Noam Chomsky is back

December 28, 2009

Noam Chomsky is back with some interesting observations about American Democracy and the so-called Liberal Media. We always think America is a model of democracy. Is it? Of course, it is more democratic compared to Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Malaysia. Listen to what Noam Chomsky has to say on the American system of government.

To me, Professor Chomsky is a refreshing voice about issues of concern to all of us who are seeking to ensure that democracy thrives in our country. One of the key foundations of democracy is a free and independent media. The media  in America is controlled by corporate interests and these interests seek to skew news and  information to serve their political and commercial interests.

In Malaysia, the media is controlled by UMNO-Barisan Nasional  government which has been in power for the last 52 years. The media puts out news and views which are slanted to shape public opinion and put the government of the day in a favorable light and there is no way in which criticisms of government policies and actions can see the light of day in our media. As for our democracy, need I say more?–Din Merican

Noam Chomsky–American Democracy

The Myth of the Liberal Media

7 thoughts on “Noam Chomsky is back

  1. Why no takers on Chomsky? I suppose we must call on New Yorker Bean to lead the discussion. He should know about Democracy in America, or do we have to go back to Alexis de Tocqueville or James Madison for guidance?

    de Tocqueville, if I can remember, saw democracy as an equation that balanced liberty and equality, concern for the individual as well as the community. Tocqueville wrote of the Americans, “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.” Chomsky sees American democracy as a one party system with two factions, the Democrats and the Republicans, while Yale Political Theorist Robert Dahl would label the American system as a polyarchy, not a true democracy which is to him utopia.

    In his 1989 book, Democracy and its critics, Dahl gives the following characteristics of a polyarchy:

    * Control over governmental decisions about policy is constitutionally vested in elected officials.
    * Elected officials are chosen and peacefully removed in relatively frequent, fair and free elections in which coercion is quite limited.
    * Practically all adults have the right to vote in these elections.
    * Most adults also have the right to run for the public offices for which candidates run in these elections.
    * Citizens have an effectively enforced right to freedom of expression, particularly political expression, including criticism of the officials, the conduct of the government, the prevailing political, economic, and social system, and the dominant ideology.
    * They also have access to alternative sources of information that are not monopolized by the government or any other single group.
    * Finally, they have an effectively enforced right to form and join autonomous associations, including political associations, such as political parties and interest groups, that attempt to influence the government by competing in elections and by other peaceful means.

    Dahl’s Seven Sets of Conditions for Polyarchy

    1. Historical Sequence- peaceful evolution within an independent nation-state
    2. Socioeconomic Order-concentration- a competitive regime cannot be maintained in a country where military forces are accustomed to intervening
    3. Socioeconomic Order-level of development
    1. Provide literacy, education, communication
    2. Create a pluralistic social order
    3. Prevent Inequalities
    4. Equalities and Inequalities
    1. Hegemonic regimes reduce public contestation
    2. Inequalities increase the chance comparative politics will displace hegemony
    5. Subcultures, Cleavage Patterns and, Governmental Effectiveness
    6. The Beliefs of Political Activists- treat them as major independent variables
    7. Foreign Control- foreign domination can affect all the conditions and alter available options


    Polyarchy and its procedures by itself may be insufficient for achieving full democracy. For example, poor people may be unable to participate in the political process.

    Moreover, perceived polyarchies -such as the United States- may bar a substantial amount of its citizens from participating in its national electoral process. For example, more than four million U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. territories (such as Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) are excluded from participating in the election of any voting-member of Congress, which are the political bodies that hold ultimate sovereignty over them.

    When, in the 1940s, Joseph Schumpeter argued that ordinary citizens should limit their participation in a democracy to electing its leaders, he was effectively arguing for polyarchy. This contrasts with the view presented in the eighteenth century by Rousseau, that the health of a polity depended on active citizen involvement in all aspects of governance.

    According to Schumpeter, massive political participation is regarded as undesirable and even dangerous. Schumpeter thought that the electoral masses are incapable of political participation other than voting for their leaders. He claimed most political issues are so remote from the daily lives of ordinary people, that they can not make sound judgments about opinions, policies and ideologies.

    In Preface to Democratic Theory (1956) Dahl argues that an increase in citizen political involvement may not always be beneficial for polyarchy. An increase in the political participation of members of “lower” socioeconomic classes, for example, could reduce the support for the basic norms of polyarchy, because members of those classes are more predisposed to be authoritarian-minded.

  2. Education holds the key that allows Democracy to function whereby the citizenry can make an informed decision to exercise its power to vote intelligently.
    Hence, democracy in its western shape will never take root in third world countries, if the governments that were “democratically ” voted in , in countries like the Philippines are a yard stick to go by.
    Perhaps, the only way for PR to be able to get a foot hold into Sarawak or Sabah is to beat the incumbents in their own games using their rules, using “pork barrel ” politics or pre-election goulash as the Czechs call it.
    What is the price of roast pigs, tuak or carrots, these days ? 🙂

  3. Naom Chomsky is the modern thinking human’s Messiah and his message is Truth as derived from logical thinking !
    And the simplicity of his language denotes the genius in the man himself !


    ilham – December 29, 2009 at 11:46 am


    Well. that could be the answer to your question, as to why there are no takers ? Which is a shame if so, because Noam Chomsky is highly respected the world over for his sharp intellect in spite of his race.
    If we cannot see and think beyond the race, religion, sex or ideology of a person then we are no better than Ilham , his ilk and the people they represent .

