Interesting interview with Noam Chomsky. Two (longish) quotes:
[After WWII] Business propagated a tremendous propaganda offensive. The scale surprised me when I read the scholarship — it’s enormous, and it’s been very effective. There were two major targets: one is unions, the other is democracy. Well, [to them] democracy means getting people to regard government as an alien force that’s robbing them and oppressing them, not as their government. In a democracy it would be your government. For example, in a democracy the day when you pay your taxes, April 15, would be a day of celebration, because you’re getting together to provide resources for the programs you decided on. In the United States, it’s a day of mourning because this alien force — the government — is coming to rob you of your hard-earned money. That’s the general attitude, and it’s a tremendous victory for the opponents of democracy, and, of course, any privileged sector is going to hate democracy. You can see it in the healthcare debate.
The majority of the population thinks that if the government runs healthcare, they’re going to take away your freedom. At the same time, the public favors a national healthcare program. The contradiction is somehow unresolved. In the case of the business propaganda, it’s particularly ironic because while business wants the population to hate the government, they want the population to love the government. Namely, they’re in favor of a very powerful state which works in their interest. So you have to love that government, but hate the government that might work in your interest and that you could control. That’s an interesting propaganda task, but it’s been carried out very well. You can see it in the worship of Reagan, which portrays him as somebody who saved us from government. Actually he was an apostle of big government. Government grew under Reagan. He was the strongest opponent of free markets in the post-war history among presidents. But it doesn’t matter what the reality is; they concocted an image that you worship. It’s hard to achieve that, especially in a free society, but it’s been done.
So take right now, for example, there is a right-wing populist uprising. It’s very common, even on the left, to just ridicule them, but that’s not the right reaction. If you look at those people and listen to them on talk radio, these are people with real grievances. I listen to talk radio a lot and it’s kind of interesting. If you can sort of suspend your knowledge of the world and just enter into the world of the people who are calling in, you can understand them. I’ve never seen a study, but my sense is that these are people who feel really aggrieved. These people think, “I’ve done everything right all my life, I’m a god-fearing Christian, I’m white, I’m male, I’ve worked hard, and I carry a gun. I do everything I’m supposed to do. And I’m getting shafted.” And in fact they are getting shafted. For 30 years their wages have stagnated or declined, the social conditions have worsened, the children are going crazy, there are no schools, there’s nothing, so somebody must be doing something to them, and they want to know who it is. Well Rush Limbaugh has answered — it’s the rich liberals who own the banks and run the government, and of course run the media, and they don’t care about you — they just want to give everything away to illegal immigrants and gays and communists and so on.
Well, you know, the reaction we should be having to them is not ridicule, but rather self-criticism. Why aren’t we organizing them? I mean, we are the ones that ought to be organizing them, not Rush Limbaugh. There are historical analogs, which are not exact, of course, but are close enough to be worrisome. This is a whiff of early Nazi Germany. Hitler was appealing to groups with similar grievances, and giving them crazy answers, but at least they were answers; these groups weren’t getting them anywhere else. It was the Jews and the Bolsheviks [that were the problem].
I mean, the liberal democrats aren’t going to tell the average American, “Yeah, you’re being shafted because of the policies that we’ve established over the years that we’re maintaining now.” That’s not going to be an answer. And they’re not getting answers from the left. So, there’s an internal coherence and logic to what they get from Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the rest of these guys. And they sound very convincing, they’re very self-confident, and they have an answer to everything — a crazy answer, but it’s an answer.
I don’t agree with everything Chomsky says, but he certainly makes you think.