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Friday, 10 October 2008

Chomsky: Econ crisis will not end US hegemony

Avram Noam Chomsky
The following is Press TV's exclusive full-length interview with American linguist, philosopher, political activist, author and MIT professor Avram Noam Chomsky:

Press TV: Noam Chomsky, obviously the markets are all down; in your propaganda model, you lay great store by the commercial interests in the media, I guess the media has been saying that there was not a grave economic problem in the system, but if the markets are collapsing, presumably down to advertising, will we expect a better corporate media?

Chomsky: I don't see any reason to expect that the structure of the media, their institutional structure remains unchanged.

In fact, apart from investment banks, the general institutional structure of the state capitalist system remains the same. There may be some modifications, I mean obviously, the media cannot overlook the financial crises; it is indeed very serious. No one doubts that.

So yes, they recognize it, but in fact it was predictable and predicted. Also the reasons for it were understood long ago and they have barely been given expression in the media, or for that matter by most economists, although some knew and wrote a about it.

Press TV: But independent media -- often independent media that certainly promoted your work -- predicted all of this, and predicted a market collapse. Do you think investors are beginning to realize though, that cooperate media is not trustworthy? Also, unemployment rates certainly seem to be going up in the United States and look set to be going up. Can we expect a shift in attitudes in the United States?

Chomsky: Well, popular attitudes in the United States are highly negative toward the media, and in fact toward all institutions, so this doesn't get reported, but editors know the polls pretty well.

About 80 percent of the population says that the country is run by a 'few big interests looking out for themselves' meaning corporations and not for the people.

About 95 percent of the population objects to the fact that the government does not pay any attention to public opinion.

I don't remember the exact numbers on the media, but the negative attitudes are very high. In fact, they are very high for just about every institution. We read about George Bush's historically low popularity rating, in fact very low, but the fact is congress is even more unpopular.

Press TV: We've had politicians in Europe and Russia talking about the end of US hegemony. Even if the US cannot pay its bills it still has the largest military on earth. You have written about the power of that military. Doesn't that military in itself confer power?

Chomsky: Oh sure, and I don't agree with the conclusions about loss of US hegemony. I mean, first of all this financial crisis is very likely going to hit Europe even harder than the United States. Several European countries have already declared official recession, which the US has not.

Banks are collapsing rapidly in Europe. The immediate problem, not the deep problem, the immediate one is toxic assets and mortgage-based securities.

We do not have the details, it's all not very transparent, but the general estimate is that about half of them are held in European banks. One country, Iceland, is practically on the verge of declaring bankruptcy because of its enormous exposure to the tides of financial globalization.

Press TV: What about supranational institutions, the Security Council and the international courts? It seems that we see a waning of some US power… Beijing and Moscow vetoing decisions of the Security Council certainly on Iran, and the decision by the General Assembly to refer the recognition of Kosovo.

Chomsky: We saw that, but that is normal. Since you brought up the media, it's interesting to see the reporting of it.

The vote, which I think, was 77 to 6 or something like that was reported that there was a division in the vote and that it was polarized, but what was not reported was that joining the United States, were Albania the Marshal Islands, and I think probably Israel, practically nobody.

But that is normal, for example on the embargo against Cuba, the regular votes in the UN year after year, are on order 180 to 4 or something like that, with the US supported only by Israel and a few Pacific Islands. That doesn't usually get reported. And that's actually nothing new.

As far as the Security Council is concerned, what is not too well-known and you do not get the reports, is that since the United Nations pretty much fell out of control by the 1960s as a result of decolonization and the recovery of other industrial countries; since the mid 60s, the United States is far in the lead in vetoing Security Council resolutions.

Britain is second, and no one else is even close, so we do not see anything new in terms of US isolation in international institutions.

The US is also the only country right now that has rejected an official world court decision. It had been joined earlier by Albania and Libya, but they have since accepted them. So this isolation is consistent. As for US hegemony, it is based on objective factors.

One is what you mentioned, the military view, the US military is approximately at the scale of the rest of the world combined, and far ahead technologically.

But it's also a very rich country with plenty of resources and it is homogenous unlike Europe. Europe is roughly on the same scale economically but it is not homogenous. You could see that in the reactions to the financial crises, in the United States they're uniform taken by the federal government and in Europe they are national and not consistent.

For about 35 years it has become clear. I've written about it and so have others, that the world is becoming more diverse. It is becoming what has been called tri-polar, with three major economic centers and only one military center.

The economic centers are North America based in the US, Western Europe based mainly in Germany and France and the northeast Asia based in Japan, increasingly China and South Korea is a major industrial power … these three centers differ substantially in their characteristics. And to some extent, in my opinion, the Asian center is increasing in its role in world affairs and we can see it in this crisis.