Britain's first book blogger (November 2000). This Space is now a major motion picture, or something.

Monday, May 07, 2007

From the lexicon of totalitarianism

MediaBite, the Irish equivalent of Medialens, interviews Noam Chomsky.
MediaBite: You are often charged with anti-Americanism, could you explain what you think it actually is?

Chomsky: The notion "anti-Americanism" is a revealing one. It is drawn from the lexicon of totalitarianism. Thus people who think that the US is the greatest country in the world are "anti-American" if they criticize the acts of the Holy State, or join the vast majority of the population in believing that the corporate sector has far too much influence over government policy, or regard private corporate institutions created by state power and granted extraordinary rights as "a return to feudalism". And so on.

The notion has an interesting history. It traces back to King Ahab, the epitome of evil in the Bible, who denounced the Prophet Elijah as an "ocher Yisrael" (a proper translation, now used in Israel, is "hater of Israel"). His reason was that Elijah condemned the acts of the evil King, who, like totalitarians since, identified the state (himself) with the population, the culture, the society.

People are entitled to revere King Ahab and Soviet commissars, and to adopt the term "anti-American," on their model. But we should have no illusions about how they are choosing to identify themselves.
Meanwhile, the BBC is running a series on the subject, with some breathtaking comments from BBC commissar Justin Webb in response to public questions.

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