Friday, April 23, 2010

quotation of the week (noam chomsky)

From "Noam Chomsky Has 'Never Seen Anything Like This,'" by Chris Hedges (@ truthdig):

Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect. He curtly dismisses our two-party system as a mirage orchestrated by the corporate state, excoriates the liberal intelligentsia for being fops and courtiers and describes the drivel of the commercial media as a form of “brainwashing.” And as our nation’s most prescient critic of unregulated capitalism, globalization and the poison of empire, he enters his 81st year warning us that we have little time left to save our anemic democracy.

“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told me when I called him at his office in Cambridge, Mass. “The parallels are striking. There was also tremendous disillusionment with the parliamentary system. The most striking fact about Weimar was not that the Nazis managed to destroy the Social Democrats and the Communists but that the traditional parties, the Conservative and Liberal parties, were hated and disappeared. It left a vacuum which the Nazis very cleverly and intelligently managed to take over.”

"The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen," Chomsky went on. "Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response.

"What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up. This could become an overwhelming force. And if it happens it will be more dangerous than Germany. The United States is the world power. Germany was powerful but had more powerful antagonists. I don’t think all this is very far away. If the polls are accurate it is not the Republicans but the right-wing Republicans, the crazed Republicans, who will sweep the next election."

"I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime," Chomsky added. "I am old enough to remember the 1930s. My whole family was unemployed. There were far more desperate conditions than today. But it was hopeful. People had hope. The CIO was organizing. No one wants to say it anymore but the Communist Party was the spearhead for labor and civil rights organizing. Even things like giving my unemployed seamstress aunt a week in the country. It was a life. There is nothing like that now. The mood of the country is frightening. The level of anger, frustration and hatred of institutions is not organized in a constructive way. It is going off into self-destructive fantasies."

"I listen to talk radio," Chomsky said. "I don't want to hear Rush Limbaugh. I want to hear the people calling in. They are like [suicide pilot] Joe Stack. 'What is happening to me? I have done all the right things. I am a God-fearing Christian. I work hard for my family. I have a gun. I believe in the values of the country and my life is collapsing.'"

You can read the rest of this article here


  1. I have noticed since the 2008 Presidental Election the level of anger and craziness is something I have never seen before. I see the parallels between the stupidity and paranoia of crazed, right wing assholes and Nazi Germany. The insane pride in one's country, the importance of military, the distain for political parties, the sheer hatred for Obama, and lies of a minority group somehow is the cause for all of the perceive corruption happening in one's country. I wonder how weak is the human mind to blindly follow anything shown to them from the media. CNN, MSNBC, FOX News are nothing more but outlets for adult jackasses to vent and yell at each other, while no point is ever made. You can practically tell when a journalist or talk show host leans 'right' or 'left.' There's no integrity in journalism. Just sensationalism. I read articles headline while online. "Obama SLAMS Wall Street," and so forth. I wonder to myself, "Is this journalist talking about politics or wrestling?" These words are loaded to imply a sense of angry from the opposition or pro-Obama or what have you. In my opinion, it is the same tactics used in Nazi Germany and it's all done on purpose to evoke something unpleasant. The only difference, the people I know will not tolerate anyone attacking them verbally or physically based off bullshit fed to them by Limbaugh or whoever else.

  2. I have been sharing Chomsky's fear for some time. I find the racial demagoguery to be very frightening. This is how some other societies (Germany the worst, but not the only example) have disintegrated into genocide or civil war. The Hitler example is particularly important because he came to power in a democratic process and the German parliament (and then the French) voted to give him despotic powers. At a minimum, it is already happening that violent attacks on racial minorities have increased. I do hope my most apocalyptic fears are exaggerated.

  3. The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen," Chomsky went on. "Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response.

    I wonder how he fits President Obama into this view?

