Noam Chomksy’s Office at MIT | April 1, 2014 | 12:16 PM
I interviewed Noam Chomsky at his MIT office in Cambridge, MA on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at 12:00 pm. We discussed about public education, democracy, and the news media. This interview was published in the journal, Critical Education.
I often get asked, “How’d you get to interview Noam Chomsky?” That’s a great question! And, up until now, the only person who knew was my dear friend Emily.
So, here’s how it happened!!
To provide a brief background, I was a first year doctoral student, and I was interested in the relationship between education and the news media in terms of policy and pedagogy. That is, what role do the media play in education policy? And, how are the media educational in itself? That is, the media provide a daily stream of curriculum to the public, helping them learn about issues in the world beyond their personal experiences. With this in mind, I first emailed Noam Chomsky on Friday, January 10, 2014 at 7:50 pm. Professor Chomsky responded 56 minutes later, writing:
Nevertheless, I persisted. I emailed him back on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 at 2:44 pm, writing “Perhaps maybe this summer. ” And, at 8:33 pm, he replied:
I was confused at first because that was the email address I initially used. So, I looked up Bev Stohl in the MIT directory and emailed her. She replied on Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 4:07 pm, writing:
Apparently, Noam employed a work force of three dedicated assistants. Bev Stohl was his pinnacle. They initially screen his emails even though he read reads them all. Cool!!
On Friday, January 17, 2014 at 9:03 am, I received an email from another assistant, Glenn Ketterle. My interview was almost scheduled with Professor Chomsky:
I responded at 10:34 am, writing:
Noam Chomsky’s assistant, Glenn, officially confirmed my interview at 12:37 pm, writing:
And, that’s how I scheduled an interview with Noam Chomsky for April 1, 2014 at his MIT office located at 77 Mass Ave., Cambridge, MA 02139. Walking up to the building that day, I must admit, I was pretty intrigued. Take a look for yourself:
There is a Latin tag cui prodest? meaning “who stands to gain?” When it is not immediately apparent which political or social groups, forces or alignments advocate certain proposals, measures, etc., one should always ask: “Who stands to gain?”
It is not important who directly advocates a particular policy, since under the present noble system of capitalism any money-bag can always “hire”, buy or enlist any number of lawyers, writers and even parliamentary deputies, professors, parsons and the like to defend any views. We live in an age of commerce, when the bourgeoisie have no scruples about trading in honour or conscience. There are also simpletons who out of stupidity or by force of habit defend views prevalent in certain bourgeois circles.
Yes, indeed! In politics it is not so important who directly advocates particular views. What is important is who stands to gain from these views, proposals, measures.
For instance, “Europe”, the states that call themselves “civilised”, are now engaged in a mad armaments hurdle-race. In thousands of ways, in thousands of newspapers, from thousands of pulpits, they shout and clamour about patriotism, culture, native land, peace, and progress—and all in order to justify new expenditures of tens and hundreds of millions of rubles for all manner of weapons of destruction—for guns, dreadnoughts, etc.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” one feels like saying about all these phrases mouthed by patriots, so-called. “Put no faith in phrase-mongering, it is better to see who stands to gain!”
A short while ago the renowned British firm Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. published its annual balance-sheet. The firm is engaged mainly in the manufacture of armaments of various kinds. A profit was shown of £ 877,000, about 8 million rubles, and a dividend of 12.5 per cent was declared! About 900,000 rubles were set aside as reserve capital, and so on and so forth.
That’s where the millions and milliards squeezed out of the workers and peasants for armaments go. Dividends of 12.5 per cent mean that capital is doubled in 8 years. And this is in addition to all kinds of fees to directors, etc. Arm strong in Britain, Krupp in Germany, Creusot in France, Cockerill in Belgium—how many of them are there in all the “civilised” countries? And the countless host of contractors?
These are the ones who stand to gain from the whipping up of chauvinism, from the chatter about “patriotism” (cannon patriotism), about the defence of culture (with weapons destructive of culture) and so forth!
The Washington Post reported on Jan. 12, 2018 that during a bipartisan immigration meeting on Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, U.S. President Trump said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”.
Trump was referring to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and Africa. Although both Democrats and Republicans confirmed this comment, Republican Senator, David Perdue has denied it was said on national television.
Here, I inquire into Senator Perdue’s denial because it has the potential to impinge on public trust and accountability. To do so, I provide a linguistic analysis to the following question:
Did Senator Perdue lie to the American public about Trump’s “shithole countries” comment in his interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, Sunday, Jan 14th?
The answer is not so straightforward.
