Propaganda & Persuasion – Chomsky Study Questions

Matthew Lipscomb

Dr. Heather Palmer

Propaganda & Persuasion, 2/1/2011

Chomsky Study Questions

Part One: Pre-Viewing Questions

 

1) What do you know about Noam Chomsky?
         I know that I do not like him. I have had a bit of exposure to his ideas in terms of my own readings. More decidedly, however, my father was a student in Kent State when the National Guard shootings occurred there on May 3rd 1970 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Kent_State_shootings). During vacations to Ravenna, Ohio (where the campus is located and where my dad is from) he would tell us stories about the protests. I have seen the art sculpture that the bullets went through. I know that my mom cried and begged him not to go to class that day – because she had heard that there was a sniper on top of the arts building, where my dad had his class. He told her he would not – but then an hour later – he changed his mind. As he was going out the door he heard the ambulances screaming down the street. He remembered hearing his dad (who worked as a maintenance man on campus, and who had served in the army in WWII) later say that he “knew they were real bullets, from the sound that they made.” I know that the SDS Students for a Democratic Society (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Students_for_a_Democratic_Society) were heavily involved in the agitation of and the demonstrations on Kent States’ campus. Leftist activists (because of its moderate, northern political environment) deliberately targeted Kent. When the SDA came on campus to purposefully foment controversy – they were seeking to deliberately import/transpose the campus radicalism that was ideologically inbred and native to many of the other Western Campuses such as what Chomsky was instrumental in on the west coast. When the violence and bloodshed started – they had all gone back home. I know that Chomsky is a revered leftist icon for his ideology. I know that he considers himself to be some form of anarchist socialist – but I consider him to be an embittered Marxist. I have studied the political left, not just out of my own philosophical & political curiousity – but also because of how it affected by dad. He could have easily been one of the innocent students shot that day.

In regards to Chomsky, I have no doubt that he thought that Vietnam would grow to a great country after the United States’ capitulation. It is still a politically repressed and thoroughly impoverished nation. South Korea is a modern nation, with a modern political system. The North is a ticking time bomb of nuclear and financial desolation. Russia has collapses into a totalitarian state that is trying to pass itself off as democratic and capitalist – but is probably more so neo-Fascist in terms of its evolving form of totalitarian/state-guided Capitalism. China relies on constant brutal oppression to maintain power – as it slowly accepts the power of Free Market Capitalism, while still seeking to retain the absolute state control of the individual – in keeping with Maoist/Marxist Leninist-derivational totalitarianism. All of Chomsky’s political ideas have been relegated to the dustbin of economic history. All he can do is be the equivalent of a canine ‘ankle biter’ – in that he is a discredited nuisance, who serves only to make a career out of criticizing Free Market Capitalism.

 

2) What information do you need to know to fill out your understanding of his theory “The Propaganda Model?
         I cannot think of anything at this present time without creatively trying to make something up just to put here – so in the interest of further authenticity, I will refrain from this.

 

3) What is your overall impression of the Propaganda Model?

 


         I think that Chomsky is guilty of playing ontological chess. By this – I mean that he is shifting epistemological ontologies around to suit his own ideological purposes. Another way of saying this – is that he has a selective view of reality. He is going to tell us all about how to avoid propaganda – when he, himself, is working to propagate his own ideology. This is the most dangerous kind of propagandist. The ‘black’ propagandist who tries to paint himself as being ‘white.’ I do think that Chomsky is useful insofar as he is talking about potential abuses – even abuses that are on going and future-potent. However, the issue is that all of this ‘conversation’ that Chomsky is having is subterfuge in terms of his attempt to propagandize us with his own leftist ideologies.

 

 

Part Two: Viewing Questions

 

1) What do Chomsky mean by “Thought Control? Briefly, how does it operate according to him?
         He believes that there are elemental truths that are all around us but we have been deceived into thinking otherwise by systemized deceit. He believes that there are systems in place to control the way that we thing and interact with the world around us. This is pure hypocrisy on his part. His own system of Anarchy is only sustainable when everybody is completely  ‘on board’ with it. There would be an ongoing effort to ‘reprogram’ everybody  (just as already takes place in Communist “re-education” camps) with the Anarchist-Syndicalist mindset, with its attendant ideological presuppositions.

