Noam Chomsky et Juan Branco – Sur la Surveillance [ANGLAIS]


You told us yesterday about the continuity
between the practices implemented by the United States in the Philippines in the early 20th
century, and today’s mass surveillance. You also mentioned that this control of the
population, and more generally, the confrontation between State and population was very routed
in the foundations of the US, with the genocide of the native americans and other events.
So, do you consider that mass surveillance is just another tool of « governmentality
», to use Foucault’s words, that it is just a different scale, but nothing new ? Noam Chomsky : Differences in quantities sometimes
become differences in quality. My impression is that it is basically a difference in scale.
The practices that were developed in detail to control the Philippine population back
in the early 20th century – mostly the elite, not so much the peasantry – were very successful
in breaking up the nationalist movements and in imposing a US dominated system that remains
until today. The Philippines are an outlier in East and South-East Asia, the one area
that hasn’t nearly developed, and that has plenty of struggles, a lot of brutalities.
For example, in the early 1910, the US backed vicious counter-insurgency operations to crush
the peasants : there were independent rebellions, but the system has sustained itself. A few
years later, by 1918, 1919, the same systems were applied at home in what is in fact the
most repressive period of american history, the Woodrow Wilson Red Scare, which is quite
vicious and had a long lasting impact. And then it continues : the FBI used the same
techniques, aimed mainly at political elite, to try to ensure that the senators, congressmen
and others, would not get out of line by collecting information about them that they could use
to slander them, to libel them, to initiate stories, etc.
But in the 1960s and 70s, it started being directed against the entire population. That’s
the COINTEL PRO : operations primarily under the democratic administrations of the 60s
that continued under Nixon before it was finally terminated by the courts. It was a very similar
operation, but in this case directed against the native american movements, the new left,
the black nationalists movements, the women’s movements… It was pretty serious, led this
far as literal political assassination, forcing suicides, breaking-up groups… and that was
a massive operation. It’s pretty horrid to think of it, outside of East Germany and
so on : it’s hard to think of a comparable operation in a Western Society, by a national
political police; it was the FBI, under executive orders, trying to break-up and disrupt popular
activism, which was quite a significant force in the 60s, early 70s, and had substantial
success. This now takes-up a broader scale. But this
is what you can expect a system of power to do : the more information they have about
people, the better able they are – at least think they are – to control, monitor and undermine
them if necessary. Juan : There is this idea that information
is power… Your activism is very linked to it : you have to empower people by providing
them accurate information on the war and the different structures of power. Do you think
that secret is necessary to form a power? Noam Chomsky : Secrecy is valuable. Actually,
the United States is an unusually open society. We have more access to internal planing records
in the United States than any country that I know. It is by no mean perfect, but it is
substantial. And when you read through this mass of internal documents, secret documents,
as I have done in many cases, one thing is quite striking : very little has any meaningful
relation to any real security issue. Most of it is defending the State against the population.
They don’t want people to know what they are doing, so it’s secret. But there is
very little indeed, secret records that would have been a value, for instance, to the Russians,
the Chinese, the Cubans, or whoever they thought they were fighting. They usually knew it perfectly
well just from what was happening on the ground. But it does maintain secrecy from the population,
and the tacit assumption is, sometimes I have heard, that people shouldn’t know these
things. There is, after all, it’s worth remembering, a leading scene of liberal, progressive
democratic theory, which says that people should not know. You find that expressed overtly,
often, by some of the leading figures, some leading public intellectuals of the 20th century
in the United States : Walter Lipmann, who is a very distinguished figure, he was a progressive,
Wilson, Roosevelt, Kennedy-style progressive and leading commentator on public affairs.
He was also the author of Essays in Democratic and Progressive Democratic Theory. He says,
i quote : « the public are ignorant and meddlesome outsiders. They have to be put in their place.
Decisions have to be made by the responsible men, people like us ». (The people who write
this are always among the responsible men !) « And we, the responsible men, have to
be protected from the trampling and the roar of the bewildered herd, the ignorant and meddlesome
outsiders». And the job of what he called « manufacturing consent », i borrow this
term from his book – is to ensure that the public is marginalized, put in their place,
for they can be spectators but not participants. They do have a role in the political system
: every couple of years they are allowed to lend their way to one or another of the responsible
men, and then they should go home and keep quiet. And this is quite common. I mean, the
founders of modern political science, Herald Glasswell for example, one of the leading
figures who was, by US standards, a leftist progressive, said that we should not be misled
by democratic dogmatism about people being the best judges of their own interest; argued
that people are too stupid, too ignorant, that it would be unfair to allow them to make
decisions, that it would be like letting a three year old in the street : they are not
capable, so for their own benefit we should control what they do, keep them in the status
of observers, spectators of what happens in the political arena. This is pretty much the
way things work. If you look at academic political science
in the United States, one of the major topics of studies is the relation between public
attitudes and public policy. It’s a straightforward inquiry. Public policy, you see it. Public
attitudes are available from extensive poling (poling isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty
good and pretty reliable, and often poles are done quite sensibly). There is a massive
information about public attitudes and public policies and the result, in the major kind
of gold standard works of political science, is that about 70% of the population – the
lower 70% on the income scale – is literally disenfranchised, their attitude have absolutely
no effect on policy. Their representatives pay no attention to them. Whatever they think,
it is disregarded. As you move up the scale, you start getting a little more influence,
there is more relation between attitudes and policy. And when you get to the very top,
which is a fraction of 1%, they are basically making policy, so they get what they want.
There is a little fussiness around the edges but that’s the basic picture. Just recently,
there was a study released by Princeton University which got a little publicity to leading political
scientists who have worked on these subjects for years, investigating about 1700 major
public policy decisions to identify who had influence. They had the same conclusion : the
public was irrelevant, almost all of it. On the other hand, when you get to the business
world and extreme wealth, so many have a tremendous influence… They actually create policy,
they usually staff the executives, either they or their representatives. Someone like
Henry Kissinger, for instance, was the representative of the State corporate system. This is how
it works, and it is considered appropriate in progressive democratic theory. For the
good of the population you cannot let these ignorant and meddlesome outsiders make bad
decisions, it would be terrible. When you look at the secrecy system, that’s what
a lot it is about : I would say the overwhelming majority is about keeping the ignorant and
meddlesome outsiders in the dark, because it’s not their business. Juan : If the information leaked by Snowden
reached the masses – which we don’t know if it has, nor if it ever will, we don’t
know if people are really aware of the full extent of his revelations and their political
implication – do you think it could empower them? Or do you think the masses are anyway
marginalized by the system, and that only the upper classes could eventually use these
informations? Noam Chomsky : I think the passionate attack
on Snowden, since this started, the high-level claims that we would hunt him to the end of
the world, that we would catch him wherever he is, and we will punish him, shows that
they are really afraid. Now it could be paranoia. For example, if, at the highest level, the
White House had simply disregarded him, it might have just disappeared. It is possible.
Their own paranoia may be feeding the system, their own demise in a sense, but it does reflect
the attitudes. How much effect it can have, we are not sure. There were effects in Brazil
for example : it canceled a presidential visit, didn’t quite break relations but certainly
harmed them. Remember a lot of these Snowden revelations
are not just about surveillance of people, they are also about support for corporate
efforts to undermine business in other countries, such as spying on negotiators and energy deals
to make sure that american corporations have a head up on it, and so on. Big corporations
in other countries don’t like that. Just like Merkel doesn’t like the fact that somebody
is reading her email. But powerful people and powerful institutions are being harmed
sufficiently so there was reaction. The Congress did start to get concerned when it turned
out that the Senate Committees responsible for this were being spied on. I should say
there is absolutely nothing new about this. If you go back to the foundation of the United
Nations, there was a conference in San Francisco in 1947 which established the United Nations,
during which the FBI had been bugging the offices of the foreign delegations so that
American negotiators could have a step up and get what they wanted. There was a huge
fuss made when the Russian did this to the American Embassy, but it is done all the time.
Juan : At this geopolitical scale, coming back to what you said about the Philippines
and how the strategy put in place by the US continues to be effective more than a hundred
years later : how can we explain that Latin America has had one of the strongest reactions
to the mass surveillance revelations, when we know that the US has always had a very
strong presence and influence on the South American continent? Noam Chomsky : It is s a very significant
phenomenon, really, historically significant. For 500 years, Latin America had been in the
hands of foreign powers. A tiny, mostly white elite accumulated enormous wealth while the
population was living in huge, horrendous poverty, under the hands of the imperial powers.
For a long time it was England, and recently the United States. So Latin America was « taken
for granted » in US planning, they really hardly even had plans for it. There were some
: for example in 1945 when the US was beginning the organization of the world at the end of
the Second World War, the US did call a hemispheric conference in Mexico. The Latin American states
came and the United States imposed (at that point the US could actually impose what it
wanted) an economic charter for the Americas, which banned economic nationalism in all its
forms. The Latin American countries had to follow, they had to be completely open societies,
which in fact meant being open to US penetration and control. It wasn’t reciprocal. Incidentally,
the US itself did not accept these principles. On the contrary, it had high levels of economic
nationalism. That’s why you have your computer and are using the internet : these were largely
state sectors of action. The US were concerned at the time with what the state department
called the « new nationalism in Latin America », which was driven by the idea that the
people of a country ought to be the beneficiaries of its ressources. They had to smash this
down : no new nationalism, it’s the foreign investors who are the beneficiaries, not the
people of the country. It was pretty explicit. And at that point you could just legislate
it, and the Latin Americans did what they were told. And so it continued. Not without
violence. On the post-Staline period, violence and repression in the North-American dependencies
in Latin America were much worse than what happened in Eastern Europe. Much worse. See
an indication of it up there : depiction of a murder of an archbishop in El Salvador,
and ten years later the murder of six leading Latin American intellectuals, by forces pretty
much armed and trained by the United State. Eastern Europe was bad enough, but things
like that didn’t happen. And there were vicious, neo-nazi dictatorships installed,
massive torture : that was Latin America until 10 or 15 years ago. Since then, there has
been a sharp turn.It was partly the effect of the neoliberal policies of the 1980s and
90s : the Latin America followed the rules and it was smashed, the rules were very destructive.