Let’s get straight to the point. Technically, Perdue was deceptive while still telling the truth—a conclusion we can call, Perdue’s Performative.
“When people tell the truth, they usually use I-words at high rates. The one big exception is the performative. When people start a sentence with something like ‘I want you to know that…’ or ‘Let me be perfectly clear…’ then anything that follows can’t be judged as false or truthful. Performatives are a delightful way to deceive while technically telling the truth.”
So, what’s Perdue’s Performative?
To understand Perdue’s Performative, let’s take a look at what exactly Senator Perdue said in response to George Stephanopoulos’ question on This Week.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you saying the president did not use the word that’s been so widely reported?
SENATOR PERDUE: I’m telling you, he did not use that word, George. And, I’m telling you, it’s a gross misrepresentation. How many times do you want me to say that?
So, let’s break down Perdue’s response to see if it follows the linguistic structure of a performative, as outlined by Dr. Pennebaker. We’ll focus our attention on his first sentence: “I’m telling you, he did not use that word, George”.
The first step is to identify the premise part of the sentence. A premise is basically a statement or proposition that expresses a judgment from which other things can be inferred. It is the essence of a logical argument. So, in Perdue’s case, the part of his statement that says “I’m telling you, …” is the premise. Yes, he is telling us, and yes, he is being truthful. If he weren’t, he wouldn’t have said anything at all.
The second step is to deal with what’s being inferred. In the second part of the sentence, Purdue says, “… he did not use that word”. This part of the sentence is false—a claim supported anecdotally by other lawmakers who attended the meeting about immigration policy and who heard Trump make the derogatory comment.
What can we conclude from Perdue’s statement as a whole?
Perdue’s response was deceptive, but he was still telling the truth even though he lied. We can call this deception, Perdue’s Performative.
The identification of Perdue’s Performative is important. The public trusts that policymakers and public officials alike will work for and represent their interests. When public officials are deceptive, as in the case of Perdue’s Performative (what would normally just be called a lie), they jeopardize the integrity of public trust.
By identifying Perdue’s Performative, we have come one step closer to holding a government official accountable for deceptive communication.
*This article was peer-reviewed by Dr. James Pennebaker from the University of Texas at Austin on Wednesday, January 17, 2018.
Edward Soja provides a spatial analysis of the post-modern city. In this video, Soja analyzes the “spatiality” of the Bonaventure Hotel located in Los Angeles, CA.
The city is a key instrument for capitalist development. After the Civil War, this development took the form of mass migration. This migration was central to the Industrial Revolution. The city grew both in urban population and in size causing it to expand its boundaries outward. While the source of surplus value shifted from owning labor to renting labor, the source for capitalist development shifted from the ownership of land to the ownership of factories and machinery. However, since capitalism requires exponential yearly growth, its crises find resolve in the creation of new markets where none previously existed. Public education, for instance, became the target of this expansion in the 1980s, as did other areas for economic growth that had previously been secured by the state. As privatization subsumed what had been public, the city transformed into a post-modern space of unrealized resistance as individuals became lost within and throughout its architectural structure. Edward Soja’s spatial analysis of Los Angeles as a post-modern city shines a light on the particularities of its internal structure. I have transcribed his spatial analysis, which can be read below.
by Edward Soja
If you follow the freeway to the downtown financial district, the enormous recent development of Los Angeles is on visual display. Amidst the towering financial spires are five tubes of circular steel and glass that constitute the Bonaventure Hotel. It’s a building which is featured prominently in the debates about Los Angeles.
One of the participants in those debates is professor Edward Soja of the University of California at Los Angeles. We asked him to be one of our guides around Los Angeles and around the issues that it raises.
One important issue is about the spatial organization of the post-modern city, and how we’re led to submit to its controls as well as to its charms. A castle city in which bodies of people are controlled.
The Bonaventure Hotel reflects the very nature of the post-modern experience. Both literately and figuratively. The outside of the building reflects the enormous growth of a post-modern downtown. A kind of casserole city, a city of international capital and of corporate capital within the United States as well, of local capital and global capital.
A new city, a new downtown, Los Angeles has not had a well developed downtown over the years throughout its 200 years of growth. And as I say, it also reflects the post-modern experience internally as well.
The Bonaventure has become a focal point for the debate on post-modernism, ever since its discovery as a post-modern hyper-space by Fred Jameson some years ago. It began with Fred Jameson’s own personal experience in the Bonaventure Hotel in a professional meeting where most of the people going to attend the conferences and sessions found themselves getting lost within the interior space of the Bonaventure Hotel.
