Political philosopher Noam Chomsky issued a call for progressive voices to energetically defend the rights and opportunities central to U.S. democracy, arguing Donald Trump conned Americans into supporting him by effectively articulating their concerns and feelings.
“He’s kind of a con man,” Chomsky said in an interview with the Pacific Standard. “He was able to say things to a sector of the population that, in a way, articulated their own concerns and feelings, and did it pretty effectively.”
“To what extent that reflects his own views, to the extent that he has views, is very hard to say.” he added, noting the president-elect parroted “anti-establishment,” anti-Wall Street rhetoric before hiring five former Goldman Sachs employees.
“He says he’s going to bring back jobs and coal and manufacturing,” Chomsky noted. “How’s he going to do that? By picking a secretary of labor who’s very anti-labor.”
Chomsky said while Trump frequently reneges on his commitments, one he’s never backed down from his commitment to loosen regulations designed to combat climate change, calling it his “most dangerous” position. Noting we’re on the verge of an “environmental catastrophe,” Chomsky said efforts to address the issue are “urgent, and [Trump] wants to retard” them.
“The U.S. now has, literally, thanks to him and the Republican Party, the worst position in the world on this issue,” Chomsky argued.
Chomsky warned that when Trump fails to deliver on his promises, he’s likely to make “ a standard move that’s made by authoritarian figures and authoritarian structures,” namely, “blame it on people who are even more vulnerable and who are suffering even more than you are.”
“He’s already done plenty of this,” Chomsky argued, noting Trump’s divisive rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims.
Discussing the narrative of a “post-truth world,” Chomsky noted that propaganda often functions with “little bits and pieces of truth scattered around, enough to base a post-fact world on.” Just enough, he said, to convince “maybe the most civilized and educated part of the world down to the utter depths of barbarism.”
“That’s post-fact with a vengeance,” Chomsky added.
Though he noted Trump has “loose similarities to … demagogic figures,” progressive forces—“maybe the kind that mobilized for the Bernie Sanders campaign”—could develop a constructive alternative that “lead to real policies of hope and change.”
And, he argued, it’s up to us to defend and protect the rights of freedom of speech and association, insisting “everybody should be saying things like this.”
“All of us have things we can do. We have opportunities, we should pursue them to the best extent we can,” Chomsky said.