Noam Chomsky on Mass Media Obsession with Russia & the Stories Not Being Covered in the Trump Era


AMY GOODMAN: Here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org,
The War and Peace Report, as we continue our interview with Noam Chomsky, world-renowned
dissident, linguist and author, now in Tucson at the University of Arizona. I asked him about a recent mix-up on Fox & Friends,
in which the hosts thought they were interviewing former Democratic congressional candidate,
a current one, Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona, who supports Immigration and Customs Enforcement
agency, known as ICE, but, in fact, they were actually speaking to a Massachusetts Democratic
congressional candidate, Barbara L’Italien, who opposes ICE. Here is how the interview started. SEN. BARBARA L’ITALIEN: Good morning. I’m actually here to speak directly to Donald
Trump. I feel that what’s happening at the border
is wrong. I’m a mother of four. And I believe that separating kids from their
parents is illegal and inhumane. I’m actually Barbara L’Italien. I’m a state senator representing a large
immigrant community. I’m running for Congress in Massachusetts. I keep thinking about what we’re putting
parents through, imagining how terrifying that must be for those families, imagining
how it would feel not knowing if I’d ever see my kids again. We have to stop abducting children and ripping
them from their parents’ arms— ROB SCHMITT: OK— SEN. BARBARA L’ITALIEN: —stop putting kids
in cages— ROB SCHMITT: You want to— SEN. BARBARA L’ITALIEN: —and stop making 3-year-olds
defend themselves in court. AMY GOODMAN: Well, Barbara L’Italien said
a lot there, but she was then cut off, with the shock of the Fox & Friends crew in the
morning that they had the wrong Democratic congressional candidate. But this kind of media activism also just
goes to the whole issue of the media, Noam Chomsky, the issue of Fox News becoming really
state media, with—you have the person who supported the sexual harasser Roger Ailes,
Bill Shine, now a top aide to President Trump in the White House. That’s gotten little attention. So you have Fox being a mouthpiece for Trump
and a place for him to hear what people have to say, and the other networks very much running
counter to Trump, on certain issues, CNN and MSNBC. But your thoughts? NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, my frank opinion is that—I
must say I don’t pay much attention to television, so I don’t know a great deal about it. But, in general, I think the media—first
of all, Fox News is, by now, basically a joke. It’s, as you said, state media. The other media, I think, are focusing on
issues which are pretty marginal. There are much more serious issues that are
being put to the side. So, the worst of—even on the case of immigration,
once again, I think the real question is dealing with the roots of immigration, our responsibility
for it, and what we can do to overcome that. And that’s almost never discussed. But I think that’s the crucial issue. And I think we find the same across the board. So, of all Trump’s policies, the one that
is the most dangerous and destructive, in fact poses an existential threat, is his policies
on climate change, on global warming. That’s really destructive. And we’re facing an imminent threat, not
far removed, of enormous damage. The effects are already visible but nothing
like what’s going to come. A sea level rise of a couple of feet will
be massively destructive. It will make today’s immigration issues
look like trivialities. And it’s not that the administration is
unaware of this. So, Donald Trump, for example, is perfectly
aware of the dangerous effects, in the short term, of global warming. So, for example, recently he applied to the
government of Ireland for permission to build a wall to protect his golf course in Ireland
from rising sea levels. And Rex Tillerson, who was supposed to be
the adult in the room before he was thrown out, as CEO of ExxonMobil, was devoting enormous
resources to climate change denial, although he had, sitting on his desk, the reports of
ExxonMobil scientists, who, since the ’70s, in fact, were on the forefront of warning
of the dire effects of this accelerating phenomenon. I don’t know what word in the language—I
can’t find one—that applies to people of that kind, who are willing to sacrifice
the literal—the existence of organized human life, not in the distant future, so they can
put a few more dollars in highly overstuffed pockets. The word “evil” doesn’t begin to approach
it. These are the kinds of issues that should
be under discussion. Instead, what’s being—there is a focus
on what I believe are marginalia. So, take, say, the huge issue of interference
in our pristine elections. Did the Russians interfere in our elections? An issue of overwhelming concern in the media. I mean, in most of the world, that’s almost
a joke. First of all, if you’re interested in foreign
interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely counts or weighs