 

2) Finish this analogy he makes: propaganda is to democracy as x is to a dictatorship.
         “Propaganda is to a democracy what violence is to a dictatorship.”

 

3) What is Chomsky’s opinion of “Common Sense”? –does he  believe the US. citizen has it? What does he mean?
         Chomsky believes that language functions from ‘the unfolding’ of a genetic code. He disagrees with the psychologist B.F. Skinner – in that he does not think that our minds are ‘blank slates’ – insofar as we have an innate capacity to both communicate and understand language. The type of language that is used is secondary to the neurological circuits that exist upon which they are programmed and then henceforth execute their logic. The basic structures of language is therefore present in the same capacity across all cultures and races. He states that he believes in a “Cartesian” common sense – and by this I suppose that he feels that common sense begins by questions that are based on the capacity to think for one’s own self.

 

4) For Chomsky, when is coercion or control justified?
         He felt that there was a justification for what he calls a ‘totalitarian society’ during the time of WWII. He also notes examples of times that a parent may be justified to exert control and coercion over a child. He states that most times, however, that coercion and control are not justified.

 

5) The Title “Manufacturing Consent is taken exactly from what?
         It is the title of one of the books that Chomsky wrote. It initially came from the works of Walter Lippmann, Public Opinion published in 1921.  Lippmann described a revolution in the practice of Democracy, He argued that there has to be a class that is set aside from the public who are specialized in terms of their ability to control and manipulate the masses towards common goals.  My conviction is that that there is a very dark irony here – in regards to how Marxism and Anarchy must have ideological luminaries who convince the masses that that each respective system of politics/economics is suitable and justifiable. Chomsky no doubt sees himself as this exact “special class” who’s responsibility it is to foist anarchy upon us all.

 

6) What is “emotionally potent oversimplification”? How is it used?
         It comes from Reinhold Niebuhr, where he speaks of, “the big myths that keep things in order”. He argues that “Rationality belongs to the cool observer,” in his book Man and Immoral Society. Because of the stupidity of the common man, he follows not reason but naive faith. This naive faith requires necessary illusion and emotionally potent oversimplifications, which are provided by the myth makers to keep the ordinary person on course.

 

7) What Class does Chomsky identify his childhood with?
         Chomsky describes his childhood as a time absorbed in the reading of French and Russian classics. His parents were Jewish intellectuals, whom he describes as being lower-middle class. He says that they very interested in socialist bi-nationalism and Hebrew-Palestinian cooperation. He describes them as being ‘working class’ people.  I suppose that that answer is that his parents were members of the political left.

 

8) Who are the “deciders” in our society?
         Chomsky argues that the “special interests” are the deciders. They are those who are in positions to make the decisions that run the world. He argues that they are a small conglomerate of individuals and  tightly integrated business that constantly and pervasively exert their influence upon the world.

 

9) What is the most important paper in our society, according to Chomsky, if not the world?
         Chomsky says that the most important paper in the world is the New York Times. He argues that they carry a special burden in terms of history. He argues that history is what appears in the New York Times archives. But he asks of us what it the process by which things are decided in terms of the inclusion or certain things within it.

 

10) What is important point about the alleged liberal and conservative bias in the media that Chomsky makes? How do these divisions serve to maintain power relations?
         He argues that whatever supposedly can be called the “liberal” or the “conservative” side of politics – that they still fall within the same framework of assumptions in terms of his Propaganda Model.  He argues that certain streams of thought are purposefully described as being liberal, so that they can “bind” thought into certain constrictures. The liberal presuppositions in the liberal media are therefore ‘sacrosanct’ because to propose anything beyond them would be like “taking off from a different planet”. Thus far and no further – therefore is the presuppositional idiom by which ideology is frames and judged. Major corporations are owned by successively bigger corporation – all of whom resolve their power ontologically into smaller and smaller groups of individuals.  They preserve these liberal/conservative dichotomatic divisions by speaking to the individuals, who are of the ruling class, and incorporating them into a measure of their own exerted power.

