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Life before American Idol.
January 23, 2007 2:53 PM   Subscribe

Chomsky v. Buckley, 1969 (videofilter). The primary subject is Vietnam, but other topics abound.
posted by bardic (55 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ali G v. Chomsky, more recently.
posted by bardic at 2:54 PM on January 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Is this the one where Buckley threatens Chomsky with physical violence? I hope so.
posted by mds35 at 2:58 PM on January 23, 2007


That was Gore v. Buckley, you crypto-fascist.
posted by boo_radley at 3:00 PM on January 23, 2007


Now listen, you queer, you stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in the goddamn face and you'll stay plastered.
posted by box at 3:07 PM on January 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


I wanna punch everybody in all those clips.
posted by tkchrist at 3:28 PM on January 23, 2007


Ali v. Frasier v. Alien v. Predator v. Kramer v. Chomsky. Hey - a guy can dream, you crypto-fascist!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:35 PM on January 23, 2007


"Whether he likes boys, or girls, or... chemistry"
- bardic's link
posted by phrontist at 3:39 PM on January 23, 2007


Well, I wish that Buckley/Vidal debate was more listenable, because the Buckley/Chomsky debate was altogether too civilized to entertain, much as tonight's State of the Union Address will be, if I can force myself to watch it. (After all the pre-Address leaks, it harldly seems worthwhile to work dinner around the fucking speech..)
posted by kozad at 3:40 PM on January 23, 2007


That was interesting.

The awful and silly thing about Chomsky is that he takes a perfectly tenable and even powerful observation -- that the democratic west has made extreme and frightening mistakes, and that modernity is corrupt at its heart -- and completely subverts it by resorting to the tired old Karl Marx line that "the history of the world is the history of class struggle." That is, his assumption that every political action is inherently motivated by economics completely prevents his view from having any real depth.

The news flash, in case Mr. Chomsky is still listening, is that Karl Marx was part and parcel with modernity. He's one of the many symptoms of what's really wrong with the direction our civilization has taken. His was an inherently Western teaching; and one can't dismiss the west without dismissing him.

Mr. Chomsky would do well to acknowledge that there are sometimes non-economic factors involved in politics. However, every time anyone tries to point that out to him, he tends to interrupt and start spouting facts and figures. He's had the good fortune to be interviewed by people like William F. Buckley all his life; if there were anybody of any real intellectual power, he'd have been demolished years ago.
posted by koeselitz at 3:46 PM on January 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


A worthy display of Mr. Chomsky's prowess, though the discourse, frankly, such that transpired, wasn't comprable to Godzilla vs. Megalon.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:46 PM on January 23, 2007


koeselitz: I don't think Chomksy makes this blanket assertion of economic motivation you speak of. Economics are very often the core of the matter (and I think you'd be hard pressed to give an example of American foreign intervention since WWII that wasn't) which is why he sounds like a broken record in that regard. But this is not his blanket assertion, rather he claims this "benevolent disinterest" is a myth.
posted by phrontist at 4:00 PM on January 23, 2007


phrontist: "Economics are very often the core of the matter (and I think you'd be hard pressed to give an example of American foreign intervention since WWII that wasn't)"

The American attempt in Viet Nam.

See, that was easy.

phrontist: "But this is not his blanket assertion, rather he claims this "benevolent disinterest" is a myth."

On the contrary, while this isn't a blanket assertion that he makes, it is the driving notion behind nearly all of his arguments. (Unfortunately, he never talks about 'justice' or 'right' or 'political thought' for long enough to even begin to consider the weight of his framing terms.) His basic thrust always seems (to me, anyway) to be: if you can find an example of so-called "benevolent" action by the U.S. government, economic motivations are very easy to unearth behind it.

