by Joe Courter
The Civic Media Center is proud and delighted to present author, linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky at the Curtis M. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday evening, Oct. 15. Doors will open at 7:15, and the speech is at 8 p.m. Advance tickets (free) can be picked up from the CMC (Thurs., Fri., Sat., from noon to 6 p.m.) and the Phillips Center box office (Mon., noon to 6 p.m., and Tues., noon up through the event or when they run out). There will be outside video and sound on the lawn, and hopefully there will be live webcast.
Born in 1928, this prolific author of scores of books is in constant demand as a speaker from around the world. In late June he spoke in Lebanon and Germany, and will be in Canada shortly after his Gainesville speech.
The CMC invited him to Gainesville to mark its 20th anniversary; he came in 2003 for its 10th, speaking to over 6,000 in the O’Connell Center, and he was in Gainesville in 1993 and helped dedicate the brand new CMC on its opening day.
We hoped to present Chomsky in the O’Connell Center again, and as soon as the new ACCENT (UF’s well-funded, student-run speakers bureau) president came into office in June, the offer was made to have them host the event. Initial positive response did not lead to any progress, and then eventual rejection of the offer. Islam on Campus then stepped up to do it, but bureaucracy and time ended that effort, so the Civic Media Center is presenting the event on its own.
Well, that’s not accurate, because with $7,000 to raise (the Phillips, its staff and tech, plus airfare and lodging; and not counting an honorarium) and no monetary reserves to draw from, it will take fund raising from friends and allies in the campus and community to make it happen. It’s a big leap, but it was felt that the support would come through. (If you, dear reader, want to help and or honor the CMC for 20 years of service to the community, they would certainly appreciate it. There is Paypal at the website <www.civicmediacenter.org>, or snail mail or hand delivery to the CMC at 433 S. Main St., Gainesville, FL 32601.)
For anyone not familiar with Chomsky, there is a wealth of his writings and speeches available online. His analysis at times has been called “maddeningly simplistic,” but for many his views are seen as clear, objective, and pulling no punches. In a time of sound bites and artificial objectivity, Chomsky can go beyond the bounds of the accepted mainstream debate and cut to the heart of an issue. Consider this from the October 2013 issue of The Progressive, in an interview with David Barsamian. When asked about people’s frustration with Democrats and Republicans, he responded:
“It used to be said, kind of sardonically, that the United States has only one party, the business party, with two factions. That’s no longer correct. It still has one party, the business party, but it only has one faction. That faction consists of moderate Republicans. They’re called Democrats, but they’re in fact what used to be moderate Republicans, as everything has shifted to the right.
“The Republican Party is in lock step service to wealth and power. To get votes, it mobilizes sectors of the population with irrational appeals. Even conservative commentators like Norman Ornstein describe it as some sort of radical extremist organization. So we’re essentially down to one party, the business party, with moderate Republicans as the sole faction, and a kind of a radical obstructionist group trying to block anything from happening and making things worse.
“The population is extremely confused and demoralized. People just can’t see what’s in front of them. Some of the attitudes are really mind-boggling…. They’re tapping elements of irrationality that are almost beyond description. But that’s what you find in a country that’s become overwhelmed with propaganda, beginning with commercial advertising, up to national policy.
“What’s commercial advertising? It’s a means to undermine markets. Business doesn’t want markets, since markets are supposed to be based on informed consumers making rational choices. Take a look at a television ad. It’s trying to create an uninformed consumer who will make a totally irrational choice—buy a Ford Motors car because some football player is standing next to it and it’s flying up in the sky or something.
“The same firms run political campaigns and simply carry over the same ideas and techniques to undermine democracy, to make sure that you have uninformed voters making irrational choices.
“We have a population that’s very much atomized, so people don’t get together. They don’t interact in ways that are politically significant, discuss things and form plans, have political meetings. It’s just gone.”
“Solidarity is gone?” Barsamian asked.
“I don’t want to exaggerate. There are plenty of people, including young people, who are very motivated by solidarity with others, mutual support, struggling against the dangers, including global warming. We’re facing a complete environmental disaster. Both of the so-called parties are euphoric about what they call ‘100 years of energy independence.’ But what they mean is, ‘Let’s en- thusiastically get every drop of hydrocarbons out of the ground and burn it, and that will be wonderful.’ Except that what are we going to do to the world? That’s somebody else’s business.”
Chomsky’s critical views of U.S. foreign policy go back to being an early outspoken critic of the U.S. war in Vietnam in the early sixties. He is an outspoken critic of the increasing surveillance by the NSA, the National Defense Authorization Act, drone warfare, and attacks on press freedom. He is a fearless defender of Palestinian rights.
It will be an honor to have him here in Gainesville.