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Friday, January 30, 2009

Controlling the "Great Beast"

The following is the second in a series of transcriptions taken from a talk given by Noam Chomsky entitled "The Imperial Presidency". The entire talk is available for purchase from the G7 Welcoming Committee website.

Well, without forgetting the very significant progress towards more civilized societies that has taken place in the past few years, and crucially the reasons for it, namely popular engagement and struggle, let’s focus nevertheless focus on the present, and on the topic that was suggested for this evening, the notions of imperial sovereignty that are now being crafted. It’s not surprising that as the population becomes more civilized, power systems become more extreme in their efforts to control “the great beast”, as the founding fathers of US society called the people--the hated, and feared people.

The conceptions of popular sovereignty that are being crafted by the radical, statist reactionaries of the Bush administration are in fact so extreme that they’ve drawn unprecedented criticism in the most sober and respected establishment circles, which is pretty helpful to people like me, as instead of quoting far-out types, you can quote the most respectable mainstream journals, and they’re saying stronger things than you might’ve said yourself.

The administrations ideas of presidential sovereignty were transmitted to the president by the newly appointed attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, at that time he was the president’s council, and he’s depicted now as a moderate in the press. His views on this are discussed by the very respected constitutional law professor Sanford Levinson, in the current issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, you can’t get more respectable than that.

Levinson writes that the conception being crafted by the justice department, transmitted by Gonzales, is based on the principle that, “there exists no norm that is applicable to chaos”, and that quote, as Levinson comments, is from Carl Schmitt, who was the leading German philosopher of law during the Nazi period.

The administration, advised by Gonzalez, quoting Levinson, “has articulated a view of presidential authority that is all too close to the power that Schmitt was willing to accord his own Fuhrer,” and one rarely hears words like that from the heart of the establishment. The same issue of that super-respectable journal has an article by two leading strategic analysts on what is called the “transformation of the military”, it’s another component of the new doctrines of imperial sovereignty that are being crafted. That’s the rapid expansion of offensive weaponry, including the militarization of space, in this case joined apparently by Canada, and other measures that are designed to place the entire world at risk of instant annihilation, and these have elicited the anticipated reactions by potential targets, Russia and China, who are developing their own offensive weapons.

These two analysts conclude that the US programs may lead to, in their words, “ultimate doom”, and they express their hope that a coalition of peace-loving nations will coalesce as a counter to US militarism and aggressiveness, a coalition led by China.

We’ve come to a pretty pass when such sentiments are voiced in sober and respectable circles, which aren’t given to hyperbole, and when their faith in US democracy is so slight that they look to China to save us from marching towards “ultimate doom”. And it’s up to the “Second Superpower” to decide whether that contempt for the “Great Beast” is warranted.


grisom said...

Dear Chomsky,

“the great beast”, as the founding fathers of US society called the people--the hated, and feared people.

So you're saying the founding fathers "hated and feared" the people? Why did they insist on establishing a democratic system of government, then? Eh? EHHH?

Otherwise, good talk.


Tezcatlipoca said...

actually, I think this might be addressed by monsieur Chomsky in one of the later parts of the talk...

Maxims and minims for the wise and the foolish

  • I think that historians are talking nonsense, because they don't write their essays in Coq. — Umunmutamku
  • Whoever fights against the empire, becomes the empire. [or something along those lines] — Philip K. Dick [as told to Tezcatlipoca]
    • We’re not fighting the empire! We are the empire! Go away, or we'll smack you with this stick! — Tezcatlipoca
  • You don't have to be straight to shoot straight. — Barry Goldwater
    • Indeed, we must prevent life, which is frequently fatal. — Umunmutamku
      • There are also a number of legitimate scientific reasons for it as well (though I don't know what they are) — Tezcatlipoca
  • Instead of thinking of Scripture as a manual, I try to think of the Bible as ‘a boyfriend’. — punkrainbow
    • Your feelings are lying to you. — Jer 17:9
  • READ A BOOK, I'M SURE IT'S IN ONE OF THEM. — Tezcatlipoca
    • Books are full of bullshit and lies! — Tezcatlipoca
      • We will lie to you but we will lie to ourselves as well. You will, however, see through our lies and grasp the shining truth within. — The KLF
  • A Gnostic is by definition a knower, and since knowledge supersedes belief, a knower cannot very well be a believer. — Stephan A. Hoeller
    • talking about the great unknown is ridiculous. it’s THE GREAT UN-FUCKING-KNOWN — Anonymous
      • The enemy knows the system. — Claude Shannon

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