  5. BTW, the good ole U.S. of A has never been or will she ever be a true democracy nor will she ever practise all the democratic values that she preached on others !
    She has become a corporate oligarchy with an imperialistic bent !

  6. The ten most important ways of manipulating the public, as catalogued by Noam Chomsky

    Noam Chomsky, a fearless critic of the wealthy elite that governs the United States, has compiled a list of the ten most common strategies for using the media to manipulate the people of America.

    In the past our communications media have created or destroyed social movements, justified wars, tempered financial crises, and encouraged or destroyed some other ideological currents.

    Chomsky has compiled a list of the ten most important tools for manipulating our media. Basically, they encourage stupidity, promote a sense of guilt, create distractions, or construct artificial problems and then magically solve them. Here are the ten most important techniques:

    (1) The strategy of distraction:

    The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction diverting public attention from important issues and changes controlled by our political and economic elites using the techniques of overwhelming the public with continuous distractions and insignificant information.

    Distraction strategy is also essential to kill off public interest in the essential knowledge of science, economics, psychology, neurobiology, and cybernetics.

    This technique also diverts public attention away from the real social problems by emphasizing matters of no real importance. The idea is to keep the public very busy, with no time to think about the most important principles and the core facts behind our social problems.

    (2) The creation of problems, followed by the offer of solutions:

    This method essentially emphasizes symptons while hiding underlying causes. For example, it emphasizes urban violence or the details of bloody attacks without investigating the causes of these problems. It also creates and manipulates crises that involve economics or violence to encourage the public to accept as a necessary evil the reduction of social rights or the dismantling of public services.

    (3) The gradual strategy:

    This basically involves gradually implementing destructive social policies which would be unacceptable if imposed suddenly on the public. That is how the the radical right’s new socioeconomic conditions were imposed during the 1980s and 1990s. They include the minimal state, privatization, precariousness, flexibility, massive unemployment, reductions in the purchasing power of wages and guarantees of a decent income. All these changes would provoke a generalized revolt if they had been applied all at once.

    (4) The strategy of deferring:

    Another way gain public acceptance of unpopular decisions is to present them as “painful but necessary” to gain public acceptance for their future application. This is similar to the gradual strategy. It is easier to accept future sacrifices instead of immediate slaughter–first, because the effect is not felt right away.

    Later on, the public is encouraged to believe that “everything will be better tomorrow” and that future sacrifice will be unnecessary. This gives the public more time to get used to the idea of changes to their disadvantage and and their acceptance of them with resignation when the time comes. This strategy was very popular in the Soviet Union in its five-year plans, for example.

    (5) Treating the public like little children:

    A lot of advertising and propaganda uses childlike speech and children’s intonation, as if the viewer or listener were a little child or mentally deficient. The principle is that if people are treated as if they are twelve years old or younger, they tend to react without a critical sense the way children do.

    (6) The encouragement of emotional responses over reflective ones:

    This is a classical technique for short-circuiting rational analysis and encouraging critical reflection. It also opens the door to the unconscious for implanting ideas, desires, fears, anxieties , compulsions and desired irrational behavior.

    (7) Bombarding the public with trivia to keep them ignorant:

    It is important to make people incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used to enslave them. The quality of education given to the lower social classes is deliberately kept as poor and mediocre as possible so that they can be manipulated like sheep.

    (8) Encouraging the public to be happy with mediocrity:

    This involves encouraging the public to believe that it is is fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and uneducated while encouraging everyone to believe that these characteristics are the essence of the wisdom of the ages.

    (9) Encouraging guilt and self blame:

    This is an exceptionally perverse strategy. It involves constantly scolding people for their own misfortune because of the failure of their intelligence, their abilities, or their efforts so that they will not examine the structural defects of a social and economic system that enslaves them.

    One of the most perverse controlling myths of American society is that if you work conscientiously and long enough, then you will be successful and grow rich. This does happen occasionally to some people, and their success is widely publicized in the media. The few times that this happens, all of us are constantly reminded that if these people can do this, then we can too.

    Of course, if you work hard and don’t grow rich, then the problem, of course, is that you didn’t work hard enough or weren’t smart enough and ended up a loser. So no matter what happens to you, the myth remains intact, and America remains a land of opportunity and the best country in the world.

    (10) Getting to know individual people better than they know themselves:

    Over the past fifty years, scientific advances have generated a growing gap between public what the public knows and the knowledge of dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology and applied psychology, the “system” has gained a sophisticated understanding the physical and psychololgical nature of people. This knowledge is cynically used to manipulate the public as if they were sheep.

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