The left wing of the American political landscape is populated with a number of gatekeepers. For those unfamiliar with the term, a ‘gatekeeper’ is one who, while posing as a dissenter to the status quo and as a muckraker, is in fact working for the establishment by carefully and meticulously circumscribing the limits of debate and research. The gatekeeper’s influence is insidious and highly destructive.
1) Noam Chomsky
The best known and most influential gatekeeper of the Left is Noam Chomsky (b. 1928) , the brilliant linguist and political dissident who has worked at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for almost 60 years. His political writings ,which are mostly concerned with analyzing and critically dissecting American foreign policy and the way a complicit media works in a democracy, include Deterring Democracy, Year 501, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, Manufacturing Consent, Hegemony or Survival, and Understanding Power-the Indispensable Chomsky.
I started reading Chomsky in my early twenties when I was becoming politically awakened. His writing style includes exhaustive documentation, unrelenting analysis of facts vs. propaganda, and a dry, almost detached tone. His books, particularly his longer works, are difficult reading and can be unrelentingly depressing. For aspiring left-leaning intellectuals, reading Chomsky and being familiar with his ideas is de rigueur.
As the years wore on and I continued reading his books, a growing feeling of frustration and dissatisfaction regarding Chomsky came over me. One thing I noticed was how deflated I felt after reading his books. Chomsky hits you with a thousand and one facts about the government’s evil doings, but never points to a direction out of the crisis. He is bereft of solutions. Although he is known as an anarchist, or as he likes to say, an ‘anarcho-syndicalist’ and ‘libertarian socialist’ (whatever the hell that is), one struggles mightily to find an anarchist in all his books. Reading thru his works, one finds only a lot of obtuse, dry academic jargon.
A number of years ago, I found out that Chomsky believes the government’s story of 9/11 and has been openly criticizing and denigrating the 9/11 truth movement. That made me stand up and pay attention. Something was seriously amiss here. Here is a man who is considered ‘America’s foremost political dissident’ and has spent a lifetime exposing government lies and propaganda, and he accepts without question the complete story of 9/11? I had to actually sit and watch some of his videotaped interviews regarding 9/11 to believe it, but there it was. He says on tape, responding to a question of who was actually behind the attacks, “Who cares, really?” Regarding the nano-thermite founds at ground zero, he stated “whatever the hell that is…” As for the group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth , he glibly dismissed them as ‘a few engineers.’ I later found out that Chomsky also believes (or says he does) that there was no conspiracy behind the JFK assassination. There’s more- much more. You can also watch a recent speech where Chomsky says that “in an economy like ours , we need a central bank like the Federal Reserve.” One imagines Chomsky and Bernanke at the same cocktail parties.
As James Corbett so succinctly summarized in his recent Corbett Report podcast about Chomsky, you earn capital to spend capital. Chomsky has earned a huge following over the decades for his seemingly fearless exposes of government malfeasance, and now he is able to lead his flock of unthinking followers into dead-ends and to make sure that they don’t go where they are not supposed to, i.e. into ‘conspiracy theories.’
2) Amy Goodman
The host of the hugely popular daily news show “Democracy Now- The War and Peace Report” is another darling of the Left and progressive community. Many of my friends in the small Northern Californian town where I used to live practically worshipped her. I was not at that time (2000) much of a radio listener but I decided I needed to tune in to find out what all the fuss was about. The first thing that struck me when I listened was the structure of the show. It was Chomsky, ironically enough, who taught me what ‘agenda setting’ means. This is a term that describes what the major mainstream media do in the USA to ‘set the agenda’ for the day’s news. Whatever the New York Times, Washington Post, AP and CNN decide are the top and important stories are then carried by all the second and third tier news outlets across the country. In other words, these few media organizations decide for the population what the news is and what will be discussed. And, by extension, what is not considered newsworthy.
