Chomsky on Manipulative Policy
Noam Chomsky, one of today's leading thinkers, here makes the same point made by Harold Laski. In going from our current society to a better, freer one, it is very important to get the sequence of moves just right -- or you might open the door to a worse, less free system instead.
Challenging Democratic Government But Ignoring Nondemocratic Corporations
"Imagine yourself in the office of a public relations firm trying to turn people into the ideal state, namely manipulatible atoms of consumption, who are going to devote their energies to buying things they don't want because you tell them that that's what they want (advertising) and are never going to get together to challenge anything and won't have a thought in their heads except for doing what they're told -- another perfect utopia.
"Suppose you're trying to do that. Well, what you do is get them to hate the government and fear the government and fear the bigness of the government. But not look at the Fortune 500, or even medium-size businesses. Not ask how they work, not understand what were truisms to mainstream political economists like Robert Brady 60 years ago, or in fact the working class movement throughout it's history that these things are just tyrannical systems -- totalitarian systems. You don't want people to see that. You want them to worry about the one thing that they might get involved in and that might even protect them from the depradations of private power.
"So what would make sense would be to develop a mood of "anti-politics". And it has worked, people hate the government, fear the government, are worried about the bureacrats ... Even what is going on now with the attempt of "devolution" -- reduce decision making to the state level. That makes great sense if you believe in tyranny. There are circumstances in which regionalization would be a very good move -- I think there are all kinds of circumstances. In fact devolution, lowering the level of power and decision-making closer to the popular level, could be a step towards democracy, but *not* when you've got private tyrannies around.
"When you've got private tyrannies around, the only institution that (at least in part) reflects public involvement that can cope with them is a very powerful one, namely the federal government. You move decisions down to the state, say send block grants down to the state, thats a way of guaranteeing that they're not going to get to poor people.
"Any even middle size business has all kinds of ways of pressuring states, not that they'd have to pressure very hard, to make sure that that money ends up in their pockets rather than the pockets of hungry children ... The devolution under *these* circumstances is a great way to increase tyranny and to decrease the threat of democracy as well as to shift resources even more dramatically towards the rich and away from the poor. Thats the *obvious* consequence of devolution.
"I've never seen it discussed in the mainstream ... the obvious overwhelming fact that distributing government resources to lower levels will simply make them more susceptible to private influence and control by private power. That's the major effect, and it's part of the same anti-politics to weaken the federal government."
-- Noam Chomsky, "Robbing People Blind" interview with David Barsamian, Nov/Dec 1996.
Repairing one corner of a machine might make the rest of it worse off, not better. Can you take steps toward freedom without harming others or exposing them to greater difficulty? Name some steps. Tell The Progress Report:
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