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Noam Chomsky: Why Americans are knowledgeable about sports but ignorant of world affairs

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky
The following is a short excerpt from a classic, The Chomsky Reader, which offers a unique insight on a question worth asking - how is it that we as a people can be so knowledgeable about the intricacies of various sports teams, yet be colossally ignorant about our various undertakings abroad?

QUESTION: You've written about the way that professional ideologists and the mandarins obfuscate reality. And you have spoken - in some places you call it a "Cartesian common sense" - of the commonsense capacities of people. Indeed, you place a significant emphasis on this common sense when you reveal the ideological aspects of arguments, especially in contemporary social science. What do you mean by common sense? What does it mean in a society like ours? For example, you've written that within a highly competitive, fragmented society, it's very difficult for people to become aware of what their interests are. If you are not able to participate in the political system in meaningful ways, if you are reduced to the role of a passive spectator, then what kind of knowledge do you have? How can common sense emerge in this context?

CHOMSKY: Well, let me give an example. When I'm driving, I sometimes turn on the radio and I find very often that what I'm listening to is a discussion of sports. These are telephone conversations. People call in and have long and intricate discussions, and it's plain that quite a high degree of thought and analysis is going into that. People know a tremendous amount. They know all sorts of complicated details and enter into far-reaching discussion about whether the coach made the right decision yesterday and so on. These are ordinary people, not professionals, who are applying their intelligence and analytic skills in these areas and accumulating quite a lot of knowledge and, for all I know, understanding. On the other hand, when I hear people talk about, say, international affairs or domestic problems, it's at a level of superficiality that's beyond belief.

In part, this reaction may be due to my own areas of interest, but I think it's quite accurate, basically. And I think that this concentration on such topics as sports makes a certain degree of sense. The way the system is set up, there is virtually nothing people can do anyway, without a degree of organization that's far beyond anything that exists now, to influence the real world. They might as well live in a fantasy world, and that's in fact what they do. I'm sure they are using their common sense and intellectual skills, but in an area which has no meaning and probably thrives because it has no meaning, as a displacement from the serious problems which one cannot influence and affect because the power happens to lie elsewhere.

Now it seems to me that the same intellectual skill and capacity for understanding and for accumulating evidence and gaining information and thinking through problems could be used - would be used - under different systems of governance which involve popular participation in important decision-making, in areas that really matter to human life.

There are questions that are hard. There are areas where you need specialized knowledge. I'm not suggesting a kind of anti-intellectualism. But the point is that many things can be understood quite well without a very far-reaching, specialized knowledge. And in fact even a specialized knowledge in these areas is not beyond the reach of people who happen to be interested.


Comment: see also: Ten mind control techniques used today to create non-thinking automatons

Black Magic

Indiana: Convicted killer accused of fatally stabbing ex-girlfriend, then eating her brain, internal organs

© Rawstory
A convicted killer from Indiana is accused of fatally stabbing his ex-girlfriend and eating portions of her brain after she bailed him out of jail.

Joseph Oberhansley was charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, and breaking and entering in the gruesome slaying of 46-year-old Tammy Jo Blanton at her Jeffersonville home. The 33-year-old Oberhansley - who was previously convicted of manslaughter as a teenager in Utah - was arrested Thursday after Blanton's co-worker's called to report she had not come to work. Officers said Oberhansley had fresh cuts on his knuckles and was acting suspiciously. A search turned up a folding knife in his back pocket that was covered with blood and hair, and police found Blanton's mutilated body under a vinyl camping tent in the bathtub.

An autopsy revealed Blanton died from multiple stab wounds to her head, neck, and torso. Her skull had been crushed, and portions of her heart, lungs, and brain were missing. Oberhansley told police he cooked and ate the missing organs, and police found a skillet and bloody tongs and some human tissue in the garbage.

"After you've been prosecuting for so long, you think you've seen everything," said Prosecutor Steve Stewart. "I've never seen this."

Oberhansley appeared Monday in court, where he denied involvement in Blanton's slaying and disputed his identity. "That's not my name," he said when the charges were read. "Obviously you've got the wrong guy." Oberhansley told the court his name was actually "Zeus Brown," and he said he did not know his age or whether he was a U.S. citizen. He remains held without bond, and a public defender will be assigned to him.

  • Evidence Appears To Show How And Where Brain's Frontal Lobe Works
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Scots kindle secessionist movements across Western Europe

scottish independence
© REUTERS/ Russell Cheyne
A 'Yes Campaign' supporter wears a badge and a sticker on their printed jumper, in Edinburgh, Scotland September 9, 2014.
The upcoming referendum on independence in Scotland and polls showing a "Yes" victory is possible is changing the whole geopolitical environment in Europe, encouraging separatist movements across the region.


The long-standing issue of the Scottish independence is to be settled with a referendum scheduled for September 18.

