A world redrawn: US coronavirus response fatally ‘chaotic,’ says Noam Chomsky

May 25, 2020 by

AFP

For two months the influential scholar Noam Chomsky has been confined in Tucson with his Brazilian wife Valeria, his dog and a parrot who can say "sovereignty" in Portuguese
For two months the influential scholar Noam Chomsky has been confined in Tucson with his Brazilian wife Valeria, his dog and a parrot who can say “sovereignty” in Portuguese (AFP Photo/Heuler Andrey)

 

The United States is on a chaotic path with no federal plan against the coronavirus pandemic as it reduces public health funding and ignores the advances of climate change, according to activist scholar Noam Chomsky, considered the founder of modern linguistics.
Noam Chomsky wearing a suit and tie: For two months the influential scholar Noam Chomsky has been confined in Tucson with his Brazilian wife Valeria, his dog and a parrot who can say “sovereignty” in Portuguese © Heuler Andrey For two months the influential scholar Noam Chomsky has been confined in Tucson with his Brazilian wife Valeria, his dog and a parrot who can say “sovereignty” in Portuguese

What follows are extracts, edited for clarity, from an AFP interview with the 91-year-old leftist intellectual, who has authored more than 100 books and is currently a professor at the University of Arizona.

For two months he’s been confined in Tucson with his Brazilian wife Valeria, his dog, and a parrot who can say “sovereignty” in Portuguese.

Question: How do you read the current situation in the United States, where coronavirus has killed more residents than any other nation in the world?

Answer: There’s no coherent leadership. It’s chaotic. The presidency, the White House, is in the hands of a sociopathic megalomaniac who’s interested in nothing but his own power, electoral prospects — doesn’t care what happens to the country, the world.

The president himself has said that it’s none of his business. He’s said that the federal government can’t do anything.

Nothing really matters except his personal power and gain. Of course he has to maintain the support of his primary constituency, which is great wealth and corporate power.

There are 90,000 deaths and there will be a lot more. There’s no coordinated plan.

Q: How do you view the political landscape emerging from this crisis in the US and elsewhere?

A: As soon as Trump came in, his first move was to dismantle the entire pandemic prevention machinery. At the start, defunding the Center for Disease Control, which would deal with this. And canceling programs that were working with Chinese scientists to identify potential viruses. So the US was singularly unprepared.

It’s a privatized society, very wealthy, with enormous advantages — far more than any other country — but it’s in the stranglehold of private control.

It doesn’t have a universal health care system. It’s the ultimate neoliberal system, actually.

Europe in many ways is worse, because the austerity programs just amplify the danger, because of the severe attack on democracy in Europe, the shifting decisions to Brussels…. So Europe has its own problems, but at least it has the residue of some kind of social democratic structure, which provides some support, which is what I think is lacking in the US.

As severe as this pandemic is, it’s not the worst problem. There will be recovery from the pandemic at a severe cost. But there isn’t going to be any recovery from the melting of the polar ice caps and the rising of sea levels and the other deleterious effects of global warming.

Q: Several countries are using technology to track citizens, storing DNA to fight the virus. Are we entering a new era of digital surveillance, and what does this mean for privacy?

A: There are now companies developing technology which make it possible for the employer … to look at what’s on your computer screen and to check your keystrokes and if you get up and walk away for a minute, they’ll send you a warning.

That’s being installed right now. It’s not the future.

