MIT Prof. Emeritus Noam Chomsky told a standing room audience of some 50 Anglo-American Press Association members and guests Friday evening, May 28 that the Obama Administration’s continuation of Bush Administration policies has been no surprise for him and that Europeans seem to like President Obama simply because he is more “polite” about pursuing the same basic policies.

 Chomsky 008Former AAPA President Rony Koven introduced Chomsky, at the home of member John Morris, as “America’s chief gadfly.” Painting an often bleak picture with flashes of humor, Chomsky, 81, answered a wide range of political questions, touching on US handling of the economic crisis, immigration policy, Middle east policy, press freedom, and recent history back to  Vietnam.

 Chomsky, in Paris for a series of lectures on linguistics and politics, stressed the role of corporations in influencing everything from Obama policies to the media. He said he remains convinced of the thesis of his 1988 book on the media, “Manufacturing Consent,” that journalists are influenced by a “bought priesthood” of government and private interests. But he also said his views are more nuanced than often depicted and defended the reporting of working journalists on quality outlets like The New York Times as honest and professional, despite corporate oversight.

 Humanity’s two main problems, he said, are nuclear proliferation and the environment, neither of which are being seriously addressed by Western governments. By depicting climate change as a lie, “Their [corporate] propaganda campaigns are working,” he said.

 In the to-and-fro with members after his 90-minute presentation, he urged his friends to vote for Obama “while holding our noses.” He said he understands that the Tea Party movement and right-wing talk radio hosts offer logical-sounding, if wrongheaded, answers to troubling questions the Democrats haven’t dealt with effectively. The Tea Parties are quietly financed by corporate interests, he said.

 Traditional moderate Republicanism is “gone,” replaced by a centrist Democratic mainstream that has shifted rightward, he said. He repeatedly likened today’s US to Germany’s interwar Weimar Republic, toppled by Hitler in 1933, expressing worry that a skillful right-wing demagogue could take power.

 Europe, he said, is far more racist than America’s “immigrant society,” while recalling, for example, that in the 1950s, Harvard’s limits on Jewish faculty explained how the MIT could become a great institution, thanks to willingness to hire people like Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Samuelson and himself.

 The Association’s increasingly frequent format of such no-cost, informal interchanges with newsmakers, with drinks and snacks brought along by members, seems to be drawing growingly enthusiastic participation.

 -By Rony Koven