According to Chomsky, America’s declining power is self-inflicted.
By Joshua Holland
April 24, 2012
Last year, the Occupy Movement rose up spontaneously in cities and towns across the country, radically shifted the discourse and rattled the economic elite with its defiant populism. It was, according to Noam Chomsky, “the first major public response to thirty years of class war.” In his new book, Occupy, Chomsky looks at the central issues, questions and demands that are driving ordinary people to protest. How did we get to this point? How are the wealthiest 1 percent influencing the lives of the other 99 percent? How can we separate money from politics? What would a genuinely democratic election look like?
Chomsky appeared on this week’s AlterNet Radio Hour. Below is a transcript that’s been lightly edited for clarity. (You can listen to the whole show here.)
Joshua Holland: I want to just ask you first about a few trends shaping our political discourse. I’ve read many of your books, and the one that I probably found influential was Manufacturing Consent. You co-authored that in the late 1980s and since then we’ve seen some big changes. The mainstream media has become far more consolidated, and at the same time we’ve seen a proliferation of other forms of media. We have the alternative media outlets — online outlets like AlterNet — various social media. Looking at these trends, I wonder if you think that the range of what’s considered to be acceptable discourse has widened or narrowed further?
Noam Chomsky: Actually Ed Herman and I had a second edition to that about 10 years ago with a new, long introduction. At that time we didn’t really think much had changed, but if we were to do one now we would certainly want to bring in what you’ve just mentioned. Remember we were talking about the mainstream media. With regard to them I think pretty much the same analysis holds, although my own feeling is that, say since the 1960s, there has been some broadening and opening through the mainstream — the effect of the activism of the ’60s, which changed perceptions, attitudes, and civilized the country in many ways. Topics that are freely talked about today were invisible, and, if visible, then unmentionable 50 years ago.