Archive for November 18th, 2009

My Argument With Noam Chomsky

By Chris Mooney | November 18, 2009 12:35 pm

chomskyThe Knight Program at MIT has a magnificent twice-weekly seminar series, and last week we had our biggest star yet: MIT linguist Noam Chomsky. It was great to hear from the great man in such an intimate setting–particularly about his pioneering work on understanding the origins and nature of language.

But at the same time, we also heard from Chomsky on politics–and this forced me to reflect (as I haven’t in some time) on just how far I am from being able to accept his radical, anti-corporate, anti-establishment positions. I do see a modicum of truth to all of them. But again and again, they’re taken so far that Chomsky loses me along the way.

At the outset, let me explain my basic politics. I’ve always been a liberal, but never a radical. I’ve written at various times for The New Republic, The American Prospect, and The Nation, spanning the spectrum of the mainline political left magazines–and I’ve also occasionally crossed over and written for Reason. Throughout, I’ve felt that I can have a valuable dialogue with readers of all of these magazines, and that all of them have serious things to say.

Especially with the New Republic crowd, but also in liberalism generally, there has been a distaste for the Chomskyite view, which runs something like this: wealthy, powerful interests systematically conspire to keep us down and themselves up. They trick us through the brainwashing of public relations and advertising into wanting their products. They financially enslave us through college loans and credit cards and an inequitable healthcare system and unfair tax structures. And they sell us unethical wars–again through what are fundamentally marketing campaigns–that only serve to preserve existing power structures.

In this view, as I understand it, there is really no major difference between Democrats and Republicans. Both parties are similarly licking the feet of the real folks in power, the rich and the corporate. In our seminar, Chomsky even criticized Obama’s historic election, writing it off as the greatest of marketing campaigns, and so likening it to corporate brainwashing triumphs like getting us to smoke cigarettes or want Macs. Read More


I'm (Actually) With Sarah

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 18, 2009 10:10 am

palinIf you haven’t already heard, Sarah Palin is the current cover girl of Newsweek. Fair enough–she has a new book out. But the magazine chose to use a photo originally taken for an August 2009 article in Runners World about health and fitness. Runner’s World claims the picture was provided to Newsweek without Runners World’s “knowledge or permission” by the photographer’s stock agency. There has already been a good deal of commentary, some glee, and even speculation it was intended to rally conservative support for 2012. But for once, I agree with the former governor. Her statement on mirrors my reaction:

The choice of photo for the cover of this week’s Newsweek is unfortunate. When it comes to Sarah Palin, this “news” magazine has relished focusing on the irrelevant rather than the relevant. The Runner’s World magazine one-page profile for which this photo was taken was all about health and fitness — a subject to which I am devoted and which is critically important to this nation. The out-of-context Newsweek approach is sexist and oh-so-expected by now. If anyone can learn anything from it: it shows why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, gender, or color of skin. The media will do anything to draw attention — even if out of context.

I am extremely disappointed in Newsweek for pulling a fraternity-prank-like stunt. Yes, I strongly disagree with Palin’s political views about almost everything, but that does not make their decision acceptable. Choosing an out-of-context image is not only dubious, but a manipulative move, unworthy of the magazine. Misrepresentation may indeed sell well, but it comes at the cost of integrity.

In the broader context, I am sick of this sexist nonsense. How are we to encourage more women to consider a career in politics when the media casts every female as a ‘pin-up’ or ‘bitch’ with no middle ground? As I’ve written in the past, while candidates should never be chosen based on a number of X chromosomes, it would benefit everyone if women became more involved in the decision-making process given we represent about 50% of the population. The way Clinton and Palin were treated in 2008 made Washington seem like a boys club. I often wondered how many girls might be completely turned off to politics by watching the unrelenting onslaught of ogling, sexy photo-shopping, and worse that ensued from across the aisle. And so, with many miles to go toward achieving an equal voice in America and around the world, Newsweek’s latest faux pas sets us back.

MORE ABOUT: Newsweek, Sarah Palin

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