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on 15 August 2005
Chomsky's famous books "Necessary Illusions" and "Manufacturing Consent" (co-written with Edward S. Herman) stand as excellent assessments of the propaganda inherent in the current media system. The thing is with those books is that they are quite detailed, and for someone seeking a nice route into thinking about the issue of propaganda, government spin, and how the media are complicit in it, Chomsky's "Media Control: Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda" is a much better choice. It is good because it introduces some basics. For example, how did the modern PR (public relations) industry start? Who gave rise to the way propaganda is used in modern society? So, all this is good entry-level stuff. The book itself is short and could be read in about an hour to two hours (depending on how quick you read). A couple of things to note is that Chomsky likes certain themes to illustrate his points (I guess the ones that he's done most research on in his time), such as what happened in Nicaragua, for instance. You'll find some of that in this book, so if you've read it elsewhere, you may get a little frustrated that he's using the same examples. If you don't know anything about propaganda or Nicaragua, you're looking at the right book. I'm not saying Nicaragua is where the propaganda happens. The propaganda is in OUR culture, but Nicaragua is relevant for other reasons - and its a nice way to learn some history you may not know. So a lot is squeezed into this little book, and moreover it's written in a much simpler style than most of what Chomsky puts out. The one drawback I think the book suffers from is that it isn't referenced as well as all his other work. I think this is because the majority of the material comes from speeches he's made and it's difficult to reference them in retrospect. However, if you go to the more heavy-duty books I mentioned above, you'll find references a-plenty. Overall: good for the beginner, interesting for the intermediate person or Chomsky lover, a bit mild for the expert.
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on 24 February 2010
I recommend this book to people who think that their liberal democratic society is perfect. According to Friedrich and Brzezinski, one of six defining characteristics, regarded by Mussolini and Hitler as the important, in the totalitarian regime, is control of popular opinion through the media. This book exposes that, whether or not their mechanisms are known to us, we can deduce that there are controls on what the media says, and the media has a shared agenda with the state. This is one of the most perilous and enslaving aspects of Totalitarianism.

Liberal Democracies have cynically compensated for their lack of a single party state and brainwashing by making far heavier emphasis than is made by totalitarian states, on propaganda and the misdirection of public opinion, constantly deceiving them until the oligarchy wins out. They have become experts in manufacturing consent before they ask for it. The EU is also based on this. If they cannot get popular support in favour of a treaty or law to be applied to the European peoples, they will invest millions in massive propaganda campaigns to turn popular opinion in favour - at least for a short while - so that they can "persuade" us by bombarding the weak-minded herd with a torrent of lies and vacuous promises. This cynical application of democracy is proof that Liberal Democracies are neither liberal nor democratic. Men like Chomsky are helping us to unmask Liberal Democracy as a total scam, a failure, another kind of oligarchy of the capitalist class. Liberal Democracy is nothing but a totalitarian regime making greater use of hypnosis rather than bullets - but its goal and its priority is exactly the same as a fascist regime.
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on 18 June 2003
This was the first Noam Chomsky I'd ever read and apart from Stupid White Men by Micheal Moore it was the first political book I'd read and I think it is an excellent book if your just starting to look at politics. It is very informative and it MAKES SENSE, after reading this book when you look at the world you see it more clearly. The essay about the war on terror at the end is essential reading and is easy to read. 5 thumbs up.
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on 23 February 2003
If you are already well-versed in the likes of Noam Chomsky, John Pilger, and so on, then perhaps this book isn't for you. However, I found it to be a great starting point on reading up on politics and what is really going on in the world today. Though it sounds like some sort of conspiricist ranting; the media is really a tool that keeps the truth from the citizens in order to keep them subdued and unaware of the governments real plans, Noam Chomsky describes the history of how this state of affairs came about and shows just how much sense it makes. He also, like any author should, acknowledges his sources, allowing the reader to confirm these things for themself.
I have always been sceptical about the news, but after reading this I know not to trust it. The sad thing is that some people still think the ideas in this book are far-fetched, and even more sadly in the current times, people still believe what they are made to believe by the media (not just the news; popular entertainment, soaps, magazines): that they are helpless and shouldn't bother trying to make a difference. Nevertheless, I think everyone should read this book and be given some idea what is really going on, whether they decide to do something about it or not.
Chomsky as a writer does have a tendency to recite facts and statistics at the reader quite a lot more than perhaps is necessary. Inparticular, he often reduces his writing to merely listing American atrocities. Now, we in the western world more than anyone should be made aware of these, but he does often seem to be getting off the point, especially in a book about media control. In contrast, he can also present rather simplified ideas. However, I think this is just because this is a short book meant as a kind of pamphlet, and the ideas can be confirmed with research. I haven't read any of Chomsky's larger books, but I will be seeking them out.
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For 50 years, Noam Chomsky has been the articulate voice of the tiny (by European standards) American socialist left, an icon of educated intellectual dissent separated by a substantial gulf from the political mainstream. His books are generally worth reading, though some can be repetitive. He deserves credit for sticking to his guns and laying himself on the line for so many decades, whether you agree with him or not. This reviewer does not agree overall with his more extreme political perspectives, whilst acknowledging he has important things to say and should be heard. He certainly understands the global geopolitical scene in some detail; he predicted the rise of anti-US Islamist terrorism and the long series of attacks including the 2001-09-11 planes operation years in advance, as the inevitable response to the "terrorist" policies pursued by the USA throughout the Middle East.

