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Deterring Democracy Paperback – 16 Apr 1992
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"Offers a revelatory portrait of the US empire of the 1980s and '90s, an ugly side of America largely kept hidden from the public by a complacent media" (Publishers Weekly)
"Shows how large the gap is between the realities of today's world and the picture of it that is presented to the American public" (Observer)
"Arguably the most important intellectual alive" (New York Times)
"It's the truth. Noam really has the goods on those guys in America" (Robert Crumb Guardian)
'This book...ought to be required reading in schools and newsrooms for it cuts through the often subtle propaganda about our times and tells us much about the new world order which, as Chomsky points out, is the old Cold War by another name' - John PilgerSee all Product description
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Illuminating – informative – punchy – shocking – disgusting – takes you into political arguments you didn’t know existed – reaches subjects other writers wouldn’t touch with a bargepole.
The book explores the activities of the American government to protect the class privileges of the rich. What is surprising is that very little of the book actually deals with America. Most of the book is devoted to Central and South America.
On every page the author sneers at the anti-moral attitude of the ruling-classes in all counties of the world. On every page he sneers at the way the business-classes control the media to keep the public in ignorance. On every page he sneers at the intellectual elite who sit back and approve or say nothing at government atrocities in the world. When you consider the passion expended on the plight of the unwashed, uneducated masses, this book is written by an intellectual for intellectuals, which the author has spent the whole book sneering at. If this book had been written with the general public in mind, it would be written in ‘plain English’... it’s not... it’s written in intellectual-ese. Chomsky is a linguist professor, so he knows better than most, the appropriate language to use to communicate with a particular group of people.
Although the book is quite old now, it is still relevant, since it deals with ‘what politicians say and what they actually do’. There is a large section of the world population who detest America. This book will give you the real reasons why... not the waffle you get in the media. ‘Truth Justice and the American Way’ is a myth... read this and see why.
Great book... great message... for those who have the motivation to plough through it.
He marshals his facts carefully (as, perhaps, only Chomsky can) to reveal a new portrait of America, one less likeable as new facts emerge. As a political activist, his voice can no more be ignored than his previous persona of linguistic genius in which he proved that imitation is not just how we learn language - there is also the transformational grammar and deep structure. In this book, he explores another deep structure, the deep structure of American democracy.
Also in 1991, a dim and distant past when the new millennium was not yet a talking point, a bi-polar world, whose permanence and assumed conflict provided the framework for all political analysis, was already being transformed. The Soviet Union had already ceased to be, but the years of Yeltsin's IMF poverty lay ahead, as did those of Putin's new pragmatic if demagogic prosperity.
Regimes of all political stances came and went in Central and South America. But all of them were classified as good or evil by the Manichean filter of the age. Occasionally, a convenience of political pragmatism offered re-branding, as in the case of Jamaica, where Michael Manley, a leader once undermined as a leftist was reinstated with eternal backing after Edward Seaga's neo-liberal experiment predictably burnt out. Chomsky's record of Manley's second era being that of his violin phase is extremely succinct. He was put up by the left, but played by the right.
Descriptions of prevailing issues in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala figure large, of course. But Chomsky also visits the Dominican Republic, the Philippines and Europe to illustrate his central point. And it is a point that he makes and re-makes, a point that he still makes today. His analysis, simply put, is that an alliance of elite interests involving legislators, the powerful and those who own and control big business drives the US foreign policy agenda. The elite's sole aim is to preserve and further its own power, influence and prosperity. The fact that it does not always speak with a consistent voice is merely evidence that within the group there remains competition. Indeed, the group is neither particularly stable nor permanent. It is rather a loose alliance of interest, perhaps heavily reliant on birthright, but not determined by it. Notions of freedom, democracy, individual or collective rights and even development are peddled, attached like advertisers' catchlines to the same product every time it is recommended. To maintain its ascendancy, this ideology that fosters profit via power needs an enemy to provide a shield behind which it can hide its pursuit of self-advancement. The Soviet Union sufficed for most of the second half of the last century, but since then others have had to be identified to fulfil this essential role. It will not require much imagination to identify the current dark threats.
The population at large, meanwhile, has to be sold these ideas. When threat of nuclear war between super-powers loomed large, it was not difficult to fix the framework. How much easier is it now, when the current all-powerful, all-pervading enemy might just be within and among us? This low-intensity, back-burner threat continues to mask the activity that fuels an ever-increasing concentration of power and wealth. The people of the democratic, individualistic West are perfectly willing to stand by as recession bites, banks declare deposits worthless, pension funds dwindle, retirements recede and wages stagnate while those who perhaps cause these strictures luxuriate in ever-increasing, often self-granted rewards.
And, in a truly prescient passage, Chomsky describes this submissive, passive mentality perfectly. "For submissiveness to become a reliable trait," he writes, "it must be entrenched in every realm. The public are to be observers, not participants, consumers of ideology as well as products. Eduardo Galeano writes that `the majority must resign itself to the consumption of fantasy. Illusions of wealth are sold to the poor, illusions of freedom to the oppressed, dreams of victory to the defeated and power to the weak.' Nothing less will do." In this context, is it any surprise that the average contemporary consumer knows more of celebrity gossip than political option?
Deterring Democracy is packed - perhaps over-packed - with detailed evidence. Chomsky makes his point repeatedly and forcefully. I was once privileged to co-host the author as chair of a London conference. At first hand I can vouch for the sincerity and passion that underpins these views. I can also vouch for the solidity of the evidence upon which they are based.
Noam Chomsky is not anti-American. It is the exploiters of self-seeking power and self-deferential influence who deserve that label. Noam Chomsky is a man of the people, intensely humanistic and fundamentally democratic. He seems to maintain that if people turn their backs and refuse to acknowledge the obvious, they will have foregone a real opportunity to realise something more sustainable than the current illusion. And, along the way, they will probably have said goodbye to their principles, along with their bank deposits, pensions, retirement and freedom. At least they can talk about their woes on their latest-model mobiles, if, that is, they can still pay the bill. When you read Noam Chomsky's Deterring Democracy, give its arguments a chance to register. Then see if they ring true.
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