We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.’
I can hear the groans. Friends of this blog have commented before on their unhappiness with its former title ‘Thought Control Scotland.’ More than one thought it undermined the credibility of my findings because, presumably, it was untrue. I changed the title some time ago to ‘Talking-up Scotland’ and many of the same friends welcomed it.
Changing the url, of course, would have broken the link to earlier work and so, I retained it. At some level, it made intellectual sense to do so because I hadn’t really abandoned the idea but had, only, become tired defending it.
Today, a reddit comment on yesterday’s post, ‘Getting on With the Day Job’, pressed a button, I metaphorise, in my mind:
‘Dat url though, way to crush the credibility of your content.’
So, back to the barricades, comrades? I haven’t given up on the idea nor have I given up on its main protagonist, Professor Noam Chomsky. I wrote my PhD on his Propaganda Model’s brutal and unforgiving analysis of media in Western, liberal-democratic and, crucially, corporate, media. Chomsky, a refugee from the Soviet Union, was more than happy to use the term ‘thought control’ in the context of the USA or Europe. He even titled one of his books:
‘Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies’
You can still buy it at:
HA! I hear some say. It’s easily available at the low cost made possible by the corporations, he is allowed to keep his job at MIT and ‘professor’ Robertson was allowed to get a PhD based on his ideas. Where’s the thought control there, eh? Eh? You need a holiday in North Korea, pal!
That brings me neatly to the first defence of the idea. In the Soviet Union, in Nazi Germany and today in North Korea, the media were/are utterly united in publishing in propaganda telling lies about how good they were/are and how bad Western liberal-democracies were/are. That’s true but it didn’t/doesn’t work. In a totalitarian society, most know that they are being lied to all the time and so few actually believe it. They behave as if they did but that’s a different thing altogether. In a liberal democracy with corporate media, you can have critical voices such as, say, George Monbiot, John Pilger or even here, the much-missed Ian Bell, but because they are few in number, in small readership media or, in the case of Pilger, broadcast late at night, their effect is largely to persuade or to reassure us that at least we do have some diversity of opinion but It’s only what Marxists call ‘repressive tolerance’.
HA! I hear again, it’s a conspiracy theory. If the majority of journalists were all telling lies rather than, essentially, the truths that they actually believe in, you’d need a conspiracy to achieve that. Chomsky is regularly called a conspiracy theorist. I have been too but you don’t need a conspiracy to get the majority of editors and ‘top’ journalists telling the same story if they, mostly, believe it. Most, not all but that doesn’t matter, ‘top’ journalists and editors went to the same kind of schools (private), the same universities (Oxbridge) and were interns with the same neo-liberal institutes. The BBC Trust has actually demonstrated this to be the case. Their parents often worked in the same places, they live in the same communities and they enjoy cultural activities in the same places too. Finally, they recognise each other and employ each other. They are a class or, in Chosmky’s words, interlocking elites. Over these years of socialisation, they come to, mostly, share the same values and perspectives. So, when they make decisions to write in a certain way or to edit in and out, certain narratives, they do so in their own interests which are also the interests of their class, as a whole.
HA! Intellectual snobbery! You and Chomsky think we are all dim-witted dupes who can’t see what’s happening and don’t make our own decisions.
First, Chomsky is hated by intellectual elites in the USA and in the UK (not so much in Europe) because he insults them. Even George Monbiot had a go at him because Chomsky accuses all who work in the corporate media or in the universities led by corporation-friendly management and professors, of complicity, and they’d rather think of themselves as critical and ethical people. Chomsky says that even more than the lower socio-economic groups, favoured groups and elites are seduced by the rewards they get into becoming uncritical followers and defenders of the status quo. Less well-off groups, because they get fewer rewards and more punishments in the form of poor housing, dangerous neighbourhoods and less successful schools or hospitals, become less-trusting of mainstream media messages.
Second, Chomsky is hated because he is saying that most, if not all of us, have been so seduced by corporate capitalism’s delights that we sub-consciously make decisions which favour it. Because of our socialisation, from early childhood, we have internalised a worldview which is, below the surface of consciousness, sympathetic to corporate capitalism. We get cheap clothes, food and holidays. We can choose, every day, what to wear and what to read. We get highly sophisticated mobile phones, tablets and laptops. We are bombarded with exciting images and messages and can navigate through them with an easy click, noting headlines and feeling little pressure to really think.
Neuropsychologists have already shown that most of the decisions we think we are making with free will and based on reason, we have already made milliseconds before, at a sub-conscious level and that this is true, regardless of intellect. That means, of course, that I made the decision to write this before I told myself I had.
Footnote: I was no weel, when I changed the blog’s title, but I still don’t feel inclined to change it back – doctor?