Slide 1 of 50: IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball rides his bicycle down the main straightaway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race will instead be held Aug. 23, three months later than its May 24 scheduled date. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Slide 2 of 50: A woman accept treats during a drive through Eid al-Fitr celebration outside a closed mosque in Plano, Texas, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Many Muslims in America are navigating balancing religious and social rituals with concerns over the virus as they look for ways to capture the Eid spirit this weekend. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Slide 3 of 50: At left, U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a round of golf at the Trump National Golf Course amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Sterling, Virginia, U.S., May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
Slide 4 of 50: Two women wearing masks sit and talk on the boardwalk near a warning sign to stop the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) during Memorial Day weekend in Bethany Beach, Delaware, U.S., May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Slide 5 of 50: Visitors gather on the beach Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Newport Beach, Calif., during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Slide 6 of 50: A Southwest Airlines flight attendant prepares a plane bound for Orlando, Fla. for takeoff Sunday, May 24, 2020 at Kansas City International airport in Kansas City, Mo. About three dozen passengers boarded the plane with a capacity of nearly 150 as people are opting not to travel on the normally busy Memorial Day holiday to minimize the chance of spreading COVID-19. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Slide 7 of 50: A deacon at Grace Bible Church, left, hands out individually packed communion kits to parishioners during service at Grace Bible Church Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Tempe, Ariz. Parishioners practiced social distancing, most wearing face coverings, as the church held its first in-person service since March due to the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Slide 8 of 50: Deacon Robert Lavanco of Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church, prays with Krystyna Kopacki as she kneels in the street during a procession called the Blessed Sacrament, to bring blessings to worshippers outside their homes while their church sanctuary is closed to them in the Queens borough of New York City, New York, U.S., May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Slide 9 of 50: The Muslim Community Center’s Iman Mohamed hands out candy to a young girl wearing a mask as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus during a drive-by celebration of Eid al-Fitr, a Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, Sunday, May 24, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Slide 10 of 50: People in Domino Park are seen in circles painted as guidelines for social distancing during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York City, U.S., May 24, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Slide 11 of 50: Recreational kayakers are pictured at a public dock along the Potomac River, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in, Washington, U.S., May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Tom Brenner TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Slide 12 of 50: With the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions eased on Memorial Day weekend, visitors enjoy the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, U.S., May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Slide 13 of 50: A restaurant serves cocktails for takeout during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in the Manhattan borough of New York City, U.S., May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
Slide 14 of 50: Flags fly at half-staff on the White House to commemorate the victims of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Washington, U.S., May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert
Slide 15 of 50: A flight crew member wears a protective face mask while arriving from New Zealand at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on an unusually empty Memorial Day weekend during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon
Slide 16 of 50: With the relaxing of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, visitors crowd the boardwalk on Memorial Day weekend in Ocean City, Maryland, U.S., May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Slide 17 of 50: Caution tape is wrapped around benches to discourage sitting at a nearly empty beach Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Ocean Grove, N.J., during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Slide 18 of 50: People sit at the beach as cyclists ride bicycles on Memorial Day weekend during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Huntington Beach, California, U.S., May 23, 2020. REUTERS/Patrick T. Fallon TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Slide 19 of 50: Social distancing circles remain empty at D’jais Oceanview Bar & Cafe, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Belmar, N.J., during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Slide 20 of 50: A Navajo Nation police officer questions a driver during the the 57-hour curfew imposed to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus virus through the Navajo Nation, in the town of Chinle in Arizona on May 23, 2020. – Weeks of delays in delivering vital coronavirus aid to Native American tribes exacerbated the outbreak, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said, lashing the administration of President Donald Trump for botching its response. Nez told AFP in an interview that of the $8 billion promised to US tribes in a $2.2 trillion stimulus package passed in late March, the first tranche was released just over a week ago.
Slide 21 of 50: WADING RIVER, NEW YORK – MAY 23: Holly Meyer hands out flags to volunteers to place at the Calverton National Cemetery on May 23, 2020 in Wading River, New York. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs suspended the practice amid concerns about the coronavirus pandemic leading volunteer groups to take action on Memorial Day weekend.
Slide 22 of 50: WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – MAY 23: Alison Riske of the United States (left) and Danielle Collins of the United States tap their rackets together after their match during the UTR Pro Match Series Day 2 on May 23, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida. Following new COVID-19 safety guidelines, players are not permitted to shake hands or hug after their match.
Slide 23 of 50: People gather on the beach for the Memorial Day weekend in Port Aransas, Texas, Saturday, May 23, 2020. Beachgoers are being urged to practice social distancing to guard against COVID-19.
Slide 24 of 50: Tracy Sandridge and Julie Brown of Baltimore pose with inner tubes on wheels dubbed “bumper tables” designed to ensure the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) social distancing when Fish Tales Bar & Grill eventually reopens in Ocean City, Maryland, U.S., May 23, 2020.
Slide 25 of 50: NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 23: An MTA cleaning contractor cleans and disinfects a New York City subway car on the Upper East Side during the coronavirus pandemic on May 23, 2020 in New York City. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has decided to close New York’s subway system from 1am to 5am every night for a deep cleaning as an added measure to combat the spread of COViD-19.
Slide 26 of 50: Vehicles move through a food distribution line at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Saturday, May 23, 2020, for a mobile food distribution event. Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana expected to distribute boxes of fresh produce, lean meat, and dairy to more than 5,000 people at the event. The Speedway hosted the event on what would have been the eve of the Indianapolis 500 that was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Slide 27 of 50: A customer wearing a protective mask waits to be served at D’jais Oceanview Bar & Cafe beside a mostly empty beach Saturday, May 23, 2020, in Belmar, N.J., during the coronavirus pandemic.
Slide 28 of 50: A man wearing a facemask waits inside his car to be tested for COVID-19 as volunteers take registration information in Annandale, Va., Saturday, May 23, 2020. COVID-19 testing was available from Fairfax County at no cost and without a doctor’s order. Hundreds of people had lined up in cars and on foot by 10am. Officials planned on testing about 1000 people from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Testing will be available at Bailey’s Elementary on Sunday.