The countries that didn’t follow the rules, like South Korea and Taiwan, they did fine.
But the Latin America observed them and it was a very harsh couple of decades, so there
was a reaction. There was also finally a reaction to the US-backed (or sometimes US-imposed)
dictatorships, and for a variety of reasons in the last ten or twenty years maybe, Latin
America has for the first time in its history, moved towards integration, or some degree
of integration and some degree of independence. It is pretty remarkable. What you described
here, and the NSA is one example but there are many others, one of the most striking
examples had to do with the CIA torture programs. The worse torture programs, by far, were called
« extraordinary rendition ». That’s a program where you take somebody you’re interested
in, you suspect him or you think he has information, you send him to your favorite dictatorship,
Assad in Syria, Mubarak in Egypt, Khadafi in Lybia, and make sure that he is tortured
sufficiently so that he comes out with something, hoping that he has some information. There
was a recent study of the countries that participated in extraordinary rendition : most of Europe,
England, Sweden, all participated. The Middle East of course, because that’s where we
send them to be tortured, and most of the rest of the world. One exception : no participation
from Latin America. Which is doubly significant : first of all because Latin America used
to be the backyard, they did what they were told. Secondly because during the period of
US control, Latin America was one of the world’s centers of torture. Now they refuse to participate
in US run torture. It is pretty significant. Juan : Even Colombia? Noam Chomsky : Even Colombia. During the hemispheric
conferences, the US used to give the orders and everybody followed. At the latest ones,
the US and Canada were isolated. It was Latin America against US and Canada. And there are
already organizations formed, CELAC for instance, that exclude North America. That’s a remarkable
change. The United States have simply lost control of the region. Juan : It’s interesting for Europeans, because
it seems that Europe is getting more and more submitted. Noam Chomsky : Europe is becoming Latin-Americanized.
The case of the Evo Morales plane was a dramatic example. Bolivia, the poorest country in the
hemisphere outside of Haiti, a country of indigenous majority. : the Bolivian President
went to Russia to talk to Snowden, flew back, and the European countries are so terrified
of the United States that they wouldn’t let him cross their air space. The Europeans
are cowering in terror because the master might be angry at them. Meanwhile, the poorest
country in South America defies the United States. It is remarkable. Juan : It is also very troubling… Noam Chomsky : It should tell the Europeans
something about their cowardice. Juan : Yes, it is difficult to understand
what happened since the end of the cold war, how this alignment happened, with, for instance,
France entering NATO. Noam Chomsky : First of all, during the cold
war, remember that NATO was partly designed to keep Europe under control. As long as they
had NATO, Europe depended on the United States. Efforts to move in an independent direction
– De Gaulle, Willy Brandts, Ostpolitik and others – were very much feared in the United
States. There was fear of what was called a « third force », Europe would become a
third independent force standing between the US and Russia. It eventually could have happened.
Europe’s population is bigger than the US, European societies are advanced industrial
societies, in many ways more advanced than the US. If Europe had wanted to, if could
have become an independent force. I think a large part the reason why NATO remains and
is even expanded, even though there is no Russian threat (they can create one, but it’s
ridiculous), is to just keep Europe under control. So yes, there was pressure too, you
can imagine the effectiveness of propaganda about legitimizing US influence ! What has happened since? Take France. France
is quite interesting. Until the 1970S, the French intellectuals were the last Stalinists
in the world, fanatic stalinists and maoists. Nobody in the world, in the West, believed
in any of this, but they were still moaning all the slogans. I remember, when I would
talk with friends I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, talk with the leading French
intellectuals about the genius Mao… In the mid 70s this radically changed. As far as
I can tell, the event that changed it was probably Soljenitsyne’s Gulag, that was
translated into French. Everybody read it, and since the French intellectuals have to
be in the lead in the world because after all, it is France !, they suddenly presented
themselves as the first people in the world who understood the evil of stalinism and started
writing articles, great self prayers about things I knew when I was 10 years old because
everybody knew them. There were obviously factors behind it, but there was a shift among
the intellectual classes, from a weird form or stalinism, third-worldism, maoism, to becoming
the most reactionary sector of the Western intellectuals. And of course, praying themselves
for their magnificence in discovering what everybody always knew. In fact, it is comical
to look at the predictions. And it continues like that. It is a very strange strain of
hysteria in the culture, which is interesting to investigate. A lot of the post-modern excesses
grew out of that. And you had similar things happening in the other countries. What the
reasons are, well, interesting to investigate. But the tendencies are clear. 1h21m02 Juan : Coming back to the issue of whether
we can resist legally… Secret services, by nature, escape to the public scrutiny.
Is it in any way possible to control them through democratic mean? Noam Chomsky : They should be controlled.
Not just the secret services, but also things like Gladio, which is still largely secret.
Some bits and pieces of it have come out, it did appear to be involved in the neo-facist
and terror in Italy in the 70s, but there is not much research. Daniel Ganser in Switzerland
among a few researchers, but this should be publicly exposed and under public control,
and the same with secret services. In the US, after the NSA exposure, there were some
measures passed in Congress to restrict the right of the executive to spy on Americans,
but it was very limited. That’s really a question of public pressure : if there is
enough, it can be eliminated. Juan : Did you ever question the fact that
we needed a State? Noam Chomsky : A state all together? Juan : Yes. At the national level. Noam Chomsky : All my life, since childhood,
I have been very much attracted by anarchist ideas. The nation stage is not some kind of
universal property, it is a special construction, mainly in Europe, spread over the world with
European imperialism and settlements, and in many ways it is a very destructive system.
