Noam Chomsky: The Plight Of Assange & The Greatest Challenge To State Power

Noam Chomsky: The Plight Of Assange & The Greatest Challenge To State Power


LBW: The next thing that I would like to discuss
is the state of journalism and particularly whistleblowing in this time
I want to point to Julian Assange at least at first
and get your your thoughts on what’s currently unfolding with him he is now
in Belmarsh prison in London he’s been there since April
since he was forcefully removed from the Ecuadorian Embassy and the asylum that he
had there there was recently a report that came out where he was in court the
report says that he was fighting back tears he said he couldn’t think properly
he couldn’t understand the court proceedings he had a hard time even
recalling I think his own name the date even what do you make of this case and
and not just of him but also how the media has in a general sense the US
media in particular has covered what’s happening to Assange and WikiLeaks and
whistleblowing in general? NOAM CHOMSY: US media and the British media as well
Assange is basically being murdered by the British government his
being sequestered in the Ecuadorian embassy that was bad enough the embassy
incidentally I visited him there is a kind of like a small apartment he was
stuck in a couple one or two rooms couldn’t even I mean in many ways it’s
worse than being in prison that these prisoners are allowed to go into the
yard and see the sun couldn’t go out it was plainly psychologically very
difficult it would be for anyone now they’ve after the right-wing government
in Ecuador expelled and he was taken over by the British he’s in a
high-security prison under very harsh conditions all of this for the crime of
skipping bail usually you get a fine for that and his treatment the
people have seen him at that court seen that you mentioned and I visited him
say that he’s his health is sharply deteriorating and he’s being treated in a
way which is basically destroying him there is an extradition hearing coming
up how it’ll turn out you know the British will
probably extradite him to the United States and will be tried with crimes that
even theoretically can lead to the death sentence he’s already
so clearly suffering and for the media they’re simply supporting this or
either not reporting it or saying yeah it’s the right thing because he’s a hideous
criminal who revealed to the world the things that the US government doesn’t
want populations to know should be regarded as meanwhile the same media
eagerly exploit the revelations that come out from WikiLeaks so that’s basically
what I have to say about Assange LBW: Is there any legal precedent to this though
I mean I I feel like what’s happening is extralegal as in this is not
something that’s been it’s like I think that what they’re doing seems to be
outside of the bounds of international law is that true or is this something
that can be seen as a precedent is there something we can look to in the past as
being an example of what they’re doing today NOAM CHOMSKY: You know it’s the UN Rapporteur on
torture has described it as in violation of conventions on the torture and
treatment of prisoners but whether that’s violation of international law
you could debate however talking about international law I mean there are gross violations of
international law that nobody even mentions so in this century the
most extreme violation of international law was the US UK invasion of Iraq
that’s a textbook example of aggression with no credible pretext
it’s what the Nuremberg Tribunal the general international law regard as the
supreme international crime differing from other war crimes in that it
encompasses the totality of what happens then and afterwards which include the
creation of the breakup at Iraq the killing of hundreds of thousands of
people millions of refugees inciting ethnic conflicts which is tearing
the whole region apart leading to the birth of ISIS and so on that’s an
extraordinary international crime has anybody said anything about it LBW: Yeah no NOAM CHOMSKY: International law is for the weak LBW: Okay and so I mean this really comes back to the threat what are the implications of
what this court case is this extradition hearing for Assange what is this do you
think do you think the long-term implications of this as far as our
ability to have whistleblowers the kind of the kind of information that
journalists are able to use in general I mean that’s kind of one of the fears
about whether or not you love or hate Assange as a person and what he may have
done personally as a publisher of this information the real fear is that it’s
going to have a real impact on the freedom of press do you get that sense
or is that already long gone are we way past that point? NOAM CHOMSKY: I’m afraid it’s another case and an extreme case of the use of state power
the US in the background but Britain is the country that’s implementing
a use of state power to prevent to punish the release to the public of
information that power systems don’t want them to have that’s basically what it amounts to and yes that’s certainly a message to journalists everywhere not that it’s
new it’s by no means the first time even though even the most extreme and after
all people have been deported thrown in prison all sorts of thing LBW: Okay so is this I
guess just a point to this I mean is to use this as an indication that we
are past a point where real substantial journalism is being thoroughly
undermined and threatened I mean I really think about what it means to be a
journalist in an authoritarian state and what the you know real risks that come
with doing real journalism is right now you know it’s rather bleak I guess
and I just wanted to get your sense of what what people who are getting into
journalism right now what they can really expect and what they’re coming up
against NOAM CHOMSKY: Well you know it’s I wouldn’t say it’s crossed a border we’ve been
through much worse in the past so take Woodrow Wilson’s Red Scare 1919
right after the first world war I mean thousands of people were
deported the independent press was virtually crushed there was a massive attack on
human rights the so-called McCarthy period it was about the same the Trump
period is you know in a way which is familiar from
totalitarian States the entire system in the United States under Trump is
becoming a kind of proto-fascism without the ideology just the pertinences of fascism one of those is to totally destroy the information system
so that the concept of truth fact accuracy just fades into oblivion and
the way they’re doing it is just by flooding the information system with
fakery law perfectly conscious lying deceit on every imaginable topic trivial
or important to the point where people just kind of have to sort of
abandon the effort to try to find out what’s true or false of course you can
still do it if you work at it but for much of the population it means that the
whole concept of accuracy truth fact and so on kind of dissolves and that’s a
very effective way of undermining public engagement in any of the decisions that
matter in the world destroying democratic function and Trump is a
master at it it’s working doing well so he’s got a kind of an adoring constituency
you know he can do no wrong facts are what he says they may be about 40 percent of the population very solid base Republican Party yet is terrified they won’t do anything to cross Trump
he’s their God in some sectors of it Evangelicals are a big segment of the
population in the United States are almost totally in line
with their leader and so on but this is it’s wrong to describe this is fascism
gives it too much credit it’s basically no ideology the ideology
for Trump is just me whatever is important to me but it has some of the
features of totalitarian systems and undermining the media and creating the
anger disgust regarding the media as some kind of enemy that’s good way to undermine democratic functions

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