Initially planned by the ruling Scottish Nationalist Party as a three-option ballot - independence, independence-lite and further devolution within the union - the referendum was approved by the British government on October 15, 2012, to have two options - independence or union. As a result, about 60 percent of voters who prefer the intermediate option of further devolution have to make a difficult choice with no option that fully corresponds to their preferences, which makes the results of the referendum unpredictable.

Apparently, London assumed that full independence would scare off most Scottish people. However, this plan could now go awry. If a majority votes for secession, Europe could witness the rebirth of the Scottish state on March 24, 2016.

Earlier in September, YouGov, a company that previously had been painting pessimistic pictures for the "Yes" side ahead of the referendum, published a poll showing that they had finally outweighed the "No" camp, though the margin remains too narrow.

Comment: See our SOTT Focus on Scottish independence: People of Scotland! You are being Lied to! Vote "YES!" - you won't regret it!

Comment: Scotland may be emboldening other European countries, but Crimea got the ball rolling, voting to secede from Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Of course, the entire Western world considers their referendum illegal, showing the West's blatant disregard for the feelings and convictions of Crimeans.

Light Saber

U.S. Navy nurse who refuses to force-feed Gitmo detainee now faces expulsion

© AFP/Chantal Valery
A US naval medic holds liquid food supplement force fed to hunger strikers at the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A Navy nurse who refused to force feed hunger-striking Guantanamo detainees over the summer, once threatened with court-martial, could now lose his career.

The nurse, a Navy lieutenant who has never been publicly identified, refused to force feed hunger strikers shortly before July 4 at Cuba's Guantanamo Bay prison complex. The decision reportedly followed months of him carrying out the painful procedure.

A Navy commander on Monday said he asked the board to determine whether the nurse should be allowed to stay in the US Navy.

"I can tell you right now that, after reviewing the investigation that was conducted in Guantánamo, I recommended that the officer be required to show cause for retention in the Navy. I chose not to do the court-martial route," the nurse's commander, Navy Capt. Maureen Pennington, told the Miami Herald.

It has been noted that a Board Inquiry, or administrative review, can keep details of the incident secret. A military trial, however, would have brought up questions about the military's hunger strike policy and a debate about the medical ethics over force feeding.

Pennington is the commanding officer for the nurse - one of more than 100 nurses from the Naval Health Clinic New England.

If the nurse is fired, any pension benefits will be forfeited.

Comment: Courageous conscientious objector: US Navy nurse refuses to force-feed Guantanamo detainee

Gold Bar

Discoverer of gold-laden shipwreck, SS Central America, mysteriously disappears

Tommy Thompson gold theft
© Al Behrman/Associated Press
US marshal Brad Fleming displays a wanted poster for fugitive Tommy Thompson in Columbus, Ohio.
  • Legal disputes had dogged finder of SS Central America trove
  • US marshals pursuing Tommy Thompson after disappearance
One of the last times anyone ever saw Tommy Thompson, he was walking on the pool deck of a Florida mansion wearing nothing but eye glasses, leather shoes, socks and underwear, his brown hair growing wild.

It was a far cry from the conquering hero who, almost two decades before, docked a ship in Norfolk, Virginia, loaded with what has been described as the greatest lost treasure in American history - thousands of pounds of gold that sat in the ocean for 131 years after the ship carrying it sank in a hurricane.

On that day in 1989, Thompson couldn't contain a grin as hundreds cheered his achievement. But his victory was short-lived.

For the past two years, the US marshals service has hunted Thompson as a fugitive - wanted for skipping a court date to explain to investors what happened to the riches. The rise and fall of the intrepid explorer is the stuff of storybooks, a tale receiving renewed attention amid a new expedition begun this year to the sunken ship.

SS Central America gold
© Uncredited/Associated Press
This undated drawing shows the SS Central America, which sank after sailing into a hurricane in September 1857.
"I think he had calculated it, whatever you want to call it, an escape plan," marshals agent Brad Fleming said. "I think he's had that for a long time."

Around 1983, Thompson grew obsessed with tracking down the SS Central America. When the ship went down off the South Carolina coast in 1857, 425 people drowned and gold worth millions was lost.

Thompson, an oceanic engineer at Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, convinced 161 people to invest in his quest, raising $12.7m (£7.8m). On 1 October 1988, he finally found the treasure, which he would later describe as "otherworldly in its splendour".

German investigation company offers $30 million for information on MH17 crash, does not disclose client

mh17 crash
© ITAR-TASS/Zurab Dzhavakhadze
The company said it has been tasked with investigating the air crash that killed all 298 passengers and crew, when the Malaysia Airlines Boeing was downed in south-east Ukraine on July 17

Germany's fraud investigation company Wifka is ready to pay $30 million for the information on those behind the shootdown of the Malaysian Airlines MH17 flight in eastern Ukraine on July 17, the company said on its website on Wednesday.

The company said it has been tasked with investigating the air crash that killed all 298 passengers and crew. Wifka did not disclose the name of its client who is providing the reward.