Slide 29 of 50: Social distancing sign is displayed at a check-in area for Southwest Airlines Co. at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on an unusually empty Memorial Day weekend during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Los Angeles, California, U.S., May 23, 2020.
Slide 30 of 50: The Open Hearth, a Taylors, South Carolina restaurant has just this week reopened to the public, Friday, 22 May 2020. The restaurant, placing inflatable dolls in various booths to help enforce social distancing guidelines, has reopened following coronavirus lockdowns.
Slide 31 of 50: U.S. President Donald Trump watches as members of Rolling Thunder take part in a ceremonial ride around the South Lawn during an event honoring veterans ahead of the Memorial Day holiday at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Slide 32 of 50: Workers celebrate the during closing bell, as they prepare for the return to trading, on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Slide 33 of 50: Frank Harris Jr. and McArthur Adams hang the latest string of prayer ribbons for the over 6,000 Massachusetts residents who have died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at Grant AME Church in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Slide 34 of 50: Mobile dog groomer Vanessa Carlson washes a German Shepherd named Agni in her Aussie pet mobile dog washing van as California begins easing quarantine restrictions for none essential workers during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Diego, California, U.S., May 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Blake TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Slide 35 of 50: WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 22: American flags fly at half-staff near the Washington Monument on the National Mall, May 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Donald Trump has ordered U.S. flags to fly at half-staff until sunset May 24 to honor COVID-19 victims. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Slide 36 of 50: The sign for First Presbyterian Church of Annapolis, Md., displays information for online services, Friday, May 22, 2020. President Donald Trump said Friday that he has deemed churches and other houses of worship “essential” and called on governors across the country to allow them to reopen this weekend despite the threat of spreading the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Slide 37 of 50: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 22: General manager Carlos Crow hangs a sign at Steiner’s, A Nevada Style Pub shortly before opening for business for the first time since closing on March 17 in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on May 22, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Under Nevada’s Phase One reopening plan, dine-in restaurants, hair and nail salons, some retail stores and other nonessential businesses are able to reopen with strict social-distancing guidelines and occupancy restrictions in place. (Photo by
Slide 38 of 50: President Donald Trump speaks with reporters about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Friday, May 22, 2020, in Washington.
Slide 39 of 50: MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – MAY 22: Protesters stand together asking the state of Florida to fix its unemployment system on May 22, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. Unemployed hospitality and service workers who have not received unemployment checks held the protest demanding Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fix the unemployment system and send out their benefits. Since the closure of all non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers across Florida find themselves out of work. Florida’s unemployment system has not worked reliably. (Photo by
Slide 40 of 50: NEW YORK, NY – MAY 22: Women unpack cans of food as hundreds of people wait on line for food outside of a Brooklyn mosque and cultural center on May 22 , 2020 in New York City. The center distributes food from local food banks and charities to anyone in need and usually sees up to 2000 people during a distribution, a number that continues to rise with New Yorker’s needs.The number of people going hungry in the five boroughs has risen sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic and city officials have said that up to 2 million New Yorkers currently face food insecurity. (Photo by
Slide 41 of 50: MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – MAY 22: A vehicle is seen in a caravan protest asking the state of Florida to fix its unemployment system on May 22, 2020 in Miami Beach, Florida. Unemployed hospitality and service workers who have not received unemployment checks held the protest demanding Florida Governor Ron DeSantis fix the unemployment system and send out their benefits. Since the closure of all non-essential businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of thousands of hospitality workers across Florida find themselves out of work. Florida’s unemployment system has not worked reliably. (Photo by
Slide 42 of 50: WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA – MAY 22: Danielle Collins of the United States has her temperature taken as she arrives to the UTR Pro Match Series Day 1 on May 22, 2020 in West Palm Beach, Florida.The series marks the first professional women’s tennis event since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in mid-March
Slide 43 of 50: HELENA, MT – MAY 21: The Helena Senators stand for the national anthem at Kendrick Field before the amateur baseball game against the Missoula Mavericks on May 21, 2020 in Helena, Montana. Baseball returned in Montana with fans allowed to occupy 25% of the stands after the season was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by
Slide 44 of 50: Illinois state Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, answers questions about vote-by-mail legislation during the spring legislative session Thursday, May 21, 2020. The Illinois House of Representatives is conducting their spring session at the Bank of Springfield Center in Springfield, Ill., instead of in their chamber in the Illinois Capitol building because it affords more space for to practice social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (
Slide 45 of 50: Kyle Busch wears a message to coronavirus pandemic responders on his back as he waits for the start of the NASCAR Xfinity series auto race Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Darlington, S.C.
Slide 46 of 50: LONG BEACH, NEW YORK – MAY 21: People socially distance sit at the boardwalk on benches that have been altered to adhere to social distancing guidelines, as it reopened on May 21, 2020 in Long Beach, New York. City officials had closed the boardwalk on March 26 over worries of overcrowding on the city’s 2.2-mile beachfront walkway during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Slide 47 of 50: Medical workers Kanin Magguire, left, and Ron Thomas prepare to hand a nasal swab to a motorist during an announcement that the City and County of Denver will launch a drive-up, COVID-19 test site in the parking lot of a downtown sports venue in an effort to stop the rise of the coronavirus Thursday, May 21, 2020, in Denver. The free testing will be available daily for people who show symptoms of the coronavirus. City officials expect to administer more than 500 tests per day at the site, which opens Friday near the Pepsi Center.
Slide 48 of 50: Every other sink in the restroom is covered by sheets of plastic to prevent overcrowding amid the coronavirus pandemic, Thursday, May 21, 2020, at Jones Beach in Wantagh, N.Y. As pandemic lockdowns ease across the United States, millions of Americans are set to take tentative steps outdoors to celebrate Memorial Day, the traditional start of summer. But public health officials are concerned that if people congregate in crowds or engage in other risky behaviors, the long weekend could cause the coronavirus to come roaring back.
Slide 49 of 50: Relatively empty parking lots spread in front of Woodbridge Center Mall that remains closed due to the ongoing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Woodbridge Township, New Jersey U.S., May 21, 2020.
Slide 50 of 50: NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 21: Vlado Kolenic owner of Bettola NYC restaurant sings and plays his guitar to medical workers on the front line at the 7pm cheer in front of the Lenox Hill Hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic on May 21, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 334,000 lives with infections of over 5.1 million people.

