First-time readers of Noam Chomsky may be startled, as he rips apart many popular beliefs & ideas in public affairs, carefully cultivated by the ruling elite through propaganda of all sorts.
His new book ‘Who Rules the World?” is no different. It reviews & updates many of his previous ideas, adding a few new insights as well.
It’s useful to read his exposes of the darker shades of public intellectuals, successive american presidents including Obama, politicians, bureaucrats, businessmen, subject matter experts etc.
An alternative view of public affairs is useful because our beliefs & opinions are largely shaped by these individuals, in subtle & not-so subtle ways. We may refuse to accept we have been influenced, persuaded, convinced, and (many times) exploited by (otherwise) respectable men & women in power, but a careful study of history and some independent thinking can dispel the ignorance. Chomsky’s meticulous bibliography provides good references for the curious reader to further his education.
Such an education becomes all the more important as the biased propaganda by people in power is typically spread through popular media – newspapers, magazines and now also through social media. The unsuspecting public may sometimes pause to question & debate, but the rush of modern life gives little time for sustained critical thought & action. The result is we are constantly being cajoled and persuaded by what we read & watch in popular media.
While Noam Chomsky is largely focussed on US politics & policies, the situation is no different in other countries. People in power have always tried to take advantage of their position, knowingly or unknowingly. Whatever be the regime – democratic, authoritarian, dictatorial or anything in between – popular media has always served as a good vehicle to influence public opinion, throughout history.
One remedy, as recommended by the irrepressible Nassim Taleb, is to avoid the popular media completely. Avoiding daily newspapers, TV, news feeds from Facebook & twitter etc. is a tempting exercise worthwhile trying, but maybe a difficult habit to sustain.
Till such time we think for ourselves, Noam Chomsky and his ilk provide an important & compelling alternative view of world affairs.