Take the Middle East, which is falling apart, reaching chaos. Largely, this is a long term
effect of the imposition of the Nation-State system by the European imperial powers, mostly
England and France, for their own interests, not for the interests of the people. Take
Irak. Irak was hatched together by the British after the first world war when they were parcelling
out the former Ottoman Empire, it was put together so that the boundaries, drawn by
Britain, ensured that England would have control of the oil fields near the Turkish border.
Koweit was established as a British-run principality primarily in order to borrow Irak’s free
access to the sea. It is a mechanism of control. And that construction put together Chiites,
Sunnites, Kurds and other minorities, Turkmen, who weren’t hostiles but basically had not
much to do with each other. This was done for imperial interest. Similarly, the French
took Syria and Lebanon and did the same thing ; the British took Palestine for geostrategic
reasons primarily, not because the Bible said this and that.
And if you look at Africa : violence everywhere. Almost all of it, when you look at it, had
to do with Nation State systems that were imposed by the European powers for their own
interests. They drew lines that broke tribes in half, putting together people who were
hostiles. Take Pakistan and Afghanistan : the British, during the days when they ruled India,
drew a line, the Durant line, for their interest, that was going to be British India separated
from the rest. The Durant line now separates Pakistan from Afghanistan. It cuts right through
the Pashtun territories. Some of them are in Pakistan, some of them in Afghanistan.
When a tribesman goes from Pakistan to Afghanistan to visit relatives, we can call it a terrorist
attack and send drones to kill him. But from their point of view that is their country,
imperial powers broke it in half. In fact the same is true of the US and Mexico : US
conquered about half of Mexico in a brutal war of agression in the 19th century. The
border was pretty artificial, the same people lived on both sides, so it was a very permeable
border – all kind of developments. Until the border started to be militarized, in the late
1980s, 1990s. And the militarization of the border in fact took a big step forward when
NAFTA was enacted. In 1994, when Clinton ran through NAFTA over public opposition, he also
started militarizing the border because planers could easily understand that NAFTA was going
to create a huge number of refugees, and Mexican campesinos can be quite efficient but they
can’t compete with highly subsidies US agro-business. And same is true more in general. If you have
a flow of refugees you have to militarize the border. Now, the big issue of people crossing
the boarder… shoot them, send them back and so on, and this is all over the world.
So there is nothing natural about the Nation State. I mean, you can see how unnatural it
is by looking at European history : the centuries during which this system was imposed were
some of the most savage centuries in human history : the thirty years war, maybe a third
of the population of Germany was slaughtered. This is all part of imposing Nation State
system. Finally, in 1945, Europeans did recognize that the next time they would play their favorite
game, slaughtering each other, it was going to be the end. So Europe did finally move
towards some kind of integration which began to somehow erode the Nation State boarders,
which are generally pretty artificial. And i think that is a positive direction, it should
take place elsewhere in the world. Juan : At the same time, this integration
creates an even greater distance between the established powers and the society, making
it even more difficult for the European people to grasp politics. Noam Chomsky : Because other developments
are taking place. One of the things that has happened in modern integrated Europe is a
very sharp attack on popular democracy. Decisions are being made in Brussels, by bureaucrats
and the Bundesbank, and are imposed on the countries. When Monti was elected in Italy,
the population almost had nothing to do with it, it came from Brussels. When the Greek
Prime Minister, Papandreou, had the effrontery to suggest that you might ask the population
« do we want that policy ?», there was fury all over Europe, « how dare you ask the population
? This is decided by the responsible men in Brussels! ». Even the Wall Street Journal
had an article pointing out that no matter what political party took power in Europe,
right to left, they always followed the same policy. Of course these policies are not coming
from the countries. So, that’s another tendency. Things don’t happen just mechanically, a
lot of things are going on. * Noam Chomsky: Out of curiosity, how did people
your age respond to the Snowden revelations? Juan: It’s very interesting because in the
elite, in the best universities, there is quite a debate – not so much about Snowden
who is quite an accepted figure, he’s well considered in general – but about people like
Assange, there are some controversy: if their action is good, if it can be supported or
not, debates and doubts… Noam Chomsky: What kind of criticisms? Juan: They’re very skeptical about the reasons,
about the trial. For example, they consider the Raison d’Etat to be a valid justification.
