The Way It Looked in 1988

by Mark Chmiel

Take a look at this morning’s New York Times (I had fifty cents to kill, so I bought a copy). There’s  story about Israel, John Kifner, a pretty good reporter, is reporting about attitudes in Israel, breaking people’s bones and this sort of thing. And he quotes a lot of people. He quotes one guy there who says, look it’s just too unpleasant, an Israeli business administration student or something. I’m not looking at it any more. I don’t want to hear about it. I just can’t face it.  It’s ugly, it’s horrible. I don’t want to hear about it, I don’t want to know about it. Go away. Leave me alone. That’s a normal human reaction. That’s what we all do in connection with Central America. The United States in the last seven or eight years has been responsible for the slaughter of maybe 200,000 people in Central America. And not just killing: mutilation, Pol Pot-style torture, rape… Nobody wants to think about it. It’s just too unpleasant, so we think about something else.  That’s why there were gas chambers, because people just want to think about something else. But it’s not hard to understand. We’re right in te middle of it all the time. John  Kifner could write an article about it in Israel, but no Times reporter could write an article about it in New York City. You could ask the same question in New York City: What do you think about the army in El Salvador going out and torturing and murdering people and blowing up the press, etc.? And if anybody’s even heard of it, which they probably wouldn’t have, they would say, I don’t want to think about it. But you couldn’t write that a article, because that would tell you something about yourselves and we are only allowed to dump on other people.

–Noam Chomsky, interviewed by David Barsamian, 26 January 1988, in Language and Power, edited by C. P. Otero

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