Quotes from Media Control, by Noam Chomsky

- ‘Let’s begin with the first modern government propaganda operation. That was under the Woodrow Wilson Administration. Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the platform ‘Peace Without Victory.’ That was right in the middle of World War I. The population was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved in a European war. The Wilsonadministration was actually committed to war and had to do something about it. They established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission, which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world.’ (7)
- ‘The media, the schools, and the popular culture have to be divided. For the political class and the decision makers they have to provide some tolerable sense of reality, although they also have to instill the proper beliefs.’ (14)
- ‘We have one kind of educational system directed to the responsible men, the specialized class. They have to be deeply indoctrinated in the values and interests of private power and the state-corporate nexus that represents it. If they can achieve that, then they can be part of the specialized class. The rest of the bewildered herd basically just have to be distracted. Turn their attention to something else. Keep them out of trouble.’ (15)
- ‘In what is now called a totalitarian state, or a military state, it’s easy. You just hold a bludgeon over their heads, and if they get out of line you smash them over the head. But as society has become more free and democratic, you lose that capacity. Therefore you have to turn to the techniques of propaganda. The logic is clear. Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.’ (16)
- ‘They were called ‘scientific methods of strike-breaking,’ and worked very effectively by mobilizing community opinion in favor of vapid, empty concepts like Americanism. Who can be against that? Or harmony. Who can be against that? Or, as in the Persian Gulf War, ‘Support our troops.’ Who can be against that? Or yellow ribbons. Who can be against that? Anything that’s totally vacuous. In fact, what does it mean if somebody asks you, Do you support the people in Iowa? Can you say, Yes, I support them, or No, I don’t support them? It’s not even a question. It doesn’t mean anything. That’s the point. The point of public relations slogans like ‘Support our troops’ is that they don’t mean anything.’ (20)
- ‘You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. Its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something: Do you support our policy? That’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about. So you have people arguing about support for the troops. ‘Of course I don’t not support them.’ Then you’ve won.’ (21)
- ‘They ought to be sitting alone in front of the TV and having drilled into their heads the message, which says, the only value in life is to have more commodities or live like that rich middle class family you’re watching and to have nice values like harmony and Americanism. That’s all there is in life. You may think in your own head that there’s got to be something more in life than this, but since you’re watching the tube alone you assume, I must be crazy, because that’s all going on over there. And since there is no organization permitted – that’s absolutely crucial – you never have a way of finding out whether you are crazy, and you just assume it, because it’s the natural thing to assume.’ (22)
- ‘We’ve got to distract them. They should be watching the Superbowl or sitcoms or violent movies. Every once in a while you call on them to chant meaningless slogans like ‘Support our troops.’ You’ve got to keep them pretty scared, because unless they’re properly scared and frightened of all kinds of devils that are going to destroy them from outside or inside or somewhere, they may start to think, which is very dangerous, because they’re not competent to think. Therefore it’s important to distract them and marginalize them.’ (22-23)
- ‘The media are a corporate monopoly. They have the same point of view. The two parties are two factions of the business party. Most of the population doesn’t even bother voting because it looks meaningless.’ (23-24)
- ‘Voters in the 1984 ‘Reagan landslide,’ by about three to two, hoped that his policies would not be enacted. If you take particular programs, like armaments, cutting back on social spending, etc., almost every one of them was overwhelmingly opposed by the public.’ (25-26)
- ‘The Reaganite intellectual Norman Podhorez defined it as ‘the sickly inhibitions agains the use of military force.’ ’ (28)
- ‘If you want to have a violent society that uses force around the world to achieve the ends of its own domestic elite, it’s necessary to have a proper appreciation of the martial virtues and none of these sickly inhibitions about using violence. So that’s the Vietnam Syndrome. It’s necessary to overcome that one.’ (29)
- ‘It’s also necessary to completely falsify [sic] history.’ (30)
- ‘If we’re bombing South Vietnam, that’s because we’re defending South Vietnam against somebody, namely, the South Vietnamese, since nobody else was there. It’s what the Kennedy intellectuals called defense against ‘internal aggression’ in South Vietnam.’ (30)
- ‘One indication of it was revealed in a study done at the University of Massachusetts on attitudes toward the current Gulf crisis – a study of beliefs and attitudes in television watching. One of the questions asked in this study was, How many Vietnamese casualties would you estimate that there were during the Vietnam war? The average response on the part of Americans today is about 100,000. The official figure is about two million. The actual figure is probably three to four million. The people who conducted the study raised an appropriate question: What would we think about German political culture if, when you asked people today how many Jews died in the Holocaust, they estimated about 300,000?’ (31)
- ‘This is true on every topic. Pick the topic you like: the Middle East, international terrorism, Central America, whatever it is – the picture of the world that’s presented to the public has only the remotest relation to reality.’ (31-32)
- ‘Organization has its effects. It means that you discover that you’re not alone. Others have the same thoughts that you do. You can reinforce your thoughts and learn more about what you think and believe.’ (35)
- ‘You frighten the population, terrorize them, intimidate them so that they’re too afraid to travel and cower in fear. Then you have a magnificent victory over GrenadaPanama, or some other defenseless third-world army that you can pulverize before you ever bother to look at them – which is just what happened. That gives relief. We were saved at the last minute. That’s one of the ways in which you can keep the bewildered herd from paying attention to what’s really going on around them, keep them diverted and controlled.’ (38)
- ‘The United States backs it in maintaining that occupation. Meanwhile southern Lebanon is terrorized. There are big torture-chambers with horrifying things going on. It’s used as a base for attacking other parts of Lebanon. Since 1978, Lebanon was invaded, the city of Beirut was bombed, about 20,000 people were killed, about 80 percent of them civilians.’ (44-45)
- ‘The voices of the Iraqi democrats are completely excluded, and second, that nobody notices. That’s interesting, too. It takes a really deeply indoctrinated population not to notice that we’re not hearing the voices of the Iraqi democratic opposition.’ (48)
- ‘Has the United States opposed its own aggression in Panama and insisted on bombing Washington to reverse it? When the South African occupation of Namibia was declared illegal in 1969, did the United States impose sanctions on food and medicine?’ (49)
- ‘On January 3, these officials had released an Iraqi offer to withdraw totally from Kuwait in return for consideration by the Security Council of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the problem of weapons of mass destruction.’ (51)

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