But the further you go from the elite, the deeper into society, the more admired they
are. Noam Chomsky: I’m asking, because I did
a small experiment with my grandchildren, in their 20’s, and they don’t seem to
care. They say, « it’s kind of interesting, but we put everything on facebook anyways,
so… » Juan : That’s what our discussion is about:
how did we arrive to this kind of acceptance. Noam Chomsky : Yes, teenagers, people in their
20’s, society is so exhibitionist that they don’t seem to care if anyone knows everything
they’re doing. Juan : There is a distinction : many young
people, even when they are not politicized, treat them as heroes; but it doesn’t provoke
any kind of mobilisation. Noam Chomsky : Reaction… Juan : Yes, it just stays as a perception. Noam Chomsky : People you know are surprised
by what was revealed? Juan : Yes, the discourse of people like Assange… Noam Chomsky : Do they follow Wikileaks? Juan : Yes, there is knowledge about it, but
it was considered a bit paranoid, I think that’s why the Snowden revelations were
so important, because it legitimized the discourse of those who were worrying about Echelon,
mass surveillance. Noam Chomsky : On to something, they didn’t
know the least of it… Juan : I saw you signed a Manifest supporting
Snowden, why did you sign it? Noam Chomsky : Immediately, I thought what
he was doing was extremely important. Juan : Did you see it as an American, or more
as global problem? Noam Chomsky : To some extent every government
does it, for example some of the interesting Snowden revelations had to do about the fact
that in England, the government was requesting the US to use their advanced technology to
spy on British citizens. Any system of power is going to want to have total information
about its enemies, and the domestic population is one of their main enemies.
This goes way back, I don’t know if you read it but a major book to look at is Alfred
McCoy’s. The US pioneered a lot of these things a 100 years ago, when after the US
conquered the Philippines they killed a 100 000 people but had to pacify it; and they
developed, using the highest technology of the day, not of now, but they tried to gather
masses of information, about Philippine elites basically. They didn’t have the technology
to go beyond that and they recognized that if they knew enough information about them
they could use it to undermine organisations, to discredit people, to insight conflicts
among people and basically break up the independent nationalist movements, and it was quite successful.
So successful that, if you take a look at East Asia today, South East and East Asia,
there’s the famous Asian miracle, with one exception : the Philippines. It is not participating,
it’s been under US control for a century and it remains a dependent third-world society,
and furthermore, in a pretty astonishing achievement of propaganda, Philippinos have been so indoctrinated
that they tend to support the US and its crimes beyond their people, even though they’re
the main victims: that’s a real achievement. It’s now over 100 years, as Mccoy discusses,
as soon as these methods were developed for the Philippines they were immediately transferred
back home, so Woodrow Wilson used the same techniques and the red scare, the big repression,
the post WWI period, then they were picked up by the FBI and it goes on from there. The
same happened in England, its system of power is very much afraid of its own population,
for good reason, and gaining information, and using it to control people, find out what
they’re doing, discredit them, undermine them, that sort of stuff.
Incidentally, if you read these reports in the last couple of days about these 42 Israeli
intelligence agents, take a look at what they’re describing, the work that they were doing
is exactly what McCoy was describing in the Philippines a 100 yrs ago. Of course they
can now cover everybody, not just the elites, so find out what everyone in the occupied
territories is doing, then find out if this person is having a homosexual love affair,
then the person can become a collaborator, discredit an activist in his community ,so
on so forth. Same thing, more sophisticated. Juan : How do you explain that the US have
started to master this propaganda a 100 years ago, and now they are able to do these mass
surveillance mechanisms? Noam Chomsky : New technologies, technologies
that get stronger. Juan : And it’s strengthening, and at the
same time we can see someone like Edward Snowden that comes out alone… Noam Chomsky : In a way, McCoy is dangerous
too, but he’s so obscure that they don’t go after him. He’s a major figure in scholarship. Juan : The question would be : how can it
be understood that someone like Snowden could counter these massive tools that are joined
together, and counter the public state discourse? Noam Chomsky : Obviously, he’s paying quite
a cost, you remember a year ago or so, when Evo Morales flew to Russia to see him. The
European countries are so frightened of the US. The European cowardice is unbelievable!
So frightened that countries like France wouldn’t allow the plane to cross their airspace for
fear that the US might be angry at them. The plane was finally forced to land in Austria,
and they sent a police in. This is a presidential plane! It’s a coarse violation of every
imaginable diplomatic principle, but nobody complained because they’re just terrified
of the US. Juan : At the same time, the discourse of
Snowden, his denunciation is very pervasive; and the counter discourse of the state doesn’t
seem to be working. How to explain that an individual… Noam Chomsky : As you said, to some extent,
it is working. People have claimed the Raison d’Etat justifies it. Now, these reservists
are being denounced across the spectrum, almost everyone – not everyone, the French. But the
Labour party, who’s supposed to be left, whatever that means, the right wing, they
all.. Juan : That’s interesting. In Israel, 20
years ago, it was possible to have a public debate about this. What brought that change? Noam Chomsky : Occupation. That was predicted
right away, in 1967. A highly respected figure in Israel, Yasheyahou Leibowitz – he was a
traditional sage, computer expert, biologist, Tel-Aviv university, very respected. He said
– pretty reactionary incidentally – so he belongs to a traditional jewish culture, nothing
matters except what’s good for the Jews. I had interviews with him, he was bitterly
condemning the occupation, and I asked how about the effect on the arabs, he said he
didn’t care about what happens to the arabs, he cares about what happens to the jews, he
says, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, rest doesn’t matter, but it’s bad for
the jews, and what he pointed out right away is that the occupation is going to turn the
Israelis into what he called « judeo nazis », they’re going to become like nazis,
because when you have your boot on somebody’s neck, you have to find a way to justify it,
and pretty soon you make up a justification, you internalize the justification and pretty
soon you’re a raving racist. That’s what he predicted in 1967 or 68, and you can see
it happening. The dynamics are perfectly predictable, that’s what happens when you are crushing
someone, you don’t say, « I’m a monster so I’m going crush him », you say, « I’m
doing it for their good and they’re the ones causing the problem ». The problem is
that they’re resisting, otherwise you get people like Golda Meir, this famous stateswoman,
about how she hates the arabs because they’re forcing us wonderful jews to shoot them which
we don’t want to do. By now that’s spread across the sky. But it’s part of the dynamics
of oppression. It was the same with enslavement, in fact it’s the same with parents and children.
