Download Citation on ResearchGate | On Jan 1, , Noam Chomsky and others published Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda. Media control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda by Noam Chomsky ; 5 editions; First published in ; Subjects: Mass media, Mass media and. The purpose of this course is to explore the role of print and electronic media in American Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda.
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data. Chomsky, Noam. Media control: the spectacular achievements of propaganda / Noam Chomsky. p. cm. Noam Chomsky's backpocket classic on wartime propaganda and opinion control begins by asserting two models of democracy—one in which the public. Media control: the spectacular achievements of propaganda / Noam Chomsky. p. cm. — (The Open Media Pamphlet Series) ISBN 1.
If you want to find out about them, pick up the German press, or the British press. We could give many examples, you could make them up as you go along. It will take one hour of your time more or less depending on your reading skills to be read. There's even a kind of compelling moral principle behind it. So that's the ideal.
Great efforts are made in trying to achieve that ideal. Obviously, there is a certain conception behind it. The conception of democracy is the one that I men- tioned. The bewildered herd is a problem. We've got to prevent their roar and trampling. We've got to distract them.
They should be watching the Superbowl or sitcoms or violent movies. Every once in a while you call on them to chant meaningless slogans like "Sup- port our troops.
Therefore it's important to distract them and marginalize them. That's one conception of democracy. In fact, going back to the business community, the last legal victory for labor really was , the Wagner Act. After the war came, the unions declined as did a very rich working class cul- ture that was associated with the unions.
That was destroyed. We moved to a business-run society at a remarkable level. This is the only state -capitalist industrial society which does- n't have even the normal social contract that you find in comparable societies. Outside of South Africa, I guess, this is the only industrial society that doesn't have national health care.
There's no general commitment to even min- imal standards of survival for the parts of the population who can't follow those rules and gain things for themselves individually. Unions are virtually nonexistent.
Other forms of popular structure are virtually nonexistent. There are no political parties or organizations. It's a long way toward the ideal, at least struc- turally.
The media are a corporate monopoly. They have the same point of view. The two par- ties are two factions of the business party. Most of the population doesn't even bother voting because it looks meaningless. They're mar- ginalized and properly distracted. At least that's the goal. The leading figure in the public rela- tions industry, Edward Bernays, actually came out of the Creel Commission. He was part of it, learned his lessons there and went on to develop what he called the "engineering of con- sent," which he described as "the essence of democracy.
Usually the population is pacifist, just like they were dur- ing the First World War. The public sees no rea- son to get involved in foreign adventures, killing, and torture. So you have to whip them up. And to whip them up you have to frighten them.
Bernays himself had an important achievement in this respect. He was the per- son who ran the public relations campaign for the United Fruit Company in , when the United States moved in to overthrow the cap- italist-democratic government of Guatemala and installed a murderous death-squad society, which remains that way to the present day with constant infusions of U.
It's necessary to constantly ram through domestic programs which the public is opposed to, because there is no reason for the public to be in favor of domestic programs that are harmful to them.
This, too, takes extensive propaganda. We've seen a lot of this in the last ten years. The Reagan programs were over- whelmingly unpopular. Voters in the "Reagan landslide," by about three to two, hoped that his policies would not be enacted. If you take particular programs, like arma- ments, cutting back on social spending, etc. But as long as people are marginalized and distracted and have no way to organize or articulate their sentiments, or even know that others have these sentiments, people who said that they prefer social spend- ing to military spending, who gave that answer on polls, as people overwhelmingly did, assumed that they were the only people with that crazy idea in their heads.
They never heard it from anywhere else. Nobody's supposed to think that. Therefore, if you do think it and you answer it in apoll, you just assume that you're sort of weird. Since there's no way to get together with other people who share or rein- force that view and help you articulate it, you feel like an oddity, an oddball.
So you just stay on the side and you don't pay any attention to what's going on. You look at something else, like the Superbowl.
To a certain extent, then, that ideal was achieved, but never completely. There are insti- tutions which it has as yet been impossible to destroy. The churches, for example, still exist. A large part of the dissident activity in the United States comes out of the churches, for the simple reason that they're there.
