July 20, 2024

Language of Politics - Noam Chomsky

Published May 14, 2023, 6:20 p.m. by Courtney

Noam Chomsky is one of the most influential thinkers of our time. He has spent a lifetime exploring the nature of language and its relationship to politics. In this talk, he discusses the role that language plays in politics, and how it can be used to control and manipulate public opinion. He also offers his thoughts on the future of language politics, and the impact that technology is having on the way we communicate.

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virtually every term of political

discourse has two meanings one is its

literal meaning and the second which is

often quite different is its usage in

political discourse or political warfare

so for example take communism it has a

literal meaning literal meaning is a

core principle is workers control over

production a community control over

decision-making and so on that's the

literal meaning the way it's used is for

a system is almost radically the

opposite absolutist control from the top

virtually no participation and so on or

say take democracy democracy is supposed

to be a system of government of by and

for of the people that's what we hail we

look at the actual meaning say us which

is a pillar of democracy we find that

about 70 percent of the population the

lower 70 percent on the income scale

have no influence whatsoever on politics

on political decisions so no attention

is paid to them tension increases

slightly as you move up when you get to

the very top if people get what they

want because they essentially make make

policy or take free trade agreements

like right now the United States and

Pacific countries are negotiating a

trans-pacific partnership its hailed as

a wonderful free trade agreement it's

being done in secret there's a reason

for that not total secret it's not

secret from the hundreds of corporate

lobbyists and lawyers who are writing it

they know all about

little bits and pieces have leaked out

thanks to WikiLeaks and they reveal what

any rational person would expect when

corporate lobbyists and lawyers are

writing an agreement very much like

NAFTA north american free trade

agreement and others it's not a free

trade agreement in the phrase north

american free trade agreement

the only accurate words are north

american that's not free it has very

heavy protectionist elements designed to

maximize profits for pharmaceutical

corporations and other affect oligopoly

is supported by the state onerous patent

regulations which ensure the drug prices

will cost way more than they ought to

for drug company profits a lot of it

isn't about trade at all

it's about investor rights even the part

that is about trade is trade in a very

strange sense so nafta for example is

supposed to deal with trade between the

United States and Mexico take a look at

the trade between the United States and

Mexico there's much excitement about how

much it's increased corporations are

secret organizations we don't have

details of what they do but the general

estimates are that roughly forty to 50

percent of the cross-border transactions

are internal to a command economy so for

example if General Motors that makes

parts in Indiana ascends them to

northern Mexico McCulloch Dora to be

assembled by cheap labor and then the

resulting automobile was sold in Los


that's called trade in both directions

it's about as much trade as in the old

Soviet Union if parts were made in the

Leningrad and sent the worse offer

assembly and sold in Moscow we wouldn't

have called that trade it's internal to

a command

economy happens to cross borders but and

that's a large part of so-called trade

much of the content of these agreements

are things like for example the laws

granting corporations the right to sue

governments on the grounds that their

future profits might be harmed say by

making a national park somewhere and

then this is adjudicated by a corporate

run group of decision makers all totally

out of the public view so it's not free

trade it's not trade it's certainly not

an agreement at least if people are part

of their countries first of all they

barely know about it after the extent

they know about it they mostly oppose it

but these are and that same with the

trans-pacific partnership the European

US trade agreement these are and then it

goes on term after term pick your choice

almost it takes a security governments a

primary principle of international

relations theory is that governments act

to protect their security security for

whom security for the population no they

act in many ways to harm the population

easy to show that their own populations

as well security for the state itself

yeah they want that's the reason for the

secrecy a lot of the secrecy is to

protect state authority from scrutiny by

their own public security for

concentrations of domestic power like

say the corporate sector definitely

that's what the trans-pacific

partnership is about so yes security in

a certain sense and not security in the

sense that we're supposed to believe it

and as I say you can run through term

after term and you find pretty much the

same thing so has this process increased

through the 20th century yes quite

definitely and for good reasons

over the years popular struggle has won

many victories the franchise's increased

people have greater freedom states have

less power to coerce their populations

violently I mean it's not a straight

line but in general that's the tendency

and as it becomes harder to control

people by force it becomes necessary to

control them in other ways and they

believe by propaganda by deceit by

manipulation and this is quite conscious

if you look go back about a century in

the freest countries in the world

England in the United States it was

recognized openly that the problems of

controlling the population are

increasing and therefore

new mechanisms must be developed in fact

new industries devoted to controlling

the public mind to controlling attitudes

and beliefs that's the origin of the

huge public relations industry which is

a massive industry hundreds of billions

of dollars a year devoted to what we

used to call propaganda controlling

attitudes and beliefs and if our

striking to see the way it works so for

example we're supposed to believe in

markets everybody supposed to heal all

markets turn on the television set and

take a look at the advertisements the

advertisements are designed to undermine

markets markets are based take an

economics course markets are based on

informed consumers making rational

choices take a look at the ad for an

automobile or toothpaste or whatever is

it trying to create a an informed

consumer making a rational choice no

it's a huge effort tremendous waste for

the economy but enormous expenditures to

create uninformed consumers who will

make irrational choices because it's

critically necessary

to undermine a literal market behavior

that's a kind of a consequence of the

growth of oligopoly a very strong

tendency of the economy towards

oligopoly few major corporations

controlling a market they don't want to

have price wars they want basically

fixed prices so they have to turn to

some sort of product differentiation

that is basically meaningless and that

requires massive delusion so-called add

what's called advertising delusion of

the public to try to get them to pick

this identical product rather than that

identical product that's Alma point by

point almost and this it grows as

freedom groups the more freedom is one

the greater the effort to control

attitudes and beliefs by mechanisms of

this kind that's why you have the huge

growth of these industries of propaganda

precisely in the free societies other

countries tried to imitate them Soviet

Union Lenin Lenin's Russia tried to

imitate it but it was so clumsy that the

nobody believed the word they were

seeing on the other hand the Nazis tried

to imitate it and they did very well

unfortunately that gurbles was very

struck by American commercial

advertising and the techniques it was

using and adapted them to with a good

German efficiency and regrettably that

work quite well but that's what's that's

exactly what you'd expect as more

freedom and opportunity as one and

that's what we discover are there ways

to overcome this problem well one way is

to dismantle the course of institutions

that are at the core of the system if

you have very high concentration of

power at the top they're going to be

true obviously working on ways to and

sustain and enhance their power and the


Ellucian is to devolve power down to

people to move towards authentic

democracy but short of that people have

to develop if the long the institutions

remain the course of institutions that

people have to develop mechanisms of

self-defense it's very difficult to do

on your own that you can but it's not it

gets easier when people are organized

and interact and have associations and

whatever they may be in which they can

discuss things with each other and

develop their ideas and so on that's of

course one of the reasons why power

systems are so eager to undermine and

destroy what are called secondary

associations groupings of popular

organizations of people who interact

with one another the ideal from the

point of view of a coercive institution

at the Dalit Aryan state or corporation

is to have people atomized each person

alone the you and your television set or

that's it you shouldn't have any more

structure than that but by overcoming

those constraints it's possible to

defend oneself and of course these

institutions are not a graven and stoned

are not god-given they can be dissolved



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