Removal of resistance: Chomsky explains, in Necessary Illusions, what the Daily Herald was (as you are unlikely to know) "As for the media, in England a lively labor-oriented press reaching a broad public existed into the 1960s, when it was finally eliminated through the workings of the market. At the time of its demise in 1964, the Daily Herald had over five times as many readers as The Times and 'almost double the readership of The Times, the Financial Times and the Guardian combined,' James Curran observes, citing survey research showing that its readers 'were also exceptionally devoted to their paper.' But this journal, partially owned by the unions and reaching a largely working-class audience, 'appealed to the wrong people,' Curran continues. The same was true of other elements of the social democratic press that died at the same time, in large part because they were 'deprived of the same level of subsidy' through advertising and private capital as sustained 'the quality press,' which 'not only reflects the values and interests of its middle-class readers' but also 'gives them force, dainty and coherence' and 'plays an important ideological role in amplifying and renewing the dominant political consensus.'
The consequences are significant. For the media, Curran concludes, there is 'a remarkable growth in advertising-related editorial features' and a 'growing convergence between editorial and advertising content' reflecting 'the increasing accommodation of national newspaper managements to the selective needs of advertisers' and the business community generally; the same is likely true of news coverage and interpretation. For society at large, Curran continues, 'the loss of the only social democratic papers with a large readership which devoted serious attention to current affairs,' including sectors of the working class that had remained 'remarkably radical in their attitudes to a wide range of economic and political issues,' contributed to 'the progressive erosion in post-war Britain of a popular radical tradition' and to the disintegration of 'the cultural base that has sustained active participation within the Labour movement,' which 'has ceased to exist as a mass movement in most parts of the country.' The effects are readily apparent. With the elimination of the 'selection and treatment of news' and 'relatively detailed political commentary and analysis [that] helped daily to sustain a social democratic sub-culture within the working class,' there is no longer an articulate alternative to the picture of 'a world where the subordination of working people [is] accepted as natural and inevitable,' and no continuing expression of the view that working people are 'morally entitled to a greater share of the wealth they created and a greater say in its allocation.' The same tendencies are evident elsewhere in the industrial capitalist societies".
Unification: These are my notes on Necessary Illusions so far. I'm staying offline mostly and working through the said book, using 4 different formats of it simultaneously to work through it as though it is a lecture series and I am a student of it. Which is in fact accurate. That's what it is and that's what I am. I'll add to these notes later (i.e. I'll 'synchronise' them with my offline work at some stage soon):
- opening up the media to citizen participation
- US establishment reacted aggressively against UNESCO's enquiry into such possibilities
reason given for aggression: concern for "freedom of the press"
chomsky asks: "how serious is this concern? what is its substantive content?"
chomsky asks: "what would a democratic communications policy be? is it a good idea? if so is it an attainable concept? what kind of democratic order is it to which we aspire?"
- When Judge Gurfein rejected the US government's attempt to bar publication of the pentagon papers, he implied that the press was out of line for publishing it but that it was a sacrifice and that it needed to be made in order to not be totalitarian
chomsky and any interpretation of events based on common sense imply that this was unfair - and that it was completely legitimate to publish the pentagon papers and to attempt to make the US government accountable to the people of the USA. Gurfein said that the press had to be "suffered by those in authority" and failed to recognise any participation in public debate by the people as a legitimate thing, seeing it as something useless to be "suffered" and no doubt ignored, however that may be achieved. the 'right of the people to know', which Gurfein claims to believe in, does not seem to be anything but an endpoint for such knowledge. the idea that people could debate and make decisions about what they know seems to fall outside the capacity of gurfein and anyone who thinks like him.
- Anthony Lewis of the New York Times backs Gurfein, accusing the media of interfering irresponsibly in the vietnam and watergate eras
Chomsky says this is a commonly held belief
- there has been debate in this time about the media, but not about democratising the media and freeing them from the constraints of state and private power
rather, the debate has been about whether the media have not exceeded proper bounds in escaping such constraints, the question is whether they have threatened the existence of democratic institutions
- in 1975 the trilateral commission studied "the governability of democracies" and concluded that the media had become a new source of national power and the commission labelled this an "excess of democracy" and a "crisis of democracy"
- the commission blamed "previously marginalised" people who create an "overload" , aka "special interests" groups
- chomsky sums up the commissions position: "the general public must be reduced to their traditional apathy and obedience and driven from arena of political debate and action" to protect the elitist version of 'democracy' from being improved upon
- the concept of 'special interests' groups is used to suggest that disagreement with the elite's policies come from some small marginal group. it refers, chomsky explains, to: "workers, farmers, women, youths, the elderly, handicapped, ethnic minorities, in fact to the general population".
