This is here both
because of the question and the person asking it. I start it with
Chomsky's first answer:
CHOMSKY: Well, let me
give an example. When I'm driving, I sometimes turn on the radio and I
find very often that what I'm listening to is a discussion of sports.
These are telephone conversations. People call in and have long and
intricate discussions, and it's plain that quite a high degree of
thought and analysis is going into that. People know a tremendous
amount. They know all sorts of complicated details and enter into
far-reaching discussion about whether the coach made the right decision
yesterday and so on. These are ordinary people, not professionals, who
are applying their intelligence and analytic skills in these areas and
accumulating quite a lot of knowledge and, for all I know,
understanding. On the other hand, when I hear people talk about, say,
international affairs or domestic problems, it's at a level of
superficiality that's beyond belief.
In part, this reaction
may be due to my own areas of interest, but I think it's quite
Yes, I agree mostly
that this is a fact: Ordinary people, without much of an education,
rather often do know quite a lot about sports.
But as I think that my
explanation is different from Chomsky's, here is a little of my
My parents and
grandparents were communists and anarchists, and were quite intelligent
(e.g. both of my parents had IQs over 130, and my father was the head
of the communist education in Amsterdam from 1950-1969) but they were not
able to attend university, and they were definitely not intellectuals,
although (unlike most of the people of their class and background) both
spoke a relatively good ("posh") Dutch, and both read considerably more
than most of the members of their class and background.
Also (and this is
where the relevance enters) my parents and the grandparents I have
known were quite able to discuss politics,
and often did so, and did this also quite well, albeit always
from a communist or anarchist point of view.
And here is my
explanation for the fact that many ordinary men
know rather a lot about sports, but not much about politics:
There are several
causes, one of which indeed is lack of interest, but the main cause is lack
of intelligence. This seems to be quite impopular among "the left",
but it is the only explanation that explains why my parents and their
friends were quite capable and quite interested in
discussing politics, and why those similar in background and education
were not: my
parents and their friends were quite simply considerably more
intelligent than ordinary people normally are, and thus could easily
deal with abstractions
that less intelligent people find quite difficult to deal with.
Please note that I do
have a real proletarian background, quite poor also, and most
discussing politics do not. And most who do
discuss politics, normally basically because they are at least middle
class and university educated, have also deeply committed themselves to
the false belief that "everybody is equal" (which they themselves
should not believe, since they earn more and are better
educated than the great majority, but believe so nevertheless, it seems
from mistaking "is" and "ought to be" and mistaking "equality
of all" and "equality in law").
In any case, Noam
Chomsky does not appear to see it as I do (and indeed his parents were
Here are the last
question plus answer - and I corrected "dissidence" to "dissonance":
QUESTION: You have said
that most intellectuals end up obfuscating reality. Do they understand
the reality they are obfuscating? Do they understand the social
processes they mystify?
CHOMSKY: Most people are not
liars. They can't tolerate too much cognitive dissonance. I don't want
to deny that there are outright liars, just brazen propagandists. You
can find them in journalism and in the academic professions as well.
But I don't think that's the norm. The norm is obedience, adoption of
uncritical attitudes, taking the easy path of self-deception. I think
there's also a selective process in the academic professions and
journalism. That is, people who are independent minded and cannot be
trusted to be obedient don't make it, by and large. They're often
filtered out along the way.
I agree that "most intellectuals end up obfuscating reality" and I more or less agree that "[m]ost people are not liars" - but the conflict isn't just between
lying and speaking the truth: it is between speaking the truth, lying and
various kinds of hypocrisy, intentional ignorance,
cowardliness, self-interest, chosen silence, and (self-)deception.
And I met enormous
amounts of hypocrisy, intentional ignorance (looking away, wanting not to
know), cowardliness, self-interest, chosen silence and (self-)deception
in the University of Amsterdam, from which I was removed
briefly before taking my M.A. in philosophy ,
apparently simply because I tried to speak the truth in a
university where THE main teaching to all students was, from 1978-1995,
that "everybody knows that truth does not exist" 
- which in fact almost no one believed, while almost everyone pretended
to believe it, because that was the condition for becoming a faculty
member, which was very well paid, and was normally for life (in the
So indeed I did not
make it, but not out of lack of talent, but because of major opposition
of morally and intellectually completely dead "academic philosophers"
(who never published anything of any value, while earning more
than 15 times as much as I did).
Also, while I had an
M.A. in psychology with only A's, I was denied the right of taking the
Ph.D., by denying me 10 euros a week to help me clean the house I lived
in, by the mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen, whose "answer" was that in
case I needed anything, I should go to the Salvation Army.
5. The Lost Logic of ‘Perpetual War’
item is an article by Nat Parry on Consortiumnews:
This starts as
Officials in Washington
are inadvertently providing some insight into the strange logic of
their nebulous war against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS and
ISIL, in contradictory and puerile statements about whether the
military action should be called a war, or perhaps something else.
Backtracking on an
earlier statement that the action against ISIS is simply a
“counterterrorism operation,” Secretary of State John Kerry clarified in
an interview on Sunday that it is, in fact, a “war.”
“In terms of al-Qaeda,
which we have used the word ‘war’ with, yeah, we are at war with
al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” Kerry said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“And in the same context
if you want to use it, yes, we are at war with ISIL in that sense. But
I think it’s a waste of time to focus on that,” Kerry said, adding that
there’s “kind of tortured debate going on about terminology.”
There is a
considerable amount more, but this is all that I am going to need, for
I do not think that the question whether military action is to
be called war is "puerile".
In fact, it is quite
essential to be unclear about the terminology: Kerry wants all
the advantages he can get doing "war", except that he does not want to
call it "war", mostly because if he does that, there may be serious
troubles with Congress (that should have the say so in declarations of
war) and with the United Nations, that has lots of laws relating to war.
So for me Kerry is
just lying, as is Obama: They want to fight a war without
calling it a war, because that way they can do it on their own.
Republicans: No Pay Equity for Women
item is an article by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams:
I suppose that I am
mostly not a (modern) feminist, and my main reason is that all the
feminism I have seen since the Sixties were heavily ideological
movements with lots of wishful
thinking and little realism,
that also, in so far as it met my eyes, was almost only done by Dutch
female intellectuals who were either quasi-marxist or postmodernistic
in basic orientation and outlook, and who were in fact mostly out to
advance themselves or their quite small class of similar female intellectuals.
But I like women, I
like Mary Wollstonecraft and Emma Goldman, and I never saw any
good reason why a woman should earn less than a man for the same job.
And in fact that seems to have been the basic demand with which
feminism started in the Sixties, since when there have been at least
two more so-called "feminist waves" (which in Holland coincided with a
quasi-marxist and a postmodernistic wave).
Well, here is Democratic leader Harry Reid:
"In 2014, more than 50
years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act, it is simply unacceptable
that American women take home on average 77 cents for every dollar
their male colleagues earn for doing the same work. But Republicans do
not see this as a problem."
The reason to quote Democratic leader Reid is that the Republicans have
blocked for the second time this year the Paycheck Fairness Act to move
forward. And indeed it is easy to see why:
“Not only is the
wage gap in our country unfair, but it also hurts our economy. Pay
inequality will cost the average working woman $464,320 over her
lifetime," Reid stated."
I do not know that
number is correct, but something like it will be, and as almost half of
the labor force in the U.S. is female, yes: Paying them 77 cents for
every 100 cents paid to males, means an enormous economic
advantage to the bosses, the rich, and the managers.
item is an article by Tom Engelhardt on tomdispatch:
The main reason Tom Engelhardt wrote this article is
that he has just published a new book, with a foreword by Glenn
Greenwald. Here is a review of it by Noam Chomsky:
“In his regular,
incisive, and often searing columns, Tom Engelhardt has uncovered layer
after layer of deceit, fraud, and distortion to reveal to us harsh
truths about power and its exercise that we must comprehend, and
resist, and reverse, if there is to be any hope of decent survival.
Shadow Government is essential reading.”
I haven't read the
book, but Chomsky usually makes sense.