<< It's time for this world of office-worker-proclaimed "professionals" to lose a good dose of their terminal arrogance. >> Just a few facts for you to dig into before the media roundups and other activity really kicks off on this site.
Thrust of argument: <<<
Let us not forget, when considering the genocidal racism of right wing Israelis, that Salon reported in 2014: << The Times of Israel is under fire on Friday after publishing a blog post titled 'When Genocide Is Permissible.' The post, written by Yochanon Gordon, was quickly removed from the Times' website, but cached and screen-captured versions of the piece quickly proliferated on social media. >>
The racist blogger wrote: << Hamas has stated forthrightly that it idealizes death as much as Israel celebrates life. What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely? >> (I wonder what the average westerner would feel about that argument's being used in relation to the damage the USA, the UK and much of western Europe has done to the world, for centuries?!!)
Finally this Israeli then declares << If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals? >> (I guess that's what the terrorists who bomb westerners feel they are doing when they commit Israeli-style genocide in Britain, France, the U.S. etc). >>>
Direction of resistance / implied resistance: << CHOMSKY: Well this raises quite a welter of questions. Let me begin by saying something about liberalism, which is a very complicated concept, I think. It's correct, surely, that liberalism grew up in the intellectual environment of empiricism and the rejection of authority, and trust in the evidence of the senses, and so on. However, liberalism has undergone a very complex evolution as a social philosophy over the years. If we go back to the classics, or at least, what I regard as the classics, say, for example, Humboldt's limits of state action which inspired Mill and is a true libertarian, liberal classic, if you'd like. The world that Humboldt was considering--which was partially an imaginary world--but the world for which he was developing this political philosophy, was a post-feudal but pre-capitalist world.
That it was a world in which there was no great divergence among individuals in the kind of power that they had, and what they command, let's say. But there was a tremendous disparity between individuals, on one hand, and the state on the other. Consequently, it was the task of a liberalism that was concerned with human rights, and the quality of individuals, and so on. It was the task of that liberalism to dissolve the enormous power of state, which was such an authoritarian threat to individual liberties. And from that, you develop a classical liberal theory in, say, Humboldt's or Mill's sense. Well, of course, that is pre-capitalist. He couldn't conceive of an era in which a corporation would be regarded as an individual,
Or in which enormous disparities in control over resources and production would distinguish between individuals in a massive fashion. Now, in that kind of society, to take the Humboldtian view is a very superficial liberalism. Because while opposition to state power in an era of such divergence conforms to Humboldt's conclusions, it doesn't do so for his reasons. That is, his reasons lead to very different conclusions in that case.
Namely, I think, his reasons lead to the conclusion that we must dissolve the authoritarian control over production of resources, which leads to such divergence as among individuals. In fact, I think, one might draw a direct line between classical liberalism and a kind of libertarian socialism, which I think, can be regarded as a kind of adapting of the basic reasoning of classical liberalism to a very different social era. Now if we come to the modern period, here liberalism has taken on a very strange sense, if you think of its history. Now liberalism is essentially the theory of state capitalism. Of state intervention in a capitalist economy.
Well, that has very little relation to classical liberalism. In fact, classical liberalism is what's now called conservatism, I suppose. But this new view, I think, really is, in my view at least, a highly authoritarian position. That is, it's one which accepts a number of centers of authority and control--the state on one hand, agglomerations of private power on the other hand, all interacting with individuals as malleable cogs in this highly constrained machine, which may be called democratic, but given the actual distribution of powers, very far from being meaningfully democratic and cannot be so. So my own feeling has always been that to achieve the classical liberal ideals--for the reasons that led to them being put forth--in a society so different, we must be led in a very different direction. It's superficial and erroneous to accept the conclusions which were reached for different society and not to consider the reasoning that led to those conclusions. The reasoning, I think, is very substantial. I'm a classical liberal in this sense. But I think it leads me to be a kind of anarchist, an anarchist socialist. >>
Removal of resistance: Chomsky states in the preface to Necessary Illusions the opinion that << citizens of the democratic societies should undertake a course of intellectual self-defense to protect themselves from manipulation and control, and to lay the basis for more meaningful democracy. >>
there are some events you need to understand, from our recent past, which have shaped all this. In Necessary Illusions, Chomsky informs us about a great deal. So here come some more lengthy quotations - to those who do not believe that effort and literacy are important when trying to understand the politics of our world, I am sorry to disappoint you, there simply is no other way.
