[UPDATE 10/18/09]

Noam Chomsky 6 Oct 2009

In Washington D.C. back in 2004 (seems like a whole other era!) I saw Noam Chomsky speak for around 45 minutes. Whatever his supposed political “bent” (and people describe him as a leftist/socialist), his talk was one-hundred percent sincere and full of lucid and penetrating insight. He understands, more deeply than probably anyone, the meaning of, and the meaning behind, society and its constructs.

What is chilling about these brief remarks from San Francisco just last week is Chomsky’s demeanor – he’s not concerned, he is truly troubled. Five years ago I did not hear this tone. And that was at the height of the Iraq War and the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”.

In signature fashion, the Linguistics Professor recognizes and grants the alacrity of the positions on both sides of the political/cultural divide – that people are suffering, that white Americans feel their country has been slipped out from under them, and that many would be willing to head down a desperate path to correct the perceived threat. Chomsky sees analogies with the current U.S. to the conditions of 1920s – 30s Weimar Germany, describing the Weimar Republic era as “the height of civilization”, before its dark “fall” and the rise of dictatorship. Perhaps Chomsky shouldn’t have singled out Germany – Russia became a Totalitarian state under Stalin before Germany did. Two sides of the same coin. For the record, to date Communist countries have killed far more of their own people than have Fascist countries.

Still, Chomsky’s conclusions should be a wake-up call, even if the comparison to Nazi Germany is overkill, and the crimes of the Soviets an oversight (by sheer numbers, , if only because for any who’ve followed Chomsky know that he’s arguably our country’s sharpest commentator on such matters.

You have to take him seriously, and by the tone in his voice, one can see that he is dead serious.

That history repeats is demonstrated time and again, though the shortness of people’s memories clouds the truism.

Here, as many other commentators right and left have done, Professor Chomsky (Linguistics, M.I.T.) singles out Rush Limbaugh as cause and symptom of the cultural divide inflamed during the past year.

But for the record It must be said that Limbaugh, probably the right’s de facto spokesman, was absolutely correct in saying that an Obama presidency would ratchet up a left-right divide like nothing else. He predicted during the ’08 Presidential race, six months before Obama took office, that an Obama presidency would inflame racial tensions and increase partisanship – NOT “heal divisions” with “hope and change” and all the rest promised by Obama the candidate.He was right.

So it is a fact that unlike Limbaugh’s more measured prediction, which has come to pass, Chomsky’s prognosis of a sick body politic descending into fascism has yet to show itself. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t (maybe we just need to give it a few more years…)

Both make a similar point, the disagreement being on the cause – but quite frankly, in his remarks Chomsky confirms Limbaugh’s 2008 prediction. Ask yourself – if Obama had lost the election would Professor Chomsky have said what he said, how he said it?

– dgw

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