The dangerous rise of the right: an interview with Noam Chomsky

United States
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Noam Chomsky holds a magistral lecture at the Foro Internacional por la Emancipación y la Igualdad organized by the Argentinian Ministry of Culture on 12 March 2015. © Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina

The relationship between Noam Chomsky and US Presidents has never been idyllic, but it recently became a whole lot more critical.

The renowned scholar and award-winning author is witnessing the 16th president over the course of his lifetime, and has spoken up against many of the previous ones in the past – but according to him, Donald Trump signals a new low in American politics.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Chomsky called Trump an 'ignorant, thin-skinned megalomaniac' and a 'greater evil' than Hillary Clinton.

And being one of the most cited scholars in history as well as a political activist, with an influence on academic fields ranging from linguistics to politics to philosophy, when Chomsky speaks, he rarely repeats the obvious or the cliché...

You recently described the US Republican Party as the most 'dangerous organization in world history.' Can you explain why?

Global warming is a very severe threat to the survival of organized human society. The Republican Party is dedicated to racing to disaster. In the primaries, every candidate either denied that what is happening is happening, or said that maybe it is, but we should ignore it.

Their elected leader describes climate change as a hoax, calls for increased use of fossil fuels, dismantling regulations, refusing the call to poor countries seeking to shift to renewable energy, and in other ways accelerating the race to disaster.

The effects of Republican denialism already had a dangerous impact on the international negotiations COP21 and COP22. It’s hard to find a case of an organization in history that has been dedicated with such commitment to the end of organized human society in any decent form.

You have been active in US peace and social movements for more than half a century. How do you assess the current state of these movements following Trump's election?

They are mobilizing, organizing, considering ways to move forward in dangerous times.

You have written about the influence on your thought and politics of the libertarian socialist tradition. Do you believe the influence of such ideas have grown or diminished in your lifetime?

That is hard to estimate.

It is 28 years since you co wrote Manufacturing Consent with Edward Herman. Does Bernie Sanders candidacy and Jeremy Corbyn's election as Leader of Labour Party indicate that the corporate media is losing its influence and that social media now provides a voice for social movements in the way that the mass circulation labor press did a century ago?

The book did not deal with the impact of the media product, but rather with its nature. Social media doubtless have an impact, with mixed consequences.

Some have compared growing nationalist sentiment in Europe, Brexit and the election of Trump to the political turmoil of 1930s. In what appears to many a bleak outlook, which developments still give you hope for the future?

Take just the US, and the US elections on 8 November. Clinton won a majority of the popular vote, a large majority of the under-25 vote. Sanders won an even larger majority. Many Trump voters had voted for Obama, believing his promise of 'hope and change'. When they found it to be false, they voted for Trump’s message of hope and change, and can be reached by an authentic effort to bring about a badly needed reversal of harmful policies. There are many opportunities that can be grasped and pursued.

Related: Election of Trump clarifies the struggle for climate justice

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