So when you go to a European country and give a polit- ical talk, it may very likely be in the union hall. Here that won't happen, because unions first of all barely exist, and if they do exist they're not political organizations. But the churches do exist, and therefore you often give a talk in a church. Central American solidarity work mostly grew out of the churches, mainly because they exist. The bewildered herd never gets properly tamed, so this is a constant battle.
In the s they arose again and were put down. In the s there was another wave of dissidence. There was a name for that. It was called by the specialized class "the crisis of democracy. The crisis was that large seg- ments of the population were becoming organized and active and trying to participate in the political arena.
Here we come back to these two conceptions of democracy. By the dictionary definition, that's an advance in democracy. By the prevailing conception that's a problem, a crisis that has to be overcome.
We therefore have to do something to overcome the crisis. Efforts were made to achieve that. It hasn't worked. The crisis of democracy is still alive and well, fortunately, but not very effective in changing policy. But it is effective in changing opinion, contrary to what a lot of people believe. Great efforts were made after the s to try to reverse and over- come this malady.
One aspect of the malady actually got a technical name. It was called the "Vietnam Syndrome. The Reaganite intellectual Norman Podhoretz defined it as "the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force. People just didn't understand why we should go around torturing people and killing people and carpet bombing them.
It's very dangerous for a population to be overcome by these sickly inhibitions, as Goebbels understood, because then there's a limit on foreign adventures. It's necessary, as the Washington Post put it rather proudly dur- ing the Gulf War hysteria, to instill in people respect for "martial value. If you want to have a violent society that uses force around the world to achieve the ends of its own domestic elite, it's necessary to have a proper appreciation of the martial virtues and none of these sickly inhibitions about using violence.
So that's the Vietnam Syndrome. It's necessary to overcome that one. That's another way to overcome these sickly inhibitions, to make it look as if when we attack and destroy somebody we're really pro- tecting and defending ourselves against major aggressors and monsters and so on.
There has been a huge effort since the Vietnam war to reconstruct the history of that. Too many peo- ple began to understand what was really going on.
Including plenty of soldiers and a lot of young people who were involved with the peace movement and others. That was bad. It was nec- essary to rearrange those bad thoughts and to restore some form of sanity, namely, a recog- nition that whatever we do is noble and right. If we're bombing South Vietnam, that's because we're defending South Vietnam against some- body, namely, the South Vietnamese, since nobody else was there. It's what the Kennedy intellectuals called defense against "internal aggression" in South Vietnam.
That was the phrase used by Adlai Stevenson and others. It was necessary to make that the official and well understood picture.
That's worked pretty well. When you have total control over the media and the educational system and scholarship is con- formist, you can get that across. One indication of it was revealed in a study done at the Uni- versity of Massachusetts on attitudes toward the current Gulf crisis — a study of beliefs and attitudes in television watching. One of the questions asked in that study was, How many Vietnamese casualties would you estimate that there were during the Vietnam war?
The average response on the part of Americans today is about 1 00, The official figure is about two million. The actual figure is probably three to four million. The people who conducted the study raised an appropriate question: What would we think about German political culture if, when you asked people today how many Jews died in the Holocaust, they estimated about ,? What would that tell us about German political culture? They leave the question unanswered, but you can pursue it.
What does it tell us about our culture? It tells us quite a bit. It is necessary to overcome the sickly inhi- bitions against the use of military force and other democratic deviations. In this particular case it worked. This is true on every topic. Pick the topic you like: The truth of the matter is buried under edifice after edifice of lies upon lies. It's all been a marvelous success from the point of view in deterring the threat of democracy, achieved under conditions of freedom, which is extremely interesting.
It's not like a totalitar- ian state, where it's done by force. These achievements are under conditions of freedom. If we want to understand our own society, we'll have to think about these facts. They are impor- tant facts, important for those who care about what kind of society they live in. It's grown quite a lot since the s. In the s the dissident culture first of all was extremely slow in developing. There was no protest against the Indochina war until years after the United States had started bombing South Vietnam.
