Noam Chomsky: The Kind of Anarchism I Believe in, and What's Wrong with Libertarians
Continued from previous page
In fact quite generally, commercial advertising is fundamentally an effort to undermine markets. We should recognize that. If you’ve taken an economics course, you know that markets are supposed to be based on informed consumers making rational choices. You take a look at the first ad you see on television and ask yourself … is that its purpose? No it’s not. It’s to create uninformed consumers making irrational choices. And these same institutions run political campaigns. It’s pretty much the same: you have to undermine democracy by trying to get uninformed people to make irrational choices. And so this is only one aspect of the PR industry. What Herman and I were discussing was another aspect of the whole propaganda system that developed roughly at that period, and that’s “manufacture of consent,” as it was called, [consent] to the decisions of our political leaders, or the leaders of the private economy, to try to insure that people have the right beliefs and don’t try to comprehend the way decisions are being made that may not only harm them, but harm many others. That’s propaganda in the normal sense. And so we were talking about mass media, and the intellectual community of the world in general, which is to a large extent dedicated to this. Not that people see themselves as propagandists, but … that they are themselves deeply indoctrinated into the principles of the system, which prevent them from perceiving many things that are really right on the surface, [things] that would be subversive to power if understood. We give plenty of examples there and there’s plenty more you can mention up to the present moment, crucial ones in fact. That’s a large part of a general system of indoctrination and control that runs parallel to controlling attitudes and … consumeristic commitments, and other devices to control people.
You mentioned students before. Well one of the main problems for students today — a huge problem — is sky-rocketing tuitions. Why do we have tuitions that are completely out-of-line with other countries, even with our own history? In the 1950s the United States was a much poorer country than it is today, and yet higher education was … pretty much free, or low fees or no fees for huge numbers of people. There hasn’t been an economic change that’s made it necessary, now, to have very high tuitions, far more than when we were a poor country. And to drive the point home even more clearly, if we look just across the borders, Mexico is a poor country yet has a good educational system with free tuition. There was an effort by the Mexican state to raise tuition, maybe some 15 years ago or so, and there was a national student strike which had a lot of popular support, and the government backed down. Now that’s just happened recently in Quebec, on our other border. Go across the ocean: Germany is a rich country. Free tuition. Finland has the highest-ranked education system in the world. Free … virtually free. So I don’t think you can give an argument that there are economic necessities behind the incredibly high increase in tuition. I think these are social and economic decisions made by the people who set policy. And [these hikes] are part of, in my view, part of a backlash that developed in the 1970s against the liberatory tendencies of the 1960s. Students became much freer, more open, they were pressing for opposition to the war, for civil rights, women’s rights … and the country just got too free. In fact, liberal intellectuals condemned this, called it a “crisis of democracy:” we’ve got to have more moderation of democracy. They called, literally, for more commitment to indoctrination of the young, their phrase … we have to make sure that the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young do their work, so we don’t have all this freedom and independence. And many developments took place after that. I don’t think we have enough direct documentation to prove causal relations, but you can see what happened. One of the things that happened was controlling students — in fact, controlling students for the rest of their lives, by simply trapping them in debt. That’s a very effective technique of control and indoctrination. And I suspect — I can’t prove — but I suspect that that’s a large part of the reason behind [high tuitions]. Many other parallel things happened. The whole economy changed in significant ways to concentrate power, to undermine workers’ rights and freedom. In fact the economist who chaired the Federal Reserve around the Clinton years, Alan Greenspan — St. Alan as he was called then, the great genius of the economics profession who was running the economy, highly honored — he testified proudly before congress that the basis for the great economy that he was running was what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If workers are more insecure, they won’t do things, like asking for better wages and better benefits. And that’s healthy for the economy from a certain point of view, a point of view that says workers ought to be oppressed and controlled, and that wealth ought to be concentrated in a very few pockets. So yeah, that’s a healthy economy, and we need growing worker insecurity, and we need growing student insecurity, for similar reasons. I think all of these things line up together as part of a general reaction — a bipartisan reaction, incidentally — against liberatory tendencies which manifested themselves in the 60s and have continued since.