Chomsky on Technology

Chomsky raises several interesting points, particularly about technology, in the following lecture.

These are one-liners from the speech:

  • But of course Washington is not a system of public control. It’s mainly a system of corporate control.
  • Assange shouldn’t be the subject of grand jury hearings; he should be given a medal. He’s contributing to democracy.
  • The reason for classification is very rarely to protect the state or the society from enemies. Most of the time it’s to protect the state from its citizens. So that they don’t know what the government’s doing.
  • Technology can be used to liberate or to enslave. A hammer doesn’t care whether it’s used by a torturer or a carpenter.

There are a few interesting things to observe here.

  • First is how loaded most of the questions are toward what the interviewer obviously wanted Chomsky to say: the democratic Internet is a new step toward the creation of a truly free, decentralized society; it is a beacon hope in a time of increasing centralization; etc. Instead, Chomsky, always level-headed, points out that, yes, the internet can, and—in certain regards—certainly is, a resource for organizing, for decentralization, for liberation—but there may be just as many banes it brings with these boons.
  • Second is, as always, Chomsky’s emphasis on always arguing with concrete historical examples (and a lot of them, at that). It’s a crucial tactic in argumentation and such that people should practice more.
  • Next is how just because something was created by the state (in this case) doesn’t mean it should be the rejected. We should work for freedom from a centralized state, but with the realization that’s it’s not an all-or-nothing game—particularly when one factors in the increasing portent of capitalist power superseding state power. As Chomsky himself notes, the state can be made, through popular pressure, to action on behalf of its citizens; a capitalist enterprise, corporation, what have you, is a “private tyranny.”