by David Barsamian.
Propaganda or Paranoia?
Noam Chomsky, if you don’t already know is an infamous figure in the field of ‘left-wing’ politics. An institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, he is also a renowned linguist, philosopher and political analyst, with his public speeches consistently selling out. So he sounds an interesting character and a prime candidate for interviewing, and this book consists of several of the most recent interviews carried out with Noam by David Barsamian between 1998 and 2000.
The subjects range from America’s involvement with various military issues, financial issues and political issues, to the Middle East, India, Africa, the Seattle Riots and taking his grandson to the Superbowl. We’re not talking the about the propaganda of totalitarian states or wartime, but the everyday spin-doctoring of (predominantly) the Western World, or more specifically, the USA.
This is where my first criticism of the book lies, it’s far too American centric for non-American readers; there’s a lot of references to US policies, systems and events that would mean nothing to most non-US readers, so whilst it all sounds interesting it means little to most readers.
My second major criticism lies in the overall ethos of the book, indeed the ethos of a majority of ‘left-wing’ thinkers. Being an optimist at heart I find it very hard to believe that all these cover-ups, conspiracies and covert operations really go on behind our backs, or if they do then there’s probably a damn good reason why. I don’t think that our ‘democratic’ leaders are really trying to pull the wool over our eyes as much as some people believe, frankly these same people read between the lines to excess…
Major criticisms aside, David Barsamian’s interview technique could occasionally do with a little polishing, I realise that he and Noam have known each other for some time and thus will have the tendency to relax more whilst talking, but there are several subjects in the book which crop up time and time again, grating with the reader. Additionally Noam Chomsky does about 99% of the talking, so it’s more like a question and answer session that an interview in the strictest sense of the word.
Overall though, the book was an interesting read despite my not always comprehending the US references and sometimes becoming annoyed with the excessive pessimism; I would especially recommend the last chapter, which is more about Noam’s work than his views. The book is worth reading and makes you think, especially about those upon whom we bestow our trust — which, after all, is supposedly what ‘left-wing’ politics is all about.