    Also, he mentions *honest* charismatic leader but proceeds to outline a dishonest, manipulative platform (which I think is dead on btw):

    What are people supposed to think if someone says ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told that white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honor of the nation. Military force will be exalted. does he mean "honest-seeming" (i.e., straight white Christian male, the default authority/embodiment of all that is upstanding? ... or, even better, a straight Christian man of color(can't stray too far afield now), a la Clarence Thomas, who could provide the bonus of allowing people to follow a racist agenda without, you know, feeling racist b/c, after all, the minority guy said it too)? Or does he mean honest, in that the leader sincerely believes the misinformation (s)he's spewing (as opposed to cynical manipulation)?

    One of my favorite debates is on youtube between the late William F. Buckley (affirmative action = "professional negrophilia") and Noam Chomsky re: colonialism in Africa. Buckley was not prepared. :o)

  4. @TAB:
    It's a good question. I assumed that he meant this: "that the leader sincerely believes the misinformation (s)he's spewing (as opposed to cynical manipulation)?"

    But I'm not sure that he's right. I mean, doesn't this sound a lot like Sarah Palin? I know she's made a lot of stupid moves, but I'm paranoid enough to worry that she still has a fighting chance...

  5. “Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” Hermann Goering

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” Joseph Goebbels

    What with this present climate of hate and fear mongering- wars and rumors of war, race-baiting by a white populace fearful of losing its grip. It isn't a stretch of the imagination to think that history might be repeating itself. For when fanatics blindly wage war against common sense, truth will always be the first casualty.

  6. @ TAB and Julia/the other Julia,

    I wondered too what Chomsky means by "honest" in this context. I asked the friend who sent me the link to Hedges' article about it and received this interpretation:

    hm, honest. does a leader have to be moral to be honest?

    hitler was poor. an outcast. suffered. unemployed. badly wounded in ww1. always against the bad deal at versailles. against the reparations. defending his country. perceived as totally for the little guy, the petit bourgeois. an outsider. not associated with the major political parties.

    blah blah blah blah.

    an honest guy.

    you know the rest.

    he got co-opted, didn't he?

    who perceived him as an "honest guy" and got behind him, funded him, supplied him and his with all the bucks and guns they needed?

    chomp knows history.

    as he said, he and his family survived the thirties.

  7. @Macon

    Thanks for that. I don't think honest always = moral but Chomsky started off talking about obvious crooks, which made me wonder whether he was using "honest" from the perspective of the sheep, er, people (honest-seeming, not an "obvious crook") or from the leader's perception of himself ("I am not a crook!").

    I keep hearing (rumor?) that hitler had some Jewish ancestry...if he knew that, would that make him honest in holding himself out as the embodiment of racial Aryan purity? Hm. I could be well off the map on this one.


    Totally. Sarah Palin is exactly who I had in mind when I typed @ honestly believing their own misinformation (as opp to e.g., Clarence Thomas, the ultimate cynical manipulator for career advancement...albeit not that charismatic).


    The relevance of those quotes is deeply unsettling. I kept visualizing Rove and Cheney reading them, bound in a book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Fascists.

  8. The term "illegal immigrant" is one I do not condone, but I will assume he is not aware it is a dehumanizing term.

    Go with "undocumented immigrant" in the future though Chomsky.

  9. can you believe what they are trying to do in Arizona with that immigration bill? They want to give police the right to question every brown person basically. it's crazy! Already passed the state house and senate!!!

  10. Personally, I was worried that all of the described would happen with Muslim-Americans with a hate fueled by irrational fear and rampant xenophobia.

    Also, I've been worried about the *too* many displays of patriotism (read: nationalism [read: white pride]) that have been becoming more and more commonplace lately. Suddenly, you're shouted down just for seeming "unpatriotic". I'm not sure if Chomsky was considering the factor of hypernationalism, but that also seems to support the trend he saw.

  11. Oh, give me a fucking break.

    Nonwhite children are enslaved worldwide, with outposts in every major city on the globe (and a fair share of minor ones, to boot). Child labor, sexual slavery (again, most of them children) and child soldiering run rampant in that OTHER hemisphere, ignored in every 'civilized' because these are not the sort of atrocities that can be easily packaged by mass market retailers and made palatable even by the most sanctimonious celebrities.

    And that's all to say nothing of the atrocities that ARE, which do qualify as such, of course. Then there's usual stuff that seems positively run-of-the-mill in comparison - war, famine, worldwide ecological collapse.

    Restrict it to an American context for the purpose of argument? Fine. Chomsky is off his fucking rocker with this statement-

    "There it was the Jews. Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks."

    The American genocide has ALREADY happened. FFS, it's still happening - unless anyone here wants to make light of rape tourism, assuming they even know about it in the first place?!

    The sky has already fallen, people.

    Noam Chomsky = yet another old white man who knows what's best for everyone.

    But, to be fair - yes, liberals do suck.

  12. on the charisma thread, Chomsky's use of charisma confused me anyway, because Nixon was hardly charismatic, so I don't know what Chomsky could have been thinking when he listed Nixon. There's an older tradition, a reaction to Fascism, that sees charisma as inherently dangerous.

    But there's another line of thought. Aldon Morris talks in his book Origins of the Civil Rights Movement about Black ministers as charismatic leaders, and about ways of learning and routinizing charismatic leadership and inspiring oratory. I'd put Obama more in this tradition. There's a religious tradition that sees this kind of personal leadership as spirit-filled, but some of the charismatic people I've known have been highly secular. I've long thought that there's too little appreciation of the value of this kind of leadership.

    I think what matters is what people stand for when they have charisma. What Chomsky's afraid of is charisma in the service of hate and despotism, and says that people who believe what they say are the worst, because they speak with more conviction. I saw/see Obama as offering (or trying to offer) charisma in the service of unity, reconciliation, and compassion.

  13. By "honest" I believe he meant has the (ahem) courage of his convictions and actually believes his own BS; which Hitler certainly embodied.

    RE: Palin- she's a start, but too many conservatives hate her too. Sexism still accounts for much.

    I think the TP craze is more likely to spawn lone wolf McVeigh types more than incite an Amerikaner Reich. The actual muscle of the movement is headed by super-rich corporate types that realize the profits remain in keeping it a marketing entity rather than a true political party. This desire to retain control (and stasis) is what's causing most of the in-fighting between TP groups.

    $ remains the God of this country, and the 2 party system is the papacy of this god. I don't see it changing very much...we're buying into THEIR hype by fretting. That's what they want, much like terrorists.

  14. jasonburns--

    not only is AZ doing the immigrant thing, they're trying to get Obama disqualified from appearing on the next presidential ballot by passing a law that would require him to supply his birth certificate in order to run. This "birther" insanity passed the AZ House 31-29.

  15. Been thinking about Chomsky's words, off and on all day, Macon.

    I've been wondering since the day Bush carpet bombed Baghdad if we were headed down this path.

    I was dead azz certain days before he Bush did it that the WMD thing was a lie.

    For one, Hans Blix, the UN Chief Weapons Inspector stated unequivocally in February and March 2003 that Iraq had been cooperative and there wasn't a shred of evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

    I need not elaborate over none of the 9/11 attackers being Iraqis or the other odd facts about that day in history.

    It's a history that's as nasty as herpes, and keeps repeating itself.

    Chomsky's alarm that Nazi history is may have Act II here, with new characters playing the same roles only cements my same concerns. I hope I don't end up like one of the Jews who kept hoping that the worse couldn't get any worse but ended up in death camps, because I have the same hopes and don't want to leave my country out of fear.

    Will it be our country - "our" meaning all people regardless of race - if Obama is removed from office by vote or violence, and replaced by the bold new haters of the hard Right? Or only a country that's safe for whites?

    Chomsky doesn't think so. I wonder what whites who think otherwise would think if they woke up black or brown tomorrow.

  16. One more thing:
    Here's a link to vote on whether you'd boycott Arizona because of its racist/Nazi-like immigration policy:

    When I voted, the poll showed 50% Yes, 44% No

  17. I am confused.We know violence can get even worse than this, right?

    I would have thought what we are seeing today to be more calm than what was seen in the 1950 and during the civil rights movements. I am getting so used to it now, but why do ppl say "I have never seen THIS before"

  18. I saw/see Obama as offering (or trying to offer) charisma in the service of unity, reconciliation, and compassion.

    Hm. We'll have to agree to disagree for reasons I don't care to get into on this thread - and no, I'm not a conservative.

