We're not analyzing the media on Mars or in the 18th century or something like that. We're dealing with real human beings now who are suffering and dying and being tortured and starving because of policies that we are involved in, we as citizens of democratic societies are directly involved in and are responsible for.
And what the overground media are doing
is ensuring that we do not act on our responsibilities, and that the interests
of power are served, not the needs of the suffering people, and not even
the needs of the American people, who would be horrified if they realized
the blood that's dripping from their hands because of the way they are
allowing themselves to be deluded and manipulated by the system.
Modern industrial civilization has developed within a system of convienient myths. The driving force has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic formulation. It has long been understood very well that a society based on this principal will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage in history one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others or alternatavely there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of athority, it is going to set policy for the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival let alone justice require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privilaged elites should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely to impose nessesary illusions to manipulate and decieve the "stupid majority" and remove them from the public arena. The question in brief is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avioded. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival. -Noam Chomsky
This quote was was transcribed from the film MANUFACURING CONSENT and is from the Paranoise website.
That's true, I agree with him. The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn't betray it, I'd be ashamed of myself.
Source: On being accused, by Arthur Schlesinger among others, of betraying the intellectual tradition, as quoted in Milan Rai, Chomsky's Politics(1995), p. 150
“As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it
is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the
conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning
in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the
It is probable that the most inhuman monsters, the Himmlers and the Mengeles,
convince themselves that they were engaged in noble and courageous acts.
A further effect of state terror [is] to drive many people to join the
guerrillas….But this too is a victory for the US, since it shifts the
struggle away from the political arena, where the US and its clients are
weak, to the arena of force and violence, where they reign supreme. Furthermore,
as state terror undermines the opportunities for peaceful organization
and meaningful political action, its victims either submit or turn to
violence themselves; and as state terror mounts they are likely to lose
their popular support because they cannot defend the population and because
they may be driven to adopt more brutal methods, either in self-defense
or as the advocates of force gain positions of dominance in an escalating
struggle that is restricted by the outside power to the military dimension.
These consequences can then be exploited by the propaganda system to provide
retrospective justification for the initial resort to violence that is
responsible for them, in the familiar manner already discussed. The dynamics
are obvious, and undoubtedly are well-understood by US planners and propagandists,
who have ample experience in these matters.
The phenomenon has long been familiar. In a study conducted for the group
of historians who enlisted in the service of the U.S. government in World
War I, Victor S. Clark concluded that the “voluntary co-operation of the
newspaper publishers of America resulted in a more effective standardization
of the information and arguments presented to the American people, than
existed under the nominally strict military control exercised in Germany.”
The special importance of propaganda in what Walter Lippmann referred
to as the “manufacture of consent” has long been recognized by writers
on public opinion, propaganda, and the political requirements of social
order. Lippmann himself, writing in the early 1920s, claimed that propaganda
had already become “a regular organ of popular government,” and was steadily
increasing in sophistication and importance. We do not contend that his
is all the mass media do, but we believe the propaganda function to be
a very important aspect of their overall service.
Perhaps this is an obvious point, but the democratic postulate is that
the media are independent and committed to discovering and reporting the
truth, and that they do not merely reflect the world as powerful groups
wish it to be perceived. Leaders of the media claim that their news choices
rest on unbiased professional and objective criteria, and they have support
for this contention in the intellectual community. If, however, the powerful
are able to fix the premises of discourse, to decide what the general
populace is allowed to see, hear, and think about, and to “manage” public
opinion by regular propaganda campaigns, the standard view of how the
system works is at serious odds with reality.
The mass media are not a solid monolith on all issues. Where the powerful
are in disagreement, there will be a certain diversity of tactical judgments
on how to attain generally shared aims, reflected in media debate. But
views that challenge fundamental premises or suggest that the observed
modes of exercise of state power are based on systemic factors will be
excluded from the mass media even when elite controversy over tactics
People who are sophisticated enough to apply class analysis and trace
actions to their economic roots should apply the same kind of analysis
to intellectuals and their interests... If it is plausible that ideology
will in general serve as a mask for self-interest, then it is a natural
presumption that intellectuals, in interpreting history or formulating
policy, will tend to adopt an elitist position, condemning popular movements
and mass participation in decision making, and emphasizing rather the
necessity for supervision by those who possess the knowledge and understanding
that is required (so they claim) to manage society and control social
Quotes attributed to Noam Chomsky (without reference)
Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the [U.S.] media
An important fact about our intellectual culture is that people can read and write about our long-term policies of defending market democracy from the Communist threat without laughing. That takes no little talent. It is real tribute to the educational institutions and the information system.
