“Criminally Insane”: Chomsky on Trump

November 5, 2018


Noam Chomsky interview in Scientific American. Excerpts here.

Scientific American:

Why did you recently call the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in world history”?

Take its leader, who recently applied to the government of Ireland for a permit to build a huge wall to protect his golf course, appealing to the threat of global warming, while at the same time he withdrew from international efforts to address the grim threat and is using every means at his disposal to accelerate it.  Or take his colleagues, the participants in the 2016 Republican primaries.  Without exception, they either denied that what is happening is happening – though any ignorance is self-induced – or said maybe it is but we shouldn’t do anything about it.  The moral depths were reached by the respected “adult in the room,” Ohio governor John Kasich, who agreed that it is happening but added that “we are going to burn [coal] in Ohio and we are not going to apologize for it.” Or take a recent publication of Trump’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, a detailed study recommending an end to regulations on emissions. It presented a rational argument: extrapolating current trends, by the end of the century we’ll be over the cliff and automotive emissions don’t contribute very much to the catastrophe – the assumption being that everyone is as criminally insane as we are and won’t try to avoid the crisis.  In brief, let’s rob while the planet burns, putting poor Nero in the shadows.

This surely qualifies as a contender for the most evil document in history.

There have been many monsters in the past, but it would be hard to find one who was dedicated to undermining the prospects for organized human society, not in the distant future — in order to put a few more dollars in overstuffed pockets.

And it doesn’t end there. The same can be said about the major banks that are increasing investments in fossil fuels, knowing very well what they are doing.  Or, for that matter, the regular articles in the major media and business press reporting US success in rapidly increasing oil and gas production, with commentary on energy independence, sometimes local environmental effects, but regularly without a phrase on the impact on global warming – a truly existential threat.  Same in the election campaign.  Not a word about the issue that is merely the most crucial one in human history.

Hardly a day passes without new information about the severity of the threat.  As I’m writing, a new study appeared in Nature showing that retention of heat in the oceans has been greatly underestimated, meaning that the total carbon budget is much less than had been assumed in the recent, and sufficiently ominous, IPCC report. The study calculates that maximum emissions would have to be reduced by 25% to avoid warming of 2 degrees (C), well above the danger point.  At the same time polls show that — doubtless influenced by their leaders who they trust more than the evil media — half of Republicans deny that global warming is even taking place, and of the rest, almost half reject any human responsibility.  Words fail.

Are the U.S. media doing their job?

It depends on what we think their job is.  They are businesses, so by accepted standards their job is profit.  By other standards, they have a duty to the public to provide “all the news that’s fit to print,” under a concept of “fitness” that is as free as possible from submission to power interests or other distorting factors.  About this there is a great deal to say – I’ve devoted many words to the topic elsewhere, as have many others.  But in today’s strange climate of Trumpian “alternative facts” and “false reality,” it is useful to recognize that with all their flaws, which are many, the mainstream media remain an indispensable source of information about the world.

My students are pretty gloomy about the future. What can I tell them to cheer them up?

Apart from the truly existential threats of nuclear war and global warming – which can be averted – there have been far more difficult challenges in the past than those young people face today, and they have been overcome by dedicated effort and commitment.  The historical record of struggle and achievement gives ample reason to take to heart the slogan that Gramsci made famous: “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

There’s an election this week. You know what to do.


4 Responses to ““Criminally Insane”: Chomsky on Trump”

  1. dumboldguy Says:

    “Criminally insane” is a perfect description for the Repugnants. Chomsky nails it, except that he weakens at the end, where he is too easy on the media and then completely loses it in the last paragraph.

    Why do these folks who know better always have to equivocate and hold out false hopes as they close? What are they going to say when the SHTF in 20 years?—–“I knew it was very bad, but I didn’t want to upset anyone”? When are they going to make it simple like Jason Box did?—-“If X happens, we’re F**Ked”.

    • Lionel Smith Says:


      What you just wrote,

      but finishing with, because Trump happened we’re f**Ked.

      But criminal insanity is more widespread than in the GOP for any who still back endless economic growth of the old school are criminally insane.

      I could write a book on the mass propaganda that is driving that growth – the insane desire for a better car, yacht, house, trophy wife (with artificially enlarged you know whats), more better cars, more better yachts or more ex wives (to pay for in perpetuity) and the advertising for the perfect life and looks that is driving this.

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