Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Excerpts from Noam Chomsky's Manufacturing Consent

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

QUESTION: You write in Manufacturing Consent that it's the primary function of the mass media to mobilize public support for the special interests that dominate the government and the private sector. What are those interests?

NOAM CHOMSKY*: Well, if you want to understand the way any society works, the first place to look is who is in a position to make the decisions that determine the way the society functions. The major decisions over what happens in the society - decisions over investment and production and distribution and so on - are in the hands of a relatively concentrated network of major corporations and conglomerates and investment firms. They are also the ones who staff the major executive positions in the government. They're the ones who own the media and they're the ones who have to be in a position to make the decisions. They have an overwhelmingly dominant role in the way life happens. You know, what's done in the society. Within the economic system, by law and in principle, they dominate. The control over resources and the need to satisfy their interests imposes very sharp constraints on the political system and on the ideological system.

QUESTION: When we talk about manufacturing of consent, whose consent is being manufactured?

NOAM CHOMSKY: To start with, there are two different groups, we can get into more detail, but at the first level of approximation, there's two targets for propaganda. One is what's sometimes called the political class. There's maybe twenty percent of the population which is relatively educated, more or less articulate, plays some kind of role in decision-making. They're supposed to sort of participate in social life - either as managers, or cultural managers like teachers and writers and so on. They're supposed to vote, they're supposed to play some role in the way economic and political and cultural life goes on. Now their consent is crucial. So that's one group that has to be deeply indoctrinated. Then there's maybe eighty percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not think, and not to pay attention to anything - and they're the ones who usually pay the costs.

*Noam Chomsky is a linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, political activist, author and lecturer. He is professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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