Legends of Anarchism
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Chomsky's political views have changed little since his childhood, when he was influenced by the emphasis on political activism that was ingrained in Jewish working-class tradition. He usually identifies as an anarcho-syndicalist and/or a libertarian socialist. He views these positions not as precise political theories but as ideals which he thinks best meet the needs of humans: liberty, community, and freedom of association. Unlike some other socialists, such as those who accept Marxism, Chomsky believes that politics lies outside the remit of science.
The key thrust behind much of Chomsky's political world-view is the idea that the truth about political realities are systematically distorted or suppressed through the manipulation of corporate interests and elites, while his work has focused on revealing these manipulations. He believes that "common sense" is all that is required to break through the web of falsehood and see the truth, if it is employed using both critical thinking skills and an awareness of the role that self-interest and self-deception plays on both oneself and on others.
Although he had joined protest marches and organized activist groups, he identifies his primarily political outlet as being that of education, offering free lessons and lectures to encourage wider political consciousness. He is a member of the Industrial Workers of the World international union. Chomsky is also a member of the interim consultative committee of the International Organization for a Participatory Society, which he describes as having the potential to "carry us a long way towards unifying the many initiatives here and around the world and molding them into a powerful and effective force."
United States foreign policy
Chomsky believes that the basic principle of the foreign policy of the United States is the establishment of "open societies" which are economically and politically controlled by the U.S. and where U.S.-based businesses can prosper. He believes that 'official,' sanctioned historical accounts of U.S. and British imperialism have consistently whitewashed these nations' actions in order to present them as having benevolent motives in either spreading democracy or, in older instances spreading Christianity; criticizing these accounts, he seeks to correct them. Prominent examples that he regularly cites are the actions of the British Empire in India and Africa, and the actions of the U.S. in Vietnam, the Philippines, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Part of the reason why he focuses most of his criticism on the U.S. is because during his lifetime the country has militarily and economically dominated the world, and because its liberal democratic electoral system allows for the citizenry to exert an influence on government policy. His hope is that by spreading awareness of the negative impact that imperialism has on the populations affected by it, he can sway the population of the U.S. and other countries into opposing government policies that are imperialist in their nature. He urges people to criticize the motivations, decisions, and actions of their governments, to accept responsibility for one's own thoughts and actions, and to apply the same standards to others as one would apply to oneself.
Capitalism, socialism, and the United States
In his youth, Chomsky developed a dislike of capitalism and the selfish pursuit of material advancement. At the same time he developed a disdain for the authoritarian attempts to establish a socialist society, as represented by the likes of the Leninism and Stalinism of the USSR. Chomsky believes that libertarian socialism should "properly be regarded as the inheritor of the liberal ideas of the Enlightenment," arguing that his ideological position revolves around "nourishing the libertarian and creative character of the human being." He has stated his opposition to ruling elites, among them institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and GATT.
Chomsky highlights that since the 1970s, the U.S. has become increasingly economically unequal as a result of the repeal of various financial regulations and the rescindment of the Bretton Woods financial control agreements. He characterizes the U.S. as a de facto one-party state, viewing both the Republican Party and Democratic Party as manifestations of a single "Business Party" controlled by corporate and financial interests. Chomsky highlights that within Western capitalist liberal democracies, at least 80% of the population has no control over economic decisions, which are instead in the hands of a management class and ultimately controlled by a small, wealthy elite.
Noting that this economic system is firmly entrenched and difficult to overthrow, he believes that change is possible through the organized co-operation of large numbers of people who understand the problem and know how they want to re-organize the economy in a more equitable way. Although acknowledging that corporate domination of media and government stifle any significant change to this system, he sees reason for optimism, citing the historical examples of the social rejection of slavery as immoral, the advances in women's rights, and the forcing of government to justify invasions to illustrate how change is possible. He views violent revolution to overthrow a government as a last resort to be avoided if possible, citing the example of historical revolutions where the population's welfare has worsened as a result of the upheaval.
With regard to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Chomsky has long endorsed the left bi-nationalist program, seeking to create a democratic state in the Levant that is home to both Jews and Arabs. However, acknowledging the real politik of the situation, Chomsky has also considered a two-state solution on the condition that both nation-states exist on equal terms. As a result of his criticisms of Israel, Chomsky was barred from entering Israel in 2010.
News media and propaganda
Chomsky's political writings have largely been focused with the two concepts of ideology and power, or the media and state policy. One of Chomsky's most well-known works, Manufacturing Consent, dissects the media's role in reinforcing and acquiescing to state policies, across the political spectrum, while marginalizing contrary perspectives. Chomsky claims that this 'free-market' version of censorship is more subtle and difficult to undermine than the equivalent propaganda system which was present in the Soviet Union. Whereas the opposition is given the opportunity to voice dissent, this dissent is heavily constrained by the reality of having to contend in a corporate environment, where, for example, advertising largely determines a media outlet's success. While freedom of speech and the press appear to be guaranteed, mass media can only be produced by extremely wealthy enterprises. As a result, the interests which are represented in the media reflect the interests of those who are providing it with the greatest amount of the funding.
Chomsky considers most conspiracy theories to be fruitless, distracting substitutes to thinking about policy formation in an institutional framework, where individual manipulation is secondary to broader social imperatives. He does not dismiss conspiracy theories outright, but he does consider them unproductive to challenging power in a substantial way. In response to the labeling of his own thoughts as "conspiracy theory," Chomsky has replied that it is very rational for the media to manipulate information in order to sell it, like any other business. He asks whether General Motors would be accused of conspiracy if they deliberately selected what they would use or discard in order to sell their product.