This tends to muddy the real issue, which is: what is justice? What brings justice? By assuming that justice is intuitive, Chomsky side-steps any really meaningful discussion of politics.
posted by koeselitz at 4:24 PM on January 23, 2007


Or, in other words: there are motivations besides "benevolent disinterest" and "economic pragmatism." To my knowledge, Noam Chomsky has never once dealt with these motivations.
posted by koeselitz at 4:25 PM on January 23, 2007


It's fascinating to see two highly intelligent men rationally, calmly, and politely debate complex political issues. We don't see that much nowadays on TV.

Slight derail: I've always wondered about Buckley's accent...I know he's American, but he sounds quite British. Is this a Boston accent? (I understand that even today, the blueblood WASPy types in Boston still retain a quasi-British accent)
posted by zardoz at 4:27 PM on January 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


Buckley doesn't sound very British to me, he sounds like an "upper class" American from the mid-century, a very smooth "proper" sort of accent, which you hear all the time in media from that era.
posted by delmoi at 4:46 PM on January 23, 2007


They both spent so much time trying to assert the justice of their thinking about why nations behave as they do that they didn't discuss Vietname specifically very much. Still, very interesting and drastically more substantive than most political discussion today.

I like how Buckley essentially concludes the debate by saying Well, if you don't understand by now why my opinion is correct, you're just hopeless. I would have liked to see that discussion continue.

koeselitz:
The news flash, in case Mr. Chomsky is still listening, is that Karl Marx was part and parcel with modernity. He's one of the many symptoms of what's really wrong with the direction our civilization has taken. His was an inherently Western teaching; and one can't dismiss the west without dismissing him.

What's really wrong with the direction our civilization has taken, koeselitz, and how is Marx symptomatic of that dysfunction?
posted by clockzero at 4:53 PM on January 23, 2007


I've always wondered about Buckley's accent... zardoz

Buckley's a Knickerbocker.
posted by Relay at 4:55 PM on January 23, 2007


phrontist: "Economics are very often the core of the matter (and I think you'd be hard pressed to give an example of American foreign intervention since WWII that wasn't)"

The American attempt in Viet Nam.

See, that was easy.


You're either willfully ignorant, or a moron if you think the military-industrial complex didn't make an assload of cash off the war in Vietnam.
posted by interrobang at 4:58 PM on January 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


phrontist: I don't think Chomsky makes this blanket assertion of economic motivation you speak of.

From Deterring Democracy:
... the political leadership has undermined possibilities for political settlement and fostered conflict in regions where such conflict could lead to a devastating nuclear war, and has sometimes come all too close--notably the Middle East. These consistent patterns make no sense on the assumption that security policy is guided by security concerns. Case by case, they fall into place on the assumption that policy is driven by the twin goals of reinforcing the private interests that control the state, and maintaining an international environment in which they can prosper.
Here's a counter-argument by Hans Morgenthau (a friend of Chomsky's, as I understand it).

koeselitz: ... there are motivations besides "benevolent disinterest" and "economic pragmatism."

Absolutely. In particular, I'd emphasize the importance of fear, a major factor during the Cold War (on both sides).

--if there were anybody of any real intellectual power, he'd have been demolished years ago.

Chomsky was taken quite seriously during the Vietnam War; he was one of the acknowledged leaders of the anti-war movement. Even then, though, his lack of objectivity was recognized. Raziel Abielson, 1967. Stanley Hoffmann, 1969.
posted by russilwvong at 4:58 PM on January 23, 2007


koeselitz says: The American attempt in Viet Nam.

So you believe that the Cold War struggle of communism vs. capitalism, in which Vietnam was an important chapter, wasn't motivated by economics?
posted by JackFlash at 5:03 PM on January 23, 2007


interrobang: You're either willfully ignorant, or a moron if you think the military-industrial complex didn't make an assload of cash off the war in Vietnam.

The secret documents--memos, white papers, etc.--recording what policy-makers thought at the time have long since been published. It's clear what the objectives of policymakers were: they thought Vietnam was basically the same as Korea. Economic objectives didn't come into it.
posted by russilwvong at 5:07 PM on January 23, 2007


I've always wondered about Buckley's accent. Is this a Boston accent?

