No moral center

Chomsky during Chomsky

Noam Chomsky during Al-Jazeera interview published January 12, 2013.

This has become something of a dog-bites-man story here. I bring it up only because there was some discussion here about Robert Unger’s argument last summer that liberals/leftists should work to defeat President Obama’s re-election. One of our friends commented in outrage at the prospect of electing Romney. In the course of the discussion, Noam Chomsky was held up as an example of a more level-headed intellectual (or at least more well-known) than Robert Unger.

In that regard the interview of Chomsky by Al-Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, published last Saturday, sheds some light on Chomsky’s own view of our President. I’ll transcribe just a snippet (not contained in article accompanying the video):

Q: Does President Obama have a moral compass and if he does is he ignoring it at his own peril, at the country’s peril?

Chomsky:  That’s an interesting question.

I was— During the last election, I happened to be talking to a well-known black activist, very much involved in civil rights and other activism. And, uh, he told me a story. He said that after Obama’s first election, 2008, he was visited by a group of African-American women, leading activists who wanted to talk to him.   And he said he was he was there when they came out and asked them what it was like. Their answer was “This man has no moral center.” That’s their reaction, and I think they are right. And if you look at the policies I think that’s what they reveal.

He goes on the describe policies that he regards as “shocking,” including the global assassination-by-drone campaign that this President invented.

Chomsky is 84 now, but his grandfatherly manner only enhances his persuasiveness.

But of course Chomsky has always been motivated by his assessment of reality and not a romantic notion of heroes. American liberals have a bad track record in this regard, repeatedly being seduced by the likes of JFK, Bill Clinton and now Obama. But rather than here beating this moribund horse, I suggest you view the video of Chomsky, which ranges beyond this simple point and shows why he is so engaging as an activist (and so reviled by the corporate reactionaries).

It goes without saying that only a broadcast entity outside the American corporate establishment would even consider asking Chomsky’s opinion on anything.

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