Noam Chomsky

Book Review

Media Control Book Cover

Unmasking the methods of indoctrination and exposing the mendacious, hypocritical and duplicitous ways of the US government and media under the guise of autonomy, democracy and egalitarianism.

A potent pocket-sized primer with an aesthetically pleasing cover that says it all in its imagery and quotation,

The role of media in contemporary politics forces us to ask: What kind of a world and what kind of a society we want to live in, and in particular, in what sense of democracy do we want this to be a democratic society?…

The quotation continues on the back summarising the book candidly, effectively and persuasively – adjectives that describe the eminent Chomsky,

MediaControl NoamChomsky BackCover.jpg

Media Control is a wartime booklet comprised of two parts, the first addressing Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda and the second, The Journalist from Mars, is an edited copy of a discourse by the author that took place in 2002 in celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).

Media Control

The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda

The main part of the book underlines modern propagandistic methods used to proselytise the minds of the American public under the illusion of democracy,

An alternative conception of democracy is that the public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. (10)

Chomsky expands his thoughts further providing factual examples from the chronicles of time to elaborate his point on how blemished and perilous a democratic country can be, with its continuous spewing of disinformation,

to controlling the public mind (23)

via public relations. He prolifically continues,

The point of public relations slogans like “Support our troops” is that they don’t mean anything (26)

used to portray the message,

Do you support our policy? (26)

without giving the public a chance

to think about the issue. That’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. (26)

This is all for a cohesive society. Chomsky goes on to say that the public relations industry

have a conception of what democracy ought to be: It ought to be a system in which the specialised class is trained to work in the service of the masters, the people who own the society. The rest of the population ought to be deprived of any form of organisation, because organisation just causes trouble. (27)

An existing incessant battle with the untamed

‘bewildered herd’

who are politically organised, active and are vocalising their opinions, termed as

“the crisis of democracy” (32)

have proved problematic and unsuccessful in dealing with because of their thriving presence, but ineffective in changing policy. Therefore, in case the public realise the incongruities and become aware of the facts, it is the job of the government and media to misinform and motivate the masses with blind fear to keep them in line.

A riveting twelve-page mention of the Gulf War is included to stress more the inconsistencies, with additional instances, within the US government and media for reasons for the war,

aggressors cannot be rewarded and aggression must be reversed by the quick resort to violence; (56)

which was not repudiated by anyone for not stating an adequate reason. Meanwhile, the US has been guilty of its own aggression towards Panama and its

“quiet diplomacy”

when South Africa aggressively occupied Namibia.

That again is the hallmark of a totalitarian culture. It ought to frighten us, that we are so deeply totalitarian that we can be driven to war without any reason being given for it… (57)

The Journalist from Mars

In this section, Chomsky explicates how media in general should be reporting news through the objective eyes and open mind of a Martian: the viewpoint of an outsider with no invested interest only to report the truth.

The focus of the talk is the “war on terror” and how it existed long before 9/11 following the same agenda but changing the target – Muslim-populated regions.

Chomsky perspicaciously highlights discrepancies and blatant biases practised by the US government and media with its selective reporting when it is not in America’s favour. The media propitiates their errors by hiding behind lame terminologies to justify prejudiced and nefarious acts perpetrated by America and its allies,

…moral relativism – that means the suggestion that we apply ourselves the standards we apply to others. Or maybe moral equivalence, which is a term that was invented…to ward off the danger that somebody might dare to look at our crimes. (78)

In the US code and army manuals,

Terrorism, as I’m quoting, is defined as ‘the calculated use of violence or the threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature…through intimidation, coercion or instilling fear’. (79)

Chomsky draws parallels to the ceaseless terrorist acts committed by America and its allies breaching human rights on extreme levels – Chechnya, Lebanon, Nicaragua, Palestine, South Africa, Tunis, etc. – and how America fits its own definition of what terrorism is. Oxymoronically, the US government and media do not consider them terroristic when they commit them.

Although Chomsky tackles this topic more extensively in other books, he does what he does best in this one – with a hint of acerbic sarcasm: he writes about the media bias in an edifyingly perspicuous style, credibly. He cuts through the rhetoric freeing it from any jargon, deception and ambiguity, as is often the case with American media, and he does so flowingly with comprehensibly simple language.

Both parts of the primer are a revelation – particularly for people who are not aware – about the illusory concept of autocracy, democracy, bias journalism and propaganda in North America, and its dichotomies, which is applicable to the “Occident” as a whole.

Chomsky wants readers to be cognisant of, and to draw conclusions from facts about, what they hear, see and read.

This book is a wonderful way for new readers to Chomsky to start delving into the thinker’s intellect to gain an understanding of his philosophy.

For well-versed readers of Chomsky’s writings, it is simply a delight to own, read and use as reference when need be.

The mere fact it is by the respected intellectual, who is the epitome of truth and intellectuality, should be an incentive as he is not one to shy away from pointing out egregious flaws of those who are swathed in double standards.

…to rise to the absolutely minimal moral level we have to agree, in fact insist, that if some act is right for us then it’s right for others, and if it’s wrong when others do it then it’s wrong when we do it. (77)

Granted numerous awards for his works, Professor Avram Noam Chomsky, in Boston, is an American activist, linguist and media, political and social critic and theorist.

Professor Chomsky is prolific for his exceptional and intricate articles and scores of books on a variety of topics.

Genre:Social Sciences, Communication Studies, Media Studies
Publisher:Seven Stores Press, An Open Media Book
Publication Year:2002

May 2013


  1. The U.S. government is no Angel. Even my law professor said, do not trust the government (U.S.) and he was an assistant district attorney in state court or superior court as it’s called in California. I think the media tries to do a good job in reporting world events. It can improve.

  2. An interesting review of an author I was aware of, but sadly never read. You have prompted me to rectify that misdemeanour.


    PS. I sympathise with your thoughts on the lack of bookshops in this area. I find it rather incongruous that there is a dearth of bookshops in an area desperate to educate its people.

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