Of course there are pathological situations but it’s just inherent in domination and
control. You cannot accept, very few people can look in the mirror and say, « I’m a
monster ». What they want to do is look in the mirror and say, « I’m benevolent and
I’m sort of forced to do unpleasant things because they’re so bad ». Juan : And do you see a similar trigger moment
with the US? Noam Chomsky : There’s lots of them, it
goes way back to the origins of the society. Naturally, the society of the US was based
on two fundamental principles : one is extermination of the native population. The other was slavery.
And both were justified. When I was growing up as a child we would play cowboys and Indians,
we would be the cowboys killing the Indians, because we have to defend ourselves from these
terrorists. Maybe kids still do it. I was growing up in that kind of oppressive environment.
But with regard to slavery today, the problem with blacks – even Obama says this – is they
just have a better culture. Why, does it have to do with having 500 years of slavery and
its aftermath which is never ending, it’s because there’s something better about them,
it’s the way to deal with it… Back in the 1960’s a friend of mine who worked for
Rand Corporation, Tony Russo, who was later involved with releasing the Pentagon Papers
a couple of years earlier. He sent me a pile of documents which were quite interesting.
Rand Corporation had translated Japanese counter-insurgency literature from the 1930’s because they
were interested in what their counter-insurgency techniques were. And it was pretty interesting,
of course it’s the same the US were using in Vietnam but what was interesting about
them was that these were internal documents not for the public, them just talking to each
other, no reason for them to lie or anything, and they described themselves, at a time when
the Japanese were carrying out horrifying atrocities, all of the Nanking massacres,
all those kinds of things in China and Manchuria. But they were describing themselves as the
most noble people who were trying to bring an earthly paradise to the Chinese and to
defend the Chinese people against the Chinese bandits (nationalists and communists) who
were trying to prevent Japan from bringing advantages of high technology and advanced
civilisation, and they were sacrificing themselves for the cause and so on. And it’s the same
with the US version I’ve heard recently. In the Times literary supplement, a kind of
established historian of imperialism, he was reviewing a couple of books on the British
empire up until the mid-19th century and he pointed out, if we the British, were willing
to face the history of our own empire, we will rank our heroes alongside the genocidaire
of the 20th century, but a long time before that’ll happen they’re still heroes. Juan : Just one thing. Something that for
me seems very strange, is the acceptance by U.S Senators and Congressmen of the idea that
they are being controlled, their non-reaction. Before, if a President tried to know things
through illegal means, he would just fall. But today, Congressmen and Senators know exactly
that they are being controlled, and yet nothing happens. Noam Chomsky : If they’re being controlled,
it’s by private corporate capital, which can’t do very much to them. In fact, take
a look at Watergate. Why was Watergate considered such a scandal? So Nixon was a crook, Nixon
had an enemies list, which is terrible ! How can he have an enemies list ? I was on it,
nothing ever happened from being in the enemies list, but there wasn’t a fuss because I
was on it, it was because people like the head of IBM was on it, the McGeorge Bundy
was on it. How can you call important people « bad », if it was in private? Horrible.
They took a bunch of crooks, broke into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office, ok,
that’s a crime, but it isn’t a major crime. Take a look at what Nixon was doing at that
time : they were major crimes, but they didn’t figure in Watergate. Right at the time that
Watergate was exposed, something else was exposed : the Cointelpro. This is a program
by the national political police, the FBI, through four administrations : it began with
Eisenhower and went through Kennedy and Johnson, and was still going on under Nixon. It was
a program that began by subversion attack on the communist party, then it spread in
the Porto Rican independence movement, to the native American movement, pretty soon
to the left, the Millens movement, and it was a program just of the time we’re talking
about using every technique possible to undermine and discredit and destroy dissident, and it
was pretty serious that one of the main targets was black nationalists and they were simply
massacred. One of the worst cases was exposed right with Watergate, it was the murder of
a Black act organiser, Fred Hampton, in Chicago, by the Chicago police in a typical Gestapo
way, literally. The police attacked at four in the morning, murdered him in bed, he was
probably drugged, murdered somebody else who was with him. This was all set up by the FBI,
and the FBI had tried to get some other black group to kill him who wouldn’t do it, so
they set it up with police. That’s the Gestapo style assassination of somebody who was organizing
the black community. That single event is incomparably worst than
all the Watergate story, they never talked, I never heard about it. Even that was nothing,
the worst from Nixon administration was the bombing of Cambodia, rural Cambodia was bombed
literally at the level of all allied bombings during all the entire pacific area during
WWII, rural Cambodia, Nixon’s orders, transmitted by his loyal servant Henry Kissinger, where
anything that flies against anything that moves. I mean that’s a call for genocide
of the kind you just can’t find in an historical record, and if they found anything like that
for Hitler, let’s say, or for Milosevic, everybody would be overjoyed. But you can’t
find it for Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon. Does anybody care? No, I mean, Watergate was
considered a crime because important people were mildly harmed – very mildly ; and mild
harm to important people means the foundations of the Republic are collapsing. Juan : And you don’t think that now they
know they are being controlled by the NSA as well? Noam Chomsky : How are they being controlled?