- the tacit assumption is that the 'national interest' is "corporations, financial institutions and other business elites"
- in the post vietnam era there was what chomsky calls 'a right turn' - this included the dismantling of the limited state programmes which were designed to protect the poor and deprived, the transfer of resources to the wealthy, the conversion of the state even more than before into a welfare state for the privileged and the expansion of state power and the protected state sector of the economy through the military system
- enter 'the reagan doctrine' (the rest of the 'right turn') - activist foreign policy, goal to extend US power through subversion, international terrorism and aggression (which the media characterised as the vigorous defence of democracy worldwide)
- polls in 1988 showed that almost half the US population believe the US constitution is the source of this Marx quote: "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need" (even Marx hadn't mastered gender equality, I'll contend).
- chomsky says that the reagan phenomenon offers a foretaste of where capitalist democracies have been moving in general, since - elimination of labour unions, elimination of independent media, elimination of political associations, elimination of forms of popular organisation which interfere with domination of the state by concentrated private power
- the trilateral commission concludes that "broader interests of society and government require [..] regulation by the government (of the media)"
- Peter Braestrup's two-volume study, sponsored by Freedom House, of media coverage of the Tet Offensive of 1968 [..] was widely hailed as a landmark contribution, offering definitive proof of the irresponsibility of this 'notable new source of national power.'
- Chomsky explains "Until the TET offensive the media had reported the war as American command had wanted them to see it. Journalists were taken on guided tours. [..] But during the TET offensive that didn't work. The war was all around them. They could look out of the windows of their hotels and see fighting and they saw that it was a very different war to the one they had been programmed to present. In that respect coverage of the TET offensive was different but only in that respect."
- The basic question of fact is whether the media have been adversarial and threatened free institutions by being overly critical
-Chomsky says 'Some, however, have held that the factual premises are simply false.'
- Ginsberg maintains that 'western governments have used market mechanisms to regulate popular perspectives and sentiments. The 'marketplace of ideas,' built during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, effectively disseminates the beliefs and ideas of the upper classes while subverting the ideological and cultural independence of the lower classes. Through the construction of this marketplace, western governments forged firm and enduring links between socioeconomic position and ideological power, permitting upper classes to use each to buttress the other [..] In the United States, in particular, the ability of the upper and upper-middle classes to dominate the marketplace of ideas has generally allowed these strata to shape the entire society's perception of political reality and the range of realistic political and social possibilities. While westerners usually equate the marketplace with freedom of opinion, the hidden hand of the market can be almost as potent an instrument of control as the iron fist of the state.'
- Chomsky says 'Those segments of the media that can reach a substantial audience are major corporations and are closely integrated with even larger conglomerates. Like other businesses, they sell a product to buyers. Their market is advertisers, and the 'product' is audiences, with a bias towards more wealthy audiences, which improve advertising rates.'
- Chomsky goes on 'In short, the major media—particularly, the elite media that set the agenda that others generally follow—are corporations 'selling' privileged audiences to other businesses. It would hardly come as a surprise if the picture of the world they present were to reflect the perspectives and interests of the sellers, the buyers, and the product.'
- Chomsky argues 'those who occupy managerial positions in the media, or gain status within them as commentators, belong to the same privileged elites, and might be expected to share the perceptions, aspirations, and attitudes of their associates, reflecting their own class interests as well. Journalists entering the system are unlikely to make their way unless they conform to these ideological pressures, generally by internalizing the values [..] and those who fail to conform will tend to be weeded out by familiar mechanisms.'
- In the case of the TV station WNET which lost its corporate underwriting from Gulf and Western because it made a documentary called 'Hunger for profit' about 'multinationals buying up huge tracts of land in the third world.' Chomsky explains 'Gulf's chief executive wrote to the station, adding that the documentary was 'virulently anti-business, if not anti-American.' 'Most people believe that WNET would not make the same mistake today,' the Economist concludes. Nor would others. The warning need only be implicit.'
- Chomsky warns: 'To confront power is costly and difficult; high standards of evidence and argument are imposed, and critical analysis is naturally not be welcomed by those who are in a position to react vigorously and to determine the array of rewards and punishments. Conformity to a 'patriotic agenda,' in contrast, imposes no such costs. Charges against official enemies barely require substantiation; they are, furthermore, protected from correction, which can be dismissed as apologetics for the criminals or as missing the forest for the trees.'
- Chomsky gives examples - no argument is required in the western media when condemning Libya, Iran, Russia and others. Whilst intellectual opposition to US aggression, e.g. in Indochina, elicits "only horror and contempt" from these fakers who pretend to be empirical, modern thinkers. 'Evidence, no matter how compelling, is dismissed as irrelevant.' And attempts to present volumes of such evidence are portrayed as boring and somehow unacceptable (media culture teaches us to soundbite, to tweet, to Facebook, to be brief, to be perceived as cool).
- 'Conformity is the easy way'. The media is designed to induce conformity to established doctrine. Evidence for proving unfamiliar or new ideas has no place in the soundbite-oriented media.
- Herman and Chomsky have published extensive documentation about how the media actually functions. Their 'propaganda model' has been tested very openly and fully and shows how biased and corrupt our media in the UK and US are. It is very well confirmed and Chomsky is unaware of any serious challenge to his conclusions.
- standard model of the media (adversarial, cantankerous, confront private power too excessively)
- the propaganda model (the media are docile, submissive, serve interest of state corporate power)
-the propaganda model has extensive documentation to back it - that's what's going on
claims that the standard model is what's going on - cannot be proved, are patently false - can easily be disproved, obviously - by showing the propaganda model to be true
- Chomsky points out: 'Journalists often meet a high standard of professionalism in their work, exhibiting courage, integrity, and enterprise, including many of those who report for media that adhere closely to the predictions of the propaganda model. There is no contradiction here. What is at issue is not the honesty of the opinions expressed or the integrity of those who seek the facts but rather the choice of topics and highlighting of issues, the range of opinion permitted expression, the unquestioned premises that guide reporting and commentary, and the general framework imposed for the presentation of a certain view of the world. We need not, incidentally, tarry over such statements as the following, emblazoned on the cover of the New Republic during Israel's invasion of Lebanon: 'Much of what you have read in the newspapers and newsmagazines about the war in Lebanon—and even more of what you have seen and heard on television—is simply not true.' Such performances can be consigned to the dismal archives of apologetics for the atrocities of other favored states.'
- Debate by society about the media is today restricted as follows. it consists of:
critics of the adversarial stance of the media
responses by people who defend the media
it excludes any critique of the media for adhering to the predictions of the propaganda model
it excludes any recognition that this position might be a conceivable position
- Chomsky says that the media can be shown to perform the role of training the minds of the people to a virtuous attachment to their government whilst imaging that its role is to help the public assert meaningful control over the political process.
- The media are vigilant guardians protecting privilege from the threat of public understanding and participation.
- Democracy should mean that citizens should have the opportunity to inform themselves, to take part in enquiry and discussion and policy formation and to advance their programmes through political action. In the US and UK democracy is much more narrowly conceived. The citizen is a consumer, an observer, not a participant. The public has the right to ratify policies which originate elsewhere but if these limits are exceeded we have not democracy but a 'crisis of democracy' which must somehow be resolved.
- Democracy in the US and UK is today reduced to interactions among groups of investors who compete for control of the state.
- US foreign policy officially includes the stated belief that, internationally, 'nationalistic regimes' that respond to domestic pressures for improvement of living standards and social reform, with insufficient regard for the needs of US investors are perceived as a threat to US interests.
- Chomsky cites disparity between US media treatment of US client states vs its treatment of others. Some of those the US calls democratic find that only 10% of their population consider themselves to be living in a democracy. A pattern which is as true now in 2014 as it was in 1988 when Chomsky observed it about El Salvador. Today consider Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, etc.
- In accordance with the prevailing conceptions in the US, there is no infringement on democracy if a few corporations control the information system: in fact, that is the essence of democracy.