Wifka said the reward would be paid to those who know who had shot down the plane, who gave the order to shoot it down, what happened to the people involved in the shootdown and to the weapon used.

"The money is securely deposited in Zurich, Switzerland. It will be paid there or in a different neutral place of the whistleblower's choice," Wifka said.

The company said its work was absolutely confidential and advised "whistleblowers to take great care, that is to contact them through a lawyer".

Comment: From Wifka's webpage (where you can also find the contact information):
After the terrible assassination or "accident" all political parties, at home and abroad, said they owed it to the victims, their families and the public to clarify the circumstances of the crash and present evidence for what happened. None of this has yet been done.

Wifka wants to know:
- Who shot down MH17 on July 17?
- Who gave the order?
- Who covers up the shoot down? (Also, if it was by accident and not out of political, economic or military motivation)
- Who can provide details on the circumstances that led to the shoot down?
- Who was directly involved with the shoot down?
- What happened to the people that were involved with the shoot down? What happened to the weapon used?
- Who can name the people that cleared the shoot down?

Red Flag

Three black women accused of prostitution by hotel staff because men offered to buy them a drink

Standard Hotel High Line New York

Standard Hotel New York
Three black women say the staff at New York City's upscale Standard Hotel accused them of being prostitutes when several men offered to buy them drinks in the hotel restaurant.

Kantaki Washington, Cydney Madlock and J. Lyn Thomas told Alternet that they had just come down from the bar on the top floor of The Standard on Aug. 28, when several men in the lobby approached them and offered to buy them drinks.

When they sat down at a hotel restaurant a man approached Washington and introduced himself. She says moments later a security guard whispered something to the man and ushered him away.

The security guard later came to the table and said, "Come on, ladies. You can buy a drink but you can't be soliciting," Washington recalled in an interview with Alternet.

"We were like, 'Soliciting?' He said, 'Don't act stupid with me, ladies. You know what you're doing. Stop soliciting in here.' We were like, 'Soliciting what?'" she said.

"I'm a lawyer," Washington told the security guard, "and these women are educators. What the hell would I be in here soliciting prostitution?"

She says the man responded, "I don't know but that's what you're doing."

Washington said they were the only black females in the vicinity and she believes she and her friends were racially profiled.

Comment: There have been numerous disturbing incidents recently where black women and even children have been accosted and accused of prostitution for doing nothing more than appearing in public:


1 in 9 of world population still suffer from hunger


Over 800 million of the world's people struggle hunger.
The number of hungry people around the globe is alarming as one in nine of the world's population still does not have enough to eat, says a report by the United Nations.

A report issued by three UN food and agriculture agencies said the number of chronically undernourished people dropped by more than 100 million over the past decade. However, 805 million of people worldwide still struggle hunger.

"We cannot celebrate yet because we must reach 805 million people without enough food for a healthy and productive life," said World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin.

In Asia, the world's most populous region, the number of undernourished people has dropped nearly 50 percent since 1990. Nevertheless, over five hundred million people in the continent still go hungry, led by India with 191 million, according to the report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the WFP.

Comment: If the world's resources and wealth were not controlled by a psychopathic minority in power, there would be enough for all of us. But investment in earth-destroying agriculture practices and lethal weapons has left us all poor. Add to the equation the extreme earth changes we are witnessing, and soon more of us will be hungry.


Nigerian preacher TB Joshua blames building collapse that killed about 67 people on 'suspicious aircraft'

TB Joshua church
© Associated Press
TB Joshua's church draws thousands of followers from all over Africa and many other parts of the world
Sixty-seven South Africans have been killed in a building collapse that occurred at the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Nigeria, President Jacob Zuma said in a statement on Tuesday.

Scores more sustained injuries when the multi-storey guesthouse belonging to the church collapsed on Friday.

"This is a particularly difficult time for South Africa. Not in the recent history of our country have we had this large number of our people die in one incident outside the country," said Zuma.

"Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues that have lost their loved ones in this heart-breaking tragedy.

"The whole nation shares the pain of the mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who have lost their loved ones. We are all in grief," he said.

Indonesian police chief: "I know what happened to MH370'. But will he tell us?

© Associated Press
A new mystery surrounding the disappearance of MH370 emerged today after a police chief claimed he knew what had happened to the Malaysian Airlines jet.

The head of the Indonesian Police Force, General Sutarman - who uses only one name - reportedly told a meeting of airline officials and senior police that 'I actually know what had actually happened with MH370,' giving rise to suggestions officials were aware of what caused the Boeing 777-200 aircraft to disappear but have chosen not to reveal the information.

His comment was witnessed by representatives of Lion Air and several high-ranking police officers in Jakarta, according to a report by the Indonesian news portal,

Comment: Fact is that when flight MH370 completely disappeared on March 12, 2014, it left no traces to be found. It would be interesting to see what General Sutarman knows, if he ever decides to share. For some clues, read: