We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Saturday, April 26, 2014
What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream?
Chomsky, as a kind of elder statesman of radical academic circles, writes about his favorite subject: the way our capitalist masters use their institutions to manage our minds--those of the "outsiders". This is a well-developed technology which he has examined and written about extensively over many years. Now, more the ever before, it serves so effectively the narrowing ruling class of owners of our economy, and increasingly under neoliberalism, the world's economy. Those privileged technicians who practice this highly specialized technology, and their bosses, are restricted to a very few trusted people within the ruling capitalist class. By implication, they must be the "insiders".
A few renegade intellectuals like Chomsky have long been aware of their game, and occasionally he likes to remind his fellow intellectuals of this by writing articles which tend to make vague references to things that only intellectuals have knowledge of. (For example, he makes reference to "what happened at San Jose Mercury News" to illustrate a point, which must be about their 1996 series of articles regarding government collusion in the illicit drug trade authored by Gary Webb.)
I think Chomsky's own celebrity status as a left critic and his academic career also has meaning in relation to his favorite subject. It certainly raises the question of his role as a radical critic in a system which, as he has shown, is very well managed to exclude real criticism and inspection. From an examination of his career, I think he has had to make certain compromises with the "insiders" by carefully limiting his remarks to very select academic audiences and by not treading over any red lines of the ruling class.
This article with its glib academic jargon and obscure references illustrates his first compromise. The second, which is much less known and acknowledged, is that he, like many others, refuses to cross the red lines of the ruling class. Here I am referring to his acquiescence to the official versions of the many assassinations such as John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, etc, and of the many suspicious "terrorist" events such as 9/11 and the Boston Bombing. By making these compromises with the agents of power, he has been allowed to continue with an academic career, be invited to many conferences, and write many articles such as this in obscure media outlets.
I certainly don't want anyone to interpret this commentary as a cynical criticism of Chomsky. He has contributed so much to the understanding of the function of mainstream media; and if he hadn't made such compromises, his insights would not be as well known and influential. We've all had to make compromises with power, some merely to survive, others in order to function in some kind of constructive fashion, and others who surrendered easily to the temptations of comfort and wealth. But, doesn't this offer us another reason to destroy capitalism and all such hierarchical, class structured systems so that we can freely associate with each other and contribute each of our talents toward building a healthy society that can coexist with nature?