Slide 1 of 50: IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball rides his bicycle down the main straightaway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Sunday, May 24, 2020, in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race will instead be held Aug. 23, three months later than its May 24 scheduled date. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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1/50 SLIDES © Darron Cummings/AP Photo
IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball rides his bicycle down the main straightaway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, on May 24, in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The race will instead be held Aug. 23, three months later than its May 24 scheduled date.
Slideshow by photo services

The so-called Internet of Things is coming along. It’s convenient. It means if you’re driving home you can turn on the stove — but it also means that that information is going to Google and Facebook, to the government, the American government, the French government, it’s an enormous amount of potential control, surveillance, and invasion. But this has happened. It’s not the future.

If we allow the huge tech companies, the state, to control our life that’s what will happen. They’ll turn it into something like China, where you have social credit systems and in some cities, you get a certain amount of credits, there’s face recognition technology all over the place and everything you do gets monitored.

If you cross the street in the wrong place, you can lose some credits, and so on.

It’s not inevitable, just like global warming, that it’s going to happen — unless people stop it.

Q: Could it be justified to halt the virus’ spread?

A. It might be — during the period of threat. There are controls needed during wartime, you have rationing. But it doesn’t have to be permanent. ‘Yes, we’ll let you have this authority now, but it can be revoked at any time.'”

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