Saturday, 25 March 2017

Noam Chomsky

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When I read the review, it immediately struck me how out-of-date Chomsky's argument is.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". 


  1. I really don't like talking politics that much and I think that mine is different from yours, but I do agree with the "The public has had enough of experts". The heart of it to me is that the experts or specialists seem to have forgotten that they work for the people and not the people for them.
    As for something revolutionary happening that too I most certainly agree with and it will happen in Europe and the US. I'll go out on a limb here, but it all kind of reminds me of England in the time of Charles I just at the rise of the Cromwellians. As you say and I agree where it's going I have little idea.
    There now off the soap box and back to reading the past posts, which as always I really enjoy.

  2. I read some of your cricket posts and liked them. I had to laugh about the Indian Aran. I was a pitcher in american baseball and if a guy was all worried about "how things were done" and the rules it meant he couldn't play a lick. I have to admit two things 1) Though I was a pitcher, baseball bored me to tears and 2) Cricket still remains a mystery to me, completely unfathomable.

  3. I’m sure that you will be aware of Churchill’s famous quote Peter, the one about democracy being the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried, but there is another Churchill quote on the subject that is more pertinent to the current situation, viz. "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."

    I think that this sums up rather well what has happened in America!

    By the way, I think you need to be careful about drawing any parallels between Brexit and the American presidency, even though Trumplthinskin and Niggle Garage are pals. You can make a reasonable case for Brexit, but there is nothing reasonable about having a man in the White House whose only strategy is self-aggrandizement.