- In the Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the leading figure of the public relations industry, Edward Bernays, explains that 'the very essence of the democratic process' is 'the freedom to persuade and suggest,' what he calls 'the engineering of consent.' 'A leader,' he continues, 'frequently cannot wait for the people to arrive at even general understanding [..] Democratic leaders must play their part in [..] engineering [..] consent to socially constructive goals and values,' applying 'scientific principles and tried practices to the task of getting people to support ideas and programs'; and although it remains unsaid, it is evident enough that those who control resources will be in a position to judge what is 'socially constructive,' to engineer consent through the media, and to implement policy through the mechanisms of the state. If the freedom to persuade happens to be concentrated in a few hands, we must recognize that such is the nature of a free society. The public relations industry expends vast resources 'educating the American people about the economic facts of life' to ensure a favorable climate for business. Its task is to control 'the public mind,' which is 'the only serious danger confronting the company,' an AT&T executive observed eighty years ago.
- Reinhold Niebuhr argued that 'rationality belongs to the cool observers,' while 'the proletarian' follows not reason but faith, based upon a crucial element of 'necessary illusion.' Without such illusion, the ordinary person will descend to 'inertia.' Then in his Marxist phase, Niebuhr urged that those he addressed - presumably, the cool observers - recognize 'the stupidity of the average man' and provide the 'emotionally potent oversimplifications' required to keep the proletarian on course to create a new society; the basic conceptions underwent little change as Niebuhr became 'the official establishment theologian' (Richard Rovere), offering counsel to those who 'face the responsibilities of power.'
- A Dutch Minister of Defense wrote 'whoever turns against manufacture of consent resists any form of effective authority.'
- The manufacture of consent rarely involves conscious deceit. So-called intellectuals and 'elites' readily adopt beliefs which serve institutional needs; The chairman of the board may sincerely believe he is serving human needs. Were he to act on these delusions he would no longer be chairman. It is probable that the Himmlers convince themselves that they are engaged in courageous acts.
- Chomsky says there are three possible types of media control system - corporate oligopoly, state controlled or democratic communications policy
- Chomsky says the latter has never been tried and thinks we should implement it
- the right of the public to shape their own affairs - this is a future possibility but not the status quo
- capitalist democracy, according to Joshua Cohen and Joel Rogers, suffers from business control of political and other institutions because of
1. the demand constraint - imposes limits on what people are likely to demand - in a capitalist society profit is taken as the yardstick of a society's success above all else, at the expense of the more obvious and more real societal goals, such as high living standards for the vast majority or totality - as has been proved most abundantly our capitalist society causes an increasing majority to experience lessened living standards and the moral vacuum required for lording it over the majority is coupled with a propaganda mechanism which leaves those with good living standards trapped in a lifestyle leading to terminal conditions like cancer - so nobody's overall longterm living standards (not even those of the minority who take more than everyone else) ends up better off under this insanely materialistic scheme. the causal process which enables otherwise intelligent people to allow this to be done to them goes like this: failing to secure capitalists' interests leads to 'inadequate' profits, which leads to 'inadequate' investment, decline in production, decline in jobs and wages, decline in incomes, decline in tax, decline in government coffers and the wealth of the nation.
naturally it is easy to see the flaws in that fantasy view of society today - money printing is being used to pump investment in worthless markets, top heavy profits for the few, suffocation of all other industries, decline in jobs and wages, increase in political party wealth, increase in share prices, decrease in performance of companies whilst their share prices rise - what we have is a completely schizophrenic economic and social system which now serves no purpose other than, if you look closely, ensuring a minority with immense wealth and power increase the distance between themselves and the rest of the population all over the world, near to them and far from them. this somewhat destroys the idea that what they are doing is for the sake of jobs, wages and increasing taxes.
then, add specific new cruelties to your analysis (TTIP and much more besides), and you can see that we have an emergency, to quote Jamiroquai, on planet earth
2. the resource constraint - shapes what happens within those limits - different groups and different individuals have access to different resources which they can deploy to influence political outcomes; example resources: control over mass media instruments, campaign contributions and the impact of this on policies, high paying jobs for politicians after they leave office
- 'the political class and the cultural managers typically associate themselves with the sectors that dominate the private economy; they are either drawn directly from those sectors or expect to join them'
- 'it will never be a good world while knights and gentlemen make us laws, that are chosen for fear and do but oppress us, and do not know the people's sores. It will never be well with us till we have Parliaments of countrymen like ourselves, that know our wants.'
- 'With the rarest of exceptions, the representatives of the people do not come from or return to the workplace; rather, law offices catering to business interests, executive suites, and other places of privilege.'
- the daily herald: in the 1960s it had over 5 times as many readers as the Times and almost double the readership of the Times, Financial Times and Guardian combined.