  19. Considering that Obama has a birth certificate, they are not trying to disqualify him from running for reelection. They are trying to mainstream a fringe conspiracy theory and get more people to question the validity of his presidency.

  20. I think Chomsky has become a bit too much of an industry and a power himself. Commie Bastard makes a good point. While I'm sure things could get worse, we shouldn't need American Nazi fantasies to motivate us to revolution.

  21. @jasOnburns

    Congress rarely surprises me. Inaction from the people (meaning the citizenry/residents of the US regardless of race, gender, sexuality, immigration status) rarely surprises me. BUT THIS ARIZONA SHIT, WTF!!!!!!!!!!! Constitution, what? They really said fuck inalienable rights with this one. This asinine ridiculousness makes me want to vomit.

    I work with students- and at the end of the day, this means that Brown parents will now fear taking their child to the park. Or to go buy an ice cream. Or to come to school. What can be more criminal than disallowing residents (meaning all those who reside in the US) of this great nation to live as free people? Freedom in this case means simply walking down the street (literally) free from the fear of physical and emotional harm imposed by the state.

    I was done with Arizona after they rescinded Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 1997; this is the icing on the bigoted, civil rights-violating cake. I am trying so hard to keep this clean…

  22. I think a lot of people are complacent about the idea that we could never have another Hitler situation; that we're somehow above that now. But I don't think it's an impossible idea by any means. All it takes are the right conditions. There have been a number of studies now into "authortarians" - essentially, people who submit to authority very easily. While it's a spectrum, it's been found that there's a lot of people with very authortarian personalities, meaning they'll follow a leader without question. (There's an interesting ebook summarizing some of the research here.) I don't think Chomsky's off base at all in his assessment of the chances of it happening here.

    @esstee: Write to him and let him know about why he should use "undocumented immigrant" as versus "illegal immigrant". Chomsky does sometimes respond to the emails people send him (a couple of people I know have had email exchanges with him), and he's said he reads all of them. His contact info is at:

  23. Robin said,
    "I think a lot of people are complacent about the idea that we could never have another Hitler situation; that we're somehow above that now."

    I agree. And the scary part is that in time people have learned that to circumvent sounding "like Hitler" they have to package the extremist ideology in a colorful candy shell and give it out in small doses.

  24. @robin.

    Ask a black person if they are complacent about having another hitler.
    Hitler was not the worst people to most black people.
    White slave owners were worse than hitler to us.

    Why does the world not recognise that ordinary white people committed far more attrocities against black people than hitler commited against a section of white people.

    White people bred human beings.
    Defiled women, children, men.

    And these were people who had less of a command position than Hitler.

    We are talking, average farmers, rich, poor, young, old...

    The people who commited the most horrors against my people were far from the reich.

    Not only are they still around, but they believe they haven't done anything wrong and that we should be grateful for the way they used my ancestors for sport.

    I mean what do you call the tying of a mans legs and feet to a horse in front of his wife, children and friends... and then having the horse ripe him apart in order to break the his family in?.

    It wasn't hitler raping 12 year old girls (if they are lucky enough to reach that age before you feast on them) getting them pregnant so you could have more slaves for your plantation?

    Twasn't hitler whipping women till their flesh spills at their feet

    Twasn't hitler selling human beings as bloody chattel

    Twasn't hitler shooting a 'negress' brains out, because she wouldn't lay still to be raped.

    Twasn't hitler organising raping parties of young black women.

    Hitler doesn't strike terror in me......

    And I for one do not take the evil of man for granted nor do I take the superiority and disregard of many white people for granted either.
    I am always ALWAYS conscious and aware of the fact that if and when it comes right down to it, most white people will turn a blind eye if the evil wheels of slavery began to turn again.