The only way you can understand the nature of the argument that Jameson and others have developed over the years is to actually move in and move through the Bonaventure Hotel. It’s a landscape that’s highly fragmented. It’s a space that de-centers you, makes you feel lost. And in this feeling of being lost, dislocated, you feel that your only recourse is to submit to authority. You’re helpless. You’re made helpless. You’re peripheralized. You’re lost in these spaces. And the way you accommodate yourself to them and the way you survive in them is essentially to submit to forms of overseeing, social control, authority, often invisible by the way, because part of being lost is that even when you are willing to submit to authority you can’t find it.
The post-modernity of the Bonaventure, thus, is not in its shell. Its shell stylistically, the architects would insist, is not post-modern in style, but is instead late modern or modernist in some form.
It’s difficult to find the main entrance. There’s a pedestrian entrance, but the pedestrian entrance hidden in a concrete bunker that makes one feel as if this couldn’t possibly be the entrance to a major hotel. Most of the entrances are flyover and walkways in the sky connected to other parts of the post-modern downtown of Los Angeles, where one gets equally lost trying to move around.
One enters the building and one sees a kind of bastille like fortress that it consists of a series of columns. Amidst the columns are these funny little gondolas. The external elevators going up and down, presumably showing that the outside is inside and the inside is outside—the very metaphor, by the way, of the post-modern city itself. The outside becoming inside. The periphery becoming central, as in Orange county and elsewhere in the region, and the center becoming peripheral as in downtown—becoming lost, becoming de-centered from one’s conventional and familiar understandings of behavior in a city.
The lifts themselves are, oh, excuse me, the elevators themselves are indicators. The first indicator is the outside visual indicators of the strange spaces one is going to find in maneuvering and transversing the inside of the hotel. There are shops that received no customers largely because the customers can’t find them. There are constant pictures of people walking around, hotel guests walking around with their suitcases, totally lost, not knowing how to get out or get back into the hotel rooms that, presumably, are their refuge from the confusion.
You walk into one entrance that seems like a major entrance and to get to anywhere else you find you’re blocked. You’re blocked by elevator shafts. You’re blocked by wonderful sitting spaces. Great concrete chairs that encourage you to sit down and enjoy the space, but the spaces of those chairs are always empty, because no one can possibly feel particularly relaxed in this internal space. The feeling that you have is this feeling of dislocation. An argument that was central to Jameson’s response to this post-modern space. And that is the argument that we must develop a new way of understanding what I call “spatiality”, the spatiality of post-modernism, if we’re going to be able to resist its very attractive lures.
Post-modernity is not the construction of simple Disney worlds of fantasy, but it’s the production of hyperrealty that is more real than reality itself. And it’s a reality that has tremendous attractions to it. There are lots of things even inside this microcosm of the Bonaventure Hotel that are attractive, enjoyable, super-modern, ultra clean and, indeed, sometimes ultra enganging. You see this, as I said, inside the Bonaventure and outside, a kind of complex mirror reflection of the very nature of post-modern society and post-modern experience.
Edited by: Zane C. Wubbena, Texas State University Derek R. Ford, Syracuse University Brad J. Porfilio, California State University
Read the introduction here to learn more about neoliberalism and for an overview of the book.
This edited volume contributes to a burgeoning field of critical scholarship on the news media and education. This scholarship is based on an understanding that the news media has increasingly applied a neoliberal template that mediates knowledge and action about education. This book calls into question what the public knows about education, how the public is informed, and whose interests are represented and ultimately served through the production and distribution of information by the news media about education. The chapters comprising this volume serve to enlighten and call to action parents, students, educators, academics and scholars, activists, and policymakers for social, political, and economic transformation. Moreover, as the neoliberal agenda in North America intensifies, the chapters in this book help to deepen our understanding of the logics and processes of the neoliberal privatization of education and the accompanying social discourses that facilitate the reduction of social relations to a transaction in the marketplace. The chapters examine the news media and the reproduction of neoliberal educational reforms (A Nation at Risk, Teach For America, charter schools, think tanks, and PISA) and resistance to neoliberal educational reforms (online activism and radical Black press) while also broadening our conceptual understanding of the marketization and mediatization of educational discourses. Overall, the book provides an in-depth understanding of the neoliberal privatization of education by extending critical examinations to this underrepresented field of cultural production: the news media coverage of education. The contribution of this edited volume, therefore, helps to build an understanding of the contemporary dynamics of capital accumulation to inform public resistance for social transformation.
You can order the book from your favorite bookseller. I encourage you to support independent bookstores. It can also be purchased from Amazon or Information Age Publishing. If you’d like a discount code, please contact me!