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Noam Chomsky Roasts the U.S. Political System in Scathing Interview

Grandpa Noam did not come to play, y'all!

US linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky.

Yesterday morning, The Intercept dropped a very special episode of their podcast Deconstructed, in which their host Mehdi Hasan interviewed legendary author, father of linguistic philosophy, and political theorist, Noam Chomsky.

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Covering everything from Turkey, to Trump, to the Democratic Presidential candidates, to the essentially the de-evolution of language and its meaning, Chomsky and Hasan go in hard. Not one to have ever held back, at 91 years old, Chomsky is utterly brutal in his critique of American politics. Grandpa Noam did not come to play ya’ll. I highly recommend giving the entire episode a listen if you’re able, but I also went ahead and captured the highlights (aka his most savage roasts.)

First, of course, Trump:

  • “I mean, Trump is impeachable 100 times over. He’s a major crook. Is it politically wise? I frankly doubt it.”
  • “He’s off the (political) spectrum.”
  • “The only policy that you can discern clearly in the Trump administration is a very simple one: me. Anything that benefits me I’ll do no matter what the consequences. If it destroys the world, okay.”
  • “So if it turns out that white nationalists are the voting base that you can mobilize, Trump will become a white nationalist. I think it does him too much credit to attribute to him beliefs like support for white nationalism, or fascism or anything else. His motive is himself.”
  • “The wrecking ball in the White House just doesn’t give a damn. He’s having fun. He’s serving his rich constituency. So what the hell, let’s destroy the world.”

His thoughts on Bernie Sanders and why he terrifies Democratic leaders:

  • “He has absolutely infuriated the liberal establishment by committing a major crime. It’s not his policies. His crime was to organize an ongoing political movement that doesn’t just show up at the polls every four years and push a button, but keeps working. That’s no good. The rabble is supposed to stay home. Their job is to watch not to participate.”
  • “Well, I don’t think the word socialism should even be used in this context. Bernie Sanders is a decent person. I like what he’s doing. To be quite frank, his major policies would not have surprised President Eisenhower very much. He’s a progressive, New Deal Democrat. Politics has shifted so far to the right during the neoliberal period that things that were sort of conventional and mainstream 50-60 years ago now sound radical.”

He likes Elizabeth Warren:

  • “I think she’s seems to me quite honest. I think many of her plans are perfectly reasonable. She’s working with quite serious economists, some of them friends. But she doesn’t pretend to be trying to institute radical institutional changes.”

The thought of Joe Biden as the nominee makes him literally laugh: 

  •  “(laughs) You know, he’s a kind of a mild Obama. Nothing very special. I suspect in a debate with Trump, I think he’d probably be overwhelmed just by the showmanship and the deceit and the lies, but he’d certainly be a better candidate than Trump.”

On Withdrawing Troops From Syria:

  • “Principles have to be understood in connection with the human reality of the existing circumstances. A small, U.S. contingent with the sole mission of deterring a planned Turkish invasion, which was obvious, is not imperialism. It’s protecting the Kurds from an expansion of the atrocities and massacres that Erdogan has been carrying out both within Turkey itself and in the areas of Syria that he’s already conquered.”
  • When pressed about his previous anti-interventionist stances: “You have to not deal with slogans as if it’s a religious catechism. You have to ask how they apply in particular to complex human circumstances.”
  • “You have to ask yourself, in each circumstance, what are the consequences of your decisions? If you don’t do that, you’re not a moral human being. Now you’re perfectly right that every monster you can think of in history has declared that whatever acts they’re going to carry out are for humanitarian reasons. Now, if you have a brain functioning, what you do is ask is this correct? Or isn’t it correct? You don’t say, because Hitler said it was a humanitarian intervention in the Sudetenland therefore, there are no humanitarian interventions.”

