excerpts from the book
by Noam Chomsky
Seven Stories Press, 2002
EARLY HISTORY OF PROPAGANDA
... the first modern government propaganda operation ... was under
the Woodrow Wilson Administration. Woodrow Wilson was elected
President in 1916 on the platform "Peace Without Victory."
That was right in the middle of the World War I. The population
was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved
in a European war. The Wilson administration was actually committed
to war and had to do something about it. They established a government
propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission, which succeeded,
within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical,
war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German,
tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world.
That was a major achievement, and it led to a further achievement.
Right at that time and after the war the same techniques were
used to whip up a hysterical Red Scare, as it was called, which
succeeded pretty much in destroying unions and eliminating such
dangerous problems as freedom of the press and freedom of political
thought. There was very strong support from the media, from the
business establishment, which in fact organized, pushed much of
this work, and it was, in general, a great success.
Among those who participated actively
and enthusiastically in Wilson's war were the progressive intellectuals,
people of the John Dewey circle, who took great pride, as you
can see from their own writings at the time, in having shown that
what they called the "more intelligent members of the community,"
namely, themselves, were able to drive a reluctant population
into a war by terrifying them and eliciting jingoist fanaticism.
The means that were used were extensive. For example, there was
a good deal of fabrication of atrocities by the Huns, Belgian
babies with their arms torn off, all sorts of awful things that
you still read in history books. Much of it was invented by the
British propaganda ministry, whose own commitment at the time,
as they put it in their secret deliberations, was "to direct
the thought of most of the world." But more crucially they
wanted to control the thought of the more intelligent members
of the community in the United States, who would then disseminate
the propaganda that they were concocting and convert the pacifistic
country to wartime hysteria. That worked. It worked very well.
And it taught a lesson: State propaganda, when supported by the
educated classes and when no deviation is permitted from it, can
have a big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many
others, and it has been pursued to this day.
... liberal democratic theorists and leading media figures, like,
for example, Walter Lippmann, who was the dean of American journalists,
a major foreign and domestic policy critic and also a major theorist
of liberal democracy. If you take a look at his collected essays,
you'll see that they're subtitled something like "A Progressive
Theory of Liberal Democratic Thought. " Lippmann was involved
in these propaganda commissions and recognized their achievements.
He argued that what he called a "revolution in the art of
democracy," could be used to "manufacture consent, "
that is, to bring about agreement on the part of the public for
things that they didn't want by the new techniques of propaganda.
He also thought that this was a good idea, in fact, necessary.
It was necessary because, as he put it, "the common interests
elude public opinion entirely" and can only be understood
and managed by a "specialized class "of "responsible
men" who are smart enough to figure things out. This theory
asserts that only a small elite, the intellectual community that
the Deweyites were talking about, can understand the common interests,
what all of us care about, and that these things "elude the
general public." This is a view that goes back hundreds of
years. It's also a typical Leninist view. In fact, it has very
close resemblance to the Leninist conception that a vanguard of
revolutionary intellectuals take state power, using popular revolutions
as the force that brings them to state power, and then drive the
stupid masses toward a future that they're too dumb and incompetent
to envision for themselves. The liberal democratic theory and
Marxism-Leninism are very close in their common ideological assumptions.
I think that's one reason why people have found it so easy over
the years to drift from one position to another without any particular
sense of change. It's just a matter of assessing where power is.
Maybe there will be a popular revolution, and that will put us
into state power; or maybe there won't be, in which case we'll
just work for the people with real power: the business community.
But we'll do the same thing. We'll drive the stupid masses toward
a world that they're too dumb to understand for themselves.
Lippmann backed this up by a pretty elaborated
theory of progressive democracy. He argued that in a properly
functioning democracy there are classes of citizens. There is
first of all the class of citizens who have to take some active
role in running general affairs. That's the specialized class.
They are the people who analyze, execute, make decisions, and
run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems.
