Chomsky Half Full

Chomsky300 Joel Whitney interviews Noam Chomsky in Guernica Magazine:

Guernica:…Utne characterized your work as having “an unflagging sense of outrage.” I’m wondering, when you diligently dissect exactly what your country has done in places like Chile, Vietnam, Iraq, and elsewhere, when you log numbers of innocent civilians killed, and carefully present these outrageous quotes from members of government or heads of corporations, what you’re feeling. I believe the anger comes through. What else is going on? Shame? Guilt?

Noam Chomsky: All of them. Shame and guilt, of course, because there’s much that we can do about it, that I haven’t done. And outrage because, yes, it’s outrageous. And disgust at the hypocrisy in which it’s veiled. But there’s no point in revealing those emotions. You know, maybe I can talk about them with my wife or something. But what’s the point of going public with them? Doesn’t do any good.

Guernica: Yet those emotions come through in your work as a subtext.

Noam Chomsky: Maybe. And it very much angers supporters of state violence; in fact, they’re infuriated by it, when it comes out.

Guernica: What do you mean?

Noam Chomsky: When it comes out, they are sometimes infuriated by it. I happened to be in England a couple of days ago [for] an interview at BBC. One of the things the interviewer brought up is a statement of mine showing how incomparably awful I am. The statement is “One has to ask whether what the United States needs is dissent or denazification.” And that’s so utterly outrageous; it shows I’m kind of a maniac from outer space. So I asked him what I always do when somebody brings it up. I said, “Did you read the context?” And of course he hadn’t. So I said, “Okay, here’s the context.” During the Vietnam War, the Chicago Museum of Science set up a diorama of a Vietnamese village in which children could be on the outside with guns and shoot into the village and try to kill people. And there was a protest by a group of mothers, a quiet protest, protesting this thing. There was an article in the New York Times condemning—not the exhibit, but the mothers—because they were trying to take away fun from the kiddies. And in that context I said, “Sometimes you have to wonder whether what’s needed is dissent or denazification.” I think it’s just the right thing to say.