It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.
If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.
Another poll revealed that “faith in God is the most important part of American's lives.” Forty percent “said they valued their relationship with God above all else”; 29 percent chose “good health” and 21 percent “happy marriage.” Satisfying work was chosen by 5 percent, respect of people in the community by 2 percent. That this world might offer basic features of a human existence is hardly to be contemplated. These are the kinds of results one might find in a shattered peasant society. Chiliastic visions are reported to be particularly present among blacks; again, not surprising, when we learn from the New England Journal of Medicine that “black men in Harlem are less likely to reach the age of 65 than men in Bangladesh.”
More generally, people have little specific knowledge of what is happening around them. An academic study that appeared right before the presidential election reports that less than 30 percent of the population was aware of the positions of the candidates on major issues, though 86 percent knew the name of George Bush's dog. The general thrust of propaganda gets through, however. When asked to identify the largest element of the federal budget, less than 1/4 give the correct answer: military spending. Almost half select foreign aid, which barely exists; the second choice is welfare, chosen by 1/3 of the population, who also far overestimate the proportion that goes to Blacks and to child support. And though the question was not asked, virtually none are likely to be aware that `defense spending' is in large measure welfare for the rich. Another result of the study is that more educated sectors are more ignorant--not surprising, since they are the main targets of indoctrination. Bush supporters, who are the best educated, scored lowest overall
Quotes by Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman
The regularly publicized and condemned bloodbaths, whose victims are
deserving of serious concern, often turn out, upon close examination,
to be largely fictional. These mythical or semi-mythical bloodbaths have
served an extremely important public relations function in mobilizing
support for U.S. military intervention. This was particularly true in
the case of Vietnam. Public opinion tended to be negative and the war-makers
had to labor mightily to keep people in line. The repeated resort to fabrication
points up the propagandistic role that the “bloodbath” has played in Washington's
devoted attention to this subject. The great public relations lesson of
Vietnam, nevertheless, is that the “big lie” can work, despite occasional
slippages of a free press. Not only can it survive and provide service
regardless of entirely reasonable or even definitive refutations, but
certain patriotic truths also can be established firmly for the majority
by constant repetition. With the requisite degree of cooperation by the
mass media, the government can engage in “atrocities management” with
almost assured success, by means of sheer weight of information releases,
the selective use of reports of alleged enemy acts of atrocity, and the
creation and embroidery of bloodbath stories and myths. These myths never
die; they are pulled from the ashes and put forward again and again whenever
the government needs some renewed public fervor for bloodshed, although
repudiating evidence is readily available and is occasionally permitted
to reach the printed page as a presentation of the “other side” of the
The beauty of the democratic systems of thought control, as contrasted
with their clumsy totalitarian counterparts, is that they operate by subtly
establishing on a voluntary basis--aided by the force of nationalism and
media control by substantial interests--presuppositions that set the limits
of debate, rather than by imposing beliefs with a bludgeon. Then let the
debate rage; the more lively and vigorous it is, the better the propaganda
system is served, since the presuppositions (U.S. benevolence, lack of
rational imperial goals, defensive posture, etc.) are more firmly established.
Those who do not accept the fundamental principles of state propaganda
are simply excluded from the debate (or if noticed, dismissed as “emotional,”
The treatment of refugees in the mass media and by U.S. official action
seems to depend, once again, on political-economic-ideological, rather
than human rights considerations. The earlier classification of terror
in Volume I is fully applicable to the refugees as well: (1) benign (e.g.,
Burma, where no one cares); (2) constructive (e.g., Latin America, where
the flow stems from actions serviceable to U.S. interests); (3) nefarious
(Indochina, where the blame can be placed on the evils of Communism-overlooking
the insignificant matter of the legacy of U.S. intervention). Refugees
of the first and second categories can be shipped back to tyranny or left
to rot in oblivion wherever they may land (as long as it is not here).
