"Noam Chomsky turns 85 today. Happy birthday to him, and many thanks for his work."
"Even trying to stimulate consumerism is an effort to undermine it. Having a market society automatically carries with it an undermining of solidarity. For example, in the market system you have a choice: You can buy a Toyota or you can buy a Ford, but you can’t buy a subway because that’s not offered. Market systems don’t offer common goods; they offer private consumption. If you want a subway, you’re going to have to get together with other people and make a collective decision. Otherwise, it’s simply not an option within the market system, and as democracy is increasingly undermined, it’s less and less of an option within the public system. All of these things converge, and they’re all part of general class war."
"You’re responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions. You’re not responsible for the predictable consequences of somebody else’s actions. The most important thing for me and for you is to think about the consequences of your actions. What can you effect? These are the things to keep in mind. These are not just academic exercises. We’re not analyzing the media on Mars or in the 18th century or something like that. We’re dealing with real human beings 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 media are doing is insuring 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 American people who would be horrified if they realized the blood that is dripping from their hands because of the way they are allowing themselves to be deluded and manipulated by this system."
Noam Chomsky: America hates its poor →
Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky on our country’s brutal class warfare — and why it’s ultimately so one-sided
Take the time to read through this interview; it covers not only labor movement issues but also propaganda and the money spent to divide voters and the population against each other.
"When you get to the top tenth of a percent, where there’s a huge concentration of wealth, you can’t even talk about influence. They get what they want. That’s why the banks who created the crisis, often with criminal action, are not only scot-free, but richer, more powerful and bigger than ever. Reading the business press, you can see there’s a criminal action here and there, and maybe a slap on the wrist or something there."
Listen to a lecture by Noam Chomsky, given in Montreal in Oct. 2013. A talk focusing on declining U.S. hegemony, tracking political patterns back to the end of WWII, throughout the imperialist politics in Asia during the Cold War, to the turn against U.S. influence in Latin America over the past decade. Importantly this talk also highlights the importance of social action, of grassroots movements on changing the course of political history.
Thanks to Canadian Dimension for organizing the lecture, recorded for broadcast on CKUT radio in Montreal by Stefan Christoff. Free to download / broadcast / distribute for non-profit purposes. (photo Chomsky lecture blackboard)
"…across the elite spectrum there was deep concern about the democratizing and civilizing effects of the 60’s. That’s why the 60’s are now recorded and taught as the time of troubles or the birth of error. The troubles were that the country was just becoming too free and democratic. It was actually called a “crisis of democracy,” which meant too much democracy."
"One of the reasons for the extraordinary pressure of consumerism, which goes back to the 1920s, is the recognition by the business world that unless it atomizes people, unless it drives them to what it calls the “superficial things of life, such as fashionable consumption,” the population may turn on them. Right now, for example, about 80% of the U.S. population believes that the country is, in their words, run by “a few big interests looking out for themselves,” not for the benefit of the population. About 95% of the population thinks that the government ought to pay regular attention to public opinion. The degree of alienation from institutions is enormous. As long as people are atomized, worried about maxing out their credit cards, separated from one another, and don’t hear serious critical discussion, the ideas can be controlled."
Just think about it. Take, say, a country which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from us domestically, the Soviet Union.
That’s a country run by the bludgeon, essentially. It’s a command state: the state controls, everybody basically follows orders.
It’s more complicated than that, but essentially that’s the way it works. There, it’s very easy to determine what propaganda is: what the state produces is propaganda.
That’s the kind of thing that Orwell described in 1984. In a country like that, where there’s a kind of Ministry of Truth, propaganda is very easily identifiable.
Everybody knows what it is, and you can choose to repeat it if you like, but basically it’s not really trying to control your thought very much; it’s giving you the party line. It’s saying, “Here’s the official doctrine; as long as you don’t disobey you won’t get in trouble. What you think is not of great importance to anyone. If you get out of line we’ll do something to you because we have force.”
Democratic societies can’t really work like that, because the state can’t control behavior by force. It can to some extent, but it’s much more limited in its capacity to control by force. Therefore, it has to control what you think.
I should say that when people talk about capitalism it’s a bit of a joke. There’s no such thing. No country, no business class, has ever been willing to subject itself to the free market, free market discipline. Free markets are for others. Like, the Third World is the Third World because they had free markets rammed down their throat.
Meanwhile, the enlightened states, England, the United States, others, resorted to massive state intervention to protect private power, and still do. That’s right up to the present. I mean, the Reagan administration for example was the most protectionist in post-war American history. Virtually the entire dynamic economy in the United States is based crucially on state initiative and intervention: computers, the internet, telecommunication, automation, pharmaceutical, you just name it. Run through it, and you find massive ripoffs of the public, meaning, a system in which under one guise or another the public pays the costs and takes the risks, and profit is privatized.
That’s very remote from a free market. Free market is like what India had to suffer for a couple hundred years, and most of the rest of the Third World.
"Of all the articles and books of Chomsky that I have read, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies is without doubt the most exhaustively researched (and footnoted), the most logically structured, and the most convincing. Chomsky reminds us that the majority of the populace rely on the various media institutions for their information about political affairs; both domestic and foreign. One can only hold an opinion on a topic if one knows about the topic. So take, for example, the popular myth of the ‘persistent Soviet veto’ at the UN during the cold war. Why do people believe the USSR was constantly vetoing any and every Security Council Resolution? Simple! When they did, it generated front page condemnation. When the US or the UK exercised their right of veto: silence. As Chomsky notes, during the years of 1970 and 1989 the former Soviet Union vetoed 8 resolutions. The US vetoed some 56. This is what Chomsky refers to as Thought Control. Unless the public examine the factual record of the UN themselves, they will never come by this information, (at least not in the mainstream press). So although Chomsky’s title may appear somewhat paradoxical, or oxymoronic, a moments reflection on such facts shows it to be, in fact, extremely pragmatic and truthful. The question is, have you the honesty and sheer guts to question yourself and challenge the information which has contributed to your beliefs? The crux of Chomsky’s argument is that propaganda is to a democracy what violence is to a dictatorship. Chomsky points out that, in fact, propaganda is, contrary to popular postulations, more important and vital to a democratic society because people still have some rights. That is, since people can talk, the powers that be must ensure that only the correct words come out of the peoples’ mouths. In a dictatorship it does not really matter too much what people think; for whatever they may think, they have to do what they are told, by pain of death. In countries such as the US (and the UK) other, more subtle, methods are required. People often criticize Chomsky for the sources of his information (the copious footnotes). No such critique can be leveled at this work. Chomsky’s sources are declassified internal planning documents, naval proceedings documents, and the very institutions he examines, New York Times, Washington Post etc. If there was one Chomsky book I would suggest you to read, this would be it."
"…that’s the way that capitalism works. The nature of the system is that it’s supposed to be driven by greed; no one’s supposed to be concerned for anybody else, nobody’s supposed to worry about the common good - those are not things that are supposed to motivate you, that’s the principle of the system. The theory is that private vices lead to public benefits - that’s what they teach you in economics departments. It’s all total bullshit, of course, but that’s what they teach you. And as long as the system works that way, yeah, it’s going to self destruct."