 

11) What is the most practical way to make changes to the existing power structure/media nexus?
         Chomsky argues that action that takes direct action against the power structures – such as draft resistance – is a good system of resistance.  He also mentions the power of advertising.

 

Part Three: Post-Viewing Questions

 

1) According to Eli Lehrer, Chomsky’s “ideas about the media are probably his most quoted but are the least plausible of his theories. His analysis is very much that of an outsider who knows relatively little about the media and has scant interest in the subject except to the degree the media subservience serves to explain why there is no outcry against the evils that he sees everywhere in the American enterprise. His theories are based on illogical, flawed, or fallacious arguments.” Do you agree or disagree with this assessment (or at least parts of it)? Why or why not?

       I do agree with Lehrer. My conviction in regards to Chomsky is that he is, for lack of a better term, an inveterate ideologue. The larger issue is that many leftist-leaning activists went back to school and became teachers and politicians. The case of William Ayers is a good example. Ayers was another individual involved in the SDA/Weathermen (Leftist/Marxist/Anarchist Political movements) – who both built and planted numerous bombs. The only difference between himself and Timothy McVeigh is that McVeigh was a capable bomb builder – whereas Ayers was essentially grossly incompetent. I believe that one Weatherman activist actually accidently blew themselves up, while trying to built a bomb. These people were not rational – they were (and I believe remain to this day) blinkered fanatics. Ayers stood trial for domestic terrorism and was acquitted on a technicality – or lack of evidence, or some such nonsense. He famously subsequently said “guilty as hell, free as a bird – America is a great country.” (http://www.city-journal.org/2008/eon1006ss.html). We praise anarchists, Marxist and terrorists as ‘great intellectuals’ – and I take great issue with that.

I will grant that Chomsky has done two things, which can potentially be seen as contributions. The first is that he has identified what are arguably true ideological dynamics within the societal-propaganda matrix. I am not convinced, however, that Chomsky is not operating as a discrete propaganda agent for his own Marxist-Anarchist ideologies. I am well aware that he does not consider himself a Marxist but rather a Anarchist-Syndicalist. I do not buy into the idea that these are some how intrinsically different political ideologies. I consider any attempt to significantly divide them to be an act of sophistry on the part of the one trying to make one more acceptable, given the openly accepted and widely known bankruptcy of the other. They are both stridently anti-capitalist and deny the sociological norms of classes, insofar as their normative forms function within society. They are both irreparably idealist. Chomsky speaks a great deal of the “imagination” – I suppose this is because this is the only place any of his political ideologies actually work.  It is also in his work – within propaganda – that I consider him to be dangerous. In telling us about the propaganda of others – he is offering his own propaganda – which is (in my own opinion) much more dangerous and self-destructive then that which he is seeking to expose.

The second way that he potentially contributes is based on my own Hegelian presuppositions in regards to how ‘the world works’. Hegel believed that everything essentially involves two different ideas  (thesis/antithesis) that contrast with one another to form something new (synthesis). For Hegel – this was a ‘spiritual’ process in which Geist (spirit) was transformed into history – and he referred to this process as an ongoing dialectical process. Marx took the spiritual dimension and gutted it – essentially replacing it with a mindset that only understood materialism (hence therefore known as dialectical materialism), which is completely devoid of any metaphysics by purposeful design. I am apposed to Marxism, but I see the Hegelian Dialectic as a very real force-process at work. In this sense – Chomsky serves as a thesis – in that he is the extreme opposite of a secondary, alternate ideology (antithesis). Perhaps he knows that  he is merely ‘dialectical fodder’ – and chooses to embrace that role. Perhaps he himself embraced the inadequacy and bankruptcy of his own ideals a long time ago – and merely continues on in a sense that he sees fruition through a dialectic – which would therefore presuppose a truly wasted effort on his part outside of it.
2) Lehrer also asserts that  “[Chomsky] believes that all Americans – including the working class whose patron he fancies himself to be – are either too stupid to understand how the media manipulates every aspect of their lives, or are complicit ‘pawns’ who ‘goosestep’ to every whim of the despotic rich.”  Do you think that this is a fair assessment of the arguments we’ve looked at? Why or why not?

