Does Chomsky anywhere reinterpret his Propaganda Model in the light of the new media landscape?

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The Politicus
Feb 19, 2019 10:12 AM 0 Answers
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Chomsky writes in the introduction to his book Neccessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies:

The issues that arise are rooted in the nature of industrial Western democratic societies and have been debated since their origins. In capitalist democracies there is a certain tension with regard to the locus of power. In a democracy the people rule, in principle.

But decision making power over central areas of life resides in private hands, with large-scale effects throughout the social order. One way to resolve the tension would be to export the democratic process to investment, the organisation of work and so on.

That would constitute a major social revolution, and in my view, would consummate the political revolutions of an earlier era and realise some of the libertarian principles upon which they were partly based.

Or the tension could be resolved, and sometimes is, by forcefully eliminating public interference with state and private power. In the advanced industrial societies the problem is typically approached by a variety of measures to deprive democratic political structures of substantive content, while leaving them formally intact.

A large part of this task is assumed by ideological institutions that channel thought and attitudes into acceptable bounds, deflecting any potential challenge to established privilege and power before it can take form and gather strength. That enterprise has many facets and agents. I will be primarily concerned with one aspect: thought control, as conducted through the agency of the national media and related elements of elite intellectual culture. [emphasis added]

Q. First, which ‘political revolutions’ is he talking about?

Secondly, he is on record that he mostly reaffirms this analysis even in the light of the introduction and the rise of the internet and social media whose horizontal structures might lead one to suspect that it might avoid the structural inequities in large and already established broadcast, print and now social media. Given this, it might be supposed that he thinks the already existing hierarchies will simply reimpose themselves on the tabula rasa that was once the internet - after all, the major corporations have the resources, if not always the ideas.

Q. Does he give a fuller analysis of how his Propaganda Model is to be understood in the light of the new media landscape? And if not him, others?

On a personal note, I want to add that when I once worked once in a major investment bank I once saw an internal conference on the subject of developing the next generation of ‘thought-leaders’ and this I found somewhat disturbing given the connotations that a term like that had.

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  • February 19, 2019