Chomsky begins by saying << These lectures suggest certain conclusions about the functioning of the most advanced democratic systems of the modern era, and particularly, about the ways in which thought and understanding are shaped in the interests of domestic privilege. >> He adds: << But, 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. >> Indeed that is true. I've seen Nick Cohen accuse Chomsky of things which if Cohen had read Chomsky's works Cohen would find the opposite is true - eg claiming Chomsky doesn't tell us about the bad things the Soviet Union did. In fact you can look it up for yourself - what will become clear to you is that men like Cohen attack Chomsky without reading Chomsky. Chomsky on the other hand (and hopefully you and I will be like him, not like Cohen) takes the other approach - knowing what you're talking about before you start talking.
According to Chomsky, then: << the tension [caused by decision making power's being in the hands of the few but impacting on a large scale throughout the social order] could be resolved, and sometimes is, by forcefully eliminating public interference with state and private power. In the advanced industrial societies the problem is typically approached by a variety of measures to deprive democratic political structures of substantive content, while leaving them formally intact. A large part of this task is assumed by ideological institutions that channel thought and attitudes within acceptable bounds, deflecting any potential challenge to established privilege and authority before it can take form and gather strength. The enterprise has many facets and agents. >>
Chomsky suggests: << One way to resolve the tension would be to extend the democratic system to investment, the organization of work, and so on. That would constitute a major social revolution, which, in my view at least, would consummate the political revolutions of an earlier era and realize some of the libertarian principles on which they were partly based >> .
So what exactly has caused us to go so far astray, since the 60s, since indeed the time of Chomsky's Massey Lectures in the late 80s. Well it goes back to before those lectures, of course, and in them Chomsky advises us: << I will be primarily concerned with one aspect: thought control, as conducted through the agency of the national media and related elements of the elite intellectual culture >> . No, not B-movies, perfectly rational and sane assessment of how our society works: << In accordance with the prevailing conceptions in the U.S., 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. >>
No, nobody is pretending Laura Kuenssberg is an evil but intellectual giant of a woman, scheming to rule the world.
Chomsky explains: << Despite the frank acknowledgment of the need to deceive the public, it would be an error to suppose that practitioners of the art are typically engaged in conscious deceit; few reach the level of sophistication of the Grand Inquisitor or maintain such insights for long. On the contrary, as the intellectuals pursue their grim and demanding vocation, they readily adopt beliefs that serve institutional needs; those who do not will have to seek employment elsewhere. The chairman of the board may sincerely believe that his every waking moment is dedicated to serving human needs. Were he to act on these delusions instead of pursuing profit and market share, he would no longer be chairman of the board. It is probable that the most inhuman monsters, even the Himmlers and the Mengeles, convince themselves that they are engaged in noble and courageous acts. The psychology of leaders is a topic of little interest. The institutional factors that constrain their actions and beliefs are what merit attention. >>
It goes back to the time of Nixon and Watergate (British 'leftists' pay attention - too few of them have a clue about these matters): << The standard image of media performance, as expressed by Judge Gurfein in a decision rejecting government efforts to bar publication of the Pentagon Papers, is that we have "a cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press," and that these tribunes of the people "must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know." Commenting on this decision, Anthony Lewis of the New York Times observes that the media were not always as independent, vigilant, and defiant of authority as they are today, but in the Vietnam and Watergate eras they learned to exercise "the power to root about in our national life, exposing what they deem right for exposure," without regard to external pressures or the demands of state or private power. >>
Where is the evidence of this? Neoliberals may want to ask, accusing you of 'conspiracy theory' if you attempt to persuade them of the truth. Tell them: << A 1975 study on "governability of democracies" by the Trilateral Commission concluded that the media have become a "notable new source of national power," one aspect of an "excess of democracy" that contributes to "the reduction of governmental authority" at home and a consequent "decline in the influence of democracy abroad." This general "crisis of democracy," the commission held, resulted from the efforts of previously marginalized sectors of the population to organize and press their demands, thereby creating an overload that prevents the democratic process from functioning properly. >>
Chomsky tells us that << The charge that the Democrats represent the special interests has little merit. Rather, they represent other elements of the "national interest," and participated with few qualms in the right turn of the post-Vietnam era among elite groups, including the dismantling of limited state programs designed to protect the poor and deprived; the transfer of resources to the wealthy; the conversion of the state, even more than before, to a welfare state for the privileged; and the expansion of state power and the protected state sector of the economy through the military system - domestically, a device for compelling the public to subsidize high-technology industry and provide a state-guaranteed market for its waste production >> . This applies to pre-Corbyn (and non-Corbyn) Labour. Evidently.