Not Boston, not even Brahmin Boston. He was raised in Connecticut. Then again, his first language was Spanish, learned in Mexico, followed by French learned in Paris. When he turned seven, he started learning English.

Or so the story goes, and who are we to say no? (delmoi- can't really think of anyone circa 1955 in media who spoke quite as he does. Not Edward Murrow, not Harry Reasoner. I'm drawing a blank. Any counter examples?)
posted by IndigoJones at 5:09 PM on January 23, 2007


thanks bardic!
posted by nj_subgenius at 5:10 PM on January 23, 2007


russilwvong, interrobang is one of those people who can't seem to grasp that just because a policy benefits certain people doesn't mean it was dreamed up for their enrichment. Halliburton has made lots of money in Iraq. Dick Cheney did not favour war in Iraq so his buddies could make money. But it's more fun if we pretend that we're wise to the evil game that people at the top play, without having to explain how elevation to elected office automatically makes you a craven whore to economic power.
posted by Dasein at 5:13 PM on January 23, 2007 [2 favorites]


JackFlash: So you believe that the Cold War struggle of communism vs. capitalism, in which Vietnam was an important chapter, wasn't motivated by economics?

No. I'd describe it as primarily motivated by fear on both sides. (Take a look at NSC 100. "In tanks the USSR is estimated to have produced 12,600 of all types in 1946, and 4,200 of all types for each of the years 1947, 1948 and 1949--giving the Soviets a total estimated tank production from 1946 through 1949 of 250,200. The United States production of tanks for the years 1946 through 1949 totaled 50." Similarly, the Soviet leadership would have feared a revival of German and Japanese militarism.)

There wasn't an inherent conflict between communism and capitalism. To take one example, the US supported Yugoslavia (a communist country) during the Cold War, because Tito had broken away from Stalin. Relations between the US and China improved dramatically after Nixon's visit to China, at a time when China was still committed to a communist economy.
posted by russilwvong at 5:13 PM on January 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


without having to explain how elevation to elected office automatically makes you a craven whore to economic power.

What makes you think Cheney wasn't always a craven whore to economic power?
posted by odinsdream at 5:21 PM on January 23, 2007


russilwvong: There wasn't an inherent conflict between communism and capitalism.

I don't think there is either, but all of the rhetoric from Joseph McCarthy to the present was based exactly on the belief that there was an direct conflict and that was why we needed to stop their expansion. Oh, that and the fact that they were also godless.
posted by JackFlash at 5:24 PM on January 23, 2007


Dasein, I think Iraq demonstrates Hans Morgenthau's argument that capitalists as a class are generally opposed to war. Check out this scathing 2001 article by Lawrence Kaplan describing Richard Haass (Powell's deputy) as "the oil industry's man in the State Department," trying to scale back sanctions against Iraq. Kaplan's sources are evidently Iraq hard-liners. "That's perfect," sighs one Bush adviser. "Why not just have the oil companies brief Powell directly?"

As Morgenthau puts it:
... it has been the conviction of the capitalists as a class and of most capitalists as individuals that "war does not pay," that war is incompatible with an industrial society, that the interests of capitalism require peace and not war. For only peace permits those rational calculations upon which capitalist actions are based. War carries with it an element of irrationality and chaos which is alien to the very spirit of capitalism.
posted by russilwvong at 5:25 PM on January 23, 2007


JackFlash: I don't think there is either, but all of the rhetoric from Joseph McCarthy to the present was based exactly on the belief that there was an direct conflict and that was why we needed to stop their expansion.

That doesn't make sense. If they were truly irreconcilable, then containment would not suffice; what would be required would be complete and total victory, ending only with the destruction of communism.

Kennan's Long Telegram (February 1947) describes the motivation behind containment, from the US point of view.

