Saturday, March 29, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 2: The Home Front Segment 4/7
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The political and social history of Western democracies records all sorts of efforts to ensure that the formal mechanisms are little more than wheels spinning idly. The goal is to eliminate public meddling in formation of policy. That has been largely achieved in the United States, where there is little in the way of political organizations, functioning unions, media independent of the corporate oligopoly, or other popular structures that might offer people means to gain information, clarify and develop their ideas, put them forth in the political arena, and work to realize them. As long as each individual is facing the TV tube alone, formal freedom poses no threat to privilege.

One major step towards barring the annoying public from serious affairs is to reduce elections to the choice of symbolic figures, like the flag, or the Queen of England -- who, after all, opens Parliament by reading the government's political program, though no one asks whether she believes it, or even understands it.10 If elections become a matter of selecting the Queen for the next four years, then we will have come a long way towards resolving the tension inherent in a free society in which power over investment and other crucial decisions -- hence the political and ideological systems as well -- is highly concentrated in private hands.

For such measures of deterring democracy to succeed, the indoctrination system must perform its tasks properly, investing the leader with majesty and authority and manufacturing the illusions necessary to keep the public in thrall -- or at least, otherwise occupied. In the modern era, one way to approach the task is to rhapsodize (or wail) over the astonishing popularity of the august figure selected to preside from afar. From the early days of the Reagan period it was repeatedly demonstrated that the tales of Reagan's unprecedented popularity, endlessly retailed by the media, were fraudulent. His popularity scarcely deviated from the norm, ranging from about 1/3 to 2/3, never reaching the levels of Kennedy or Eisenhower and largely predictable, as is standard, from perceptions of the direction of the economy. George Bush was one of the most unpopular candidates ever to assume the presidency, to judge by polls during the campaign; after three weeks in office his personal approval rating was 76 percent, well above the highest rating that Reagan ever achieved.11 Eighteen months after taking office, Bush's personal popularity remained above the highest point that Reagan achieved. Reagan's quick disappearance once his job was done should surprise no one who attended to the role he was assigned.

It is, nonetheless, important to bear in mind that while the substance of democracy was successfully reduced during the Reagan era, still the public remained substantially out of control, raising serious problems for the exercise of power.

The Reagan administration faced these problems with a dual strategy. First, it developed the most elaborate Agitprop apparatus in American history, its Office of Public Diplomacy, one major goal being to "demonize the Sandinistas" and organize support for the terror states of Central America. This mobilization of state power to control the public mind was illegal, as a congressional review irrelevantly observed, but entirely in keeping with the advocacy of a powerful and intrusive state that is a fundamental doctrine of what is called "conservatism." The second device was to turn to clandestine operations, at an unprecedented level. The scale of such operations is a good measure of popular dissidence.

Clandestine operations are typically a secret only from the general population at home, not even from the media and Congress, pretense aside. For example, as the Reagan administration turned to the task of dismantling the Central American peace accords immediately after they were signed in August 1987, the media and Congress chose not to know that illegal supply flights to the contras almost tripled from the already phenomenal level of one a day as Washington sought desperately to keep its proxy forces in the field in violation of the accords, so as to maximize violence and disruption, and to bring the people of Nicaragua to understand that removal of the Sandinistas was a prerequisite to any hope for decent survival. A year later, the media and Congress chose not to know that CIA supply flights from the Ilopango air base near San Salvador to contras within Nicaragua were being reported by the same sources that had been ignored in the past, then proven accurate, as finally conceded; the "Hasenfus route," publicized at last when an American mercenary was shot down in October 1986 and the long-known facts could no longer be suppressed -- for a few weeks.12

Similarly, the media (like Congress) pretended not to understand the absurdity of the historic agreement between the Bush administration and congressional liberals "committing the Administration and Congress to aid for the Nicaraguan rebels and support for the Central American peace efforts" (Bernard Weinraub, New York Times); a flat and transparent self-contradiction, since the "peace efforts" explicitly bar the aid. A Times editorial solemnly explained that U.S. goals are now "consistent with the regional pact" that was flagrantly violated by the agreement that the editors hailed. The historic agreement "reaffirms the policy that the strong may do whatever they wish, regardless of the will of others," exactly as Daniel Ortega was reported to have said on the same day as the Times editorial.13

The practice was uniform as the media followed their marching orders, quite oblivious to the fact that explicitly, and without ambiguity, "the Central America peace efforts" ruled out any form of aid for the U.S.-run forces except for resettlement, and that the aid provided did not qualify as "humanitarian" by any standards, as was unequivocally determined by the World Court in a ruling that displeased U.S. elite opinion and therefore was never mentioned in the long and vigorous debate, or what passed for such, over "humanitarian aid." The blatant self-contradiction in the (quite typical) statement quoted from the Times is evident and transparent, whether we consider the terms of the Esquipulas II Accord of August 1987 that was successfully demolished by Washington and the media within a few months, the Sapoa cease-fire agreement of March 1988 which Congress and the Administration immediately violated with the support of the media, or the February 1989 agreement of the Central American Presidents, at once undermined by the Administration and Congress with the usual support of the media, which exhibit a tolerance for fabrication, even direct self-contradiction, that would have impressed Orwell mightily.

Go to the next segment.

10 On the effects of the institution of royalty on British culture, see Tom Nairn, The Enchanted Glass (Hutchison, 1988).

11 BG, Feb. 17, 1989, reporting an ABC/Washington Post poll. See references of chapter 12, note 39, on fact versus fraud concerning Reagan's popularity.

12 AP, Dec. 15; Barricada Internacional (Managua, San Francisco), Dec. 22, 1988. Since the reports were on the wires, the suppression was conscious. On the sharp escalation of supply flights from October 1987 and media complicity in suppressing the facts, see my articles in Z Magazine, Jan., March, 1988; and for a review, Necessary Illusions.

13 Weinraub, NYT, March 25; editorial, March 28, 1989; Mark Uhlig, NYT, same day. KEYWORDS terrorist democracy elections cia mossad bnd nsa covert operation 911 mi6 inside job what really happened wtc pentagon joint chiefs of staff jcs centcom laser hologram usa mi5 undercover agent female sex exploitation perception deception power anarchy green social democratic participation japanese spy black-op false flag gladio terror.

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posted by u2r2h at 4:03 PM


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