Out-of-the-mainstream scholar Noam Chomsky used a rational, occasionally sarcastic, tone in an attempt to convince a Kansas University audience they were under control of savvy ideological managers.
Writer Noam Chomsky challenged his audience Friday to ask obvious questions -- the ones children notoriously do, the ones not often raised by what he termed the powerful elite perpetuating the charade of democracy in America.
"Ask who rules? Why? How do they get power? What interests do they serve?" he said.
These questions and answers reveal truths about Western democracy, he said.
People should understand the national interest isn't defined by voters at the ballot box, he said. It's defined by media manipulators and corporate titans who manufacture consent for policies that serve their own interests, he said.
"The principal architects of policy ... will tend to rely on the control of opinion," he said. "This is a kind of agenda setting."
Chomsky, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, spoke to 900 people at Kansas University. Dozens of people were turned away at the door.
He's credited for pioneering work in linguistics that led to a 1957 book that was so revolutionary linguists talk of the discipline in terms of B.C. -- Before Chomsky. It's his writing and lectures that stir most people up.
On Friday, the Philadelphia native charted the development of democracy by assessing propaganda, or public relations, strategies used to shape public sentiment from World War I to the present.
It began with President Wilson's successful campaign to transform a passive nation into a collection of "warmongering fanatics" and continues with debate on the North American Free Trade Agreement, Chomsky said.
To illustrate his point, Chomsky reviewed claims by ideology managers that the Cold War was fought and won for the benefit of free-market economies.
Chomsky said that view didn't hold up in Latin America, where Brazil's elected government was overthrown and replaced by U.S.-backed thugs. At the time, the move was hailed as a boon for international trade.
The result, he said, was to throw 95 percent of Brazilians into misery. In a country divided by economic class, he said, hundreds of thousands of children are starving, slavery is rampant and kidnapping of children, apparently for use in illegal organ transplant surgery, is on the rise.
"That's the way we protected the market economy there," he said.
Chomsky wasn't optimistic the structure of domination could be overcome. Only with popular resistance on a massive, international scale will reform occur, he said.