We're getting a bit far afield from Chomsky vs. Buckley, I think.
posted by russilwvong at 5:32 PM on January 23, 2007


russil, didn't United Fruit do pretty well down south via regime change it sponsored? Or Dole and C&C Sugar when we deposed Hawaii's queen? How about our banks that got loans (instead of Europe) when we 'created' Panama and its canal?

koeslitz: Chomsky talks about justice with regard to the Middle East situation, no?
posted by faux ami at 5:46 PM on January 23, 2007


dasein writes Dick Cheney did not favour war in Iraq so his buddies could make money.

You're kidding, right? I mean, I think Cheney was dumb enough to believe all the neo-con "magical thinking" about the flowers being thrown at the liberators and the rest of the Middle East democratizing overnight. But making money for himself and his friends was an important part of the plan all along. Still is. Still will be decades from now.
posted by bardic at 6:37 PM on January 23, 2007


You think his heart will hold out that long, eh?
posted by Dasein at 6:44 PM on January 23, 2007


Not him of course, but through his children and less directly, a future generation of politicians with ties to the military industrial complex.
posted by bardic at 6:46 PM on January 23, 2007


The American attempt in Viet Nam.
The location, natural resources, and populations of the underdeveloped areas are such that, should they become attached to the Communist bloc, the United States would become the second power in the world . . . Indirectly, the evolution of the underdeveloped areas is likely to determine the fate of Western Europe and Japan and, therefore the effectiveness of those industrialized regions in the free world alliance we are committed to lead. If the underdeveloped areas fall under Communist domination, or if they move to fixed hostility to the West, the economic and military strength of Western Europe and Japan will be diminished, the British Commonwealth as it is now organized will disintegrate, and the Atlantic world will become, at best, an awkward alliance, incapable of exercising effective influence outside a limited orbit, with the balance of the world's power lost to it. In short, our military security and our way of life as well as the fate of Western Europe and Japan are at stake in the evolution of the underdeveloped areas.
-- Walt Rostow, Testimony to Congress, 1956

ACTION FOR SOUTH VIETNAM

1. US aims:

70%--To avoid a humiliating US defeat (to our reputation as a guarantor).

20%--To keep SVN (and then adjacent) territory from Chinese hands.

10%--To permit the people of SVN to enjoy a better, freer way of life. Also-To emerge from crisis without unacceptable taint from methods used. Not--To "help a friend," although it would be hard to stay if asked out.


-- John McNaughton, 1965
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:20 PM on January 23, 2007


But making money for himself and his friends was an important part of the plan all along

I think it goes a wee bit deeper than that. Producing a neocon-friendly entity in central SW Asia (eg. Pres. Chalabi in Baghdad) would have been a win on about a dozen levels. One element would be pushing out existing Russian & French investments and emplacing the whole KB&R enchilada in this virgin industrial sector. Money is power, and power is money. Strong foreign investment connections produce income streams to the Republicans who hold the reins; a more manly, triumphant military strengthens that Republican power base too.

If you've ever played Steve Jackson Game's Illuminati, imagine a rain of money falling on the neocon power blocs.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:29 PM on January 23, 2007


it has been the conviction of the capitalists as a class and of most capitalists as individuals that "war does not pay"

What kind of war? WWI, II, sure, that was a c-fuck for most parties involved (except the US of course).

I tend to see the geopolitical chessboard in monetary-bloc terms. Saddam was moving out of the USD bloc, had substantial economic commitments to provide the French and Russian repayments, and generally was a bad-actor -- as is Hugo today -- wrt our critical economic interests in the region & market.

Wrt the Saigon regime, I think we were fighting for more of a firebreak for Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore, than the rubber and other trade goods of SVN, and as McNaughton referenced above, the good name of the US as a guarantee against future communist-supported native insurgencies that threatened the favorable status quo in various "under-developed" nations.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:36 PM on January 23, 2007


Also, as Rostow mentioned, and I've read elsewhere, SVN was supposed to be an area where Japanese enterprises make capital investments toward bringing its wealth onto world markets, profiting the USD block indirectly.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 7:41 PM on January 23, 2007


Chomsky vs. Foucault I am always amazed by his brilliance when I realise how little people think about THE WAY things are talked about, the very way we converse on subjects as an essential point to the issue at hand both in everyday conversations, in newspaper headlines, and in the academic text.
posted by untitledalex at 8:48 PM on January 23, 2007


Man I forgot what a glib, smug jerk WFB is. The winks and the pencil play make me want to strangle him by his cravat. He looks smart when he bullies weaker opponents, but he gets owned by Noam.

WFB is just the precursor to folks like Bill O'Reilly, who uses the same tactics as Buckley - sans the politesse.
posted by crowman at 9:11 PM on January 23, 2007


koeselitz says: The American attempt in Viet Nam.

Let's see, an ideological system that rejects free market capitalism wasn't at all a motivation in the attempt.
posted by juiceCake at 10:01 PM on January 23, 2007


I always loved Flaherty's Buckley, particularly on Just for Fun (1) and (2) - YouTube. Buckley parody appears in the second.
posted by juiceCake at 10:05 PM on January 23, 2007


Buckley's a Knickerbocker.

I didn't know knickerbocker meant asshole. Cool -- you learn something every day!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:27 AM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Stop calling him that, or he'll punch you in your face. (And you'll stay plastered).
posted by Optamystic at 2:25 AM on January 24, 2007


Why is it that every time I tell somebody I like to read Noam Chomsky, they call me names?
posted by tehloki at 2:58 AM on January 24, 2007


I didn't know knickerbocker meant asshole.

this one was funny
posted by matteo at 4:28 AM on January 24, 2007


(looks up from reading The Comprehensive Chomsky he got from Christmas) I'm sorry, did someone say something?
posted by Chocomog at 5:35 AM on January 24, 2007


There was a Chomsky / Foucault debate as well, transcripts somewhere on the web, but I've never seen video. It's pretty weird, and Foucault schools the Noamerater on Descartes.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:00 AM on January 24, 2007


I didn't know knickerbocker meant asshole.

this one was funny


Not to those of us with a little New York Dutch blood in us. Into which category, incidentally, I do not believe Mr Buckley falls.

(Goes off to saw a door in half.)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:10 AM on January 24, 2007


Hmm. Knickerbocker... yet another disused term of endearment that I miss more and more every day. Sigh.
posted by tehloki at 7:01 AM on January 24, 2007


Buckley's a Knickerbocker.

Ann Coulter ain't a gold-digger, but she ain't hangin' with those broke Knickerbockers...
posted by jonp72 at 9:18 AM on January 24, 2007


I feel like I am listening to my intellectual mother and father when I watch this. I could just see Buckley doing the Shawne Merriman sack dance when he asked Noam “Did they bump into the refugees coming south?” regarding South Vietnam’s commando incursions into the North.

Point Buck- “Even Papandrea, you like him I assume, because he hates us.”

Point Noam- “My assumption is that all intervention is imposed.”

Noam spanked him on the D.R., but then The Buckster closes out the loss and comes back with “there goes your tedious French explanation.”

I could watch this intellectual Gaylord Tennis for hours. The underlying satire and humor is priceless. “MIT is complicated.”
posted by MapGuy at 10:11 AM on January 24, 2007


Previous discussion of economic determinism.

Heywood Mogroot: What kind of war?

Hans Morgenthau runs through some examples:
... during the entire period of mature capitalism, no war, with the exception of the Boer War, was waged by major powers exclusively or even predominately for economic objectives. The Austro-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-German War of 1870, for instance, had no economic objectives of any importance. They were political wars, indeed imperialistic wars, fought for the purpose of establishing a new distribution of power, first in favor of Prussia within Germany and then in favor of Germany within the European state system. The Crimean War of 1854-56, the Spanish-American War of 1898, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, the Turko-Italian War of 1911-12, and the several Balkan Wars show economic objectives only in a subordinate role, if they show them at all. The two world wars were certainly political wars, whose stake was the domination of Europe, if not of the world. Naturally, victory in these wars brought economic advantages and, more particularly, defeat brought in its wake economic losses. But these effects were not the real issue; they were only by-products of the political consequences of victory and defeat. Still less were these economic effects the motives that determined in the minds of the responsible statesmen the issue of war and peace.
Similarly, I'd describe the war in Iraq as an attempt to make the Middle East into a US sphere of influence, like Latin America or Eastern Europe, on the dubious theory that 9/11 was just a symptom of the chronic conflicts in the region, and that the US could resolve them. Anthony Cordesman:
Perhaps worst of all, the US as a whole has reacted to the events of September 11th by ceasing to treat friendly Arab Gulf states with the respect and dignity they deserve. If anything, the US has acted as if it has no faith in any of the governments of its Arab allies, and as if some miracle would suddenly transform Iraq magically into a modern democratic state which would then - in turn - use sympathetic magic to catalyze equal change throughout the Arab world. And, it would do so regardless of all the real world political, cultural, economic, and demographic realities involved. This view of US intervention in Iraq may be excusable as a fantasy of some Israelis reacting to the trauma of the Second Intifada. As American policy, however, it crosses the line between neo-conservative and neo-crazy.
Stanley Hoffmann:
... often the greatest threat to moderation and peace, and certainly the most insidious, comes from objectives that are couched in terms of fine principles in which the policy-maker fervently believes, yet that turn out to have no relation to political realities and can therefore be applied only by tortuous or brutal methods which broaden ad infinitum the gap between motives and effects. ... What Vietnam proves, in my opinion, is not the wickedness of our intentions or objectives but the wickedness that results from irrelevant objectives and disembodied intentions, applied by hideous and massive means. It has its roots, intellectual and emotional, in elements of the American style that I have been at pains to analyze in detail. The Americans' very conviction that their goals are good blinds them to the consequences of their acts.
... as McNaughton referenced above, the good name of the US as a guarantee against future communist-supported native insurgencies that threatened the favorable status quo in various "under-developed" nations.

US policymakers were worried about US credibility everywhere (e.g. with respect to the US guarantee to Western Europe), not just in the Third World. A Norwegian example. (I'm planning to do an FPP on a recent political science article arguing that US policymakers have been too obsessed with credibility.)

faux ami, the examples you're citing are coups, not wars. That said, it'd be interesting to go through the FRUS archives and see how much weight decision-makers put on economic objectives, if any, in each of these cases. Here's the two volumes on the Guatemala coup in 1954: Guatemala compilation; Guatemala. For example, on this page, compare document 50 (memo by Louis Halle of the Policy Planning Staff) with document 48 (NSC 5419/1). Mostly there seems to be a fair amount of hysteria about Guatemala's ability to threaten its neighbors in Central America, and about arms shipments from Eastern Europe. Halle: "The atmosphere of emergency breeds a disposition to exaggerate dangers."
posted by russilwvong at 10:42 AM on January 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


This is not that great of a discussion, I mean they basically don't get much past the "defining the terms" section, and Buckley is being rather disingenuous about the whole thing, conflating different things and not making much of a point at all.
posted by delmoi at 4:18 PM on January 24, 2007


Not to those of us with a little New York Dutch blood in us.

Apologies. My intention was not to impugn the good reputation of the New York Dutch.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:09 PM on January 24, 2007


Apology accepted - I quite understand the aching lure of cracking wise.

That said, I have always enjoyed your comments and expect to do so in future. (And you can have your door back now.)
posted by IndigoJones at 9:05 AM on January 26, 2007


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