Always question authority


"I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.That includes political power, ownership and management, relations among men and women, parents and children, our control over the fate of future generations (the basic moral imperative behind the environmental movement, in my view), and much else.

Naturally this means a challenge to the huge institutions of coercion and control: the state, the unaccountable private tyrannies that control most of the domestic and international economy, and so on. But not only these. That is what I have always understood to be the essence of anarchism: the conviction that the burden of proof has to be placed on authority, and that it should be dismantled if that burden cannot be met."

These words come from an interview with leading American dissident Noam Chomsky for the WSM's magazine back in 1995. They are just as relevant today.

The mainstream media, owned by multi-millionaires like Tony O'Reilly and Rupert Murdoch, and does not ask hard questions. The self-serving propaganda of the ruling class is presented as fact. We are not supposed to make a habit of questioning those in charge.

Michael McDowell has used allegations of IRA connections against journalist Frank Connolly in order to wreck the investigative Centre for Public Inquiry. The allegations, made under 'privilege' in the Dail so that he can't be questioned or sued, have never been backed up with any evidence.

Instead McDowell has turned the supposed basis of law on its head, by demanding that Connolly prove his innocence. We don't know whether there is any truth to the claims, and neither does anyone else, as the Justice Minister won't present any evidence at all.

What we do know is that some politicians didn't like the idea of well-funded people investigating rumours of corruption, especially with a general election due next year. Why did McDowell pay massively over the market price for the new prison site in north Dublin? What is the relationship between Shell Oil and the government? Why have they been given such generous tax concessions?

We need to question what our rulers and their mouthpieces say. Their politicians, their economic experts and their editors want to maintain a system which has been very good to them. While most of us gain somewhat when there is more wealth around, the proportion of that wealth going to the already rich increases all the time.

We should not accept unquestioningly their propaganda that they know what's best for the rest of us, that there must always be bosses, that eliminating poverty is impossible, that some are naturally suited to giving orders and others to just obeying, that working people are not capable of making important decisions, that we must leave the running of the country to a small wealthy minority.

From Workers Solidarity 90, Jan/Feb 2005
PDF file of WS 90