David Barsamian: Every four years Americans, those who vote, are faced with what is often called the lesser of two evils as their presidential options. Dave Dellinger, who passed away in May, used to call it "the evil of two lessers." You say that there is "a fraction" of difference between George Bush and John Kerry. And this raised some eyebrows. I heard, "It sounds like Chomsky is coming out for Kerry." Could you expand on your position.
Noam Chomsky: There are differences. They have different constituencies. There are different groups of people around them. On international affairs I wouldn’t expect any major policy changes. It would probably be more like back to the Clinton years, when you have sort of the same policies, but more modulated, not so brazen and aggressive, less violent. And I would expect a kind of return to that.
On domestic issues there could be a fairly significant difference–it’s not huge–but different in its outcomes. The group around Bush are real fanatics. They’re quite open. They’re not hiding it; you can’t accuse them of that. They want to destroy the whole array of progressive achievements of the past century. They’ve already more or less gotten rid of progressive income tax. They’re trying to destroy the limited medical care system. The new pharmaceutical bill is a step towards that. They’re going after Social Security. They probably will go after schools. They do not want a small government, any more than Reagan did. They want a huge government, and massively intrusive. They hate free markets. But they want it to work for the rich. The Kerry people will do something not fantastically different, but less so. They have a different constituency to appeal to, and they are much more likely to protect some limited form of benefits for the general population.
There are other differences. The popular constituency of the Bush people, a large part of it, is the extremist fundamentalist religious sector in the country, which is huge. There is nothing like it in any other industrial country. And they have to keep throwing them red meat to keep them in line. While they’re shafting them in their economic and social policies, you’ve got to make them think you’re doing something for them. And throwing red meat to that constituency is very dangerous for the world, because it means violence and aggression, but also for the country, because it means harming civil liberties in a serious way. The Kerry people don’t have that constituency. They would like to have it, but they’re never going to appeal to it much. They have to appeal somehow to working people, women, minorities, and others, and that makes a difference.
These may not look like huge differences, but they translate into quite big effects for the lives of people. Anyone who says "I don’t care if Bush gets elected" is basically telling poor and working people in the country, "I don’t care if your lives are destroyed. I don’t care whether you are going to have a little money to help your disabled mother. I just don’t care, because from my elevated point of view I don’t see much difference between them." That’s a way of saying, "Pay no attention to me, because I don’t care about you." Apart from its being wrong, it’s a recipe for disaster if you’re hoping to ever develop a popular movement and a political alternative.
Noam Chomsky, internationally renowned MIT professor, practically invented modern linguistics. In addition to his pioneering work in that field he has been a leading voice for peace and social justice. He is in such demand as a public speaker that he is booked years in advance. And wherever he appears, he draws huge audiences. The New Statesman calls him, "The conscience of the American people." He is the author of scores of books, his latest is the bestseller Hegemony or Survival. He has done a series of books with David Barsamian. The most recent one is Propaganda & the Public Mind. David Barsamian is the director and producer of the award-winning Alternative Radio in Boulder, Colorado. He interviewed Noam Chomsky at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge on June 11, 2004.