Chomsky indicates support for Ginsberg's belief 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. >>
One piece of evidence Chomsky presents is this: << The influence of advertisers is sometimes far more direct. "Projects unsuitable for corporate sponsorship tend to die on the vine," the London Economist observes, noting that "stations have learned to be sympathetic to the most delicate sympathies of corporations." The journal cites the case of public TV station WNET, which "lost its corporate underwriting from Gulf+Western as a result of a documentary called 'Hunger for Profit', about multinationals buying up huge tracts of land in the third world." These actions "had not been those of a friend," 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's investigation concludes that << 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. In a three-minute stretch between commercials, or in seven hundred words, it is impossible to present unfamiliar thoughts or surprising conclusions with the argument and evidence required to afford them some credibility. Regurgitation of welcome pieties faces no such problem. >>
Where the title of Necessary Illusions comes from is significant and is evident from this extract from chapter one: << Harold Lasswell explained in the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences that we should not succumb to "democratic dogmatisms about men being the best judges of their own interests." They are not; the best judges are the elites, who must, therefore, be ensured the means to impose their will, for the common good. When social arrangements deny them the requisite force to compel obedience, it is necessary to turn to "a whole new technique of control, largely through propaganda" because of the "ignorance and superstition [of] ... the masses." In the same years, 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." >>
Chomsky explains << in practice, the state media are generally kept in line by the forces that have the power to dominate the state, and by an apparatus of cultural managers who cannot stray far from the bounds these forces set >> .
Many people see the Guardian as the left wing and people like Counterpunch as some sort of radical extreme segment of the political spectrum.
Chomsky points out << One consequence of the distribution of resources and decision- making power in the society at large is that 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. >>
Chomsky then quotes radical democrats of the seventeenth-century English revolution who held that << 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. >>
Chomsky enlightens us about the demise of the left wing and workers' rights in the 'UK' in the 1960s:
<< 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." >>
In Necessary Illusions Chomsky also speaks of << 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. >>
And what underpins all of this deception? Well, foreign policy. More about all this later when we get round to NATO, but a primer, from Chomsky, first, on what exactly NATO really is.
Chomsky says: << the global planning undertaken by U.S. elites during and after World War II assumed that principles of liberal internationalism would generally serve to satisfy what had been described as the "requirement of the United States in a world in which it proposes to hold unquestioned power."6 The global policy goes under the name "containment." The manufacture of consent at home is its domestic counterpart. The two policies are, in fact, closely intertwined, since the domestic population must be mobilized to pay the costs of "containment," which may be severe - both material and moral costs.
The rhetoric of containment is designed to give a defensive cast to the project of global management, and it thus serves as part of the domestic system of thought control. It is remarkable that the terminology is so easily adopted, given the questions that it begs. Looking more closely, we find that the concept conceals a good deal. The underlying assumption is that there is a stable international order that the United States must defend. The general contours of this international order were developed by U.S. planners during and after World War II. Recognizing the extraordinary scale of U.S. power, they proposed to construct a global system that the United States would dominate and within which U.S. business interests would thrive. As much of the world as possible would constitute a Grand Area, as it was called, which would be subordinated to the needs of the U.S. economy. Within the Grand Area, other capitalist societies would be encouraged to develop, but without protective devices that would interfere with U.S. prerogatives. In particular, only the United States would be permitted to dominate regional systems. The United States moved to take effective control of world energy production and to organize a world system in which its various components would fulfill their functions as industrial centers, as markets and sources of raw materials, or as dependent states pursuing their "regional interests" within the "overall framework of order" managed by the United States (as Henry Kissinger was later to explain). >>
The term "Grand area" is clearly just a translation into 'American' ideology of the notion "lebensraum".
The 'US' is often seen as a mighty and brilliant military superpower which has evolved beyond other cultures in terms of skill and even courage. There is no shortage of people who will cheer this view of the 'US' - everywhere from crappy gungho-films enjoyed by idiots to the 'cultured' broadsheets of the 'privileged'.