That's a small percentage of the population. Naturally, anyone
who puts these ideas forth is always part of that small group,
and they're talking about what to do about those others. Those
others, who are out of the small group, the big majority of the
population, they are what Lippmann called "the bewildered
herd." We have to protect ourselves from "the trampling
and roar of a bewildered herd". Now there are two "functions"
in a democracy: The specialized class, the responsible men, carry
out the executive function, which means they do the thinking and
planning and understand the common interests. Then, there is the
bewildered herd, and they have a function in democracy too. Their
function in a democracy, he said, is to be "spectators,"
not participants in action. But they have more of a function r
than that, because it's a democracy. Occasionally they are allowed
to lend their weight to one or another member of the specialized
class. In other words, they're allowed to say, "We want you
to be our leader" or "We want you to be our leader."
That's because it's a democracy and not a totalitarian state.
That's called an election. But once they've lent their weight
to one or another member of the specialized class they're supposed
to sink back and become spectators of action, but not participants.
That's in a properly functioning democracy.
And there's a logic behind it. There's
even a kind of compelling moral principle behind it. The compelling
moral principle is that the mass of the public are just too stupid
to be able to understand things. If they try to participate in
managing their own affairs, they're just going to cause trouble.
Therefore, it would be immoral and improper to permit them to
do this. We have to tame the bewildered herd, not allow the bewildered
herd to rage and trample and destroy things. It's pretty much
the same logic that says that it would be improper to let a three-year-old
run across the street. You don't give a three-year-old that kind
of freedom because the three-year-old doesn't know how to handle
that freedom. Correspondingly, you don't allow the bewildered
herd to become participants in action. They'll just cause trouble.
So we need something to tame the bewildered
herd, and that something is this new revolution in the art of
democracy: the manufacture of consent. The media, the schools,
and popular culture have to be divided. For the political class
and the decision makers they have to provide them some tolerable
sense of reality, although they also have to instill the proper
beliefs. Just remember, there is an unstated premise here. The
unstated premise-and even the responsible men have to disguise
this from themselves-has to do with the question of how they get
into the position where they have the authority to make decisions.
The way they do that, of course, is by serving people with real
power. The people with real power are the ones who own the society,
which is a pretty narrow group. If the specialized class can come
along and say, I can serve your interests, then they'll be part
of the executive group. You've got to keep that quiet. That means
they have to have instilled in them the beliefs and doctrines
that will serve the interests of private power. Unless they can
master that skill, they're not part of the specialized class.
So we have one kind of educational system directed to the responsible
men, the specialized class. They have to be deeply indoctrinated
in the values and interests of private power and the state-corporate
nexus that represents it. If they can achieve that, then they
can be part of the specialized class. The rest of the bewildered
herd basically just have to be distracted. Turn their attention
to something else. Keep them out of trouble. Make sure that they
remain at most spectators of action, occasionally lending their
weight to one or another of the real leaders, who they may select
This point of view has been developed
by lots of other people. In fact, it's pretty conventional. For
example, the leading theologian and foreign policy critic Reinhold
Niebuhr, sometimes called "the theologian of the establishment,"
the guru of George Kennan and the Kennedy intellectuals, put it
that rationality is a very narrowly restricted skill. Only a small
number of people have it. Most people are guided by just emotion
and impulse. Those of us who have rationality have to create "necessary
illusions" and emotionally potent "oversimplifications"
to keep the naive simpletons more or less on course. This became
a substantial part of contemporary political science. In the 1920s
and early 1930s, Harold Lasswell, the founder of the modern field
of communications and one of the leading American political scientists,
explained that we should not succumb to "democratic dogmatisms
about men being the best judges of their own interests."
Because they're not. We're the best judges of the public interests.
Therefore, just out of ordinary morality, we have to make sure
that they don't have an opportunity to act on the basis of their
misjudgments. In what is nowadays called a totalitarian state,
or a military state, it's easy. You just hold a bludgeon over
their heads, and if they get out of line you smash them over the
head. But as society has become more free and democratic, you
lose that capacity. Therefore you have to turn to the techniques
of propaganda. The logic is clear. Propaganda is to a democracy
what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state. That's wise and
good because, again, the common interests elude the bewildered
herd. They can't figure them out.
The United States pioneered the public
relations industry. Its commitment was "to control the public
mind," as its leaders put it. They learned a lot from the
successes of the Creel Commission and the successes in creating
the Red Scare and its aftermath. The public relations industry
underwent a huge expansion at that time. It succeeded for some
time in creating almost total subordination of the public to business
rule through the 1920s. This was so extreme that Congressional
committees began to investigate it as we moved into the 1930s.
