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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 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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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 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 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 15 January 2007
This is another book from Chomsky that makes you look at the American political life from a critical point of view. He has a certain style in writing his books; he makes an hypothesis and builds the book around it. The hypothesis of this book is that American democracy developed towards a system (which he calls "spectator democracy") during early 20th century in which there is an elite group that basically "figure things out" for the rest, i.e. "bewildered herd". For this system to work, the elite group engineer others' opinions by using propaganda or in other words by using public relations. As you would guess, once the elite group recognize the power they have, they start abusing the system for their own benefit but not for that of the public (the herd). He gives many examples, including First World War, labor union laws, Vietnam War and The Gulf War to prove his hypothesis.

What I found unsatisfactory is the lack of his ideas about how Internet is going to impact the propaganda tools that the elite group use. With only TV, newspapers and radio in place, engineering others' opinions were easier because it was enough to own or cooperate with few media channels. With Internet getting more available for the masses, it is a totally different ball game. An individual or a group gets the power to produce or share content to inform and influence others. So, his analysis fails to explain what role Internet will play in this whole argument of "media control".

Having said that, I respect Noam as an honest and smart intellectual and highly recommend this book to everyone who would like to understand how media can be and was used as an evil tool. His analysis is powerful yet not totally contemporary.
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This is a great place to start if you're new to Chomsky and political books. It is one of his most accessible books, with a lots of varied information to whet your appetite. You are left with a feeling of shock, but also a desire to go out and learn more, which this book points you in the right direction of. Well worth a read.

Feel free to check out my blog which can be found on my profile page.
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on 4 December 2004
This is the first Chomsky "book" that I have been dissapointed with. It is pretty standard Chomsky material; strident, infuriating, clinical & revealing. However it is such a short "book" that it is over before it has started. It appears Chomsky is so famous now that if he orders lunch the order is written down and published as a "book". While it may be fair to say that you should judge the quality of the words rather than the quantity of them, there really are not enough here to judge.
If you are new to Chomsky and have a short journey then you may find this "pamphlet" enlightening. However if you are looking for a "good read" look at "Understanding Power", "Pirates & Emperors..." or "Hegemony or Survival".
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on 29 December 2003
This is an excellent book, clear and concise, and enjoyable to read, as well as making you think. If this is the first time you have read a political book, it may be quite scary too. I bought this book to give to others. Not too long, not too in depth, and yet summarises the main points quickly. Well worth the read, and especially good for people who don't normally read this genre. Buy it as a gift, or to lend to people.
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