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Letters from Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda (Series in Critical Narrative) Paperback – February 21, 2004
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"In the study of any system, it is often useful to look at something radically different, to highlight crucial features. Let's begin, then, by looking at a society that is close to the opposite pole from ours: Brezhnev's USSR.
Consider policy formation. In Brezhnev's USSR, economic policy was determined in secret, by centralized power; popular involvement was nil, except marginally, through the Communist Party. Political policy was in the same hands. The political system was meaningless, with virtually no flow from bottom to top.
Consider next the information system, inevitably constrained by the distribution of economic-political power. In Brezhnev's USSR there was a spectrum, bounded by disagreements within centralized power. True, the media were never obedient enough for the commissars. Thus they were bitterly condemned for undermining public morale during the war in Afghanistan, playing into the hands of the imperial aggressors and their local agents from whom the USSR was courageously defending the people of Afghanistan. For the totalitarian mind, no degree of servility is ever enough.
There were dissidents and alternative media: underground samizdat and foreign radio.Read more ›
The implications suggesting that the U.S. is a terrorist state in that it was telling the Nicaraguan people that Contra terror and the embargo would continue unless they voted out the Sandinistas in Feb. 1990, was not noticed in the U.S. media. Indeed Time magazine celebrated the attacks on Nicaraguan civilian infrastructure i.e. U.S./contra war crimes as causing the Sandinistas to be voted out. The killing of the poor by the U.S. backed security forces in El Salvador and Guatemala, which ran elections under extreme terror, received little sustained attention.
Chomsky observes that Laurence Pezullo, while the last U.S. ambassador to Somoza, had advised the National Guard to continue its final mass murder operations which were killing tens of thousands. After Carter couldn't prevent the Sandinistas from taking power, the National Guard, the future Contras, were flown out in U.S. military planes with Red Cross markings (a war crime). The media had nothing to say about the U.S.Read more ›
As for the content of the work, I recommend that readers consult the excellent reviews by Chris Green (always, always read his reviews), Egalitarian, and "Reader" (10.10.99) on this page. I couldn't possibly improve on them.
One last observation: Chomsky resides in Lexington, but I can't help but wonder if the title selection plays on the historical significance Lexington has as the location for the beginning of the American Revolution. Perhaps I am poeticizing the title. Nevertheless, I am quite certain that this work will make the canon of literary political dissent as so many of Chomsky's works have already done.