That's where a lot of our information about it comes from.
Public relations is a huge industry. They're
spending by now something on the order of a billion dollars a
year. All along its commitment was to controlling the public mind.
In the 1930s, big problems arose again, as they had during the
First World War. There was a huge depression and substantial labor
organizing. In fact, in 1935 labor won its first major legislative
victory, namely, the right to organize, with the Wagner Act. That
raised two serious problems. For one thing, democracy was misfunctioning.
The bewildered herd was actually winning legislative victories,
and it's not supposed to work that way. The other problem was
that it was becoming possible for people to organize. People have
to be atomized and segregated and alone. They're not supposed
to organize, because then they might be something beyond spectators
of action. They might actually be participants if many people
with limited resources could get together to enter the political
arena. That's really threatening. A major response was taken on
the part of business to ensure that this would be the last legislative
victory for labor and that it would be the beginning of the end
of this democratic deviation of popular organization. It worked.
That was the last legislative victory for labor. From that point
on-although the number of people in the unions increased for a
while during the World War II, after which it started dropping-the
capacity to act through the unions began to steadily drop. It
wasn't by accident. We're now talking about the business community,
which spends lots and lots of money, attention, and thought into
how to deal with these problems through the public relations industry
and other organizations, like the National Association of Manufacturers
and the Business Roundtable, and so on. They immediately set to
work to try to find a way to counter these democratic deviations.
The first trial was one year later, in
1937. There was a major strike, the Steel strike in western Pennsylvania
at Johnstown. Business tried out a new technique of labor destruction,
which worked very well. Not through goon squads and breaking knees.
That wasn't working very well any more, but through the more subtle
and effective means of propaganda. The idea was to figure out
ways to turn the public against the strikers, to present the strikers
as disruptive, harmful to the public and against the common interests.
The common interests are those of "us," the businessman,
the worker, the housewife. That's all "us." We want
to be together and have things like harmony and Americanism and
working together. Then there's those bad strikers out there who
are disruptive and causing trouble and breaking harmony and violating
Americanism. We've got to stop them so we can all live together.
The corporate executive and the guy who cleans the floors all
have the same interests. We can all work together and work for
Americanism in harmony, liking each other. That was essentially
the message. A huge amount of effort was put into presenting it.
This is, after all, the business community, so they control the
media and have massive resources. And it worked, very effectively.
It was later called the "Mohawk Valley formula" and
applied over and over again to break strikes. They were called
"scientific methods of strike-breaking," and worked
very effectively by mobilizing community opinion in favor of vapid,
empty concepts like Americanism. Who can be against that? Or harmony.
Who can be against that? Or, as in the Persian Gulf War, "Support
our troops." Who can be against that? Or yellow ribbons.
Who can be against that? Anything that's totally vacuous.
In fact, what does it mean if somebody
asks you, Do you support the people in Iowa? Can you say, Yes,
I support them, or No, I don't support them? It's not even a question.
It doesn't mean anything.
That's the point. The point of public
relations slogans like "Support our troops" is that
they don't mean anything. They mean as much as whether you support
the people in Iowa. Of course, there was an issue. The issue was,
Do you support our policy? But you don't want people to think
about that issue. That's the whole point of good propaganda. You
want to create a slogan that nobody's going to be against, and
everybody's going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because
it doesn't mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts
your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you
support our policy? That's the one you're not allowed to talk
about. So you have people arguing about support for the troops?
"Of course I don't not support them. " Then you've won.
That's like Americanism and harmony. We're all together, empty
slogans, let's join in, let's make sure we don't have these bad
people around to disrupt our harmony with their talk about class
struggle, rights and that sort of business.
That's all very effective. It runs right
up to today. And of course it is carefully thought out. The people
in the public relations industry aren't there for the fun of it.
They're doing work. They're trying to instill the right values.
In fact, they have a conception of what democracy ought to be:
It ought to be a system in which the specialized class is trained
to work in the service of the masters, the people who own the
society. The rest of the population ought to be deprived of any
form of organization, because organization just causes trouble.