When it did grow it was a very narrow dissident movement, mostly students and young people. By the s that had changed considerably. Major popular move- ments had developed: In the s there was an even greater expansion to the sol- idarity movements, which is something very new and important in the history of at least American, and maybe even world dissidence.
These were movements that not only protested but actually involved themselves, often intimately, in the lives of suffering peo- ple elsewhere. They learned a great deal from it and had quite a civilizing effect on main- stream America. All of this has made a very large difference. Anyone who has been involved in this kind of activity for many years must be aware of this.
I know myself that the kind of talks I give today in the most reac- tionary parts of the country — central Georgia, rural Kentucky, etc. Now you can give them anywhere. People may agree or not agree, but at least they understand what you're talking about and there's some sort of common ground that you can pursue. These are all signs of the civilizing effect, despite all the propaganda, despite all the efforts to control thought and manufacture consent. Nevertheless, people are acquiring an ability and a willingness to think things through.
Skepticism about power has grown, and attitudes have changed on many, many issues. It's kind of slow, maybe even glacial, but perceptible and important. Whether it's fast enough to make a significant difference in what happens in the world is another question. Just to take one familiar example of it: The famous gender gap. In the s attitudes of men and women were approximately the same on such matters as the "martial virtues" and the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force.
Nobody, neither men nor women, were suffering from those sickly inhibitions in the early s. The responses were the same. Everybody thought that the use of violence to suppress people out there was just right. Over the years it's changed.
The sickly inhibitions have increased all across the board. But meanwhile a gap has been growing, and by now it's a very substantial gap.
Accord- ing to polls, it's something like twenty-five percent. What has happened? What has hap- pened is that there is some form of at least semi-organized popular movement that women are involved in — the feminist move- ment. Organization has its effects. It means that you discover that you're not alone.
Oth- ers have the same thoughts that you do. You can reinforce your thoughts and learn more about what you think and believe. These are very informal movements, not like a mem- bership organizations, just a mood that involves interactions among people. It has a very noticeable effect.
That's the danger of democracy: If organizations can develop, if people are no longer just glued to the tube, you may have all these funny thoughts arising in their heads, like sickly inhibitions against the use of military force. That has to be overcome, but it hasn't been overcome.
There is a very characteristic development going on in the United States now. It's not the first country in the world that's done this. There are growing domestic social and eco- nomic problems, in fact, maybe catastrophes. Nobody in power has any intention of doing anything about them. If you look at the domestic programs of the administrations of the past ten years — I include here the Democ- ratic opposition — there's really no serious pro- posal about what to do about the severe problems of health, education, homelessness, joblessness, crime, soaring criminal popula- tions, jails, deterioration in the inner cities — the whole raft of problems.
You all know about them, and they're all getting worse.
Just in the two years that George Bush has been in office three million more children crossed the poverty line, the debt is zooming, educational standards are declining, real wages are now back to the level of about the late s for much of the population, and nobody's doing anything about it.
In such circumstances you've got to divert the bewildered herd, because if they start noticing this they may not like it, since they're the ones suffering from it. Just having them watch the Superbowl and the sitcoms may not be enough. You have to whip them up into fear of enemies. In the s Hitler whipped them into fear of the Jews and gypsies. You had to crush them to defend your- selves. We have our ways, too. Over the last ten years, every year or two, some major monster is constructed that we have to defend ourselves against.
There used to be one that was always readily available: The Russians. You could always defend yourself against the Russians. But they're losing their attractiveness as an enemy, and it's getting harder and harder to use that one, so some new ones have to be conjured up.
In fact, people have quite unfairly criticized George Bush for being unable to express or articulate what's really driving us now. That's very unfair. Prior to about the mids, when you were asleep you would just play the record: But he lost that one and he's got to make up new ones, just like the Reaganite public relations apparatus did in the s.
