Thursday, March 20, 2008


Deterring Democracy Copyright © 1991, 1992 by Noam Chomsky. Published by South End Press.
Chapter 12: Force and Opinion Segment 10/20
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It is noteworthy that the fact is now tacitly conceded; the instant that the "great communicator" was no longer of any use as a symbol, he was quietly tucked away. After eight years of pretense about the "revolution" that Reagan wrought, no one would dream of asking its standard bearer for his thoughts about any topic, because it is understood, as it always was, that he has none. When Reagan was invited to Japan as an elder statesman, his hosts were surprised -- and given the fat fee, a bit annoyed -- to discover that he could not hold press conferences or talk on any subject. Their discomfiture aroused some amusement in the American press: the Japanese believed what they had read about this remarkable figure, failing to comprehend the workings of the mysterious occidental mind.

The hoax perpetrated by the media and the intellectual community is of some interest for Hume's paradox about submission to authority. State capitalist democracy has a certain tension with regard to the locus of power: in principle, the people rule, but effective power resides largely in private hands, with large-scale effects throughout the social order. One way to reduce the tension is to remove the public from the scene, except in form. The Reagan phenomenon offered a new way to achieve this fundamental goal of capitalist democracy. The office of chief executive was, in effect, eliminated in favor of a symbolic figure constructed by the public relations industry to perform certain ritual tasks: to appear on ceremonial occasions, to greet visitors, read government pronouncements, and so on. This is a major advance in the marginalization of the public. As the most sophisticated of the state capitalist democracies, the United States has often led the way in devising means to control the domestic enemy, and the latest inspiration will doubtless be mimicked elsewhere, with the usual lag.

Even when issues arise in the political system, the concentration of effective power limits the threat. The question is largely academic in the United States because of the subordination of the political and ideological system to business interests, but in democracies to the south, where conflicting ideas and approaches reach the political arena, the situation is different. As is again familiar, government policies that private power finds unwelcome will lead to capital flight, disinvestment, and social decline until business confidence is restored with the abandonment of the threat to privilege; these facts of life exert a decisive influence on the political system (with military force in reserve if matters get out of hand, supported or applied by the North American enforcer). To put the basic point crassly, unless the rich and powerful are satisfied, everyone will suffer, because they control the basic social levers, determining what will be produced and consumed, and what crumbs will filter down to their subjects. For the homeless in the streets, then, the primary objective is to ensure that the rich live happily in their mansions. This crucial factor, along with simple control over resources, severely limits the force on the side of the governed and diminishes Hume's paradox in a well-functioning capitalist democracy in which the general public is scattered and isolated.

Understanding of these basic conditions -- tacit or explicit -- has long served as a guide for policy. Once popular organizations are dispersed or crushed and decision-making power is firmly in the hands of owners and managers, democratic forms are quite acceptable, even preferable as a device of legitimation of elite rule in a business-run "democracy." The pattern was followed by U.S. planners in reconstructing the industrial societies after World War II, and is standard in the Third World, though assuring stability of the desired kind is far more difficult there, except by state terror. Once a functioning social order is firmly established, an individual who must find a (relatively isolated) place within it in order to survive will tend to think its thoughts, adopt its assumptions about the inevitability of certain forms of authority, and in general, adapt to its ends. The costs of an alternative path or a challenge to power are high, the resources are lacking, and the prospects limited. These factors operate in slave and feudal societies -- where their efficacy has duly impressed counterinsurgency theorists (see below, p. 385). In free societies, they manifest themselves in other ways. If their power to shape behavior begins to erode, other means must be sought to tame the rascal multitude.

When force is on the side of the masters, they may rely on relatively crude means of manufacture of consent and need not overly concern themselves with the minds of the herd. Nevertheless, even a violent terror state faces Hume's problem. The modalities of state terrorism that the United States has devised for its clients have commonly included at least a gesture towards "winning hearts and minds," though experts warn against undue sentimentality on this score, arguing that "all the dilemmas are practical and as neutral in an ethical sense as the laws of physics."40 Nazi Germany shared these concerns, as Albert Speer discusses in his autobiography, and the same is true of Stalinist Russia. Discussing this case, Alexander Gerschenkron observes that

Whatever the strength of the army and the ubiquitousness of the secret police which such a government may have at its disposal, it would be naive to believe that those instruments of physical oppression can suffice. Such a government can maintain itself in power only if it succeeds in making people believe that it performs an important social function which could not be discharged in its absence. Industrialization provided such a function for the Soviet government..., [which] did what no government relying on the consent of the governed could have done... But, paradoxical as it may sound, these policies at the same time have secured some broad acquiescence on the part of the people. If all the forces of the population can be kept engaged in the processes of industrialization and if this industrialization can be justified by the promise of happiness and abundance for future generations and -- much more importantly -- by the menace of military aggression from beyond the borders, the dictatorial government will find its power broadly unchallenged.41
The thesis gains support from the rapid collapse of the Soviet system when its incapacity to move to a more advanced stage of industrial and technological development became evident.
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40 George Tanham and Dennis Duncanson, "Some dilemmas of counterinsurgency," Foreign Affairs 48.1, 1969.

41 Gerschenkron, Economic Backwardness in Historical Perspective, 28-9. 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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