They ought to be sitting alone in front of the TV and having drilled
into their heads the message, which says, the only value in life
is to have more commodities or live like that rich middle class
family you're watching and to have nice values like harmony and
Americanism. That's all there is in life. You may think in your
own head that there's got to be something more in life than this,
but since you're watching the tube alone you assume, I must be
crazy, because that's all that's going on over there. And since
there is no organization permitted- that's absolutely crucial-you
never have a way of finding out whether you are crazy, and you
just assume it, because it's the natural thing to assume.
So that's the ideal. Great efforts are
made in trying to achieve that ideal. Obviously, there is a certain
conception behind it. The conception of democracy is the one that
I mentioned. The bewildered herd is a problem. We've got to prevent
their roar and trampling. We've got to distract them. They should
be watching the Superbowl or sitcoms or violent movies. Every
once in a while you call on them to chant meaningless slogans
like "Support our troops." You've got to keep them pretty
scared, because unless they're properly scared and frightened
of all kinds of devils that are going to destroy them from outside
or inside or somewhere, they may start to think, which is very
dangerous, because they're not competent to think. Therefore it's
important to distract them and marginalize them.
That's one conception of democracy. In
fact, going back to the business community, the last legal victory
for labor really was 1935, the Wagner Act. After the war came,
the unions declined as did a very rich working class culture that
was associated with the unions. That was destroyed. We moved to
a business-run society at a remarkable level. This is the only
state-capitalist industrial society which doesn't have even the
normal social contract that you find in comparable societies.
Outside of South Africa, I guess, this is the only industrial
society that doesn't have national health care. There's no general
commitment to even minimal standards of survival for the parts
of the population who can't follow those rules and gain things
for themselves individually. Unions are virtually nonexistent.
Other forms of popular structure are virtually nonexistent. There
are no political parties or organizations. It's a long way toward
the ideal, at least structurally. The media are a corporate monopoly.
They have the same point of view. The two parties are two factions
of the business party. Most of the population doesn't even bother
voting because it looks meaningless. They're marginalized and
properly distracted. At least that's the goal. The leading figure
in the public relations industry, Edward Bernays, actually came
out of the Creel Commission. He was part of it, learned his lessons
there and went on to develop what he called the "engineering
of consent," which he described as "the essence of democracy.
" The people who are able to engineer consent are the ones
who have the resources and the power to do it-the business community-and
that's who you work for.
It is also necessary to whip up the population
in support of foreign adventures. Usually the population is pacifist,
just like they were during the First World War. The public sees
no reason to get involved in foreign adventures, killing, and
torture. So you have to whip them up. And to whip them up you
have to frighten them. Bernays himself had an important achievement
in this respect. He was the person who ran the public relations
campaign for the United Fruit Company in 1954, when the United
States moved in to overthrow the capitalist-democratic government
of Guatemala and installed a murderous death-squad society, which
remains that way to the present day with constant infusions of
U.S. aid to prevent in more than empty form democratic deviations.
It's necessary to constantly ram through domestic programs which
the public is opposed to, because there is no reason for the public
to be in favor of domestic programs that are harmful to them.
This, too, takes extensive propaganda. We've seen a lot of this
in the last ten years. The Reagan programs were overwhelmingly
unpopular. Voters in the 1984 "Reagan landslide," by
about three to two, hoped that his policies would not be enacted.
If you take particular programs, like armaments, cutting back
on social spending, etc., almost every one of them was overwhelmingly
opposed by the public. But as long as people are marginalized
and distracted and have no way to organize or articulate their
sentiments, or even know that others have these sentiments, people
who said that they prefer social spending to military spending,
who gave that answer on polls, as people overwhelmingly did, assumed
that they were the only people with that crazy idea in their heads.
They never heard it from anywhere else. Nobody's supposed to think
that. Therefore, if you do think it and you answer it in a poll,
you just assume that you're sort of weird. Since there's no way
to get together with other people who share or reinforce that
view and help you articulate it, you feel like an oddity, an oddball.
So you just stay on the side and you don't pay any attention to
what's going on. You look at something else, like the Superbowl.
