The imposition of necessary illusions

The other day, I watched Manufacturing Consent — Noam Chomsky and the Media by Mark Achbar (of ‘The Corporation‘ fame) and Peter Wintonick.

Noam Chomsky is an emeritus professor of MIT, a world-renowned linguist, and “arguably the most important intellectual alive” (a designation attributed by many to the New York Times Book Review, although I’m unable to verify that).

I can’t recommend this film highly enough; but rather than witter on about it in my own words, instead, I’ll steal some of Noam Chomsky’s own, from the film itself, and then you can make up your own mind whether you feel you need to watch it[1].

Modern industrial civilisation has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilisation has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic formulation.

Now, it’s long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it’s possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited: that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage-can.

At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible: either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others; or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control.

As long as some specialised class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole and, by now, that means the global community.

The question is whether privileged élites should dominate mass communication, and should use this power as they tell us they must: namely, to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority, and remove them from the public arena.

The question, in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved, or threats to be avoided. In this — possibly terminal — phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.

[1] That’s the message I get from much of what Noam Chomsky says: if we don’t each start to think about what we do, we, collectively, will be heading in the wrong direction. Brian said much the same thing

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About pendantry

Phlyarologist (part-time) and pendant. Campaigner for action against anthropogenic global warming (AGW) and injustice in all its forms. Humanist, atheist, notoftenpist. Wannabe poet, writer and astronaut.
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2 Responses to The imposition of necessary illusions

  1. Eric Alagan says:

    As long as visceral sloth is prevalent – there will be pharaoh and there will be slave. if we subscribe to the Cycle of Existence, weeding and replanting is a given.

    • pendantry says:

      The problem I have is that pharaoh has had plenty of time to evolve beyond having to apply the whip to the slave. The best he’s managed is to make the whip a mental, not a physical, one. He should by now have learned to beware Spartacus, if only because of the disruption — albeit temporary — which that powerful character can induce in the kingdom.

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