The greatest thing about Noam Chomsky is that even when he talks about huge topics, like the history of propaganda, you understand everything and it flows as smoothly as a novel.
Chomsky, the political activist and professor of linguistics at MIT, is one of the greatest thinkers of the 21st century and this short book is an excellent introduction to his work.
In Media Control, Chomsky explains how a “spectator democracy” controls much of the media and influences the American people.
In a real democracy, according to most definitions, the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free.
The actual practiced form of democracy today says the public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. In Chomsky’s view, a “specialized class” of “responsible men” that believe themselves capable of controlling the dumb mass of people is what we have in the Western world.
The specialized class make all the decisions and run all the political, economic, and ideological systems. They are a small portion of the population. The others, who are not a part of this group, are the big majority of the population.
His problem with the media is not that they are owned by the specialized class (which they are), it’s that they don’t challenge their ideas.
For example, when there was a big uproar in the 1960s as large segments of the population became organized and actively participated in the political arena. So, many newspapers called it a “crisis of democracy.” This is what he says about that:
I find Chomsky’s ideas refreshing and even though I don’t agree with everything he says, at least he has the guts to say what everyone else seems afraid to. His analysis of the success of the Red Scare propaganda is hilarious:
That passage is also a good example of why I like this book so much. Whereas most of his writings are carefully researched and can’t go two sentences without quoting some study or newspaper, in Media Control he just let’s go and goes on a rant.
If you have never read Chomsky, I recommend starting with either this book or his other short one, 9-11. Both are small paperbacks that you can fit in your pocket and don’t cost too much. Even if you don’t agree with his ideas at least you’ll get an idea of what the other side is thinking.