He goes on to roast the Republican Party:

  • “Forty years of the neoliberal assault on the general population which has been extremely harmful almost everywhere. It’s led to anger, resentment, contempt for institutions. And when you have a period of unfocused anger, resentment and so on, it’s fertile territory for demagogues to arise, and try to mobilize it, and blame it, not on its sources.”
  • “The Republican Party since Newt Gingrich has seen a radical insurgency that has abandoned parliamentary politics, and is now off in a different dimension.”
  • “What was different in 2016 is that they failed (to stop the “mad man” candidate.) And the guy who came into office over their opposition was a megalomaniac, narcissist, kind of like a three-year-old who’s enjoying the opportunity to smash everything in sight and knows he can get away with it.”
  • “But that’s part of the problem of the Republican party. Its primary constituency is extreme wealth and corporate power. Those are the ones they serve. So you take the one legislative achievement of the Trump administration, the tax scam. That was for the rich and the very rich and the corporate sector.”
  • “One should bear in mind the utter cynicism of the Republican Party since Reagan.”
  • “Republican strategist, Paul Weyrich, had the brilliant idea that if the Republicans pretended, I stress pretended, to be anti-abortion, they could pick up the evangelical vote and the northern working-class Catholic vote. So they turned on a dime. They all became passionately anti-abortion.”

But he is just as harsh on the Democrats and what they’ve become:

  • “What’s actually happened is that during the neoliberal period both of the political parties have shifted to the right. So the mainstream Democrats, the ones who are now meeting with their billionaire friends to try to figure out how to get rid of Sanders and Warren, they’re basically what used to be called moderate Republicans. The Democrats abandoned the working class by the late ’70s.”
  • “They handed the working class over to their class enemy, the Republicans who try to mobilize them on what are called cultural issues. They’re shafting them at every turn, including Trump, but you can try to mobilize them on the basis of abortion, immigrants, guns, anything but the real issues.”

He is dubious about Trump’s Impeachment:

  • “First notice something, they’re going after Trump not on his major crimes but because he went after a leading Democrat. Does that remind you of anything? Yes. Watergate. They didn’t go after Nixon on his major crimes. They were off the record. It was because he had attacked the Democratic party.”
  • “What’ll happen is probably the House will impeach, goes to the Senate. The Republican senators are utterly craven. They’re terrified of Trump’s voting base. So they’ll vote to turn down the impeachment request. Trump will come along, say I’m vindicated. Say it was the Deep State and the treacherous Dems trying to overturn the election. Oh, vote for me.”

Then he goes deep on how language, especially political terms, have lost all meaning:

  • “Well, you know, what does socialism mean these days? Socialism means the New Deal. In the United States, you don’t call it socialism because socialism is a curse word. We’re a very business-run society.”
  • “Most terms of political discourse have almost totally lost their meaning. So, Reagan is called a free-market Republican. His administration intervened radically in the market over and over for the benefit of the rich.”

With an extra burn on Libertarians:

  • “People who are called libertarians in the United States, strange notion, are very anti-libertarian, and are fundamentally calling for rule by unaccountable private tyrannies. I don’t see anything libertarian about that.”

Then cranked that burn all the way up to a full-on charbroil for his opinion on the U.S. political system as a whole:

  • “If a country tried to enter the European Union with the U.S. political system, they’d be turned down by the European Court of Justice.”

And finally, looking back across his 91 years, leaves us with this ominous warning:

  • “The current moment, not just political, is the most grim moment in human history. We are now in a situation where this generation, in fact, in the next few years, is going to have to make a decision of cosmic significance which has never arisen before: Will organized human society survive? And there are two enormous threats. The threat of environmental catastrophe, which at least is getting some attention, not enough. The other is the threat of nuclear war, which is increasing sharply by the Trump administration, in fact. These have to be dealt with quickly. Otherwise, there’s nothing to talk about.”

So three cheers for cranky, yet somehow almost always right, Grandpa Noam! May the protective sphere that surrounds Ruth Bader-Ginsburg also protect Noam Chomsky so that we can have his insight, and sharp tongue around until climate change finally kills us all.

(Photo: HEULER ANDREY/AFP via Getty Images)

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Brittany Knupper
Brittany is a lifelong Californian (it's a big state, she can't find her way out!) who currently resides in sunny Los Angeles with her gigantic, vaguely cat-shaped companion Gus. If you stumble upon her she might begin proselytizing about Survivor, but give her an iced coffee and she will calm down.

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