Noam Chomsky on the rise of the left – an interview with The Tab Norwich

Chomsky says he wants you to keep up the fight for Corbyn

Anyone who has read a book in the humanities will have heard of this man, his books have been referenced more than any other academic, and are nearly as quoted as the Bible. But unlike Jesus, Chomsky, this iconic figure has an email address and was ready and waiting to provide me the wisdom that I shall now bestow upon thee.

I asked Chomsky questions that students wanted to know the answer to; ranging from the unlikely rise of Jeremy Corbyn to become leader of the Labour Party, to his opinion on the undoubtable power which is vested in social media.

Firstly, I asked Chomsky about his propaganda model. It was devised in 1988, and has been long-acclaimed as the best description as to how "a propaganda system functions". This model is usually used in regard to the system of the western media, which remains dominated by moguls such as Rupert Murdoch, and the control which it has over the information the average person has access to, thus controlling their own worldview.

I asked Noam whether he thought, in the wake of Corbyn's significant support from students and other young people, that a trend has emerged in which new forms of media, predominantly social media sites, are actually more impactful today than the traditionally established print media?

Corbyn opening up for Run The Jewels at Glastonbury this summer

Corbyn opening up for Run The Jewels at Glastonbury this summer

Chomsky replied: "It’s worth looking into social media, in fact quite a mixed story. Facebook has become a major news source, but it is simply drawing from the major media."

"In fact, the Murdoch empire remains very influential. Murdoch’s Fox News is the leading cable channel, and the major source of 'information' (meaning mostly 'alternative facts') for the Trump popular base."

However, he is quick to reassure that not all hope is lost. In spite of Hillary Clinton's failure to win the 2016 US Presidential Election, Chomsky remains confident that the current neoliberal status quo in Western politics is changing, saying: "There is a rise of left politics, but this is mostly the result of the remarkable success of the Sanders campaign, far more remarkable than Trump or Corbyn, facts almost never discussed in the mainstream."

Crucially, Chomsky suggests that Sanders' success, a political figure who will arguably be remembered as being the Democrat candidate that would have won the election had he been given the party's nomination, has been buried by Murdoch's media.

He continues: "It is another striking confirmation of the continuing validity of the propaganda model. The truth is just too threatening to power, across the mainstream spectrum."

Chomsky is clearly keen to emphasise that the power of young people's mobilisation is the true way to uproot the power of media empires, such as that controlled by Murdoch.

A fellow UEA student posed a question to Chomsky regarding the media bias against Muslims, who are still represented within certain sectors of the traditional media as an orientalist threat which acts a scapegoat of problems in the West. Scapegoats are a vital component of the propaganda model, because through their creation societal problems can be blamed on groups identified outside of accepted conformity.

Chomsky wants society to fight against this, saying: "What matters is action, to put an end to these malicious devices."

However, in the wake of Trump's election, and the collaboration in the UK of the Conservative Party with the DUP, who have policies seen by some as homophobic and archaic, it would appear that democratic measures alone are not enough. Therefore, I felt it important to ask Noam what can be done, and whether he felt that the people who read his literature were doing enough to make things better.

The main man himself

The main man himself

He replied: "People don’t have to read me to do the right thing. Take the Sanders campaign, which broke radically from 100 years of pretty much bought elections, leaving him by far the most popular political figure in the country, with groups deriving from the campaign now doing quite important things. People who care can be more effective by doing more."

Therefore, if you wish to promote the change which Chomsky calls for, it seemingly doesn't matter if you've read reams of his work or have never heard of the man. What matters is that you act to disrupt the political agenda which has dominated Western politics since the 1980s, and continue to support the views of the likes of Sanders and Corbyn.

University of East Anglia