in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly and with enormous
support. Israeli intervention in U.S. elections vastly
overwhelms anything the Russians may have done, I mean, even to the point where the
prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress, without even informing
the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine
the president’s policies—what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015. Did Putin come to give an address to the joint
sessions of Congress trying to—calling on them to reverse U.S. policy, without even
informing the president? And that’s just a tiny bit of this overwhelming
influence. So if you happen to be interested in influence
of—foreign influence on elections, there are places to look. But even that is a joke. I mean, one of the most elementary principles
of a functioning democracy is that elected representatives should be responsive to those
who elected them. There’s nothing more elementary than that. But we know very well that that is simply
not the case in the United States. There’s ample literature in mainstream academic
political science simply comparing voters’ attitudes with the policies pursued by their
representatives, and it shows that for a large majority of the population, they’re basically
disenfranchised. Their own representatives pay no attention
to their voices. They listen to the voices of the famous 1
percent—the rich and the powerful, the corporate sector. The elections—Tom Ferguson’s stellar work
has demonstrated, very conclusively, that for a long period, way back, U.S. elections
have been pretty much bought. You can predict the outcome of a presidential
or congressional election with remarkable precision by simply looking at campaign spending. That’s only one part of it. Lobbyists practically write legislation in
congressional offices. In massive ways, the concentrated private
capital, corporate sector, super wealth, intervene in our elections, massively, overwhelmingly,
to the extent that the most elementary principles of democracy are undermined. Now, of course, all that is technically legal,
but that tells you something about the way the society functions. So, if you’re concerned with our elections
and how they operate and how they relate to what would happen in a democratic society,
taking a look at Russian hacking is absolutely the wrong place to look. Well, you see occasionally some attention
to these matters in the media, but very minor as compared with the extremely marginal question
of Russian hacking. And I think we find this on issue after issue,
also on issues on which what Trump says, for whatever reason, is not unreasonable. So, he’s perfectly right when he says we
should have better relations with Russia. Being dragged through the mud for that is
outlandish, makes—Russia shouldn’t refuse to deal with the United States because the
U.S. carried out the worst crime of the century in the invasion of Iraq, much worse than anything
Russia has done. But they shouldn’t refuse to deal with us
for that reason, and we shouldn’t refuse to deal with them for whatever infractions
they may have carried out, which certainly exist. This is just absurd. We have to move towards better—right at
the Russian border, there are very extreme tensions, that could blow up anytime and lead
to what would in fact be a terminal nuclear war, terminal for the species and life on
Earth. We’re very close to that. Now, we could ask why. First of all, we should do things to ameliorate
it. Secondly, we should ask why. Well, it’s because NATO expanded after the
collapse of the Soviet Union, in violation of verbal promises to Mikhail Gorbachev, mostly
under Clinton, partly under first Bush, then Clinton expanded right to the Russian border,
expanded further under Obama. The U.S. has offered to bring Ukraine into
NATO. That’s the kind of a heartland of Russian
geostrategic concerns. So, yes, there’s tensions at the Russian
border—and not, notice, at the Mexican border. Well, those are all issues that should be
of primary concern. The fate of—the fate of organized human
society, even of the survival of the species, depends on this. How much attention is given to these things
as compared with, you know, whether Trump lied about something? I think those seem to me the fundamental criticisms
of the media. AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky, world-renowned
political dissident, author and linguist, now a laureate professor in the Department
of Linguistics at the University of Arizona, Tucson. He taught for 50 years at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tune in next week when we continue our conversation
with Noam Chomsky about Gaza, Israel’s new nationality law, the recent Trump-Putin summit,
Iran, North Kora, the war in Yemen and more. In December, Noam Chomsky will be celebrating
his 90th birthday. Oh, and happy birthday to Rob Young here at
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