Am I being controlled, are you being controlled? If they want, they can pick up all my emails.
I don’t like it but I’m not paying any attention to it, and there’s no reason for
any congressman to. They were controlled by the FBI long before the NSA. Hoover was using
the techniques devised in the Philippines to get information about everyone in Washington,
that’s implying many things the FBI was doing to get information about people in the
political quest so they could blackmail them. They could come to a Senator and say « if
you do so and so, I’ll hint that you released the fact that he was having an affair with
his secretary ». That kind of control has been going on for… just at scale Juan : So it is just an extension of a movement
that has been going on forever, you don’t see any great… Noam Chomsky : The scale is different, but
the scale reflects the availability of the technology. If there were developed techniques
to pick up your brainwaves (you know your brain emits electric impulses), maybe the
government would figure out a way to pick up your brainwaves and then blackmail you
because of what you are thinking. That’s what the systems of power are like, that’s
why the Philippines’ story is so interesting and should really be studied. Philippines
are the first modern version when high-end technology of the day was used and it has
been fantastically effective. For one thing, it came back immediately to the US and was
used for the worst of the oppression of American history during Wilson´s Red Scare. But also,
as I said, after 110 years Philippines are still controlled, uniquely in the region.
Dramatic. Juan : Do you think that that this asymmetry,
mass propaganda and control of the masses, is inherent to power? Or is… Noam Chomsky : It’s inherent to power to
try, it’s not inherent to succeed, that depends on whether the people resist it. Juan : You were saying before that you think
it’s a universal… Noam Chomsky : It’s universal to try, I
think it’s extremely hard to find any structure of power and hierarchy, and domination, where
those who reel the club won’t pride of being as effective as possible. It’s not totally
universal – there are people who refuse to do it – but it’s a strong tendency. Juan : Do you think individual tentatives
to resist and try to subvert this… Noam Chomsky : That’s what popular movements
have always been about. Juan : Does it start with individuals? Noam Chomsky : It starts with… organized
groups of individuals which start with individuals. We have a lot more rights than we had 50 years
ago, or 100 years ago, but those rights were not gifts from above, they always came from
popular struggles. It is true whether you talk about abolitionism or rights of women,
opposition to oppression, concern about the environment : just pick it, it’s always
popular activism. Juan : Should this popular activism only aim
to obtain and protect rights? There seems to be a trend of resistance movements nowadays
– pacific or not – : do you think these movements should aim to gain power in order to obtain
the results they are fighting for? Noam Chomsky : That’s a mistake : if they
gain power, they’ll do the same. What they ought to be trying to do is to diffuse power,
so nobody has power. Juan : So you think one can stay outside of
the power circle and still… Noam Chomsky : The transition from kings to
parliamentary democracy is an important step, though it doesn’t eliminate power. Say,
the government of the US has much less power than a king would have 4 centuries ago. Juan : But is this power coming back to the
people or to corporation control… Noam Chomsky : There are popular controls
of what government can do, there are constraints, and they work. Maybe not well, but they work.
Take the Vietnam war : it happened through the 1960’s, at the beginning there was almost
no opposition – and it was shocking – but finally in the late 60’s, as the opposition
developed, the Johnson administration began to run into economic problems. They had to
fight the guns and butter war, they had to keep the population quiet and controlled because
there was so much opposition to the war. One result of that is they could never call a
national mobilisation. During the World War II, people were really
committed to the war, there was a national mobilisation, people were willing to accept
wage controls, rationing, the fact that they couldn’t drive nor eat meat and so on and
so forth, because they really wanted to come in the war. If Johnson had been able to call
such a national mobilisation, then Vietnam would have been totally crushed – it was practically
destroyed anyway, but it would have been crushed. But Johnson couldn’t do it, there was too
much opposition. The result was called stagflation, a combination of stagnation and inflation:
the business world didn’t like that and in fact by 1968 after at the Tet Offensive
which indicated that the war was going to go on for a long time, the business classes
turned against the war and were influential in forcing Jonhson into entering some kind
of negotiations. The war began to harm their interests, and the reason it began to harm
their interests was because of popular opposition, and actually, it goes beyond that. Take a
look at the Pentagon Papers. One of the most interesting parts is the very end : the Pentagon
Papers ends in mid 1968, this is history, internal history, that’s after the Tet offensive.
The Tet offensive was a remarkable event, among other things, made a clear war zone
for a long time. Johnson, the President, wanted to send more troops to Vietnam. The top military
was opposed, and what they said is, if you do that, we’re going to have domestic problems,
we’re going to need those troops for population control in the US, there’s going to be an
uprising of young people and women and many others, we will need them for civil control.
