Everyone here always greets you with your name. Since I can barely remember faces, let alone the person they’re attached to, let alone the person’s name, this is sort of embarrassing. The result is that a lot of people who look like strangers walk past me and say “Hello, Aaron!”

Assorted incidents and overhearings:

Man 1: “If we ignore the entire Chomskyan revolution…”
Man 2: (Laughter.)

“Well, I’m not going to major in it!” (said the same way as “Well, I’m not going to marry him!”)

An attractive girl sits down next to me and begins talking with me animatedly. And then, she abruptly loses interest and starts playing with her phone.

“You should come out here, man. It’s really funny. They should even call it school, all we do is ride around on our bikes all day.”

A girl walks through the hall, talking to the fingers of her clasped hand in a very business-like tone. “Now listen to me,” she says.” “Now lisen to me, because this is important: I have to get married and have babies.

For Chomsky class, we are required to watch the incredible documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. Even after three viewings, the film still amazes, touches, and enthralls. My quibbles with its organization aside, it really is an incredible piece of work and it again reawakens the passionate yearning to be part of a group that is making the world better. (Off and on I have been planning the outlines such a group.)

The film features a quote from the late Senator and UN ambassador Daniel Patrick Moynihan, where he comments that he ensured with “no inconsiderable success” that the UN was “utterly ineffective” in intervening in the slaughter in East Timor, as the State Department requested of him. This quote, often repeated without sourcing and somewhat vague (it does not directly mention Timor), is just the kind of thing that begs to be debunked. It makes no sense — what kind of person brags about ensuring a slaughter, even obliquely?

Fortunately, just across the way is the campus library, so I decide to check the quote out. As I stride purposely through the hallways to pull the book, there is a real sense of power in being able to access such obscure information so easily (only part of which is the thrill of getting to debunk those nasty liberal liars). I sort of understand how pre-Internet people feel when they talk about the library with reverence.

I pull the book off the shelf only to find that Moynihan’s comments are even more embarassing than they have been portrayed. The most leniant possibility is that he is simply referring to another incident and the quote is misleadingly attached to Timor. But this is clearly not the case, the preceding sentence mentions Freitlin and Timor, precisely the incident the quote is attached to.

But it’s even worse than that. Moynihan lays out the situation just like Chomsky: Indonesia invaded Timor without even a pretense, they killed ten percent of the population, there was little coverage in the press. The US knew about this and asked the government to delay the invasion until the visiting President left the country. The leftist group that threatened to take control of the country was stopped, and that was exactly how the US wanted it. The Department of State asked him to make sure the UN did not intervene and prevent this, and that is exactly what Moynihan did.

Well, you have to give him credit for honesty.

As I write this post I am interrupted by a quiet tap on the door. A group is quetly forming and silently moving down the hallway. We are about to witness a Stanford Birthday Tradition. A group of boys enter a girl’s room and pick her up by all four appendages and carry her, despite her screams of protest. The crowd laughs and cheers. The girls is moved through the hallway to the men’s bathroom, where a shower has already been turned on. They throw her in and close the door. After a couple seconds she turns the shower off, to some protests. “You’re supposed to stay in there for a while,” one boy complains. She soon comes out a little soaked and retaliates by hugging her captors. The boys move on to a new girl. “We threw someone in the shower,” one kid explains to a passerby. “It was the wet one.”

posted October 04, 2004 02:23 AM (Education) (9 comments) #


Stanford: Day 8
Stanford: Day 9
Stanford: Day 10
Stanford: Day 11
Stanford: Day 12
Stanford: Day 14
Stanford: Day 15
Stanford: Day 16
Of Conspiracies and Filing Cabinets
Got Money?


Just wanted to say that I’m enjoying your series; I had a very similar experience at “University”.

It’s very interesting to see your comments on seeing Manufacturing Consent for the first time. That movie was very much my first realisaton that there were others with similar views, and represented an important step for me towards getting involved with activist communities.

For that reason, your aside that “Off and on I have been planning the outlines such a group.” caught my eye. There’s absolutely no need to start a group from scratch; plenty exist already. If you’re interested in [an] Anarchist blogging community, check out AnarchoBlogs and InfoShop.

