from.

They’re not coming out of nowhere. I mean, they are—one of the effects, the main effects, of the U.S. invasion of Iraq—there are many horrible effects, but one of them was to incite sectarian conflicts, that had not been there before. If you take a look at Baghdad before the invasion, Sunni and Shia lived intermingled—same neighborhoods, they intermarried. Sometimes they say that they didn’t even know if their neighbor was a Sunni or a Shia. It was like knowing what Protestant sect your neighbor belongs to. There was pretty close—it wasn’t—I’m not claiming it was—it wasn’t utopia. There were conflicts. But there was no serious conflict, so much so that Iraqis at the time predicted there would never be a conflict. Well, within a couple of years, it had turned into a violent, brutal conflict. You look at Baghdad today, it’s segregated. What’s left of the Sunni communities are isolated. The people can’t talk to their neighbors. There’s war going on all over. The ISIS is murderous and brutal. The same is true of the Shia militias which confront it. And this is now spread all over the region. There’s now a major Sunni-Shia conflict rending the region apart, tearing it to shreds.

Now, this cannot be dealt with by bombs. This is much more serious than that. It’s got to be dealt with by steps towards recovering, remedying the massive damage that was initiated by the sledgehammer smashing Iraq and has now spread. And that does require diplomatic, peaceful means dealing with people who are pretty ugly—and we’re not very pretty, either, for that matter. But this just has to be done. Exactly what steps should be taken, it’s hard to say. There are people whose lives are at stake, like the Assyrian Christians, the Yazidi and so on. Apparently, the fighting that protected the—we don’t know a lot, but it looks as though the ground fighting that protected the Yazidi, largely, was carried out by PKK, the Turkish guerrilla group that’s fighting for the Kurds in Turkey but based in northern Iraq. And they’re on the U.S. terrorist list. We can’t hope to have a strategy that deals with ISIS while opposing and attacking the group that’s fighting them, just as it doesn’t make sense to try to have a strategy that excludes Iran, the major state that’s supporting Iraq in its battle with ISIS.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the fact that so many of those who are joining ISIS now—and a lot has been made of the young people, young women and young men, who are going into Syria through Turkey. I mean, Turkey is a U.S. ally. There is a border there. They freely go back and forth.

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s right. And it’s not just young people. One thing that’s pretty striking is that it includes people with—educated people, doctors, professionals and others. Whatever we—we may not like it, but ISIS is—the idea of the Islamic caliphate does have an appeal to large sectors of a brutalized global population, which is under severe attack everywhere, has been for a long time. And something has appeared which has an appeal to them. And that can’t be overlooked if we want to deal with the issue. We have to ask what’s the nature of the appeal, why is it there, how can we accommodate it and lead to some, if not at least amelioration of the murderous conflict, then maybe some kind of settlement. You can’t ignore these factors if you want to deal with the issue.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about more information that’s come out on the British man who is known as “Jihadi John,” who appears in the Islamic State beheading videos. Mohammed Emwazi has been identified as that man by British security. They say he’s a 26-year-old born in Kuwait who moved to the U.K. as a child and studied computer science at the University of Westminster. The British group CAGE said he faced at least four years of harassment, detention, deportations, threats and attempts to recruit him by British security agencies, which prevented him from leading a normal life. Emwazi approached CAGE in 2009 after he was detained and interrogated by the British intelligence agency MI5 on what he called a safari vacation in Tanzania. In 2010, after Emwazi was barred from returning to Kuwait, he wrote, quote, “I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started. But know [sic] I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London.” In 2013, a week after he was barred from Kuwait for a third time, Emwazi left home and ended up in Syria. At a news conference, CAGE research director Asim Qureshi spoke about his recollections of Emwazi and compared his case to another British man, Michael Adebolajo, who hacked a soldier to death in London in 2013.

ASIM QURESHI: Sorry, it’s quite hard, because, you know, he’s such a—I’m really sorry, but he was such a beautiful young man, really. You know, it’s hard to imagine the trajectory, but it’s not a trajectory that’s unfamiliar with us, for us. We’ve seen Michael Adebolajo, once again, somebody that I met, you know, who came to me for help, looking to change his situation within the system. When are we going to finally learn that when we treat people as if they’re outsiders, they will inevitably feel like outsiders, and they will look for belonging elsewhere?