What was interesting was that I was expecting to hear an alternative news show. With all the hype surrounding Amy Goodman and the reputation she had as a fearless progressive journalist speaking truth to power, I was anticipating that she was going to cover events, ideas, and stories of her own choosing. Instead, the first ten minutes of each show- a significant amount of time considering each show is only an hour long- was devoted to Amy reading the front page of the New York Times and giving the day’s headlines, straight from the mainstream news media. Before she had even begun to get into the day’s topic, she implicitly and explicitly allowed ‘the powers that be’ to decide for us what we should be talking about. She then inevitably chose what was the ‘biggest’ story of the day, or what all the other networks were covering, and then gave the ‘alternative’ viewpoint on it by calling in someone to interview, usually some professor or well-known voice within the Democratic party or academia. Loads of airtime were taken up with such insightful commentary like , “they’re not giving us the whole story,” or “they’re lying” and “how dare they do that.”
People on the Left loved her because she criticized Bush and his warmongering. Big deal. Millions of people were out protesting the Iraq War. It didn’t take much courage to call out Bush on his war crimes. The big test, as always, was 9/11. What did Amy Goodman, the courageous, truth-seeking reporter, investigate in regard to the biggest crime of the 21st century? Did she follow where the evidence led, no matter how uncomfortable that may have been, or did she, like Chomsky, accept the government line so that she could move back into more comfortable and safe topics? Amy Goodman has steadfastly and unapologetically upheld the government’s fantastical story of Arab hijackers and refused to conduct an investigation into the collapse of Building 7.
Let us not forget that Ms. Goodman has also done a nice job of supporting Al Gore’s man-made global warming theory at every turn, and refused to look at the well-supported evidence demonstrating the absurdity of this theory. She has also been an admirably good foot soldier in the government’s war on the second amendment, by doing irresponsible and tactless reporting on the Aurora, Colorado mass shooting. Within one hour of the shooting, Goodman had a guest on the air who was calling for gun control. Amy played right along, looking straight at the camera with her best “I feel your pain” face. How pathetic.
Amy Goodman has done the job of left gatekeeper with talent and panache. She has managed to deceive a whole generation of gullible, uninformed and easily duped Americans with her lazy reporting. Whether she was bought off or threatened , the fact is that she is not only useless to real truthseekers, but an active menace and disinformation agent. She needs to go away.
3) Michael Moore
He’s a smart funny man and a talented filmmaker. He portrays himself as an ‘everyman’ who fights the big evil corporations and exposes the insensitive and out-of-touch charlatans at the top of the corporate pyramid. I like him. I have watched and enjoyed all of his movies and his short-lived television series. He has done a masterful job of pulling up the rug to expose some of the ugliest characteristics of America, including our gun violence, our dysfunctional medical system, and our corporatocracy. He has even taken on capitalism itself. Through his movie and tv projects, he has built up a big fan base of mostly youthful and left-leaning voters. Moore has parlayed his fame and notoriety to garner big book deals and is now a frequent guest on news programs where he is asked his opinion on all manner of topics.
This is where his role as gatekeeper comes into play. One of the crucial roles of any competent gatekeeper is to channel the righteous anger and outrage of citizens into harmless outlets, to effectively neuter any real uprising and dissent. And this Moore does very well indeed. He has always been a strong supporter of the Democratic Party, and has never entertained the notion that the Democratic and Republican parties are simply two factions of one corporate party. Instead of calling for revolution, he encourages his young, naive followers to vote for the Democratic party to achieve ‘change.’ Never mind that the Democrats have been every bit as warmongering and pro-big business as the Republicans. Moore adheres to a a notion that was perhaps true 40 or 50 years ago but has long since been discredited- that there is any difference whatsoever between the parties.
Moore also has been a useful idiot for the government and their unrelenting quest to abolish the second amendment and confiscate America’s guns. And lastly, he has steered his fans away from a truly honest and critical look at the events of 9/11. His interpretation of that day – that Bush and his gang were merely stupid and incompetent, and perhaps ‘allowed’ the events to unfold – is one that is accepted still by a large swath of the American population.
Next article: Left Gatekeepers. Part 2.