Tag Archives: Noam Chomsky

“The ten most important ways of manipulating the public, as catalogued by Noam Chomsky”


“Noam Chomsky, a fearless critic of the wealthy elite that governs the United States, has compiled a list of the ten most common strategies for using the media to manipulate the people of America.

In the past our communications media have created or destroyed social movements, justified wars, tempered financial crises, and encouraged or destroyed some other ideological currents.

Chomsky has compiled a list of the ten most important tools for manipulating our media. Basically, they encourage stupidity, promote a sense of guilt, create distractions, or construct artificial problems and then magically solve them. Here are the ten most important techniques:”

…as excerpted and submitted by Harleigh Kyson Jr., 2/11/2010:


The strategy of distraction:

The primary element of social control is the strategy of distraction diverting public attention from important issues and changes controlled by our political and economic elites using the techniques of overwhelming the public with continuous distractions and insignificant information.

Distraction strategy is also essential to kill off public interest in the essential knowledge of science, economics, psychology, neurobiology, and cybernetics.

This technique also diverts public attention away from our real social problems by emphasizing matters of no real importance. The idea is to keep the public very busy, with no time to think about the most important principles and the core facts behind our social problems.


The creation of problems, followed by the offer of solutions:

[see also the work of Former UK Green Party National Spokesman and author David Icke.]

This method essentially emphasizes symptons while hiding underlying causes. For example, it emphasizes urban violence or the details of bloody attacks without investigating the causes of these problems. It also creates and manipulates crises that involve economics or violence to encourage the public to accept as a necessary evil the reduction of social rights or the dismantling of public services.


The gradual strategy:

This basically involves gradually implementing destructive social policies which would be unacceptable if imposed suddenly on the public. That is how the the radical right’s new socioeconomic conditions were imposed during the 1980s and 1990s. They include the minimal state, privatization, precariousness, flexibility, massive unemployment, reductions in the purchasing power of wages and guarantees of a decent income. All these changes would provoke a generalized revolt if they had been applied all at once.


The strategy of deferring:

Another way gain public acceptance of unpopular decisions is to present them as “painful but necessary” to gain public acceptance for their future application. This is similar to the gradual strategy. It is easier to accept future sacrifices instead of immediate slaughter–first, because the effect is not felt right away.

Later on, the public is encouraged to believe that “everything will be better tomorrow” and that future sacrifice will be unnecessary. This gives the public more time to get used to the idea of changes to their disadvantage and and their acceptance of them with resignation when the time comes. This strategy was very popular in the Soviet Union in its five-year plans, for example.


Treating the public like little children:

A lot of advertising and propaganda uses childlike speech and children’s intonation, as if the viewer or listener were a little child or mentally deficient. The principle is that if people are treated as if they are twelve years old or younger, they tend to react without a critical sense the way children do.


The encouragement of emotional responses over reflective ones:

This is a classical technique for short-circuiting rational analysis and encouraging critical reflection. It also opens the door to the unconscious for implanting ideas, desires, fears, anxieties , compulsions and desired irrational behavior.


Bombarding the public with trivia to keep them ignorant:

It is important to make people incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used to enslave them. The quality of education given to the lower social classes is deliberately kept as poor and mediocre as possible so that they can be manipulated like sheep.


Encouraging the public to be happy with mediocrity:

This involves encouraging the public to believe that it is is fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and uneducated while encouraging everyone to believe that these characteristics are the essence of the wisdom of the ages.


Encouraging guilt and self blame:

This is an exceptionally perverse strategy. It involves constantly scolding people for their own misfortune because of the failure of their intelligence, their abilities, or their efforts so that they will not examine the structural defects of a social and economic system that enslaves them.

One of the most perverse controlling myths of American society is that if you work conscientiously and long enough, then you will be successful and grow rich. This does happen occasionally to some people, and their success is widely publicized in the media. The few times that this happens, all of us are constantly reminded that if these people can do this, then we can too.

Of course, if you work hard and don’t grow rich, then the problem, of course, is that you didn’t work hard enough or weren’t smart enough and ended up a loser. So no matter what happens to you, the myth remains intact, and America remains a land of opportunity and the greatest country in the world.


Getting to know individual people better than they know themselves:

Over the past fifty years, scientific advances have generated a growing gap between public what the public knows and the knowledge of dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology and applied psychology, the “system” has gained a sophisticated understanding the physical and psychololgical nature of people. This knowledge is cynically used to manipulate the public as if they were sheep.


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[UPDATE 10/18/09]

Noam Chomsky 6 Oct 2009

In Washington D.C. back in 2004 (seems like a whole other era!) I saw Noam Chomsky speak for around 45 minutes. Whatever his supposed political “bent” (and people describe him as a leftist/socialist), his talk was one-hundred percent sincere and full of lucid and penetrating insight. He understands, more deeply than probably anyone, the meaning of, and the meaning behind, society and its constructs.

What is chilling about these brief remarks from San Francisco just last week is Chomsky’s demeanor – he’s not concerned, he is truly troubled. Five years ago I did not hear this tone. And that was at the height of the Iraq War and the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”.

In signature fashion, the Linguistics Professor recognizes and grants the alacrity of the positions on both sides of the political/cultural divide – that people are suffering, that white Americans feel their country has been slipped out from under them, and that many would be willing to head down a desperate path to correct the perceived threat. Chomsky sees analogies with the current U.S. to the conditions of 1920s – 30s Weimar Germany, describing the Weimar Republic era as “the height of civilization”, before its dark “fall” and the rise of dictatorship. Perhaps Chomsky shouldn’t have singled out Germany – Russia became a Totalitarian state under Stalin before Germany did. Two sides of the same coin. For the record, to date Communist countries have killed far more of their own people than have Fascist countries.

Still, Chomsky’s conclusions should be a wake-up call, even if the comparison to Nazi Germany is overkill, and the crimes of the Soviets an oversight (by sheer numbers, , if only because for any who’ve followed Chomsky know that he’s arguably our country’s sharpest commentator on such matters.

You have to take him seriously, and by the tone in his voice, one can see that he is dead serious.

That history repeats is demonstrated time and again, though the shortness of people’s memories clouds the truism.

Here, as many other commentators right and left have done, Professor Chomsky (Linguistics, M.I.T.) singles out Rush Limbaugh as cause and symptom of the cultural divide inflamed during the past year.

But for the record It must be said that Limbaugh, probably the right’s de facto spokesman, was absolutely correct in saying that an Obama presidency would ratchet up a left-right divide like nothing else. He predicted during the ’08 Presidential race, six months before Obama took office, that an Obama presidency would inflame racial tensions and increase partisanship – NOT “heal divisions” with “hope and change” and all the rest promised by Obama the candidate.He was right.

So it is a fact that unlike Limbaugh’s more measured prediction, which has come to pass, Chomsky’s prognosis of a sick body politic descending into fascism has yet to show itself. Doesn’t mean it couldn’t (maybe we just need to give it a few more years…)

Both make a similar point, the disagreement being on the cause – but quite frankly, in his remarks Chomsky confirms Limbaugh’s 2008 prediction. Ask yourself – if Obama had lost the election would Professor Chomsky have said what he said, how he said it?

– dgw

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