         I think that there is a great truth here. I think that there is a profound arrogance on the part of many leftist intellectuals that rivals the religious fervor of any televangelist. This may sound ridiculous on its face – but I submit to you that it is nonetheless a correct statement, insofar as these types of thinkers think themselves to be a form of orthodoxy that bears religious-like devotion and calls for evangelization. Chomsky himself is a crypto-evangelist for anarchism. He is still fighting the battles that he fought on the streets of his youth. Understanding what I know about the politics of the Weimar Republic in Pre-WWII Germany – then it is easy to see how the streets were filled with Chomsky-like thugs. My conviction is that Chomsky, by way of becoming a professor of Linguistics, learned early on of the power of Rhetoric. In this sense – I believe that he has embraced a form of sophistry – which is one of the tools of the Academic Left as well. This can be traced back into the anti-Foundationalist school of Critical Theory, which is – one can argue – merely academically sublimated Marxism. It is a philosophy in search of a foundation – having abandoned that of the external-to-self metaphysical. Self is too prone to bankruptcy – but language can neither defend nor speak for itself (ironically so) and therefore is (in many branches of anti-Foundationalist thought) a foundations in that it goes “all the way down” (I believe that it was Terry Eagleton who actually said this –but it may have been Stanley Fish). This is important, as well – because it shows that linguists like Chomsky (and Eagleton and Fish, and other anti-Foundationalists) presuppose themselves to be on a ‘higher order’ by nature of both their understanding of and commad of the language. Understanding that there is is no foundations outside of language – then there is no concrete guide for any rationality or pragmaticism – as everything resolves back to the importance and power of language. I could argue here (and perhaps will elsewhere) that language is the currency of neo-Marxism.

Bill Ayers – after all – did not become a professor of Economics, but rather English. Conservatives tend to think of Liberals of naïve, but Liberals tend to think of Conservatives as uneducated and ignorant. There is a crucial difference here – I would argue. You make a more significant accusation –  if you accuse someone of being uneducated vs. being merely naïve. You can correct for naivety much easier then you can for a lack of a comprehensive education. Recently, this “uneducated” typology as been used against the Tea Party by those in opposition to it in terms of their unexpected (and unwelcomed) political gains. Adherents/constituents are regarded as back woods and racist. In the recent developments at NPR, two high level executives resigned after a ‘sting operation’ caught one of them saying that tea party members were more or less backward, uneducated hicks. (http://www.ktuu.com/news/la-pn-npr-chief-resigns-20110309,0,7651507.story?track=rss).

What is true about our economy is that greed is king – and that we live in a video-saturated society. There may be generalized trends that can be studied, and it may also be true that many have studied them to their great benefit – but the whole “dot-com” phenomena has proven that you can still create a product to match a need that you either perceive (or create) and then deliver a subsequent product to match it – even if it is ‘off the grid’ in terms of what you would expect. Whatever ontology of power exists from a propaganda standpoint is being flattened, and will continue to be flattened in the future. The power of Facebook is an example of this, especially one taking place under ‘rogue’ circumstances, rising outside of the perceived halls of engrained ‘institutional power’. A second issue is that of the horizontal conflation of the news by ways of the growing popularity of the so-called Blogosphere. In the early days – much information was granted from the main news networks. Now, people get as much news from grass-roots bloggers. If anything – institutionalized networks have lost control of the media. This has been functionally replicated in the Middle East political uprisings – insofar as totalitarian power structures can no longer control (if they ever could) streams of information which are too divested in terms of sources and ways and means of information dissemination. If technology progresses to the point whereby all information, cable, cell phone, tv, internet, all potentially comes from satellites – then even nations, such as China, will be unable to sort and block information on a network level, which with brute force control they still can. This will have even greater destabilization of whatever degree of control anybody ever presuppositionally had.

