Interesting read...

Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 05:12 pm
This is an exert from this book, and I find it fascinating... http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1583225366/qid=1088369989/sr=8-1/ref=pd_ka_1/103-8690195-5811828?v=glance&s=books&n=507846

The role of the media
in contemporary politics forces us to ask what
kind of a world and what kind of a society we
want to live in, and in particular in what sense
of democracy do we want this to be a democratic
society? Let me begin by counter-posing
two different conceptions of democracy. One
conception of democracy has it that a democratic
society is one in which the public has the
means to participate in some meaningful way
in the management of their own affairs and the
means of information are open and free. If you
look up democracy in the dictionary you'll get
a definition something like that.

An alternative conception of democracy is
that the public must be barred from managing
of their own affairs and the means of information
must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled.
That may sound like an odd conception
of democracy, but it's important to understand
that it is the prevailing conception. In fact, it
has long been, not just in operation, but even
in theory. There's a long history that goes back
to the earliest modern democratic revolutions
in seventeenth century England which largely
expresses this point of view. I'm just going to
keep to the modern period and say a few words
about how that notion of democracy develops
and why and how the problem of media and disinformation
enters within that context.

Let's begin with the first modern government
propaganda operation. That was under the
Woodrow Wilson Administration. Woodrow
Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the
platform "Peace Without Victory." That was
right in the middle of the World War I. The population
was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason
to become involved in a European war. The
Wilson administration was actually committed
to war and had to do something about it. They
established a government propaganda commission,
called the Creel Commission which
succeeded, within six months, in turning a
pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mon-
gering population which wanted to destroy
everything German, tear the Germans limb
from limb, go to war and save the world. That
was a major achievement, and it led to a further
achievement. Right at that time and after the
war the same techniques were used to whip up
a hysterical Red Scare, as it was called, which
succeeded pretty much in destroying unions
and eliminating such dangerous problems as
freedom of the press and freedom of political

thought. There was very strong support from
the media, from the business establishment,
which in fact organized, pushed much of this
work, and it was, in general, a great success.
Among those who participated actively and
enthusiastically in Wilson's war were the progressive
intellectuals, people of the John
Dewey circle, who took great pride, as you can
see from their own writings at the time, in having
shown that what they called the "more
intelligent members of the community,"
namely, themselves, were able to drive a
reluctant population into a war by terrifying
them and eliciting jingoist fanaticism. The
means that were used were extensive. For
example, there was a good deal of fabrication
of atrocities by the Huns, Belgian babies with
their arms torn off, all sorts of awful things that
you still read in history books. Much of it was
invented by the British propaganda ministry,
whose own commitment at the time, as they
put it in their secret deliberations, was "to
direct the thought of most of the world." But
more crucially they wanted to control the
thought of the more intelligent members of the
community in the United States, who would
then disseminate the propaganda that they
were concocting and convert the pacifistic

country to wartime hysteria. That worked. It
worked very well. And it taught a lesson: State
propaganda, when supported by the educated
classes and when no deviation is permitted
from it, can have a big effect. It was a lesson
learned by Hitler and many others, and it has
been pursued to this day.

Another group that was impressed by these
successes was liberal democratic theorists and
leading media figures, like, for example, Walter
Lippmann, who was the dean of American
journalists, a major foreign and domestic policy
critic and also a major theorist of liberal
democracy. If you take a look at his collected
essays, you'll see that they're subtitled something
like "A Progressive Theory of Liberal
Democratic Thought." Lippmann was
involved in these propaganda commissions and
recognized their achievements. He argued that
what he called a "revolution in the art of
democracy," could be used to "manufacture
consent, " that is, to bring about agreement on
the part of the public for things that they did-
n't want by the new techniques of propaganda.
He also thought that this was a good idea, in
fact, necessary. It was necessary because, as he
put it, "the common interests elude public
opinion entirely" and can only be understood
and managed by a "specialized class "of
"responsible men" who are smart enough to
figure things out. This theory asserts that only

a small elite, the intellectual community that
the Deweyites were talking about, can understand
the common interests, what all of us
care about, and that these things "elude the
general public." This is a view that goes back
hundreds of years. It's also a typical Leninist
view. In fact, it has very close resemblance to
the Leninist conception that a vanguard of revolutionary
intellectuals take state power,
using popular revolutions as the force that
brings them to state power, and then drive the
stupid masses toward a future that they're too
dumb and incompetent to envision for themselves.
The liberal democratic theory and
Marxism-Leninism are very close in their
common ideological assumptions. I think
that's one reason why people have found it so
easy over the years to drift from one position
to another without any particular sense of
change. It's just a matter of assessing where
power is. Maybe there will be a popular revolution,
and that will put us into state power;
or maybe there won't be, in which case we'll
just work for the people with real power: the
business community. But we'll do the same
thing. We'll drive the stupid masses toward a
world that they're too dumb to understand for

