(...) I assume that Hillary Clinton will win the Democratic nomination just because of the nature of our electoral system, which is basically now “bought” elections overwhelmingly, and the major funders will probably succeed at putting her across. What Bernie Sanders has achieved is pretty remarkable, but I doubt very much, in our existing system, he can make it beyond the primaries. So I think a fair guess is that Clinton will be nominated.
On the other side, it is probably going to be either Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. In my opinion, Cruz is scarier than Trump. Trump is a kind of wildcard, but Cruz is really dangerous, if he means anything he’s saying.
Melissa Parker: You have a personal friendship with Bernie Sanders?
Noam Chomsky: That’s kind of an exaggeration. When he was mayor of Burlington about 30 years ago, he did invite me up for a couple of days to give some talks at town hall, and I also spent time with him. We talked, and I kind of followed him around in his daily duties talking to firemen, people in old age homes, just discussing with people about their personal problems. I was struck by the fact that Sanders was able to engage very easily with people over quite a broad spectrum of attitudes, thoughts and class lines. I thought he was very effective.
Sanders calls himself a Socialist, but I think what that means is New Deal Democrat basically. A New Deal Democrat in today’s political spectrum is way off to the left. President Eisenhower, who said that anyone who doesn’t accept New Deal measures is out of the political system, would be regarded as a dangerous leftist today. Everything has moved so far to the right. I don’t agree with Sanders on everything, not surprisingly, but I think he’s a respectable New Deal Democrat whose proposals would help the country considerably. (...)
(...) There is another sector of the media, the elite media, sometimes called the agenda-setting media because they are the ones with the big resources, they set the framework in which everyone else operates. The New York Times and CBS, that kind of thing. Their audience is mostly privileged people. The people who read the New York Times—people who are wealthy or part of what is sometimes called the political class—they are actually involved in the political system in an ongoing fashion. They are basically managers of one sort or another. They can be political managers, business managers (like corporate executives or that sort of thing), doctoral managers (like university professors), or other journalists who are involved in organizing the way people think and look at things.
The elite media set a framework within which others operate. If you are watching the Associated Press, who grind out a constant flow of news, in the mid-afternoon it breaks and there is something that comes along every day that says "Notice to Editors: Tomorrow’s New York Times is going to have the following stories on the front page." The point of that is, if you’re an editor of a newspaper in Dayton, Ohio and you don’t have the resources to figure out what the news is, or you don’t want to think about it anyway, this tells you what the news is. These are the stories for the quarter page that you are going to devote to something other than local affairs or diverting your audience. These are the stories that you put there because that’s what the New York Times tells us is what you’re supposed to care about tomorrow. If you are an editor in Dayton, Ohio, you would sort of have to do that, because you don’t have much else in the way of resources. If you get off line, if you’re producing stories that the big press doesn’t like, you’ll hear about it pretty soon. In fact, what just happened at San Jose Mercury News is a dramatic example of this. So there are a lot of ways in which power plays can drive you right back into line if you move out. If you try to break the mold, you’re not going to last long. That framework works pretty well, and it is understandable that it is just a reflection of obvious power structures.
The real mass media are basically trying to divert people. Let them do something else, but don’t bother us (us being the people who run the show). Let them get interested in professional sports, for example. Let everybody be crazed about professional sports or sex scandals or the personalities and their problems or something like that. Anything, as long as it isn’t serious. Of course, the serious stuff is for the big guys. "We" take care of that. (...)
You don’t have to buy Chomsky’s ideas wholesale to recognize that his often outrageous critiques of American democracy and capitalism usually hit their targets.
It is a testament to Noam Chomsky’s brilliance and bravery that despite his soft spoken manner and quiet personality, he manages to inspire fiery passion in millions of activists around the world, curiosity and conviction from students on nearly every college campus, and hatred from angry nationalists wearing red, white, and blue blindfolds. (...)