I read my first Chomsky, Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda , out of curiosity about this “left-wing” radical public intellectual. But at best Chomsky only offered an impressionistic account in the book, peppered with anarchist doxa, rather than a serious look at how the corporate media is used by the financial oligarchy to foster their class rule. Another book by Chomsky, Occupy, shows the same feeling of moral indignation against social injustice and inequality but lacking the tools of analysis to define the problem and forward a solution.
My latest foray into Chomsky is another collection of interviews, lectures, and public addresses of his, Power and Terror: Post-9-11 Talks and Interviews. This time, Chomsky still chocks up the now typical indignation against the 9-11 terror attacks, the global injustices that had a hand in fueling the attacks, and the U.S. state’s own terrorist response as exemplified by the U.S. “War on Terror.” Chomsky also unveiled the myriad ways in which the corporate media supported the U.S. war of aggression against Afghanistan by propagating baseless details that justify the American imperialist project.
However, I cannot help but frown at some of the outlandish notions proposed by Chomsky. For instance, Chomsky makes it a point to emphasize that the new thing about 9-11 is its being the first time U.S. territory was actually hit by a foreign attack since 1812. He clarifies that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor did not count because it’s not part of the American mainland and it is technically a U.S. colony, so analogies to it miss the point. But Chomsky stretches things when he asserts that 9-11 is also the first time that the colonized of the world had the guns directed the other way. He reminds us, and rightly so, of the long list of U.S. and European imperialist crimes but concludes that with 9-11, their foreign victims are attacking them for first time: “the guns are now aimed in a different direction, something quite new in the history of Europe and its offshoots.”
The guns have been aimed at the U.S. and European imperialists way before 9-11. All history, after all, has been a history of the struggle between the oppressor and the oppressed. With the emergence of imperialism as the monopoly stage of capitalism at the turn of the 20th Century, the oppressed peoples of the world have fought several wars of national liberation to throw off the yolk of colonialism and neocolonialism. How does Chomsky categorize the victorious revolutions in China and Vietnam, among many others, if not a case of guns being aimed at a different direction? After all, as Mao once said, “political power comes out of the barrel of the gun,” and several social movements from past to present have not been shy at taking up arms as a way of resisting imperialist aggressors and their local puppet rulers.
Things get even more bizarre when Chomsky claims that “what happened in September 11 has virtually nothing to do with economic globalization.” It is a strange assertion for a self-professed radical to claim because globalization, another word of the economic division of the entire world by gigantic monopolies based in the advanced capitalist powers like those in North America, Europe, and Japan, goes side by side with the territorial division of the world by these powers. It is precisely this dynamic that generates war and armed conflict, including state terror and asymmetric warfare, and the 9-11 attack can surely be situated in this context.