Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (CBC Massey Lecture)
a book by Noam Chomsky
(our site's book review)
In his 1988 CBC Massey Lecture, Noam Chomsky inquires into the nature of the media in a political system where the population cannot be disciplined by force and thus must be subjected to more subtle forms of ideological control. Specific cases are illustrated in detail, using the U.S. media primarily but also media in other societies. Chomsky considers how the media might be democratized (as part of the general problem of developing more democratic institutions) in order to offer citizens broader and more meaningful participation in social and political life.
Propaganda keeps us obedient, distracted, consuming, but never questioning the CW, the media, the authorities
Chomsky tells us that corporations control the government and own the media. U.S. international relations are directly affected and influenced by the whims of multi-nationals; namely the desire for inexpensive production and inexpensive resources, exploiting civilians and foreign lands to achieve these means. The government is in the pocket of these multi-national corporations. The average American has little say. Yes, we may vote, but we vote for one party with two factions: red and blue. This party solely represents the interests of the rich oligarchs and the multi-national corporations.
Propaganda distorts and distracts us from major issues to maintain confusion and complicity, preventing real democracy from becoming effective, keeping us dumb and distracted
The book concerns political power using propaganda to distort and distract from major issues to maintain confusion and complicity, preventing real democracy from becoming effective. The title of this book borrows a phrase from the writings of Reinhold Niebuhr. One could summarize the book as the story of elitists' battle to restrain the impulses, protests, and organizing actions of the citizens toward democracy with propagandized lies, forcible repression, and the offer of endless distractions as well as endless evil empires to restrain militarily. When the elites control us citizens it is to distract us and bar our access to the advantages of democracy, not out of meanness but out of greed. They wish to exploit us as well as various countries around the world to increase their wealth, and the impulse toward freedom and democracy here and abroad is simply a frustrating impediment to their greedy goals. See:
- The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
- The Cyber Effect: An Expert in Cyberpsychology Explains How Technology Is Shaping Our Children, Our Behavior, and Our Values--and What We Can Do About It
- The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking
- The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30)
- Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
The Digital Age is dumbing us down into texting, video game-playing, social networking, distracted morons chasing shiny objects
Chomsky argues that propaganda is very much alive and well and extremely sophisticated. It is a "necessary illusion" kept up by the elitists (which are people that are—or that serve—the ruling class which is composed of politicians both Republican and Democrat, corporations, newspeople, scholars, neocons, shadow government people, oligarchs) to limit the collective voice of the "people." Everything that will be said by the news establishment will ultimately conform to the government/business line of what should be the truth—a.k.a. truthiness.
As technology ramps up, our emotional lives ramp down
TV has become the monster that sucks our brains from our skulls as it dumbs us down and teaches us to be loyal consumers of mostly unhealthy products we do not need
Here is another book looking at mind control: Mass Control: Engineering Human Consciousness is a scary book. Jim Keith does an outstanding job of detailing the origins of psychological and technological social control, as well as naming the organizations, such as the Tavistock Institute (which many believe is the world’s center for mass brainwashing and social engineering activities), that were behind much of the push to implement this social control agenda in society. The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations has had a profound effect on the moral, spiritual, cultural, political and economic policies of the United States of America and Great Britain. It has been in the front line of the attack on the U.S. Constitution and State constitutions. No group did more to propagandize the U.S. to participate in WWI at a time when the majority of the American people were opposed to it. Much of the same tactics were used by the Social Science scientists at Tavistock to get the United States into WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Serbia and both wars against Iraq. Tavistock began as a propaganda creating and disseminating organization at Wellington House in London in the run-up to WWI, what Toynbee called "that black hole of disinformation, a lie factory." (Source: The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, John Coleman)
Since all U.S. citizens have had thoughts that are unorthodox or outside the official government platform since Trump assumed the Trump-fantasized Trumpthrone, we're all guilty of thoughtcrimes
'You will respect my authoritah!' Is Trump merely Cartman 62 years later? Or is that thought a thoughtcrime?