 

3) According to David Horowitz’ article “Noam Chomsky’s Anti-American Obsession,” he claims that Chomsky’s “mission in life and his everlasting infamy” is to “kill the memory of American achievement along with the American idea(l).” Discuss the veracity of this claim, given Horowitz’s evidence.       

       I agree with Horowitz. I am actually glad to see his work included in this course. I have read his book Destructive Generation, Second Thoughts about the Sixties

(http://www.amazon.com/Destructive-Generation-Second-Thoughts-Sixties/dp/1594030820) several years ago. I also want to read Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey (http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Son-Generational-David-Horowitz/dp/0684840057/ref=sr_1_4?s

=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1300394209&sr=1-4). As someone who has studied philosophy, I am always drawn to those who have followed an ‘arc’ or a path through which they changed their minds based on experience and further knowledge. Horowitz began as an editor to the Leftist Ramparts Magazine, and subsequently followed a path that led to his becoming a political Conservative. In addition to his political commentaries – he has published several award winning documentaries on the Kennedys, the Fords, the Rockefellers, and the Roosevelts (http://www.amazon.com/David-Horowitz/e/B000APT1L4/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1). I don’t think that Horowitz is a hack. He is an accomplished biographer who has an excellent grasp on history both from an ideological and a political perspective, owing both to the biographical books that he has written and his own histo-ideological continuum that he has traversed. I agree with what he terms as Chomky’s “redemptive illusions” in terms of the self-delusion that Marxist and Anarchists must submit themselves to. I agree that he is an “embittered academic” surrounded by “political groupies”. America has become a world superpower, built upon Free Market Capitalism, and – while it is far from perfect – it has brought many up from poverty along with it. The arguments put forth by Anarchists, such as Chomsky for a classless society fly, in the face of human nature. Humanity is inescapably ontologically tribal. It is hardwired into our DNA. Regardless of context, a tribe will form. It has been said that you can take the man out of the tribe, but you cannot take the tribe out of the man. There will be those who refuse to partake in the tribe – and they will self-destruct themselves financially, emotionally, and ideologically. These same ‘drop outs’ force a further “tribe delineation” between those who have (because they have worked hard for it), and those who have not (because they refused to work at all). Capitalism works because it is ontologically concomitant to the anthropologic ontologies intrinsic to a complete and authentic understanding of human nature. It is by nature of this anthro-ontological authenticity that it is pragmatically realist in terms of an objective approximation to the ‘capital T’ Truth of a ‘capital R’ Reality.          Marxism and Anarchism are ideological forms of pseudo-anthro-ontological reality. They are idealistically divorced from how human nature functions from an actual, natural standpoint. One might argue that Capitalism is hardcoded into the DNA of man. Whereas Marxism and Anarchism can only be temporary forced over it. It is in this ‘forced state’ that it is unsupportable in terms of long-term self-sustenance. The anthro-dynamics of self-sufficiency, self-autonomy presuppose any long-term commitment that essentially necessarily entails any form of pervasive existential debasement. If the whole of a person is oppressed for the ‘presupposed good of the group,’ then given the eventually forthcoming revelation-knowledge of the actuality of the aforementioned existential debasement – the individual will seek a break from the tribe and form their own. This is why Marxism and even (ironically so) Anarchism always intrinsically create internal classes (between willing submitters and rebels) and therefore must become totalitarian to enforce ‘rebels’ to rejoin the necessary homogeneity that Marxism and Anarchism require to survive. Chomsky is a purveyor of illusions; Destructive, dangerous, and evil illusions.