So it was international terrorists and narco-traffickers and crazed Arabs and Saddam Hussein, the new Hitler, was going to conquer the world. They've got to keep coming up one after another. You frighten the population, ter- rorize them, intimidate them so that they're too afraid to travel and cower in fear.
Then you have a magnificent victory over Grenada, Panama, or some other defenseless third- world army that you can pulverize before you ever bother to look at them — which is just what happened.
That gives relief. We were saved at the last minute. That's one of the ways in which you can keep the bewildered herd from paying attention to what's really going on around them, keep them diverted and con- trolled. The next one that's coming along, most likely, will be Cuba. That's going to require a continuation of the illegal economic warfare, possibly a revival of the extraordinary inter- national terrorism.
The most major interna- tional terrorism organized yet has been the Kennedy administration's Operation Mon- goose, then the things that followed along, against Cuba. There's been nothing remotely comparable to it except perhaps the war against Nicaragua, if you call that terrorism. The World Court classified it as something more like aggression. There's always an ideo- logical offensive that builds up a chimerical monster, then campaigns to have it crushed. You can't go in if they can fight back.
That's much too dangerous. But if you are sure that they will be crushed, maybe we'll knock that one off and heave another sigh of relief. In May , the memoirs of the released Cuban prisoner, Armando Valladares, came out. They quickly became a media sensation. I'll give you a couple of quotes. The media described his revelations as "the definitive account of the vast system of torture and prison by which Cas- tro punishes and obliterates political opposi- tion.
Castro was described as "a dictatorial goon. Remem- ber, this is the account of what happened to one man. Let's say it's all true. Let's raise no ques- tions about what happened to the one man who says he was tortured. At a White House cere- mony marking Human Rights Day, he was sin- gled out by Ronald Reagan for his courage in enduring the horrors and sadism of this bloody Cuban tyrant. He was then appointed the U. Human Rights Commission, where he has been able to per- form signal services defending the Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments against charges that they conduct atrocities so massive that they make anything he suffered look pretty minor.
That's the way things stand. That was May It was interesting, and it tells you something about the manufacture of consent. The same month, the surviving members of the Human Rights Group of El Sal- vador — the leaders had been killed — were arrested and tortured, including Herbert Anaya, who was the director. They were sent to a prison — LaEsperanza hope Prison. While they were in prison they continued their human rights work.
They were lawyers, they continued taking affidavits. There were prisoners in that prison. They got signed affidavits from of them in which they described, under oath, the torture that they had received: This is an unusually explicit and comprehensive tes- timony, probably unique in its detail about what's going on in a torture chamber.
This page report of the prisoners' sworn testi- mony was sneaked out of prison, along with a videotape which was taken showing people tes- tifying in prison about their torture. The national press refused to cover it. The TV stations refused to run it. No one else would touch it. This was a time when there was more than a few "light-headed and cold-blooded Western intellectuals" who were singing the praises of Jose Napoleon Duarte and of Ronald Reagan.
Anaya was not the subject of any tributes. He didn't get on Human Rights Day. He wasn't appointed to anything. He was released in a prisoner exchange and then assassinated, apparently by the U. Very little infor- mation about that ever appeared. The media never asked whether exposure of the atroci- ties — instead of sitting on them and silencing them — might have saved his life.
This tells you something about the way a well-functioning system of consent manufac- turing works. In comparison with the revela- tions of Herbert Anaya in El Salvador, Valladares's memoirs are not even a pea next to the mountain. But you've got your job to do. That takes us toward the next war. I expect, we're going to hear more and more of this, until the next operation takes place.
A few remarks about the last one. Let's turn finally to that. Let me begin with this Uni- versity of Massachusetts study that I men- tioned before. It has some interesting conclusions.
In the study people were asked whether they thought that the United States should intervene with force to reverse illegal occupation or serious human rights abuses. By about two to one, people in the United States thought we should. We should use force in the case of illegal occupation of land and severe human rights abuses.
These are all cases of illegal occupation and aggression and severe human rights abuses. If you know the facts about that range of examples, you'll know very well that Saddam Hussein's aggression and atrocities fall well within the range.
