In late 1998 Noam Chomsky briefly visited New Zealand, receiving star treatment. The writer of this article attended Chomsky’s ticket-only performance in Christchurch and was less than dazzled. While we respect Chomsky’s long anti-imperialist record, there are also some important weaknesses in the man’s analyses. The article is part of our series of reprints from our print predecessors such as The Spark, revolution, MidEast Solidarity and Liberation; this piece appeared in issue #8 of revolution (Dec 1998/Feb 1999).
by Grant Cronin
Noam Chomsky certainly hit the big time when he visited recently to be a special presenter at the New Zealand Media Peace Awards in Auckland. His arrival was heralded by adulatory coverage in newspapers not usually known for their progressive politics, as well as a feature in The Listener. A few hastily-organised public meetings drew packed halls. In Wellington more than 1500 people turned out to hear him.
Originally trained as a philosopher, Chomsky subsequently made his mark in the early 1970s as a linguist, with his theories on language acquisition. Over the last three decades he has also established himself as a leading and often insightful critic of US foreign policy. His book At War With Asia was an important intervention in the public debate over Vietnam. Subsequent works, such as Manufacturing Consent, have been damning indictments both of US foreign policy and of the way in which the media effectively collaborates to create public consent – or the appearance of it – to the American ruling elite’s bloody wars and exploitative policies across the globe. Chomsky has also been a critic of many of the most glaring iniquities of the capitalist system. Through his outspoken criticisms of US foreign policy and championing of liberal causes he has also become a worldwide media star. For instance, Chomsky t-shirts were on sale after his talks.
At Canterbury University, Chomsky only had 50 minutes to speak before catching a plane back to Auckland. Of course, 15 minutes of it had to be taken up by the inevitable and totally apolitical Read the rest of this entry »