Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Culture of Terrorism

1988, apparently first edition (at least in paperback), from South End Press
Noam Chomsky
The Culture of Terrorism
Bought newish for $14.00
Slightly worn paperback

This obviously isn't a book I read often, as the condition and subject matter indicate, so I was pleasantly surprised by how good it still is.  His premise is that the U.S. under Reagan (and to a lesser degree Carter) was a terrorist state, in that the government funded terror squads (particularly in El Salvador and Nicarauga) that injured and killed local residents.  He also looks at how the U.S. press (for the most part) supported this by accepting the government's terms (both terminology and standards).  I was most interested in the discussion of Orwellian language, "Newspeak," as in the definition of "democracy."  His combination of cynicism and compassion is as welcome now (a dozen years after the aftermath of 9/11) as it was to me as an idealistic, left-leaning young woman trying to find alternative views in the literal and figurative desert of inland Southern California.  I wouldn't have owned this book in '88 but I was then listening to KPFK and I definitely bought the book within five years of its publication.

There are some slightly dull patches but he doesn't get bogged down like Rogin.  The next book coming up is by Alexander Cockburn, and it's not surprising that they quote each other.  I prefer Cockburn's book, for reasons I'll discuss in that place, but that's no slight on Chomsky.  Until the bookcase gets redistributed (I'm still not sure if I'll be moving 1991 over), this book for now is a fine ending to its shelf.


  1. Can I just say that I love, love, love your blog? It is my favorite book blog of all time. We have similar tastes, and you read books that are out of print or unpopular... I love that. Obscure, forgotten books are like hidden treasure. And, you read fiction and non-fiction together, something that I never seem to find in blogs.

    About this review, though. It reminds me of how badly I need to read some books about modern American history. America in the 1700's I know all about, but modern history? Not so much, sadly...

  2. You can say that as often as you like! :-D

    Seriously, I'm very flattered that you enjoy the blog so much. As far as the more obscure books, they reflect what I've bought/received over the last roughly 40 years, and I get a kick out of "weird" books as well as more mainstream stuff. In the past, I've probably reread my fiction more than my nonfiction overall, but for this project it makes sense to just go chronologically (and alphabetically within the year), because there are things like historical fiction that blur the line between the two.

    I'm embarrassingly bad about current (as in 21st century) events, and could tell you more about the Victorian period than now. When I finally finish this project, I hope to rectify that a bit. Are you not American?

    Thanks again for commenting. You made my day!