Noam Chomsky at the Paramount

12:09 Thu 08 Oct 2009
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I went to see see Chomsky speak last Saturday night at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre. The speech was on “Obama, the Middle East, and Prospects for Peace”.

It felt like a somewhat low-key talk, in the sense that there weren’t many revelations in it. Plenty of interesting information, and perhaps most illuminating in the way that even thought I knew many of the broad outlines, I was still surprised by some of the specifics that he cited.

For example, I was already aware that the recent hysteria about Iran’s nuclear weapons program was spurious and hypocritical, but the extent of the hypocrisy and the ridiculous skew in media coverage here was still surprising—even though I should know better. In the midst of all the squawking about Iran, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) last month issued a resolution calling on Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to use IAEA safeguards for their facilities. The lack of coverage of that here just makes so apparent the degree to which media narratives are driven by state policy. Again, that’s not news, but it’s really easy to forget the extent of it.

One of the impressive aspects of the lecture was that Chomsky clearly keeps up with all of this, and can recall relevant details with impressive facility.

Overall Chomsky seemed to feel that there was some hope for a shift in Middle East policy from the US, because public opinion is shifting away from supporting Israeli actions against Palestinians, and that activists here should concentrate on pushing for shifts in US policy rather than trying to influence Israel directly (on the basis that it’s easier for Americans to influence US policy).

This was a significant talk to go to for me personally, as I’d never seen him speak live before, and I’m very glad that I went.

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