But refugees of the third category call forth stirring cries of indignation,
editorial denunciation, passionate speeches in the halls of Congress,
outraged protest from spokesmen for human rights, and moving words-rarely
deeds-of compassion in keeping with the lofty traditions of Western humanism.
The mass media everywhere tend to serve the important interests that
dominate the state and select and suppress facts so as to convey the impression
that national policy is well-intentioned and justified. Much the same
is true, quite commonly, of those areas of academic scholarship that deal
with contemporary affairs or social issues. The difference between a society
with official censorship (e.g. the Soviet Union) and one without (the
United States) is real and significant, but the extent and especially
the policy consequences of such differences are often overrated. There
is a corresponding tendency to underestimate the significance of self-censorship
and the strength of the underlying factors that make for unified mass
media support for foreign policy-notably, the force of nationalism, government
pressure and resources, and the overlap and community of interest among
government, media, and business leaders, who jointly dominate state policy-making.
Thus, if the dominant interests of a free society call for a policy of
foreign aggression, the mass media will voluntarily mobilize the population
as effectively as under a fully censored system.
Several moral issues arise in protests concerning atrocities and violations
of human rights. If the purpose of such protests is self-aggrandizement,
service to one's state, establishing credentials with one's compatriots
or deity, or other self-serving motives, then it is clear how to proceed;
join the chorus of protests organized by the government or the media with
regard to the iniquity of the current enemies of the state. Such protest
may be directed towards genuine abuses of human rights, but it is at the
moral level of protest for pay. Suppose some Russian intellectual condemns
U.S. behavior in Chile and Vietnam. What he says may be quite true, but
we do not admire his courage or moral integrity. Similar remarks apply
here, and for the very same reasons.
It is a cheap and cynical evasion to plead that “we must raise our voices”
whenever human rights are violated. Even a saint could not meet this demand.
A serious person will try to concentrate protest efforts where they are
most likely to ameliorate conditions for the victims of oppression. The
emphasis should, in general, be close to home: on violations of human
rights that have their roots in the policies of one's own state, or its
client regimes, or domestic economic institutions (as, e.g., in the case
of U.S. investment in South Africa), and in general, on policies that
protest may be able to influence. This considerations is particularly
relevant in a democracy, where public opinion can sometimes be aroused
if circumstances allow a sufficient breach in the conformism of the ideological
institutions (the media and academic scholarship), but it applies as well
in totalitarian states, that rely in part on popular consent, as most
do. It is for this reason that we honor a Medvedev or Grigorenko who denounce
the crimes of the Russian state and its satellites, at great personal
risk. If, as in these cases, they also condemn the criminal acts of the
United States, that is well and good, but far less significant… For privileged
Western intellectuals, the proper focus for their protest is at home.
The primary responsibility of U.S. citizens concerned with human rights
today is on the continuing crimes of the United States: the support for
terror and oppression in large parts of the world, the refusal to offer
reparations or aid to the recent victims of U.S. violence…
The absence of official censorship allows room for sometimes vigorous
debate among the substantial interests, and fringe and dissident elements
are at least allowed to exist and argue, mainly among themselves, but
occasionally penetrating to the consciousness of decision-makers, especially
on matters of irrational behavior in relationship to establishment objectives.
The general subservience of the articulate intelligentsia to the framework
of state propaganda is not only unrecognized, it is strenuously denied
by the propaganda system. The press and the intelligentsia in general
are held to be fiercely independent, critical, antagonistic to the state,
even suffused by a trendy anti-Americanism. It is quite true that controversy
rages over government policies and the errors or even crimes of government
officials and agencies. But the impression of internal dissidence is misleading.
A more careful analysis shows that this controversy takes place, for the
most part, within the narrow limits of a set of patriotic premises. Thus
it is quite tolerable--indeed, a contribution to the propaganda system--for
the Free Press to denounce the government for its “errors” in attempting
“to defend South Vietnam from North Vietnamese aggression,” since by so
doing it helps to establish more firmly the basic myth: that the United
States was not engaged in a savage attack on South Vietnam but was rather
“defending” it. If even the hostile critics adopt these assumptions, then
clearly they must be true.
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