As Chomsky explains, << another task was to overcome the dread "Vietnam syndrome," which impeded the resort to forceful means to control the dependencies; as explained by Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz, the task was to overcome "the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force" that developed in revulsion against the Indochina wars, a problem that was resolved, he hoped, in the glorious conquest of Grenada, when 6,000 elite troops succeeded in overcoming the resistance of several dozen Cubans and some Grenadan militiamen, winning 8,000 medals of honor for their prowess. >>
To add to all of this, we are dealing with a society which every day becomes louder in its proclamations amongst its "individuals" that it is "heroic", "brave", "advanced", and even (yes, this will make you laugh) "honourable".
Chomsky wrote << It is beyond imagining in responsible circles that we might have some culpability for mass slaughter and destruction, or owe some debt to the millions of maimed and orphaned, or to the peasants who still die from exploding ordnance left from the U.S. assault, while the Pentagon, when asked whether there is any way to remove the hundreds of thousands of anti-personnel bomblets that kill children today in such areas as the Plain of Jars in Laos, comments helpfully that "people should not live in those areas. They know the problem." The United States has refused even to give its mine maps of Indochina to civilian mine-deactivation teams. Ex-marines who visited Vietnam in 1989 to help remove mines they had laid report that many remain in areas were people try to farm and plant trees, and were informed that many people are still being injured and killed as of January 1989. None of this merits comment or concern.
The situation is of course quite different when we turn to Afghanistan - where, incidentally, the Soviet-installed regime has released its mine maps. In this case, headlines read: "Soviets Leave Deadly Legacy for Afghans," "Mines Put Afghans in Peril on Return," "U.S. Rebukes Soviets on Afghan Mine Clearing," "U.S. to Help Train Refugees To Destroy Afghan Mines," "Mines Left by Departing Soviets Are Maiming Afghans," and so on. The difference is that these are Soviet mines, so it is only natural for the United States to call for "an international effort to provide the refugees with training and equipment to destroy or dismantle" them and to denounce the Russians for their lack of cooperation in this worthy endeavor. "The Soviets will not acknowledge the problem they have created or help solve it," Assistant Secretary of State Richard Williamson observed sadly; "We are disappointed." The press responds with the usual selective humanitarian zeal. >>
Attackers of Chomsky often imagine that in doing so they are standing up for 'decent' regimes who don't kill journalists.
Outlining the U.S. position on Central America, Chomsky tells us that << There had been an independent press in El Salvador: two small newspapers, La Crónica del Pueblo and El Independiente. Both were destroyed in 1989-81 by the security forces. After a series of bombings, an editor of La Crónica and a photographer were taken from a San Salvador coffee shop and hacked to pieces with machetes; the offices were raided, bombed, and burned down by death squads, and the publisher fled to the United States. The publisher of El Independiente, Jorge Pinto, fled to Mexico when his paper's premises were attacked and equipment smashed by troops. Concern over these matters was so high in the United States that there was not one word in the New York Times news columns and not one editorial comment on the destruction of the journals, and no word in the years since, though Pinto was permitted a statement on the opinion page, in which he condemned the "Duarte junta" for having "succeeded in extinguishing the expression of any dissident opinion" and expressed his belief that the so-called death squads are "nothing more nor less than the military itself" - a conclusion endorsed by the Church and international human rights monitors.
In the year before the final destruction of El Independiente, the offices were bombed twice, an office boy was killed when the plant was machine-gunned, Pinto's car was sprayed with machine-gun fire, there were two other attempts on his life, and army troops in tanks and armored trucks arrived at his offices to search for him two days before the paper was finally destroyed. These events received no mention. Shortly before it was finally destroyed, there had been four bombings of La Crónica in six months; one of these, the last, received forty words in the New York Times.
It is not that the U.S. media are unconcerned with freedom of the press in Central America. Contrasting sharply with the silence over the two Salvadoran newspapers is the case of the opposition journal La Prensa in Nicaragua. Media critic Francisco Goldman counted 263 references to its tribulations in the New York Times in four years. The distinguishing criterion is not obscure: the Salvadoran newspapers were independent voices stilled by the murderous violence of U.S. clients; La Prensa is an agency of the U.S. campaign to overthrow the government of Nicaragua, therefore a "worthy victim," whose harassment calls forth anguish and outrage. We return to further evidence that this is indeed the operative criterion. >>