Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies

Necessary Illusions is a Noam Chomsky Massey Lecture from 1988, the same year as his groundbreaking text Manufacturing Consent was first published.

The lecture examines “the ways in which thought and understanding are shaped in the interest of domestic privilege” and a year later was developed into a book of the same name.

For more on this topic I’d recommend the two texts already mentioned along with with Chomsky’s Media Control and, for a UK perspective, A Century of Spin by David Miller and William Dinan.
necessary illusions

Necessary Illusions (53:58): MP3

From the Massey Lecture Series: Noam Chomsky, the internationally acclaimed linguist and political radical inquires into the nature of media in a political system where the population cannot be disciplined by force and thus must be subjected to more subtle forms of ideological control. Specific cases are illustrated in detail, using the US media primarily but also media in other societies. Chomsky considers how the media might be democratized (as part of the general problem of developing more democratic institutions) in order to offer citizens broader and more meaningful participation in social and political life.

3 thoughts on “Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies”

  1. The final chapter in Chomsky’s formerly trenchant critique of US foreign policy should be called “Elite Absolution” or “How I Became An Illuminati Pawn”!

    The final irony is that the thinker the Left came to know and love as the man who reworked Niebuhr’s concept of “necessary illusions” came to be one of the biggest peddlers of such illusions.

    The concept of “Necessary illusions” in Chomsky has its theoretical counterparts in Bernays and Machiavelli as Public Relations and Myth-Making respectively.However the philosopher who came to influence the generation of elite political players we know as the “neo-cons”,Leo Strauss,coined the term “noble lies” to denote the same idea of manipulation of the unthinking herd by the elite.

    Strauss was more brutal in his contempt for the intellectually inert masses and the need for them to be led in the right direction by a specialized class of experts with a clearer understanding of national goals than the could be found among those of the common weal.

    Strauss was there in the room in spirit when the PNAC document that presaged the new American Century was penned.He would have smiled benignly at his intellectual descendants’ recognition in the paper of the need for some “catalyzing event”-or “mobilizing myth” he might have called it-as a means to engineer public consent for a new bout of expansionist aggression in SW Asia.

    Of course the idea of the necessity of elite rule in order to turn back the tide of an excess of democracy has its origins in Plato’s “philosopher kings”.And Strauss’s specialism was classical political philosophy.The idea has resonance at both ends of the political spectrum.

    Perhaps Chomsky and Strauss represent the appeal of the idea of from either end of said spectrum.

    Of the two writers Strauss cannot be accused of being a last-level gatekeeper for the elite but Chomsky particularly for his views on the JFK assassination and 9/11 has with some justification been pilloried as just such a high-level disinformation agent by many in the conspiracy community.

    The Chomskian structural optic conveniently absolves elite perpetrators of such crimes.Analysts following Chomsky’s logical positivism have to content themselves with the “structural mechanisms” that enable the crimes rather than the provenance of the elite malfeasance in question.

    Today when imperilled elites have steadily more consistent recourse to tactics like false-flag terror as means to shore up domestic governance and forward their aggressive plans abroad Left theorists like Chomsky who absolve them of their crimes have naturally lost their relevance.

    Although Chomsky has been the scourge of the IMF and World Bank his structural analysis is myopic where such determining institutions as the Federal Reserve are concerned.Nor has he ever laid a glove on the Foundations and Institutions that fund and promote the limits of the very structural analysis he employs.

    Ever found any reference in Chomsky to Ford,Rockerfeller,Rothschild,Schumann or Pew;even Soros’s O.S.U. or HRW-all these fund and maintain the illusion of democracy while defining the limits of investigation.

    Millions are misled by these dominators of the free market in ideas.All remain strangely off limits in Chomskian structural analysis and the foundation-funded alternative media generally.The forces of the international financial system and their operators are thus granted omnipotence being so conspicuous by their absence in such analysis.

    With long-standing tenure at Pentagon-funded MIT,speaking tours at 20k dollars a time some might say the old prophet is pretty comfortable with the system now.

    Contrariwise it was Anthony Scott who identified the elite affinity for a right Hegelian dialectic in which right and left-capitalism and communism;Chomsky and Strauss-are funded to battle it out but both are instrumental on the path to elite domination.

    Sutton was dismissed from his tenure as Stanford researcher.Chomsky thrives.

    That is instructive,I think.

  2. I’ve confused Scott and Sutton again.

    For the record both Sutton and Peter Dale Scott can be classed as conspiracy theorists.

    Sutton’s output was prolific.He carried on long after losing tenure at Stanford.In those days much conspiracy theory came from intellectuals on the political right and Sutton falls into this category.

    On the Wall Street financial backers of both the Bolsheviks and the Nazis Sutton assembled vast evidence to support the case from the Stanford archives.As we have seen he did so good a job at proving the collusion in both cases that he was removed.

    His book on the Anglo-American Establishment is an insightful account of the elite and includes a focus on Skull and Bones.Unlike many conspiracy theorists today Sutton does not subscribe to the idea that the Illuminati masonic group still exercises influence in such circles.

    Peter Dale Scott is more contemporary with Chomsky and probably should be considered on the soft left.Like Chomsky he was involved in the anti-Vietnam movement.

    Scott’s concepts of “deep politics” and “parapolitics” has influenced writers on both sides of the Atlantic and he has been an influence on conspiracy researchers like Robin Ramsay who publishes the Lobster magazine from his home in that hotbed of conspiracy theorists-Hull!

    Personally I would compare Scott favourably with Chomsky.An interview with Harry Kreisler,and his most recent book The Road to 9/11 are good entry points to his meticulously researched work for anyone who prefers those who practise elite malfeasance to be named and brought to book!

    On the question of the political impact of Strauss or Chomsky.The former in his role at Chicago probably has had far more impact than Chomsky.Although many writers on his work say that Strauss was esoteric and uninterested in exercising political influence the idea that it happened by accident that he did is risible.

    Aside from the neo-con all-stars team we know and detest we should include one Ahmed Chalabi as one who fell under the old Sabbatean’s spell on the his programme at Chicago.

    How do we know Strauss was a Sabbatean-read his Wiki entry and note well the references to his family not having fully embraced Orthodox practice.Bit of a clue,n’est pas?

    As Chomsky might now say:who cares if our leaders are mass-murderers anyway!

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