Newsflash: I'm not afraid to voice offensive and radical opinions. Insert that A in a circle symbolizing anarchy here, because I love me some anarchy—but I'm not an anarchist per se. I'm a "derivative fellow traveler [of anarchism]."
For more information on that subject, see my 2006 book appropriately titled Chomsky on Anarchism, a poolside read in which I discuss my ideas about collective action and being pluralistic—in other words, accepting that there is no one right way to effect political change. Mom and Dad were Roosevelt Democrats, but there were plenty of socialists buzzing around the family hive, so I was exposed to a range of faiths and opinions early on. And I like the sound of all that buzzing.
I've got a real stew of opinions just within myself, so allow me to provide a sampler of some of my, um, unconventional political ideas. I have maximum respect for revolutionary anarchists and big red heart Bertrand Russell and John Dewey, who themselves were inspired by principles of revolution and the Enlightenment.
But I also think that governments owe their people certain rights and, in turn, that people need to fulfill certain civic duties. I have been known to change my mind and contradict myself, but that's what thinking people do… constantly question. And revise, revise, revise.
People call me a lefty and a dissident, but that's way over simplified. I'm pretty much a pacifist, dedicated to free-speech rights, and vigorously opposed to the death penalty. I love America and I hate America.
I hate to disillusion you, Dear Reader, but I believe a lot of those politicians Americans love—ahem, Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy —were, in fact, mass murderers functioning in the name of democracy. Now that I have your attention…
One of my basic premises is that terrorism and power go hand in hand: the more powerful a government is, the more likely it is to be involved in terrorism. I can only dip my big toe into the deep pool of the duplicity that is U.S. foreign policy. I mean, the U.S. was an ally of Augusto Pinochet during the Dirty War, which is like joining forces with the bogeyman and Hitler, all rolled into one.
Sadly, that's just one example of American political transgressions and can easily get lost among the innumerable examples of imperialist oppression, the "State-Corporate Complex," backroom capitalist deals, and the overeager assassination of foreign leaders perpetrated by our so-called great nation.
Like I said after Osama bin Laden was smote by the hand of justice: "We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic."
At the core, I am suspicious of anything and everything powerful. Authority is inherently shady: big business, corrupt central governments, corporate media—there's a hearty triumvirate of evil right there. Oh, and I can't stand the military-industrial complex, so I'm happy to hold court about Vietnam and U.S.-Israeli bullyism, or just rap out about war in general.
With the media, in particular, I get very excited by propaganda, coercion, and ideological oppression. We're talking some serious mind-melding here—what I call "manufacturing consent":
In countries where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, the monopolistic control over the media, often supplemented by official censorship, makes it clear that the media serve the ends of the dominant elite.
At a more grassroots level, I always vote in elections. Obviously, I don't do that because I've fallen in love with any of the candidates (you should know me better than that by now). But there is usually some specific homicidal maniac I'm obliged to keep out of office.
Oh, and don't forget: I also believe in being part of the community, and in community action. If you don't keep an eye out, pretty soon everything is going to be privatized and the government won't have to do anything for its citizens. So, you matter. What you do matters.
I was raised by two Jewish intellectuals. So our dinnertimes were full of discussions of Zionism and other issues relating to Jewish politics and languages. (No Yiddish was uttered in that house… Dad was a purist.)
I grew up in the United States, but was a teenager when war was being waged against the Nazis on the other side of the pond. And, in case you've forgotten or weren't around to see those days, anti-Semitism was not confined to the borders of the Third Reich. We had us some homegrown anti-Semitism in the good ole U.S. of A.—and I experienced it firsthand.
Now, don't get me wrong: I love Jesus. He was one of the first public intellectuals to spread the Word of pacifism, sympathize with the poor, and speak Truth. But do I think Jesus is our savior and that he died for our sins? Hell, no!
We can either make this simple or complex: I'm technically an atheist, but not even really willing to hammer out what that means.
In fact, I'm just not interested in defining much of anything about religion. Because as I said in one interview, "When we talk about religion, we mean a particular form of religion, the form that ended up dominating Western society. But if you take a look at other societies in the world, their religious beliefs are very different."
Furthermore, Western civilization and Christianity are no picnics. I mean, have you read the Bible? Talk about genocide. The Story of Noah? "Thatʼs beyond genocide—you donʼt know how to describe [God]. Somebody offended Him, and He was going to destroy every living being on earth?"