To a certain extent, then, that ideal
was achieved, but never completely. There are institutions which
it has as yet been impossible to destroy. The churches, for example,
still exist. A large part of the dissident activity in the United
States comes out of the churches, for the simple reason that they're
there. So when you go to a European country and give a political
talk, it may very likely be in the union hall. Here that won't
happen, because unions first of all barely exist, and if they
do exist they're not political organizations. But the churches
do exist, and therefore you often give a talk in a church. Central
American solidarity work mostly grew out of the churches, mainly
because they exist.
The bewildered herd never gets properly
tamed, so this is a constant battle. In the 1930s they arose again
and were put down. In the 1960s there was another wave of dissidence.
There was a name for that. It was called by the specialized class
"the crisis of democracy. " Democracy was regarded as
entering into a crisis in the 1960s. The crisis was that large
segments of the population were becoming organized and active
and trying to participate in the political arena. Here we come
back to these two conceptions of democracy. By the dictionary
definition, that's an advance in democracy. By the prevailing
conception that's a problem, a crisis that has to be overcome.
The population has to be driven back to the apathy, obedience
and passivity that is their proper state. We therefore have to
do something to overcome the crisis. Efforts were made to achieve
that. It hasn't worked. The crisis of democracy is still alive
and well, fortunately, but not very effective in changing policy.
But it is effective in changing opinion, contrary to what a lot
of people believe. Great efforts were made after the 1960s to
try to reverse and overcome this malady. One aspect of the malady
actually got a technical name. It was called the "Vietnam
Syndrome." The Vietnam Syndrome, a term that began to come
up around 1970, has actually been defined on occasion. The Reaganite
intellectual Norman Podhoretz defined it as "the sickly inhibitions
against the use of military force. " There were these sickly
inhibitions against violence on the part of a large part of the
public. People just didn't understand why we should go around
torturing people and killing people and carpet bombing them. It's
very dangerous for a population to be overcome by these sickly
inhibitions, as Goebbels understood, because then there's a limit
on foreign adventures. It's necessary, as the Washington Post
put it rather proudly during the Gulf War hysteria, to instill
in people respect for "martial value." That's important.
If you want to have a violent society that uses force around the
world to achieve the ends of its own domestic elite, it's necessary
to have a proper appreciation of the martial virtues and none
of these sickly inhibitions about using violence. So that's the
Vietnam Syndrome. It's necessary to overcome that one.
REPRESENTATION AS REALITY
It's also necessary to completely falsify
history. That's another way to overcome these sickly inhibitions,
to make it look as if when we attack and destroy somebody we're
really protecting and defending ourselves against major aggressors
and monsters and so on. There has been a huge effort since the
Vietnam war to reconstruct the history of that. Too many people
began to understand what was really going on. Including plenty
of soldiers and a lot of young people who were involved with the
peace movement and others. That was bad. It was necessary to rearrange
those bad thoughts and to restore some form of sanity, namely,
a recognition that whatever we do is noble and right. If we're
Vietnam, that's because we're defending
South Vietnam against somebody, namely, the South Vietnamese,
since nobody else was there. It's what the Kennedy intellectuals
called defense against "internal aggression" in South
Vietnam. That was the phrase used by Adlai Stevenson and others.
It was necessary to make that the official and well understood
picture. That's worked pretty well. When you have total control
over the media and the educational system and scholarship is conformist,
you can get that across. One indication of it was revealed in
a study done at the University of Massachusetts on attitudes toward
the current Gulf crisis-a study of beliefs and attitudes in television
watching. One of the questions asked in that study was, How many
Vietnamese casualties would you estimate that there were during
the Vietnam war? The average response on the part of Americans
today is about 100,000. The official figure is about two million.
The actual figure is probably three to four million. The people
who conducted the study raised an appropriate question: What would
we think about German political culture if, when you asked people
today how many Jews died in the Holocaust, they estimated about
300,000? What would that tell us about German political culture?
