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Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies (CBC Massey Lecture) Paperback – September 21, 2013

4.1 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'A superb polemicist who combines fluency of language with a formidable intellect.' Observer 'Must be read by everyone concerned with public affairs.' Edward Said --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Born in Philadelphia, Noam Chomsky is an internationally acclaimed linguistics scholar, author, and political radical. A self-proclaimed anarchist, Chomsky has established an irreverence towards authority characterized by political activism. Currently a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Chomsky is the author of numerous books, including Towards a New Cold War, Turning the Tide, The Culture of Terrorism, Manufacturing Consent (with E.S. Herman), 9-11, Media Control, and Hegemony or Survival. He lives in Boston.
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Product Details

  • Series: CBC Massey Lecture
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: House of Anansi Press; 2 edition (September 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0887845746
  • ISBN-13: 978-0887845741
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #86,678 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Of all the articles and books of Chomsky that I have read, Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies is without doubt the most exhaustively researched (and footnoted), the most logically structured, and the most convincing. Chomsky reminds us that the majority of the populace rely on the various media institutions for their information about political affairs; both domestic and foreign. One can only hold an opinion on a topic if one knows about the topic. So take, for example, the popular myth of the 'persistent Soviet vetoe' at the UN during the cold war. Why do people believe the USSR was constantly vetoeing any and every Security Council Resolution? Simple! When they did, it generated front page condemnation. When the US or the UK exercised their right of veteo: silence. As Chomsky notes, during the years of 1970 and 1989 the former Soviet Union veteod 8 resolutions. The US veteod some 56. This is what Chomsky refers to as Thought Control. Unless the public examine the factual record of the UN themselves, they will never come by this information, (at least not in the mainstream press). So although Chomsky's title may appear somewhat paradoxical, or oxymoronic, a moments reflection on such facts shows it to be, in fact, extremenly pragmatic and truthful. The question is, have you the honesty and sheer guts to question yourself and challenge the information which has contributed to your beliefs? The crux of Chomsky's argument is that propaganda is to a democracy what violence is to a dictatorship. Chomsky points out that, in fact, propaganda is, contrary to popular postulations, more important and vital to a democratic society because people still have some rights.Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I am influenced by Chomsky more than any other political philosopher (although he seems to encompass much more than a mere career categorization). I've studied him on and off for the past five years, and I find it harder and harder to rely on mass media (TV, radio, movies, increasingly more of the internet) for any information. It's like lost innocence. One can never look at these things the same after reading Chomsky.
In this book, he tackles these themes, but concentrates a great deal on U.S. international relations. The equation is basically this: corporations control the government and own the media. U.S. international relations are directly affected and influenced by the whims of multinationals; namely the desire for [inexpensive] production and [inexpensive] resources, exploiting civilians and foreign lands to achieve these means. The government is in the pocket of the corporations.
The ordinary American has little say. We may vote; but we vote for one party; solely representing the interests of the rich, and the huge corporations.
That's a bit of Chomsky in a nutshell. This book supports these arguments with EXHAUSTIVE research. I admit, I found it exhausting to read, but not from lack of interest. He is detailed; which makes his arguments valid. He uses countless examples, all supported by the contradictory historical actions and propaganda of U.S. foreign relations; where the government lies to the public via the media. There are so many quotes and supportive examples that the bibliography could be 40 pages long!
So, I love Chomsky. However I really don't like reading him; but I try.
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Format: Paperback
On the whole, this book is disappointing and greatly inferior to Chomsky's similarly theme-ed Manufacturing Consent. Necessary Illusions amounts to little more than an updating of media duplicity in mainstream coverage of Central America and Israel. From the title, I expected a more systematic analysis of methods, mechanics, and reasons that operate behind media coverage. Instead, Chomsky offers a loose model of journalistic propaganda and a few methods for detecting its presence, viz. the Comparison Method. However, the model is neither detailed nor a really very useful one. Thus at a time when tv's propaganda function, for one, is becoming clearer to the public, Necessary Illusions fails to deliver much beyond the usual case studies familiar to Chomskyites. Important as this empirical work may be, especially for newcomers to Chomsky, what is needed is a more thorough-going model of how raw news gets processed into self-serving policy reinforcement. In short, a better model of the communication industry's ideological function.
It's surprising that someone as skilled at theorizing as Chomsky appears to shy away from this next logical step to his many invaluable case studies. Americans by and large recognise that despite being "free", the popular media is not to be trusted. Now we need be persuaded why this is so. Perhaps Chomsky doesn't want to risk credibility by pursuing more abstract formulations where researchable fact is less immediate. Whatever the reason, in this book he has clearly debunked some of America's most prestigious and self-serving institutions, which is always a worthwhile read.
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