Noam Chomsky gives virtual talk at Loyola Peace Conference

Aron Boehle, Worldview Editor

Political activist and author of over 150 books, Noam Chomsky, virtually appeared at Loyola’s 15th peace conference to discuss issues of American foreign policy, climate change, and domestic politics with an audience of about two dozen students and faculty.

Loyola’s Student Peace Conference, which entered its 15th anniversary this year under the topic of intersectionality, is a conference that includes interactive lectures, concerts, dances, and film screenings.

Loyola’s peace conference hosted the panel in the Monroe Library under the “waning U.S. global hegemony” forum. The president of Loyola’s chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America, Carson Cruse, interviewed Chomsky.

One of the questions that Cruse asked was how politicians act like everything is business as usual despite a pandemic and civil unrest. In response, Chomsky stated that Republicans manufacture immaterial crises and undermine civil rights to distract voters from more important matters. Often, they try to legitimize these issues as “culture wars.”

“You have to turn attention away from social and economic issues,” Chomsky said.

Chomsky is a widely recognized and awarded intellectual, considered authoritative in the field of linguistics and contemporary socialist thought, and currently a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Arizona.

Chomsky said that prospective politicians find more success campaigning off of manufactured culture issues.

“You don’t run for office saying, ‘I want to stab you in the back.’ Well, that doesn’t work, so he has to turn to something else, more cultural issues,” Chomsky said.

These issues, such as book bannings and combating “woke ideology,” are some of these red herring issues intended to distract voters from greater matters that affect them, like undermining the right to unions and social security.

Loyola history professor Behrooz Moazami, who started Loyola’s peace conference 15 years ago when he arrived, recruited Cruse to lead the conference. Behrooz asked Cruse after noticing how engaged and active he was in his class.

When Behrooz suggested inviting Chomsky, Cruse initially thought it was an unattainable goal.

“None of us thought we were going to be able to get him,” Cruse said.

But get him they did, thanks to the work of Moazami.

Cruse said that they expected to gain insight and wisdom from such a vocal critic of American foreign policy like Chomsky.

“It definitely met my expectations – honestly, it exceeded them,” he said.

Chomsky is 94 years old. Usually, Cruse said, with that kind of age comes some kind of slipping mental capacity, but he still seemed “sharp and just as poignant as he was forty years ago.”

Cruse said the manufactured crises and the ongoing attacks on the LGBTQ community are something that is happening in Louisiana, and this event helped the community understand it better.

“I think that that conversation really illuminated geopolitics today for the community of Loyola,” Cruse said.