“Today the methods are different—now it’s not the threat of force that ensures the media will present things within a framework that serves the interests of the dominant institutions, the mechanisms today are much more subtle. But nevertheless, there is a complex system of filters in the media and educational institutions which ends up ensuring that dissident perspectives are weeded out, or marginalized in one way or another. And the end result is in fact quite similar: what are called opinions “on the left” and “on the right” in the media represent only a limited spectrum of debate, which reflects the needs of private power—but there’s essentially nothing beyond those “acceptable” positions. … So you see, in our system what you might call “state propaganda” isn’t expressed as such, as it would be in a totalitarian society—rather it’s implicit, it’s presupposed, it provides the framework for debate among the people who are admitted into the mainstream discussion. In fact, the nature of Western systems of indoctrination is typically not understood by dictators; they don’t understand the utility for propaganda purposes of having “critical debate” that incorporates the basic assumptions of the official doctrines, and thereby marginalizes and eliminates authentic and rational critical discussion. Under what’s sometimes been called “brainwashing under freedom,” the critics, or at least the “responsible critics” make a major contribution to the cause by bounding the debate within certain acceptable limits—that’s why they’re tolerated, and in fact even honored.”

Noam Chomsky, Understanding Power, 1989






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