That’s an indicator. And in fact that was effective. What happened was horrible enough,
but it could have been a lot worse. In fact if you look back at Nazi Germany, a totalitarian
state, you’ll find pretty much the same thing. Someday, if you haven’t done it,
read the memoirs of Albert Speer, it’s the Nazi economist. His memoirs are kind of interesting.
What he says is probably accurate: he says the military effort was impeded by the fact
that the population wasn’t really that much committed to the war, so he had to carry out
a guns and butter war, he had to pacify them, and that took resources away from the war.
I think he said he lost a year or so, I don’t remember exactly. But if he’s right, that
was the difference between victory and defeat. Germany was technologically much more advanced
than the West, remember the jet planes, rockets and all sorts of things, but they were overwhelmed
by sheer mass much as the Russians… If they had had more time, who knows, maybe they would
have won the war. Well, that’s popular opposition in a totalitarian state. The population just
can’t be totally disregarded. And there are achievements like, a lot of the human
rights, they aren’t perfect by any means, but it’s a big advance over the centuries. Juan : Do you think that these individual
actions of Snowden and Assange will change something in the future for the community,
in terms of how things… Noam Chomsky : It’s up to us. They did what
they could, from now on it’s up to the people who have got information thanks to their courageous
actions. If you decide to do nothing, it won’t change anything. Juan : In the United States, did anything
change until now? Noam Chomsky : Not much. I mean … some has.
For example, by now there are some constraints on government action, not much, but some.
There could be more, but that’s up to the people like us. Same in France, same in Italy,
same everywhere else : there are governments who are doing the same things, just not on
this scale. Juan : 50 years ago you were a public enemy,
today Snowden is another. Being a public enemy from the inside is even worse… Do you think
there will be another one in 50 years? Do you think it’s permanent? Noam Chomsky : Same answer, it’s up to us. Juan : But you think there can be a society
in which we will not… Noam Chomsky : Sure, there can be freer societies.
In fact, in an earlier period, maybe Snowden would just have been assassinated. Juan : Yes, that’s a question I wanted to
ask you. Noam Chomsky : I think that’s a change.
The US are going to try to catch him in every possible way, if they do, they’re not going
to assassinate him, they will put him in prison for life. Juan : As an example? Noam Chomsky : Yes, as an example. But mostly
out of revenge. A lot of it is just plain revenge. You can tell with what happened with
Daniel Ellsberg, they tried to convict him but the trial fell apart, incidentally because
of Nixon’s criminality. I saw it myself, I was testifying at the trial when the judge
called a recess. He left, came back in, and declared it a mistrial. What had happened
is that Nixon had tried to bribe him by offering him the head of the FBI or something. He could
no longer preside over the trial so he had declare a mistrial. Daniel Ellsberg wasn’t
convicted, he wasn’t murdered. However, he was punished : he has never been able to
get a job, his old associates turned against him, don’t talk to him anymore, and he kind
of lives from hand to mouth. A lot of it is revenge, you don´t break ranks. Juan : Now, about the question of the legality
of resistance : beyond Snowden’s punctual act of revolt, do we have to respect the legality
that’s imposed in order to change the system? Noam Chomsky : It’s the kind of null hypothesis
: unless there is an argument on the contrary, you follow the laws. So, if I drive home tonight
and there is a traffic light that is red, I will stop. On the other hand, if I see that
across the street somebody is being murdered, maybe I’ll go through it and I won’t stop.
You do normally obey the laws, unless there are reasons not to. A lot of laws are unacceptable,
they shouldn’t exist. In fact, the worst lawbreakers by far, are the powerful. A couple
of friends and I have today written a letter in the New York Times which is pointing out
« the obvious », that all the discussion about whether Obama should put to Congress
for authorization of the war is basically beside the point. There are higher laws, real
laws under the US constitution, valid treaties on the supreme law of land; the major valid
treaty is the United Nations Charter that bans the threat or use of force, so that a
law abiding state will not be able to discuss these issues. But a rogue state like the US,
where nobody cares about the law, does whatever it feels like. Juan : Thank you very much. Thank you for
your time. Noam Chomsky : Thank you.

12 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky et Juan Branco – Sur la Surveillance [ANGLAIS]

  1. Si j ai bien compris, il est question de manipulation mentale.
    FOUCAULT NOUS DISAIT :
    SURVEILLEZ ET PUNIR .
    En tous les cas , c est ce que j ai retenu de ses Ă©crits.
    Merci Monsieur Juan Branco pour cette vidéo.
    Ca me fait réviser mon anglais et c est bien.
    Il faut toujours faire des efforts, ça fait fonctionner son cerveau.
    Je n aime pas ce qui est trop facile.
    Mais pour d autres, peut-ĂȘtre prĂ©fĂ©reraient-ils un sous-titrage français ?
    Pas grave
    Tres bien a vous.

  2. 2:25 Il dit "after the second world war" et pas "in the early 1910" comme Ă©crit dans la traduction 🙂
    Quelle chance d'avoir pu discuter avec Noam Chomsky!

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