They leave the question unanswered, but you can pursue it. What
does it tell us about our culture? It tells us quite a bit. It
is necessary to overcome the sickly inhibitions against the use
of military force and other democratic deviations. In this particular
case it worked. This is true on every topic. Pick the topic you
like: the Middle East, international terrorism, Central America,
whatever it is-the picture of the world that's presented to the
public has only the remotest relation to reality. The truth of
the matter is buried under edifice after edifice of lies upon
lies. It's all been a marvelous success from the point of view
in deterring the threat of democracy, achieved under conditions
of freedom, which is extremely interesting. It's not like a totalitarian
state, where it's done by force. These achievements are under
conditions of freedom. If we want to understand our own society,
we'll have to think about these facts. They are important facts,
important for those who care about what kind of society they live
Despite all of this, the dissident culture
survived. It's grown quite a lot since the 1960s. In the 1960s
the dissident culture first of all was extremely slow in developing.
There was no protest against the Indochina war until years after
the United States had started bombing South Vietnam. When it did
grow it was a very narrow dissident movement, mostly students
and young people. By the 1970s that had changed considerably.
Major popular movements had developed: the environmental movement,
the feminist movement, the anti-nuclear movement, and others.
In the 1980s there was an even greater expansion to the solidarity
movements, which is something very new and important in the history
of at least American, and maybe even world dissidence. These were
movements that not only protested but actually involved themselves,
often intimately, in the lives of suffering people elsewhere.
They learned a great deal from it and had quite a civilizing effect
on mainstream America. All of this has made a very large difference.
Anyone who has been involved in this kind of activity for many
years must be aware of this. I know myself that the kind of talks
I give today in the most reactionary parts of the country-central
Georgia, rural Kentucky, etc.-are talks of the kind that I couldn't
have given at the peak of the peace movement to the most active
peace movement audience. Now you can give them anywhere. People
may agree or not agree, but at least they understand what you're
talking about and there's some sort of common ground that you
These are all signs of the civilizing
effect, despite all the propaganda, despite all the efforts to
control thought and manufacture consent. Nevertheless, people
are acquiring an ability and a willingness to think things through.
Skepticism about power has grown, and attitudes have changed on
many, many issues. It's kind of slow, maybe even glacial, but
perceptible and important. Whether it's fast enough to make a
significant difference in what happens in the world is another
question. Just to take one familiar example of it: The famous
gender gap. In the 1960s attitudes of men and women were approximately
the same on such matters as the "martial virtues" and
the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force. Nobody,
neither men nor women, were suffering from those sickly inhibitions
in the early 1960s. The responses were the same. Everybody thought
that the use of violence to suppress people out there was just
right. Over the years it's changed. The sickly inhibitions have
increased all across the board. But meanwhile a gap has been growing,
and by now it's a very substantial gap. According to polls, it's
something like twenty-five percent. What has happened? What has
happened is that there is some form of at least semiorganized
popular movement that women are involved in-the feminist movement.
Organization has its effects. It means that you discover that
you're not alone. Others have the same thoughts that you do. You
can reinforce your thoughts and learn more about what you think
and believe. These are very informal movements, not like a membership
organizations, just a mood that involves interactions among people.
It has a very noticeable effect. That's the danger of democracy:
If organizations can develop, if people are no longer just glued
to the tube, you may have all these funny thoughts arising in
their heads, like sickly inhibitions against the use of military
force. That has to be overcome, but it hasn't been overcome.
PARADE OF ENEMIES
Instead of talking about the last war,
let me talk about the next war, because sometimes it's useful
to be prepared instead of just reacting. There is a very characteristic
development going on in the United States now. It's not the first
country in the world that's done this. There are growing domestic
social and economic problems, in fact, maybe catastrophes. Nobody
in power has any intention of doing anything about them. If you
look at the domestic programs of the administrations of the past
ten years-I include here the Democratic opposition-there's really
no serious proposal about what to do about the severe problems
of health, education, homelessness, joblessness, crime, soaring
criminal populations, jails, deterioration in the inner cities
- the whole raft of problems. You all know about them, and they're
all getting worse. Just in the two years that George Bush has
been in office three million more children crossed the poverty
line, the debt is zooming, educational standards are declining,
real wages are now back to the level of about the late 1950s for
much of the population, and nobody's doing anything about it.