AMY GOODMAN: That’s CAGE research director Asim Qureshi. Your response to this, Noam Chomsky?

NOAM CHOMSKY: He’s right. If you—the same if you take a look at those who perpetrated the crimes on Charlie Hebdo. They also have a history of oppression, violence. They come from Algerian background. The horrible French participation in the murderous war in the ’90s in Algeria is their immediate background. They live under—in these harshly repressed areas. And there’s much more than that. So, you mentioned that information is coming out about so-called Jihadi John. You read the British press, other information is coming out, which we don’t pay much attention to. For example, The Guardian had an article a couple of weeks ago about a Yemeni boy, I think who was about 14 or so, who was murdered in a drone strike. And shortly before, they had interviewed him about his history. His parents and family went through them, were murdered in drone strikes. He watched them burn to death. We get upset about beheadings. They get upset about seeing their father burn to death in a drone strike. He said they live in a situation of constant terror, not knowing when the person 10 feet away from you is suddenly going to be blown away. That’s their lives. People like those who live in the slums around Paris or, in this case, a relatively privileged man under harsh, pretty harsh repression in England, they also know about that. We may choose not to know about it, but they know. When we talk about beheadings, they know that in the U.S.-backed Israeli attack on Gaza, at the points where the attack was most fierce, like the Shejaiya neighborhood, people weren’t just beheaded. Their bodies were torn to shreds. People came later trying to put the pieces of the bodies together to find out who they were, you know. These things happen, too. And they have an impact—all of this has an impact, along with what was just described. And if we seriously want to deal with the question, we can’t ignore that. That’s part of the background of people who are reacting this way.

AARON MATÉ: You spoke before about how the U.S. invasion set off the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq, and out of that came ISIS. I wonder if you see a parallel in Libya, where the U.S. and NATOhad a mandate to stop a potential massacre in Benghazi, but then went much further than a no-fly zone and helped topple Gaddafi. And now, four years later, we have ISIS in Libya, and they’re beheading Coptic Christians, Egypt now bombing. And with the U.S. debating this expansive war measure, Libya could be next on the U.S. target list.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, that’s a very important analogy. What happened is, as you say, there was a claim that there might be a massacre in Benghazi, and in response to that, there was a U.N. resolution, which had several elements. One, a call for a ceasefire and negotiations, which apparently Gaddafi accepted. Another was a no-fly zone, OK, to stop attacks on Benghazi. The three traditional imperial powers—Britain, France and the United States—immediately violated the resolution. No diplomacy, no ceasefire. They immediately became the air force of the rebel forces. And, in fact, the war itself had plenty of brutality—violent militias, attacks on Africans living in Libya, all sorts of things. The end result is just to tear Libya to shreds. By now, it’s torn between two major warring militias, many other small ones. It’s gotten to the point where they can’t even export their main export, oil. It’s just a disaster, total disaster. That’s what happens when you strike vulnerable systems, as I said, with a sledgehammer. All kind of horrible things can happen.

In the case of Iraq, it’s worth recalling that there had been an almost decade of sanctions, which were brutally destructive. We know about—we can, if we like, know about the sanctions. People prefer not to, but we can find out. There was a sort of humanitarian component of the sanctions, so-called. It was the oil-for-peace program, instituted when the reports of the sanctions were so horrendous—you know, hundreds of thousand of children dying and so on—that it was necessary for the U.S. and Britain to institute some humanitarian part. That was directed by prominent, respected international diplomats, Denis Halliday, who resigned, and Hans von Sponeck. Both Halliday and von Sponeck resigned because they called the humanitarian aspect genocidal. That’s their description. And von Sponeck published a detailed, important book on it called, I think, A Different Kind of War, or something like that, which I’ve never seen a review of or even a mention of it in the United States, which detailed, in great detail, exactly how these sanctions were devastating the civilian society, supporting Saddam, because the people had to simply huddle under the umbrella of power for survival, probably—they didn’t say this, but I’ll add it—probably saving Saddam from the fate of other dictators who the U.S. had supported and were overthrown by popular uprisings. And there’s a long list of them—Somoza, Marcos, Mobutu, Duvalier—you know, even Ceaușescu, U.S. was supporting. They were overthrown from within. Saddam wasn’t, because the civil society that might have carried that out was devastated. He had a pretty efficient rationing system people were living on for survival, but it severely harmed the civilian society. Then comes the war, you know, massive war, plenty of destruction, destruction of antiquities. There’s now, you know, properly, denunciation of ISIS for destroying antiquities. The U.S. invasion did the same thing. Millions of refugees, a horrible blow against the society.