    That's why we are vocal when we spot BS. cos NEVER -A - FREAKING -GAIN

  25. @Victoria: Agreed. Although from what I recall, the same thing happened in Germany: at first the Final Solution wasn't discussed, it was all just non-insane-sounding propaganda. People were slowly guided into their hatred through gradual desensitization. It started with speech against the Jews, then gradual restrictions against their rights in terms of where they could go at what times, having to always have their papers/identification, etc. Then it was forcing them all into specific ghettos, and it just continued step by step. But from what I recall reading about the very earliest stages of the public campaign, the discussions only look really creepy in hindsight.

    @soul: You're right. I should have specified "white people" and not assumed that the perception I have of white people (that they think a Third Reich-like situation can arise in America) can be generalized to all people, and that all people would fear the same things.

    I'm not sure how valid a comparison there is between the Third Reich and slavery in North America, other than them both being evil institutions that caused an immense amount of suffering; obviously the Third Reich was different in that there were a few masterminds controlling everything, and the populace followed along in their wishes for various reasons (some because they wanted to, some because they felt they had to). With slavery, we didn't have the same "masterminding" of it, it was far more widespread and commonplace - as you said, it was "average farmers, rich, poor, young, old..." I don't think there's any point to thinking that one is more likely than the other to arise again, because the important thing is that either or both could arise again.

    We already have some precursors in place; it seems as if many (white) people don't care that undocumented workers are working for next-to-no pay, in unsafe conditions, living in overcrowded places with inadequate or no health care; that foreign women are sometimes lured over under false pretences and are held against their will and used as sex slaves, their passports stolen by their captors; that (to use a Canadian example) nannies can be hired from poorer countries (if they nanny here for a period of time, it counts toward legal immigration requirements) and then be forced to do a variety of things besides nannying (or have their rightful wages withheld or reduced without their consent) because the people who hire them threaten to fire them if they don't comply (which would screw up their immigration). Other than clucking about how awful that sort of thing is (in the latter two cases, of sex slaves and mistreated nannies; in the first case of undocumented immigrants, many white people seem to feel that they deserve the poor conditions for the crime of being undocumented), most white people seem fine with turning a blind eye. So yes, I'd definitely agree with your assessment that such a thing could happen again.

  26. island girl in a land w/o seaApril 24, 2010 at 8:56 AM

    @ soul

    i am with you. hitler doesn't scare me as much as collective white america's propensity to turn a blind eye to the suffering of POC, low-wealth people and anyone else who doesn't conform to white, middle-class social norms.

    hitler isn't my boogeyman. terror in my imagination looks like:

    the men who beat vincent chin to death and the judge and jury that let them off;

    william mckinley, theodore roosevelt and other powerful men who embraced manifest destiny;

    thomas jefferson, who carried on with secretly sally hemming while publicly justifying the enslavement of african americans;

    george wallace, whose pre-gubernatorial record as a judge suggested a progressive agenda (for a man of his time) but whose hunger for power led him to pander to the basest instincts of white segregationists;

    "good" people everywhere who tacitly or explicitly condone the subjugation of other people out of fear, for personal benefit, or because they are just too lazy or daft to examine the world around them.

    it's not the charismatic leader who scares me; it's complacent, distracted, ignorant citizenry.

  27. @robin.
    Seriously?. you are not sure?
    oh ok. I am

    Maybe you might want to check out those first blacks who arrived, lived and worked in Virginia in the 1600's who were free men

    Who made slavery law? the masses or a few people pulling the strings, whipping the masses into a frenzy and spreading the myth that blacks were not human?.

    It's even more evil due to the speed by at which the white masses not only enforced this stuff but endorsed but their acts.
    And those who didn't agree with it were forced to go along or fined heavily and jailed for a year if they were found to habour runaway slaves even in the so called 'free North'.

    You know, I never said one was more likely to rise than the other.

    I said: 'Hitler does not inspire terror in me'.

    I wish you would have read me clearly before responding to something I actually did not imply. I'm not in the business of oppression olympics, Robin.

    I am stating what I really feel. My fears which are grounded in every day living and in observations which have been noted from one generation to the next.

    I could careless about hitler, he didn't even rate black people enough to consider us worthy of a fight. at the time we were colonised by the British, we were simply regarded as the spoils of war.

    And you know what, I ain't seen any remembrance of those African soldiers who gave their lives fighting for the empire.. but I digress.

  28. @island girl....

    you got it.

  29. @Soul: I should have been clear that my first paragraph was a response to you, and the next two were my musing about the topic you'd brought up. I worded it poorly, and I apologize.

    As for the rest of your response, you're right; without the wealthy landowners pushing the whole blacks-vs-whites racism angle to try to keep the poorer classes from working together against the wealthy, racism and slavery wouldn't have arisen. I hadn't thought of it that way, but your clarification makes the parallels even more striking.

  30. Agreeing entirely about atrocities committed by ordinary white people against POC in the past, when I invoke Hitler it isn't Hitler the person I'm invoking, but that Hitler used ordinary politics and charisma to encourage ordinary Germans to accelerate the prejudice they already had against Jews, Roma [Gypsies] and others into a genocidal fervor. My fear is that today's demagogues will similarly whip the anti-POC and anti-immigrant prejudice already present among White Americans into an even worse and more-violent frenzy.

    Which is not to dispute the critiques of Chomsky's language and assumptions that have been made.

  31. @olderwoman...

    Reagan - his comment about welfare queens?.
    that wasn't so far in the past was it?.

    Pretty much every president bar this one, has used charm and charisma to 'accelerate' prejudice against black people especially during a downturn in economics.

    Can we please stop making hitler or what he did into a special case.

    He isn't.
    He wasn't.
    Hitler did not do anything that the people at that time didn't want. this mass manipulation is straight forward BS and is typical in the way that white people talk when mass attrocities are commited by white masses.

    Whats happening now, has been stoked by certain US leaders for years, decades. I mean you had these people sitting in your senate!.

    The things happening now are happening because most people do not feel personally threatened by it.
    It won't be them. If teapartiers are successful it would just be 'a shame'.

    We have a bunch of hitlers running around right now. and people are still waiting for the 'single charismatic hitler to turn on the charm'.

    How has the tea party got so big?
    How is Virginia able to have the audacity to celebrate confederacy month
    How are nooses able to hang in university corridors?
    How is Arizona able to even front that immigration bill much less pass it?
    How is Arizona senate even able to put together an agenda which demands the presidents birth certificate?
    If not for all these lil hitlers running around?.

    What are you waiting for?.
    one who is charismatic enough for you?.


  32. Soul (and others): I'm really sorry, because I do not disagree with you, and it is my error if I sound like I do. I agree completely about Reagan and all the other examples you (and other critics) give. When I bring up Hitler with White people (like my father) it is to try to get their attention with a figure I know they will react to and to stress how it was "normal politics" that led to genocide, not to say the German story was unique.

    I do (as you seem to) view the 1980s as a period of political attacks on Black people designed to roll back the gains of the 1960s, and the mass incarceration and correctional supervision of Black people as a form of intense political repression, a repression that continued under Clinton in the 1990s and on into the 2000s. White people managed to commit all this repression without Whites rioting in the streets because they got everyone to rally around the "drug war" flag.

    So when you criticize Whites for paying more attention now when Whites are publicly acting in overtly violent and scary ways, and not paying attention when Blacks were being massively oppressed by drug enforcement and other policies (as only one example), I accept the criticism as a fair statement of my behavior in the 1980s and 1990s. I was critical of these policies, but not sounding the kinds of alarms I should have been sounding.

  33. @olderwoman...

    I just don't know how else to say it... you know?. you feel me? I really don't know.

    I guess despite my protestations, I still can't believe that people find it so hard to empathise with other human beings without having to frame it in their own manner.
    And I don't know about you, but have you found that when you use hitler as an example that the white people you are talking to are able to transpose the situation.

    I haven't, they simply say, 'that was different' and it will never happen again.

    When it comes to slavery I have never heard any one utter the same phrase which the same level of indignation, repulse and certainity.

    I dunno olderwoman.... I dunno, My optimism has been worn out of me.
    I wish you more luck.