I have also studied Gnostic Dualims and Manicheanism, which Horowitz references a descriptor in regards to Chomsky’s ideology, in terms of materialism as being intrinsically evil. I believe that this is actually the key to unlocking Chomsky’s illusion. This is why he sees America as a threat to the survival of the world – because America offers a productive materialism that is divorced from the collective “dialectical materialism” of Marxism/Anarchism. I will refrain from unpacking what I see are logical expression of Gnostic Dualism in other fields, such as that of Religion – where it is often primarily historically identified with its historical namesake – the Manicheans. This same ideological denigration of non-communal materialism is expressed in philosophical modes as well, but that is a digression – outside of arguing that Chomsky’s ideology presupposes any desire to achieve materialist wealth as evil over and against a pseudo-spiritual sense of communal creativity. Nonetheless – in this sense – Chomsky is the perfect example of a political-economically sublimated Manichean Gnostic Dualism:  that any allowable materialism must necessarily resolve back to a ‘spiritual element’ ( which can be read as “shared economic wealth practices’) – and that outside of that – it is just evil. I wish that Horowitz had unpacked this to a greater degree. It is unfortunate that he did not.

I agree that Chomsky plays fast and loose with the facts – such as his recalling of the events that led to Clinton’s response in terms of his missile strikes against factories that were thought to be producing weapons of terror. Chomsky leaves out that these were done at night to minimalize causalities and that they were done in response to the blowing up of two embassies.

 

I find it laughable that Chomsky does not count the attack on Pearl Harbor because it was a “colony” – and the accusations that America is a Nazi twin are just ridiculous.

Chomsky is the result of pervasive “ideological inbreeding” – there is no expression of anything else other then ‘self’; and just as this leads to deformity and non-sustainability in the biological sphere, the same holds true in the ideological. It is this incapability of Chomsky to ‘mediate’ that marks him a cancer: something that cannot work with anything else, but only seeks to perpetually replicate its own broken copy. Chomsky only sees and understands one thing: ‘steal from the poor and give to the rich’ – and all of his work resolves back to that. When he sees America – he only sees the sublimation of that tired old Marxist maxim, by saying that all of America exists to “protect our doctrine that the rich should steal from the poor”.

I also agree with Horowitz that it is not America that is afraid that somewhere in a Marxist/Anarchist run country that they will see a “positive example of successful development”  – but that rather it is Chomsky who has buried his head in the sand – because all around him stand the testimonies of successful Capitalism.

Furthermore – based on my own before mentioned academic studies here at UTC (I am a German history minor, and I have also taken Dr. Anthony Steinhoff’s class – Europe Under the Shadow of Hitler) I agree with Horowitz’s assessment of post-war Europe, in regards to how America completely demilitarized (in comparison) whereas Russia kept two million men in eastern Europe and forced their abominable Marxism upon them by force.

Furthermore – I believe that Horowitz is correct on the Chomsky’s misrepresentation of the United States invasion of Grenada. I agree with what he says about the huge income disparity between Vietnam (a per capita income of $370) vs. that of South Korea ($8,490). I have a good friend who was born in Vietnam – and I once asked him these kinds of questions. He told me that most Vietnamese wish the United States had persevered. They feel that their country would be much more like South Korea – then the impoverished, police state that it is today.

In conclusion – I found it very interesting what he said about Cuba. It is very true that they have free trade with anybody and everybody else in the world besides us – and that they have received massive amounts of aid from Russia. Their only poverty is that they are both denied Capitalism – and, to prove the point (I suppose) they are cut off from any secondary benefits from it. Their poverty inescapably proves the poverty of their own nation. And this – is what must haunt Chomsky – if he his capable of lucid moments – that his own blinkered functionally-Marxist  Anarchism is completely bankrupt – politically, ideologically, and financially – everywhere, for all time, and for everyone who ever has or ever will be subjected to it.

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About hollerscholar

I'm a theology & philosophy student, writer, web developer, and medical laboratory professional.
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