If you're not too familiar with Chomsky's essentially leftist-radical political views or his prolific anti-imperialist literary output and want a quick taster before investing more time reading his deeper and more detailed works, "Media Control" might be a good primer. This brief, 100-page tract is more an extended essay or pamphlet than a book.

The writing style is very simple and accessible even to the non-literate reader (perhaps the intended audience). Chomsky lays out his thinking on media control and how public consent is intentionally manufactured in "democracies" where more subtle methods need to be employed than are available to leaders of openly totalitarian states. The tract does unfortunately read like a propagandist rant against the history of US foreign military interventions, and makes the point over and again that the US proves itself to be a terror state where public opinion is manipulated through media control in order to tame the population into support for said interventions. Chomsky rails against the terror-politics of successive US administrations, and discourses on the use of the term "terrorism" by the "elitist media machine" and what, in practice, it ought to mean.

The final 30 pages are devoted to how a "journalist from Mars" might see what's really happening in America and on the rest of the planet, and how they might report it. It's not original, of course, and loses its way from time to time, but mostly it works well.

So: "Media Control" is a fast read of maybe an hour or two of your time to gain a handle on the thought process and philosophy of one of the most important, original and controversial thinkers of the past 50 years: a useful sampler for those who may wish to enquire deeper.
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on 8 May 2004
Chomsky comes up with another classic this one probably his very best, accessible open and less of the references than he normally provides.
The basic premise is that the media creates the agenda, drives it along creating moral panics causing crisis which governments react to so fueling the media to create more moral panics. Anyone familar with Stanley Cohen's seminal work on Moral Panics will know what Chomsky's writing on American media and White House reaction about will come as no surprise.
To others Chomsky says that the media creates panics and crisis to fulfil its own agenda and its own politcal masters to panic the general public into pressing its Governments to fight the enemy or create an enemy. Has anyone forgotten the media fuelled Paedophilla panic back in 2000 ?
So Mr Chomsky's onto something isn't he then?
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on 10 June 2011
The book proved (to me at least) that since WW2 governments have used many of the techniques used by the Nazis in their various campaigns.

Want to understand how illegal wars have been started in the middle east without people even understanding that it was illegal in the first place? Read this book.

Want to remain in the dark about how certain media groups are spoon feeding us all poisonous information that is destroying humanity from the core? Don't read this book, you'd probably find it scary anyway.

Chomsky shows you facts that are provable. It's not about theory.

After reading this book I found myself noticing more and more the devices used to cultivate mass acceptance of a grotesque agenda of the powers that be, which includes theft, betrayal and, not least of all, murder.

If it were up to me, everyone would have access to this information from the day they learnt to read and understand words.
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on 3 December 2009
An excellent introduction to the media world of the 20th century. Its brevity means it can be read quickly. But it is worth re-reading for the way in which it exposes the subject matter, turning our perceptions of how the media operates on its head and demonstrating the complete lack of partiality. For examples of how this process operates Chomsky draws on a variety of international conflicts including the Gulf War. The second half of the book is largely taken from a Martian's viewpoint of the discrepancy between what happens in the media and the real world.

This book is best read as part of a general study of Chomsky's work, but its simple style and accessibility make it a good introduction.
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on 19 January 2010
In a concise booklet, Chomsky explains how the "unthinkable" (fairly summed up in the widespread post-modern belief that "we" are more human then "they")becomes banal. The dual connection of public relations/advertising and war in the 20th century has produced an extremely sophisticated machine in the hands of governments and, even more shamelessly, the media moguls. Together, these forces have had huge success in distorting hearts and minds so as to produce "spectator democracy" ,a "parade of enemies"and "selective perception" ( titles from the contents list of sections in this 100-page work) Chomsky points out that the first government propaganda operation in 20th century USA was by the Wilson government in 1916, when a commission was set up precisely to encourage war-sentiment among the,till then, largely non-interventionist US public.Since that time, "liberal" or even "left" governments have joined the usual suspects in promoting bellicose feelings at the drop of a hat, as it were.We could imagine ourselves back in the days ( c.1710) of the War of Jenkins's Ear (cf. the recent arrest by Iranians of the British yachtsmen who strayed into territorial waters - presented by the media, including the BBC, as if it verified the "you can't talk to people like that" attitude, a prelude in game theory to the leap into armed conflict)Chomsky's booklet ends with reflections on the latest distortion - it's only "terrorism" if "they" do it to "us", since we are virtually never allowed by the mainstream media or governments to consider the massive evil deeds "we" perpetrate ( see also William Blum's books, and the website medialens) The "special relationship" of the UK to the US means. of course, that British governments will fit in with whatever propaganda the US promotes. It was, one may recall, a little irritating to Mrs Thatcher that Ronnie invaded Grenada, but no more... ( just a few killed in this British colony, and they - dare I say it ?- black)
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on 28 December 2010
This is a short but good review of the growth of propaganda, as a means of placating and manipulating populations. It should be compulsory reading in schools, and it highlights how the media, as part of the capitalist system is used by those in power, to further their own ends and agendas.
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