  34. soul, thanks for telling me like it is. I'm not arguing, I'm just letting your viewpoint sink in. I think I understand, but I'm sitting with it and seeing if there is more I need to learn from it than I have already learned.

    To answer your question, when I lecture on racial disparities, I don't bring up Hitler at all, I just lay out the facts and call it injustice. And, yes, there are many White people who are shaken and upset when they realize what has been done. I know of specific White people who have been mobilized into action by the evidence of injustice. Similarly, lots of White students claim to have had their eyes opened by the story of the Native people, the White counter-movements to Reconstruction, etc. So as a White person, I cannot help but have hope for at least some White people, that we will see the light.

    Of course, getting an intellectual understanding of injustice and oppression does not eliminate unconscious White supremacy in how we treat POC, and it is very hard to move from intellectual understanding to effective action to dismantle oppressive structures. White privilege gets in the way at every step.

    Specifically about Hitler, as I think about it, I have to admit that I think you are right: referring to Hitler probably does not help. It's just a trope of dictatorship and gas chambers, or anti-German ethnic prejudice. It's only the educated few in the US who understand the point that it was ordinary Germans who did it and who know exactly how Hitler or other Fascists came to power, and we as human beings are (on average) just as capable of evil as anyone else. We do the most evil when we are afraid and have power.

    Now I'm thinking about lynch mobs and massacres in US history and around the world. It's the whole stretch of history that has me scared.

  35. I agree with soul and Commie Bastard: this article is ignoring the genocide that has happened and is still happening in the USA at this very moment. Hitler is once again set up as the big bad exceptional other like genocide has never happened anywhere else or since 1945.
    I do fear the pro Hitler types cause people who hate Jewish people tend to also hate Black people but at least people admit what the Nazi's did was wrong.
    No one admits what happened to Native Americans and African descendants was wrong. Even those who do think it is wrong believe in some sanitized not so bad version of events. That is why I posted the link to lynching photography. To shock people and show them the true nature of this country.

  36. @soul

    "Hitler did not do anything that the people at that time didn't want."

    Are you serious with this? You think my family wanted to be sent to the concentration camps?


  37. @hewsie

    You are being wilfully obtuse.
    Seriously, I refuse to believe that you are that stupid. Seriously?

    I was going to break it down for you, but I won't.

    READ it again.

    Then come back here and apologise for accusing me of your imagined BS, just so you could finally have a few words to type on SWPD.
    You silly, silly person.


  38. @the lady.

    I add Africans to what you said below:
    No one admits what happened to Native Americans and African descendants

    Let's remember that Africans were enslaved in their own countries by the same corrupting influence. Men, women and children were raped by these invaders.

    In any case, I began to realise that many White people use Hitler as not something to regret but as someone to absolve them of their complicity.
    (Its amazing, that many Germans I have come across don't do this. They are quick to say 'We are sorry' and this will never happen in Germany again.)

    It's like oh! that evil man manipulated those fellow white folk. The people didn't know what was happening. BS. they didn't.

    Nope he didn't The masses nurtured, inspired and feed him with their desires.

    Just like with slavery and just like whats going on now.
    The people fed the ruling authority with their desires. If you didn't approve but allowed it to go on, that is silent approval as well. They were all culpable.

  39. hewsie,

    I'm with soul on that -- it's pretty obvious that the sentence you quoted refers to the German populace, not the people that Nazis put in camps.

  40. Hitler is the go-to Big Bad because he got white people to turn against other white people. Yeah, they were separated out as Jews and Eastern Europeans, but...still white.

    The targeting of the Roma does usually get some acknowledgment today, but not the fact that the Nazis did also go after the handful of Black people under their rule. (Observe also that the campaigns against certain Christian groups get 'air time', but not so much the forced sterilization and murder of disabled and queer [white] [Christian] people).

    The way in which the Nazis are coded as the collective Big Bad is very revealing. We see very quickly who "matters."

    If (Caucasian) Jews and Slavs were not considered "white" today, I wonder who white culture's symbol of evil would be?

  41. Willow,

    I get what you're generally saying and agree with it, but I think this part needs qualification (not that I think you don't already know the following):

    Hitler is the go-to Big Bad because he got white people to turn against other white people. Yeah, they were separated out as Jews and Eastern Europeans, but...still white.

    While Ashkenazi Jews and others of apparent European extraction are now widely considered "white," they were generally not at the time, neither in Germany nor in the U.S. As Hitler said (wrote?) in an oft-quoted formulation, "The Jews are undoubtedly a race, but they are not human." The general conception of who and what Jews were among people considered "white" at the time wasn't that extreme, but it wasn't that far off either -- Jews were generally considered non-white, or sometimes, not quite white, and often treated accordingly.

    So, if that's all true, how about something like this?

    Hitler is now the go-to Big Bad for white people because he got white people to turn against other people that we now widely consider white. Yeah, they were separated out as Jews and Eastern Europeans, but...still, we now see them as white.

  42. @ Macon,

    My wording was actually intentional (playing off the fluidity of the definition of "white"), but you are not incorrect. ^_^

    Also, quick clarification, I'm of course not meaning to suggest that white disabled and/or LGBT people don't have white privilege and all that jazz. Just a parallel of historiographical erasure.

  43. I agree with the people in this thread who have pointed out in various ways that there are limits to the analogy between the political situation in Germany in the 1930s and what's been activated in America over the past year or so. At the same time, I think Chomsky's point is to focus on a few salient points of resonance in order to suggest that we could be on the brink of a far-right hegemony worse than we've seen even during the Bush years. (And I think he's also right if he supposes that what Bush and his administration represented wasn't well aligned with the political sensibilities of the teabaggers. He was unquestionably our worst president, but he was not, for instance, anti-immigrant--he tried repeatedly to pass amnesty laws, for instance. For that matter, the tea-baggers aren't as pro-corporation as was the Bush administration.)

    One of those points of resonance Chomsky points out here, which I'm surprised no one has mentioned, is the widespread loss of confidence in the parliamentary or party system in both countries. In Nazi Germany, the population was so demoralized that they were willing to turn to the Nazis, whose anti-party, anti-parliamentarian rhetoric suddenly seemed to make sense for a population enduring runaway inflation and unemployment. In the U.S. for the past decade and a half, both extremes of the political spectrum have enshrined in their political ideologies the notion that representative democracy simply does not work: on the left, there is widespread supefaction at a Congress that refuses to act upon the majority's demand for a more effective social safety net, or to address the structural inequalities plaguing our society in more than incremental ways; on the right, there is the sense that Congress cannot or will not "protect the borders" or defend workers from corporate downsizing or job exportation.

    Now there are ways of criticizing Congress that can be more or less thoughtful, of course. I tend to be more interested when Michael Moore details the influence of corporate donors upon elected officials than I am when teabaggers complain that Congress is actually trying for "socialism." But at some level, both left and right-wing indictments of the Congressional system can at times amount to the complaint that the legislation being passed is legislation one disagrees with. The current far-right contortions of the health care bill is a good example. But disagreeing with the legislation is different from claiming that the legislative system producing it is itself (irretrievably) dysfunctional or illegitimate--at least, it it *should* be different.

    I think that part of opposing the current far-right move to either depose or hobble our President, assuming you support him, ought to be to support the legitimacy of the political system he heads. I'll go further, too: I think that you can't really support Obama concretely if you don't also support his party, at least in strategic ways, while he is in office. I suspect that Chomsky is right to suggest that the next election cycle will bring more right-wingers into Congress (in almost every mid-term election of each U.S. President's first term, the President's party has lost seats). This will make politics more difficult in this country, and make it more difficult for the President to get important things done. If that prospect--leaving aside the prospect of a "new Nazi Germany" others here have considered--bothers you, it seems to me that the most helpful thing you can do is to donate time and money to the Democratic Party and to Democratic candidates in your area.

  44. 'The American genocide has ALREADY happened.' (Commie Bastard)
    AN American genocide has happened. No reason there couldn't be a few more, is how I read the OP.


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