Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies by Noam Chomsky

Edited the Bibliography of Essential Readings page (https://radicalresponse.org/radical-readings/bibliography-of-essential-radical-readings/) to include a link to the full text of this invaluable, eye-opening book… Here’s  an excerpt:

“…The concept of “democratizing the media” has no real meaning within the terms of political discourse in the United States. In fact, the phrase has a paradoxical or even vaguely subversive ring to it. Citizen participation would be considered an infringement on freedom of the press, a blow struck against the independence of the media that would distort the mission they have undertaken to inform the public without fear or favor. The reaction merits some thought. Underlying it are beliefs about how the media do function and how they should function within our democratic systems, and also certain implicit conceptions of the nature of democracy. Let us consider these topics in turn.

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. This too is a commonly held belief.3

There has been much debate over the media during this period, but it does not deal with the problem of “democratizing the media” and freeing them from the constraints of state and private power. Rather, the issue debated is whether the media have not exceeded proper bounds in escaping such constraints, even threatening the existence of democratic institutions in their contentious and irresponsible defiance of authority. 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. In earlier times, “Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers,” so the American rapporteur, Samuel Huntington of Harvard University, reflected. In that period there was no crisis of democracy, but in the 1960s, the crisis developed and reached serious proportions. The study therefore urged more “moderation in democracy” to mitigate the excess of democracy and overcome the crisis…’

In these times of political chaos amidst the two ruling class parties, we need access to information free from government or corporate influence even more than ever… but first the masses must be disabused of the myth that the American media is free, investigative, adversarial, or a  reliable source… Start witgh this book then read or watch Manufacturing Consent… Your minds will be blown…

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