What role do the media play in a capitalist democracy? Based on the Massey Lectures, delivered in Canada in November 1988, Necessary Illusions argues that, far from performing a watchdog role, the "free press" serves the needs of those in power. With this book, Chomsky rips away the mask of propaganda that portrays the media as advocates of free speech and democracy:
In short, the major media are corporations "selling" privileged audiences to other businesses.... Media concentration is high, and increasing. Furthermore, those who occupy managerial positions in the media...belong to the same privileged elites, and might be expected to share the perceptions, aspirations, and attitudes of their associates, reflecting their own class interests as well. Journalists entering the system are unlikely to make their way unless they conform to these ideological pressures, generally by internalizing the values.... Those who fail to conform will be weeded out...
-- from the Massey Lectures
This book applies the propaganda model Chomsky has developed with Edward Herman to media coverage of the diplomatic process in Central America and the Middle East, human rights issues, terrorism, and other topics, revealing the crucial function of the media and educated elites in limiting democracy in the United States.
Rigorously documented, Necessary Illusions is an invaluable tool for understanding how democracy functions in the United States.
Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor of Linguistics at MIT and author of many books on U.S. foreign policy, including The Political Economy of Human Rights (with Edward S. Herman), The Fateful Triangle, On Power and Ideology, and The Culture of Terrorism.