In such circumstances you've got to divert the bewildered herd,
because if they start noticing this they may not like it, since
they're the ones suffering from it. Just having them watch the
Superbowl and the sitcoms may not be enough. You have to whip
them up into fear of enemies. In the 1930s Hitler whipped them
into fear of the Jews and gypsies. You had to crush them to defend
yourselves. We have our ways, too. Over the last ten years, every
year or two, some major monster is constructed that we have to
defend ourselves against. There used to be one that was always
readily available: The Russians. You could always defend yourself
against the Russians. But they're losing their attractiveness
as an enemy, and it's getting harder and harder to use that one,
so some new ones have to be conjured up. In fact, people have
quite unfairly criticized George Bush for being unable to express
or articulate what's really driving us now. That's very unfair.
Prior to about the mid-1980s, when you were asleep you would just
play the record: the Russians are coming. But he lost that one
and he's got to make up new ones, just like the Reaganite public
relations apparatus did in the 1980s. So it was international
terrorists and narcotraffickers and crazed Arabs and Saddam Hussein,
the new Hitler, was going to conquer the world. They've got to
keep coming up one after another. You frighten the population,
terrorize them, intimidate them so that they're too afraid to
travel and cower in fear. Then you have a magnificent victory
over Grenada, Panama, or some other defenseless third-world army
that you can pulverize before you ever bother to look at them-which
is just what happened. That gives relief. We were saved at the
last minute. That's one of the ways in which you can keep the
bewildered herd from paying attention to what's really going on
around them, keep them diverted and controlled. The next one that's
coming along, most likely, will be Cuba. That's going to require
a continuation of the illegal economic warfare, possibly a revival
of the extraordinary international terrorism. The most major international
terrorism organized yet has been the Kennedy administration's
Operation Mongoose, then the things that followed along, against
Cuba. There's been nothing remotely comparable to it except perhaps
the war against Nicaragua, if you call that terrorism. The World
Court classified it as something more like aggression. There's
always an ideological offensive that builds up a chimerical monster,
then campaigns to have it crushed. You can't go in if they can
fight back. That's much too dangerous. But if you are sure that
they will be crushed, maybe we'll knock that one off and heave
another sigh of relief.
This has been going on for quite a while.
In May 1986, the memoirs of the released Cuban prisoner, Armando
Valladares, came out. They quickly became a media sensation. I'll
give you a couple of quotes. The media described his revelations
as "the definitive account of the vast system of torture
and prison by which Castro punishes and obliterates political
opposition." It was "an inspiring and unforgettable
account" of the "bestial prisons," inhuman torture,
[and] record of state violence [under] yet another of this century's
mass murderers, who we learn, at last, from this book "has
created a new despotism that has institutionalized torture as
a mechanism of social control" in "the hell that was
the Cuba that [Valladares] lived in." That's the Washington
Post and New York Times in repeated reviews. Castro was described
as "a dictatorial goon." His atrocities were revealed
in this book so conclusively that "only the most light-headed
and cold-blooded Western intellectual will come to the tyrant's
defense, " said the Washington Post. Remember, this is the
account of what happened to one man. Let's say it's all true.
Let's raise no questions about what happened to the one man who
says he was tortured. At a White House ceremony marking Human
Rights Day, he was singled out by Ronald Reagan for his courage
in enduring the horrors and sadism of this bloody Cuban tyrant.
He was then appointed the U.S. representative at the U.N. Human
Rights Commission, where he has been able to perform signal services
defending the Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments against charges
that they conduct atrocities so massive that they make anything
he suffered look pretty minor. That's the way things stand.
That was May 1986. It was interesting,
and it tells you something about the manufacture of consent. The
same month, the surviving members of the Human Rights Group of
El Salvador-the leaders had been killed-were arrested and tortured,
including Herbert Anaya, who was the director. They were sent
to a prison-La Esperanza (hope) Prison. While they were in prison
they continued their human rights work. They were lawyers, they
continued taking affidavits. There were 432 prisoners in that
prison. They got signed affidavits from 430 of them in which they
described, under oath, the torture that they had received: electrical
torture and other atrocities, including, in one case, torture
by a North American U.S. major in uniform, who is described in
some detail. This is an unusually explicit and comprehensive testimony,
probably unique in its detail about what's going on in a torture
chamber. This 160-page report of the prisoners' sworn testimony
was sneaked out of prison, along with a videotape which was taken
showing people testifying in prison about their torture. It was
distributed by the Marin County Interfaith Task Force. The national
press refused to cover it. The TV stations refused to run it.
There was an article in the local Marin County newspaper, the
San Francisco Examiner, and I think that's all. No one else would
touch it. This was a time when there was more than a few "lightheaded
and cold-blooded Western intellectuals" who were singing
the praises of Jose Napoleon Duarte and of Ronald Reagan. Anaya
was not the subject of any tributes. He didn't get on Human Rights
Day. He wasn't appointed to anything. He was released in a prisoner
exchange and then assassinated, apparently by the U.S.-backed
security forces. Very little information about that ever appeared.
The media never asked whether exposure of the atrocities-instead
of sitting on them and silencing them-might have saved his life.
This tells you something about the way
a well-functioning system of consent manufacturing works. In comparison
with the revelations of Herbert Anaya in E1 Salvador, Valladares's
memoirs are not even a pea next to the mountain. But you've got
your job to do. That takes us toward the next war. I expect, we're
going to hear more and more of this, until the next operation
A few remarks about the last one. Let's
turn finally to that. Let me begin with this University of Massachusetts
study that I mentioned before. It has some interesting conclusions.
In the study people were asked whether they thought that the United
States should intervene with force to reverse illegal occupation
or serious human rights abuses. By about two to one, people in
the United States thought we should. We should use force in the
case of illegal occupation of land and severe human rights abuses.
If the United States was to follow that advice, we would bomb
El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, Damascus, Tel Aviv, Capetown,
Turkey, Washington, and a whole list of other states. These are
all cases of illegal occupation and aggression and severe human
rights abuses. If you know the facts about that range of examples,
you'll know very well that Saddam Hussein's aggression and atrocities
fall well within the range. They're not the most extreme. Why
doesn't anybody come to that conclusion? The reason is that nobody
knows. In a well-functioning propaganda system, nobody would know
what I'm talking about when I list that range of examples. If
you bother to look, you find that those examples are quite appropriate.
Take one that was ominously close to being
perceived during the Gulf War. In February, right in the middle
of the bombing campaign, the government of Lebanon requested Israel
to observe U.N. Security Council Resolution 425, which called
on it to withdraw immediately and unconditionally from Lebanon.
That resolution dates from March 1978. There have since been two
subsequent resolutions calling for the immediate and unconditional
withdrawal of Israel from Lebanon. Of course it doesn't observe
them because the United States backs it in maintaining that occupation.
Meanwhile southern Lebanon is terrorized. There are big torture-chambers
with horrifying things going on. It's used as a base for attacking
other parts of Lebanon. Since 1978, Lebanon was invaded, the city
of Beirut was bombed, about 20,000 people were killed, about 80
percent of them civilians, hospitals were destroyed, and more
terror, looting, and robbery was inflicted. All fine, the United
States backed it. That's just one case. You didn't see anything
in the media about it or any discussion about whether Israel and
the United States should observe U.N. Security Council Resolution
425 or any of the other resolutions, nor did anyone call for the
bombing of Tel Aviv, although by the principles upheld by two-thirds
of the population, we should. After all, that's illegal occupation
and severe human rights abuses. That's just one case. There are
much worse ones. The Indonesian invasion of East Timor knocked
off about 200,000 people. They all look minor by that one. That
was strongly backed by the United States and is still going on
with major United States diplomatic and military support. We can
go on and on.
In the years of the Reagan-Bush administration alone, about 1.5
million people were killed by South Africa just in the surrounding
countries. Forget what was happening in South Africa and Namibia.
The issue is ... whether we want to live in a free society or
whether we want to live under what amounts to a form of self-imposed
totalitarianism, with the bewildered herd marginalized, directed
elsewhere, terrified, screaming patriotic slogans, fearing for
their lives and admiring with awe the leader who saved them from
destruction, while the educated masses goose-step on command and
repeat the slogans they're supposed to repeat and the society
deteriorates at home. We end up serving as a mercenary enforcer
state, hoping that others are going to pay us to smash up the
world. Those are the choices That's the choice that you have to
face. The answer to those questions is very much in the hands
of people like you and me.
Media Control - Chomsky