As Chomsky sees it, "A challenge to the underlying patriotic assumption is virtually unthinkable within the mainstream and, if permitted expression, would be dismissed as a variety of ideological fanaticism, an absurdity, even if backed by overwhelming evidence – not a difficult task in this case. Case by case, we find that conformity is the easy way, and the path to privilege and prestige; dissidence carries personal costs that may be severe, even in a society that lacks such means of control as death squads, psychiatric prisons, or extermination camps. The very structure of the media is designed to induce conformity to established doctrine. . . . the media serve the interests of state and corporate power, which are closely interlinked, framing their reporting and analysis in a manner supportive of established privilege and limiting debate and discussion accordingly."
He goes on, "We have studied a wide range of examples, including those that provide the most severe test for a propaganda model . . . to my knowledge, there is no serious effort to respond to these and other similar critiques. Rather, they are simply dismissed, in conformity to the predictions of the propaganda model. In 1981, Samuel Huntington made the point that you may have to sell [intervention or other military action] in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has done ever since the Truman Doctrine—an acute observation, which explains one essential function of the Cold War."
Reagan scared us about the Evil Empire while forces he controlled were exploiting many countries mercilessly—it was the U.S. that was acting like an evil empire
The domino theory says that if one falls they all fall (to communism); this was sleight-of-hand propaganda to cover the U.S. and its proxies exploiting countries' resources and installing dictators
Chomsky looks at how the U.S. created the Cold War and used it to frighten the public about the commie threat so they could spend more on armaments and missiles. The people wanted peace and low taxes. What they got was high taxes and the Korean War and scare tactics about the Evil Empire, which was a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, given Reagan's South and Central American and African military adventures that were spun as neutralizing the USSR's communist conspiracy to conquer the world. The domino theory says that if one falls they all fall (to communism). Korea was a theater where we fought the commies to a standstill that divided the country into two parts. Cuba was a country where the U.S. tried to exploit them but the commies offered a more attractive option and they took it. So the U.S. was humiliated and vengeful and indulged in terrorism there many times, solidifying forever the Cuban's attraction to communism.
Woodrow Wilson used his Red Scare tactics to disempower unions and engage in the suppression of independent politics and free speech, based upon the principle that our government is entitled to prevent improper thought (it isn't, of course, but the elites had been brought up entitled so why not try thought control?). The novel 1984 wasn't published until June 8, 1949, so Wilson's propaganda extravaganza was ahead of its time by 30+ years. Wilson got us through WWI and at home created the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918, suppressing anti-draft activists. Even though Wilson said he was making the world safe for democracy, examination of his fascistic suppression of free speech and dissent and unionizing showed he was doing the opposite. Another elitist paying lip service to democracy while undermining it at every turn! Chomsky looks at the ironies and hypocrisies of elites' words versus elites' deeds in this era, showing how they not only didn't walk their talk, they walked the opposite of their talk. Chomsky traces this incredible collection of lies and propaganda. There was enough fake news back then to make a Donald Trump blush.
A truth filter is applied by the mainstream press to please the government, the neocons, the corporatocracy and CIA censors; most countries have filters but we like to think the U.S. doesn't because the media says we don't
Honduras conforms to the Central American mode of repression of civilians, U.S. exploitation of the people and their resources and forcing loans on them they cannot repay which puts them in our pockets, and rule by privileged, corrupt, authoritarian elements that accede to the demands of U.S. power. They have left hundreds of thousands to starve to death while the country exports food for the profit of agribusiness, a U.S. corporatocracy wing. (The military coup that had overthrown the democratically-elected president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, had been engineered by two US companies, with CIA support. And the U.S. and its president is once again not standing up for democracy.)
U.S. exploitation policies have left hundreds of thousands to starve to death while Honduras exports food for the profit of agribusiness; let them eat loans
The New York Times was one of the best propaganda tools in our elites' propaganda campaigns about Central America. They bought all the lies fed to them by Reagan's flunkies and the CIA, so they ended up condemning the Sandanistas which were decent and freedom loving, while championing the contras, who were brutal, murderous thugs. Yet Reagan went out of his way to funnel money to them, aided by Ollie North, so they could "save the country from the rotten, horrible Sandanistas." Ollie sold weapons to Iran in an effort to help fund rebels and got in big trouble. So did Reagan, but when questioned he developed amazing memory problems—he just couldn't recall! Suffice it to say the entire Nicaraguan mess was classic ugly American: the U.S. exploits and wrecks a country out of greed while telling the mainstream media lies which they did not question, and any investigative journalists who wrote the truth had the stories deleted and they got in trouble. The Sandanistas had given Nicaragua programs of development, preventive medical care, and welfare that had offered hope to the poor majority for the first time, but the contras' campaigns of terror wrecked these things.