These things have terrible consequences. Actually, there’s an interesting interview with Graham Fuller. He’s one of the leading Middle East analysts, long background in CIA, U.S. intelligence. In the interview, he says something like, “The U.S. created ISIS.” He hastens to add that he’s not joining with the conspiracy theories that are floating around the Middle East about how the U.S. is supportingISIS. Of course, it’s not. But what he says is, the U.S. created ISIS in the sense that we established the background from which ISISdeveloped as a terrible offshoot. And we can’t overlook that.

Noam Chomsky: Edward Snowden a True Patriot Who Should be Honored

Noam Chomsky speaking in February 2014.  (Photo: Nuclear Age Peace Foundation/flickr/cc)
Noam Chomsky speaking in February 2014. (Photo: Nuclear Age Peace Foundation/flickr/cc)
Noted linguist also says ‘global assassination program’ is fuelling terrorism.

Andrea Germanos

Noam Chomsky said that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is a true patriot who revealed vast surveillance programs that have nothing to do with combating terrorism.

The noted intellectual made the comment in an extended interviewwith Democracy Now!‘s Amy Goodman which aired Tuesday.

Chomsky said Snowden should be welcomed back to the country from Russia, where he has received asylum, with honors because he “carried out the obligations of a citizen.”

Snowden “informed American citizens of what their government is doing to them. That’s exactly what a person who has real patriotism, not the flag-waving type, but real patriotism, would do. So he should be honored, not just allowed back,” Chomsky said.

“It’s the people in the government who should be on trial, not him,” he continued.

Chomsky added that neither the surveillance system Snowden exposed nor the drone program—despite claims by officials—have combating terrorism as their goals.

NSA programs are “intended to control the population,” he said. As for Obama’s drone program, Chomsky called it “a global assassination program [that is] far and away the worst act of terror in the world.”

Echoing comments many, including Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzaiand even the CIAhave made, he said the drone program is also counter-productive.

It’s “a terror-generating program” that has helped fueled the rise of al-Qaeda.

“There was a small group up in the tribal areas of mostly Pakistan and Afghanistan, al-Qaeda, and we have succeeded in spreading it over the whole world. Now they’re all everywhere—you know, West Africa, Southeast Asia—simply generating more and more terror. And I think it’s—you know, it’s not that the U.S. is trying to generate terror. It’s simply that it doesn’t care,” Chomsky said.

Watch the interview below:

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2015/3/3/chomsky_on_snowden_why_nsa_surveillance

 

Noam Chomsky: U.S. Thinks of Israel as an ‘Offshore Military Base’

The U.S. helped provide the arms to Israel in last year’s destruction of Gaza.

Six months after the end of a devastating Israeli assault on Gaza, aid agencies have condemned the lack of progress in rebuilding Gaza, saying reconstruction of tens of thousands of destroyed homes, schools and hospitals has been “woefully slow,” with 100,000 Palestinians still displaced. Our guest, Noam Chomsky, notes it was the Pentagon that supplied many of the weapons used in the massive destruction. “The arms were taken from arms the U.S. stores in Israel. They are pre-positioned in Israel for eventual use by U.S. forces,” Chomsky says. “Israel is regarded essentially as an offshore military base.”

Below is an interview with Chomsky:

http://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2015/3/2/noam_chomsky_despite_iran_spat_us