They're not the most extreme. Why doesn't anybody come to that conclusion? The reason is that nobody knows. In a well-functioning propa- ganda system, nobody would know what I'm talking about when I list that range of exam- ples. If you bother to look, you find that those examples are quite appropriate.
Take one that was ominously close to being perceived during the Gulf War. In February, right in the middle of the bombing campaign, the government of Lebanon requested Israel to observe U.
Security Council Resolution , which called on it to withdraw immedi- ately and unconditionally from Lebanon. That resolution dates from March There have since been two subsequent resolutions calling for the immediate and unconditional with- drawal of Israel from Lebanon.
Of course it doesn't observe them because the United States backs it in maintaining that occupation. Meanwhile southern Lebanon is terrorized. There are big torture-chambers with horrifying things going on.
It's used as a base for attack- ing other parts of Lebanon. Since , Lebanon was invaded, the city of Beirut was bombed, about 20, people were killed, about 80 percent of them civilians, hospitals were destroyed, and more terror, looting, and robbery was inflicted.
All fine, the United States backed it. That's just one case. You didn't see anything in the media about it or any discus- sion about whether Israel and the United States should observe U. Security Council Resolu- tion or any of the other resolutions, nor did anyone call for the bombing of Tel Aviv, although by the principles upheld by two-thirds of the population, we should.
After all, that's illegal occupation and severe human rights abuses. There are much worse ones. The Indonesian invasion of East Timor knocked off about , people. They all look minor by that one. That was strongly backed by the United States and is still going on with major United States diplomatic and military support. We can go on and on. People can believe that when we use force against Iraq and Kuwait it's because we really observe the principle that illegal occupation and human rights abuses should be met by force.
They don't see what it would mean if those principles were applied to U. That's a success of propaganda of quite a spectacular type. Let's take a look at another case.
If you look closely at the coverage of the war since August , you'll notice that there are a couple of striking voices missing.
For example, there is an Iraqi democratic opposition, in fact, a very courageous and quite substantial Iraqi democ- ratic opposition. They, of course, function in exile because they couldn't survive in Iraq.
They are in Europe primarily. They are bankers, engineers, architects — people like that. They are articulate, they have voices, and they speak. The previous February, when Sad- dam Hussein was still George Bush's favorite friend and trading partner, they actually came to Washington, according to Iraqi democratic opposition sources, with a plea for some kind of support for a demand of theirs calling for a parliamentary democracy in Iraq.
They were totally rebuffed, because the United States had no interest in it. There was no reaction to this in the public record. Since August it became a little harder to ignore their existence. In August we suddenly turned against Saddam Hussein after having favored him for many years. Here was an Iraqi democratic opposition who ought to have some thoughts about the matter. They would be happy to see Saddam Hussein drawn and quar- tered.
He killed their brothers, tortured their sisters, and drove them out of the country. They have been fighting against his tyranny throughout the whole time that Ronald Reagan and George Bush were cherishing him. What about their voices?
Take a look at the national media and see how much you can find about the Iraqi democratic opposition from August through March You can't find a word. It's not that they're inarticulate. They have statements, proposals, calls and demands. If you look at them, you find that they're indis- tinguishable from those of the American peace movement. They're against Saddam Hussein and they're against the war against Iraq. They don't want their country destroyed. What they want is a peaceful resolution, and they knew perfectly well that it might have been achiev- able.
That's the wrong view and therefore they're out. We don't hear a word about the Iraqi democratic opposition. If you want to find out about them, pick up the German press, or the British press. They don't say much about them, but they're less controlled than we are and they say something.
This is a spectacular achievement of pro- paganda. First, that the voices of the Iraqi democrats are completely excluded, and sec- ond, that nobody notices it. That's interesting, too. It takes a really deeply indoctrinated pop- ulation not to notice that we're not hearing the voices of the Iraqi democratic opposition and not asking the question, Why?