Lippmann backed this up by a pretty elaborated
theory of progressive democracy. He
argued that in a properly functioning democracy
there are classes of citizens. There is first
of all the class of citizens who have to take
some active role in running general affairs.
That's the specialized class. They are the people
who analyze, execute, make decisions, and
run things in the political, economic, and ideological
systems. That's a small percentage of
the population. Naturally, anyone who puts
these ideas forth is always part of that small
group, and they're talking about what to do
about those others. Those others, who are out
of the small group, the big majority of the population,
they are what Lippmann called "the
bewildered herd." We have to protect ourselves
from "the trampling and roar of a bewildered
herd". Now there are two "functions" in a
democracy: The specialized class, the responsible
men, carry out the executive function,
which means they do the thinking and planning
and understand the common interests.
Then, there is the bewildered herd, and they
have a function in democracy too. Their function
in a democracy, he said, is to be "spectators,"
not participants in action. But they have
more of a function than that, because it's a

democracy. Occasionally they are allowed to
lend their weight to one or another member of
the specialized class. In other words, they're
allowed to say, "We want you to be our leader"
or "We want you to be our leader." That's
because it's a democracy and not a totalitarian
state. That's called an election. But once
they've lent their weight to one or another
member of the specialized class they're supposed
to sink back and become spectators of
action, but not participants. That's in a properly
functioning democracy.
And there's a logic behind it. There's even
a kind of compelling moral principle behind
it. The compelling moral principle is that the
mass of the public are just too stupid to be
able to understand things. If they try to participate
in managing their own affairs, they're
just going to cause trouble. Therefore, it
would be immoral and improper to permit
them to do this. We have to tame the bewildered
herd, not allow the bewildered herd to
rage and trample and destroy things. It's pretty
much the same logic that says that it would
be improper to let a three-year-old run across
the street. You don't give a three-year-old that
kind of freedom because the three-year-old
doesn't know how to handle that freedom.....

There's too much more to paste here, but I'm interested in people's thoughts on it so far Smile
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Reply Sun 27 Jun, 2004 05:37 pm
nice post. you are quickly becoming my favorite hood.

all this may well be true, and it has been written about in "the chomsky reader" chapeter 2: the responsibility of intellectuals/manufacture of consent. (same author, btw to the linked book).

but just one question: why does chomsky hate america?
0 Replies
L R R Hood
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2004 04:44 am
I don't think he hates America, exactly, but the American government is what seems to upset him. That and their pawns, i.e. the media.

Your favorite hood? Thank you kindly!
0 Replies
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2004 04:57 am
To say Chomsky hates America is akin to the Bush is Hitler complaints of radical liberals. I may not agree with all his political views, but the man does have a point. I think it is important to look at Chomsky in the light of Marshall McLuhan:

0 Replies
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2004 08:31 am
don't see a lot of sarcasm around your parts, do you?

think anyone who can tell you which text and chapter chomsky's remarks come from considers him an "america hater?"
0 Replies
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2004 08:48 am
Heh heh, I was slow this morning. Recovering from stomach flu.
0 Replies
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2004 09:19 am
How refreshing to read something so nuanced and outside of the normal cliches and mythologies! Thanks very much hood.

As you'll see in the following link, the Straussian theories of political philosophy are precisely aligned with what Chomsky points to in the Dewians or the Leninists. This is a very good piece.

Also, the point that Chomsky makes above regarding easy shifts of position/allegiance so as to move closer to points of power (regardless of which 'team' is in position) is an astute one. Many of those now influential in this administration come from Democrat alliances and families. I've bumped into a very good book, by chance actually, titled "The Gang of Five" by Nina J. Easton (Simon and shuster) written before 9-11 on the main figures who have been at the center of the New Right movement, Bill Kristol, Grover Norquist, Ralph Reed, Clint Bolick, and David McIntosh. These guys are all very bright, highly motivated, and have moved into positions of extraordinary power within the Republican party and now, over the country. I highly recommend this book.
0 Replies
L R R Hood
Reply Mon 28 Jun, 2004 07:17 pm
You know, at first, I thought that going to war in the middle east was completely rediculous. I thought of the middle east as a huge mess, although I realise that I know very little about that part of the world. I just didn't think it was the US' place to go over there and try to solve a tiny part of a huge problem. I mean, I thought it was futile.

Then, watching the news... I started to support the war.

After reading the exert that I posted... I know I was brainwashed, even though I wasn't completely trusting of the news.

That man's words have really opened my eyes to how I have been manipulated... and I thought as a libertarian I was immune to that kind of thing.

Sorry to ramble, but I'm very tired. I hope that made some sense Smile
0 Replies
Reply Sun 11 Jul, 2004 05:54 pm
I'm gonna have to read more from that man. Thanks!
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