Reagan, the great communicator, was also the great destroyer—ask Central Americans
What gave the thugs from the United States the right to come into Nicaragua and pay contras to conduct terrorism, wrecking the country, torturing or killing the dissidents, wrecking all the benevolent social programs, putting the country in debt, robbing their resources, interfering with their legitimate leadership? Nothing did. But when greedy corporatocracy oligarchs from the U.S. decide they want to rob a banana republic, they tell the CIA and then proxy terrorists are hired, authoritarians are installed in the illegitimate government to do the will of the corporation, and let the exploitation begin. This is bullying of the small by the big, and it is shameful. It is a blight on our historical record that fails to show up in history books, which are pressured to spew the party line, the CW, the cover stories. But there are history books that are brave enough to tell the truth: The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption and The Concise Untold History of the United States.
The World Court condemned the United States for supporting contra terror, but the U.S. merely laughed. Then the U.N. Security Council condemned the United States for supporting contra terror, but the U.S. merely laughed. Then the U.N. General Assembly condemned the United States for noncompliance with the World Court ruling, but the U.S. merely laughed. This vote condemning the United States for noncompliance with the World Court ruling to cease supporting contra terror would have been shocking news in the U.S. except that it was not reported. What WAS reported was that the salaries of U.N. workers were far too high!
Left-wing Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega made his political comeback in the November 2006 elections and he has served several terms, and he was re-elected in 2016. He is once again helping his people, in spite of how psychotically strongly the U.S. hates this idea. The U.S.-Nicaragua tragedy is one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. Too bad the truth is not to be found in this country, even though most of the world does know—and hate—this truth.
The overall, long-term African policy was designed to access and plunder Africa's wealth at the expense of its people—especially diamonds, oil, minerals and natural gas
Africa fared no better than Central America. The overall, long-term African policy the U.S. empire building neocons manifested was designed to access and plunder Africa's wealth at the expense of its people—especially diamonds, oil, minerals and natural gas.
This book, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, makes a great addition to The Secret History of the American Empire: Economic Hit Men, Jackals, and the Truth about Global Corruption and The Concise Untold History of the United States for understanding the huge difference between what our media and history books tell us happened between the U.S. and the world—especially Central America and especially in the last half of the 20th century—and what actually happened.
The Secret History of the American Empire was written by a man who helped the U.S. elites exploit and corrupt many Central America countries, for which he is trying to atone by telling the truth about what was going on. Needless to say, he quit in disgust once the full picture of the country wrecking came into view. The Concise Untold History of the United States was written by two men of great integrity who researched what really happened in the last half of the 20th century as opposed to what we were told happened in the media and history books. Finally, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies tells the astonishing story of elites spending the last century (since 1915) using propaganda to control the media and therefore the public's cooperation with elite empire building plans which greedy elite oligarchs use to rob not just the citizens of other countries but of the U.S. as well. The idea is to accumulate as much wealth and power and control as they can.
- Freedom of the Press—an American Delusion to divest yourself of the delusion that we have a free press. Then see
- Requiem for the American Dream: The 10 Principles of Concentration of Wealth & Power to see how the elites are robbing us not just of our wealth, but our freedoms, our hopes, our power, and our democracy. Then see
- Democracy—an American Delusion to divest yourself of the delusion that we have a democracy. If everyone knew everything found in these three books, we'd ALL "feel the Bern" and Bernie Sanders would have been elected, but when he refused to do the bidding of the Shadow Government, he'd have an "accident" and one of the elites willing to play ball would take his place, so we'd be right back where we started. As long as elite shadow government neocons rule, political solutions will not succeed. But if you read this whole website and the novel, you'll know what to do. In the meantime, resist oppression and never give up.
Resist oppression and never ever give up