Noam Chomsky said corporations, not the government or leftist scolds, pose the greatest threat to freedom of expression in the United States.
“The struggle for free speech in the 60s and 70s was an effort to break through constraints against what could be articulated and what people could hear,” Chomsky said.
He disagreed strongly with Levant’s suggestion that leftists who protested free speech limits outside the dean’s office in the 1960s enforced politically correct speech codes now that they ran universities.
“I don’t think that’s true at all,” Chomsky said. “The constraints on breaking through to the public are greater than they were, or at least comparable, to what they were in the 60s.”
He dismissed Levant’s concerns about campus speech codes as “a dramatic exaggeration,” but Chomsky said corporations placed “pretty rigid” restrictions on the terms of debate.
“It is a very marginal phenomenon on campus which barely exists, but there’s a major phenomenon, and that is the virtual monopolization of the major media by private, corporate entities which radically restricts the opportunity for expressing opinion and providing information,” Chomsky said. “It’s true that you can get around it in peripheral ways, but this is an enormous constraint of freedom of speech.”
He said the First Amendment offered protection from government constraints on free speech, but not from corporate limitations.
“Nothing prevents me from saying in the United States that the Iraq War was the worst crime in the 21st Century, but I can reach only very marginal audiences on what is pretty obvious fact,” Chomsky said. “You can say in the United States within the mainstream that the Iraq War was a strategic blunder, as Obama did, but try saying that it’s a crime of aggression of a kind that led to the hanging of Nazi criminals at Nuremberg. Try to write an op-ed about that.”
Chomsky said corporate interests helped limit distribution of “Counter-Revolutionary Violence,” a book he wrote in 1972 with Edward Herman that critiqued U.S. foreign policy in Southeast Asia.
He said the head of Warner Communications, William Sarnoff, was angry that the company’s “small but profitable” Warner Modular Publications imprint had agreed to publish 20,000 copies of the book.
“He didn’t like it, (so) he ordered the publisher not to distribute the book,” Chomsky said. “When they refused, he put the entire publisher out of business, destroying all of their stock. Is that a constraint on freedom of speech? Yeah, but it’s not considered that because it’s not state censorship.”
He said the general public relies almost entirely on limited information rationed out by corporations, which he said tilts the political spectrum overwhelming toward the right.
“Obama is a man of the center-right,” Chomsky said. “It’s called the left in the United States, but that’s an indication of the narrowness of the spectrum.”
Some elected officials do occasionally reflect his own views, Chomsky said.
“There have been times when Bernie Sanders has expressed views very close to mine on foreign policy, (and) there are times when Rand Paul did,” he said.
Watch the entire interview posted online by Rebel Media: