My attention has been drawn to a recent review of Noam Chomsky's book, "Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda".
Chomsky is a world-renowned expert in the nature and origins of language, but for several decades now he has been writing books denouncing American foreign policy. This particular volume, written more than twenty years ago, is in essence an anti-Plato tract. By this I mean that he attacks the ideas put forward in Plato's famous book, "The Republic", which advocates that government should be entrusted to a specially-trained elite class of "Guardians" rather than left in the hands of the fickle forces of democracy.
Chomsky sees the USA and other self-styled "democracies" as under the control of a class which he calles the "specialists", ruling over the masses, who are called "the bewildered herd". However, unlike Plato's Guardians, who were trained from childhood to use their power solely for the public benefit, Chomsky sees the rule of his "specialists" as being illegitimate; running the country entirely for their own benefit whilst keeping up a mere facade of democracy, and misleading the public mendacious propaganda. He gives various examples of how this is achieved.
But such a clear dichotomy between "specialists" and the "bewildered herd" is of course absurd. In all western countries there is a large intervening class of educated and intelligent people who do not fall into either category, and are well capable of seeing through blatant propaganda. This number must, of course, include Chomsky himself.
When I read the review, it immediately struck me how out-of-date Chomsky's argument is. The reviewer makes a valiant attempt to tie it into today's world of Brexit and Donald Trump, but wholly in vain. The argument simply has no bearing on a situation where, in America, Donald Trump was elected President after insulting all the leading members of his own party, and is now at war with the "New York Times" and the leading news media, and where in Britain a majority of the people voted for Brexit against the wishes and advice of most MPs, most members of the House of Lords, all living former Prime Ministers, the leaders of all the traditional political parties, a majority of university graduates and the "Times" newspaper. Since the, we have seen senior judges denounced as "Enemies of the people" by the Brexiteer tabloids, to the fury of the legal profession, and Brexiteer Tories complaining that top civil servants are undermining their negotiations. If these people aren't part of the "specialists", then who is? Now Donald Trump has, without a shred of evidence, even accused the FBI of colluding with MI5 to tap his phone!
The reviewer would have done better to portray these events as something truly revolutionary: an uprising of the "bewildered herd" against the "specialists"; the like of which we had not previously seen in the West, and whose consequences we cannot yet foresee. As was said by Michael Gove (a man who rose from a humble background to become a cabinet minister, thereby joining the "specialists"), "The public has had enough of experts".