Let's take the question of the reasons for the war. Reasons were offered for the war. The reasons are: There was basically no other reason advanced. Can that possibly be the reason for the war?
Does the United States uphold those principles, that aggressors cannot be rewarded and that aggression must be reversed by a quick resort to violence? I won't insult your intelligence by running through the facts, but the fact is those arguments could be refuted in two minutes by a literate teenager. However, they never were refuted. Take a look at the media, the liberal commentators and critics, the people who testified in Congress and see whether anybody questioned the assumption that the United States stands up to those principles.
Has the United States opposed its own aggression in Panama and insisted on bombing Washington to reverse it? When the South African occupa- tion of Namibia was declared illegal in , did the United States impose sanctions on food and medicine?
Did it go to war? Jacques Ellul. Read more.
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Write a customer review. Read reviews that mention media control noam chomsky foreign policy united states creel commission bewildered herd manufacturing consent public opinion new york york times human rights gulf war washington post middle east saddam hussein must read tactics used journalist from mars easy to read american media. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now.
Please try again later. Kindle Edition Verified Purchase. I've always heard of Chomsky but I never quite got around to reading anything he wrote. Then one day 'Media Control' was on sale at Amazon and I gave it a shot.
This book is mind-blowing, not just because of what he puts in that I hadn't heard of before but because it forced me to think about the relationship between power and knowledge. Chomsky pulls no punches when discussing the subtle and not-so-subtle ways that governments control their people and keep groups too fractured to ever truly change the status quo. This book is a good introduction to his ideas and once you read it, you'll want to dive into the rest of his works just like I do.
You may think that he's a little extreme sometimes, but much more often you'll find yourself thinking that he makes just a little too much sense. Paperback Verified Purchase. Another thoughtful and insightful book by a recognized master. This book shows you how Hitler's propaganda assault fooled a large portion of the German people. And those techniques are being used here in America, and have been for quite some time. He lends credence if not complete proof to the quote by A. Simple, easy to understand, to the point, your average brilliant Chomsky.
This book should be required reading for every student of history or social studies. It gives prospective and general understanding to something as complex as mass-media and its relationship and effect on the American people.
I would even recommend it to anyone not in America so that they may understand how the American media functions and manipulates the public opinion. As usual, Chomskey opens your eyes to how things really work. But the work is a bit thin, since it's not really a book, and fails to account for the proliferation of alternative media, since the speeches were given before the massive growth of independent online news and commentary websites.
People with Real Power vs. Propaganda is a form of communication that aims to influence attitudes toward a cause or position. It is primarily aimed to influence an audience.
Fundamentally, it should be a neutral term. However, it grew up with a negative connotation by association with the world wars.
In , Adolf Hitler wrote that "propaganda is a truly terrible weapon in the hands of an expert". While the term propaganda might evoke oceaninc crowds of people rising arms and shouting "Heil Hitler" it is important to note that it was not invented by the Nazis.
The original latin word refers to the biological reproduction of flora and fauna to propagate, things that must be disseminated , whereas the Papacy coined the phrase propaganda fide. Noam Chomsky's Media Control is a little and easy to read book. Loved it. If you get a chance and you would like to know what is the role of the media in contemporary politics and open your mind to new ways of thinking if you are not familiar with Propaganda this is a book for you.
Clearly, it is U. It will take one hour of your time more or less depending on your reading skills to be read. Noam Chomsky goes directly to the point and his thinking will not leave the reader disappointed. You might wish to try it as an appetizer. Then, if you want more.
So I read this book cause my brother had told me how great it was. He knows I like the truth. The hard truth. And this book is full of that. Unlike Manufacturing Consent, this book is short and sweet.
Well not so sweet, but informing. All the same people, but older. See the same tactics used to Manufacture consent for the illegal Iraq War, and read how they developed in a matter of fact format.
One person found this helpful. This book should be required reading for all high school seniors. Chomsky tears the lid off the Pandora's Box that is the network news and other "reputable" media sources.
Don't believe everything you're told by "official sources" but question what those sources may have to gain.