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04 March 2004

Necessary Illusions?

When it was realised that there was only so much control that could exerted over people through the use of physical force, logic dictated that the way to make people en masse act in the desired manner is ensure their minds are controlled instead. The text below is a collection of quotes from various talks given by Noam Chomsky relating to the subject of propaganda and which all fit together nicely to produce a synopsis of quite how values, beliefs and ideas are engendered in a largely unwitting public via 'education' systems, mass media and simple repetition:

"The point is that you have to work. That's why the propaganda system is so successful. Very few people are going to have the time or the energy or the commitment to carry out the constant battle that's required to get outside of McNeil or Dan Rather or somebody like that.

The easy thing to do, you know, you come home from work, you're tired, you've had a busy day, you're not going to spend the evening carrying out a research project. So you turn on the tube and say, "It's probably right", or you look at the headlines in the paper and then you watch the sports or something. That's basically the way the system of indoctrination works. Sure the other stuff is there, but you're going to have to work to find it.

Modern industrial civilisation has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilisation has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praise-worthy, on the grounds that private licence yields public benefits, in the classic formulation.

Now, it's long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself, in time. it can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it's possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can.

At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests guided by values of solidarity, and sympathy, and concern for others. Or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control.

As long as some specialised class is in authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community.

The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely to impose 'necessary illusions', to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority, and remove them from the public arena. The question, in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved, or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival."

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