Lots of good people are out there doing good things; Chomsky isn’t kidding in Manufacturing Consent when he says that he’s just the media’s puppy. There are plenty of organizers out there who do the day-to-day to make things happen. Many of them live just a quick drive north of you, and could definitely use your help!

posted by Blaine Cook at October 4, 2004 04:01 AM #

“The result is that a lot of people who look like strangers walk past me and say “Hello, Aaron!””

I have the same problem, for the same reason as you, and it’s been that for many years (it got worse after I got married, since I have now even less motivation for learning names and being social:-). I explained this to my friend Rune and he replied with these not very comforting words:

“Everyone knows who the village idiot is, but the village idiot knows no one!”

Ah, well, I just smile and nod and try to pick up clues about who it is I’m talking to…

posted by Harald Korneliussen at October 4, 2004 04:24 AM #

I just wanted to share this quote from MC - just in case anybody is still looking for ways to understand what Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld are doing to you…

The military system in the United States is basically a government-guaranteed market for high-technology production…. It is not a conservative program; in fact, quite the contrary. Reagan’s program was to increase the state’s component of the state capitalistic system by the classic means…. In effect, this means the government will intervene by increasing demand for arms and high technology production to get things moving again…. This is a very harmful system economically; it does spur production but in a very wasteful manner. Therefore, we have to make sure that our commercial rivals also harm their economy, roughly to the extent that we harm ours; otherwise we’re in trouble…. Japan is a rival. Europe is a rival, too. We can no longer tolerate the wastefulness of this type of economic pump priming and still expect to be competitive in world trade…. We’re putting resources into military production and those resources are not going into things that can be sold, that meet consumer needs in the market…. If our engineers are working on the latest technique for making a missile hit 3 mm closer than it did before, and the Japanese engineers are working on better home computers or something, you know what’s going to happen…. [T]he Japanese system is geared for the commercial market…. Our system, on the other hand, works quite differently, since our system is the Pentagon system. It is only by accident that it has any commercial utility…. a crucial point is that none of this has anything to do with military threats. Nothing.

From an interview with Stephen W. White and Elaine Smoot, in National Forum, reprinted in Language an Politics, pages 350-353

posted by thorolf smør at October 4, 2004 04:32 AM #

You know… what I mean

posted by thorolf smør at October 4, 2004 06:57 AM #

If the corridoors are sixty-four feet long, perhaps there is hope yet.

posted by Sean Neakums at October 4, 2004 07:58 AM #

I am an internet junkie, and I still think there’s no substitute for a well-stocked library.

Only a small portion of man’s knowledge is available online, and much of it is less accessible than the finely categorized and curated resources of a library.

I love walking through the stacks, books in every direction, various topics and viewpoints in a tangible space.

This demonstration of the depth of human endeavor is inspiring to me. However more likely it is today that we’ll end ourselves, there is hope regardless.

posted by Jeremy Dunck at October 4, 2004 11:19 AM #

I’m also enjoying this series very much. Keep writing. :) I’m in my last year of college and am just as annoyed with it as the day that I came in. But there is a huge difference in my attitude now than back then. Among my discomforts I find solace in my inadequate surroundings. I have found intelligence where I expected ignorance. Although I acknowledge that my particular institute of “higher learning” is not what I attribute with my personal goals, I have come to find my niche amongst the chaos. So much so that I have decided to pursue a doctorate. You will find your place Aaron, whether it is at that school or at a different one, whether it is in school or not. Learn as much as you can. Take what you can from other people and learn to love where you are.

posted by Otinia at October 4, 2004 11:40 AM #

Aaron, we don’t know eachother but I’ve been reading your stuff for a LONG time. I’m especially interested in your unschooling site. I have two daughters and I while they’re wonderful and doing great, I’d really love to cut them loose from the educational system and let them explore the world in a more self-directed fashion…

You’re an inspiration. I’m really enjoying this blog too… brings me back to MY early days at U of Michigan.



posted by Joshua at October 5, 2004 07:19 AM #

…. a crucial point is that none of this has anything to do with military threats. Nothing.

posted by thorolf smør at October 10, 2004 10:22 AM #

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