Noam Chomsky’s 10 strategies of manipulation through mass media.


Sep 11

Chomsky is an American philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, political activist, and linguist. In fact, he’s called, “the father of modern linguistics.”

To most people, linguistics is the study of foreign language, and yet it is much more. Language is universal. It is fundamental to all our interactions. One of my favorite sayings is:

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Attributed to many.

Linguistics tells us much about the world and contributes to amassing a bucketful of knowledge about ourselves, our relationships, and our place in the universe. It also has many practical uses, such as determining if someone is being honest, both in speech and writing.

Today, because of mass media and social media, we have become the most informed people on earth.

“I think we risk becoming the best informed society that has ever died of ignorance.”

Rubén Blades

Also because of mass media and social media, we’ve become the most misinformed people on earth. We are manipulated daily to buy things, to believe things, and to accept things. Our paper on how Trump got elected has covered much of this, but Noam Chomsky wants to go into detail of exactly how we’ve been manipulated, hopefully to pass on the critical thinking we need to resist that manipulation.

But I should point out: I love listening to Chomsky lecturing or being interviewed (and there are quite a few videos of him on YouTube) but though he’s a genius linguist, this original piece was unreadable. I do not know if this was put together by bits and pieces of his work, or from interviews, that, as we all know, aren’t always cohesive because individuals are thinking as they talk. If this is his actual writing, then I can only conclude he’s a horrible writer. Thus I have taken editorial license to make this piece readable with tiny edits and a further explanation after his points, in the colored boxes.

So let’s get to work here.

1-The strategy of distraction

The primordial element of social control is the distraction strategy that consists of diverting the public’s attention from major problems and the changes decided by political and economic elites, through flooding of continuous distractions and insignificant information.

Distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public from becoming interested in essential knowledge in the area of science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics. Keeping the audience’s attention deviated from real social problems, imprisoned by themes without real importance.

Keeping the public busy, busy, busy, with no time to think, back to the farm like other animals (quoted in the text Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars).

A perfect example is Critical Race Theory, which was once just a little-known academic concept. However, a fellow by the name of James Pierson, financed by the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, created an astroturf movement with off-the-wall arguments aimed at angering uninformed citizens. His purpose is obvious: he opposes racial and economic equality. His writings are full of statements claiming racism doesn’t exist, that women are treated equally in our society, and that liberals focusing on “climate change, income inequality, [and] immigrant rights,” have extremist and radical agendas. And suddenly the media is full of people believing that CRT was designed to teach our children to hate America, while ignoring the simple fact that climate change is a real, existential threat.

“The reason we are so controlled is not that we don’t have the power to decide our own destiny, it is that we give that power away every minute of our lives. When something happens that we don’t like, we look for someone else to blame. When there is a problem in the world, we say “What are they going to do about it”. At which point they, who have secretly created the problem in the first place, respond to this demand by introducing a ‘solution’ – more centralisation of power and erosion of freedom. If you want to give more powers to the police, security agencies and military, and you want the public to demand you do it, then ensure there is more crime, violence and terrorism, and then it’s a cinch to achieve your aims. Once the people are in fear of being burgled, mugged or bombed, they will demand that you take their freedom away to protect them from what they have been manipulated to fear. The Oklahoma bombing is a classic of this kind, as I detail in, And The Truth Shall Set You Free. I call this technique problem-reaction-solution. Create the problem, encourage the reaction “something must be done”, and then offer the solution.


It is summed up by the Freemason motto ‘Ordo Ab Chao’ -order out of chaos. Create the chaos and then offer the way to restore order. Your order. The masses are herded and directed by many and various forms of emotional and mental control. It is the only way it could be done.”


David Icke

2-Creating problems and then offering the solutions.

This method is also called the “problem-reaction-solution.” It creates a problem, a “situation” planned to cause a certain reaction from the public, with the aim that this is the mandate of the measures they want to accept. For example: let it unfold and intensify urban violence, or arrange for bloody attacks in order that the public is the applicant’s security laws and policies to the detriment of freedom. Or: create an economic crisis to accept as a necessary evil retreat of social rights and the dismantling of public services.

Our most recent example is taking place right now in southern states where new voting laws are being passed. Our last election was quite possibly the most secure election we’ve ever experienced. Additionally, because of the pandemic, more methods of voting, dropping off votes, and mailing in votes were incorporated, resulting in a record number of people voting. It is widely know, and even expressed by Paul Weyrich, often referred to as the “founding father of the conservative movement,” that conservatives just don’t want everyone to vote. Thus, states controlled by conservatives created and pushed the idea that the 2020 election was rigged, and now they’re going to solve that problem by incorporating massive, restrictive voting laws, supposedly to make sure elections in the future are secure, when in reality, they’re going to try to stop the poor, minorities, and anyone who disagrees with them from voting.

3. The gradual strategy

Acceptance to an unacceptable degree, just apply it gradually . . . for consecutive years. That is how the radically new socioeconomic conditions ( neoliberalism ) were imposed during the 1980s and 1990s:

  • the minimal state
  • privatization
  • precariousness
  • flexibility
  • massive unemployment
  • stagnating wages
  • do not guarantee a decent income . . .

. . . so many changes that would have brought about a revolution if they had been applied once.

This resonates with the Boiling Frog Fable: If you put a frog in hot water, it will jump out. But if you put the frog in tepid water, and gradually increase the temperature, the frog will eventually be boiled. This actually will not happen, but the myth still tells us something about human behavior. People ask “How did Hitler come about?” “How did fascism rise in the world” And the answer is: Gradually. A great play to watch or read is by Ionesco, called Rhinoceros. It was also made into a movie. It’s a great story of how townspeople were turning into rhinoceroses. You can replace rhinoceros with Nazi, and there you have it. It’s quite funny, by the way. Really worth your time. See point #1.

4. The strategy of deferring

Another way to make an unpopular decision acceptable is to present it as “painful and necessary,” gaining public acceptance, at the time for future application. It is easier to accept a future sacrifice rather than an immediate slaughter because the public always tends to expect, naively, that “everything will be better tomorrow,” and that the sacrifice required may be avoided. This gives the public more time to get used to the idea of change and accept it with resignation when the time comes.

The war in Vietnam was painful and necessary, because we were going there to stop communism and put an end to the mythical “domino theory.” When it was over, we thought we’d learned our lesson. It didn’t seem to matter that we invaded with no exit strategy or specific goals and benchmarks, we all knew our boys would eventually come home after winning the war against communism. But humans have a very short memory; Iraq and Afghanistan proved this. We were told we were fighting terrorism, but now that seems to have been imported. There was no exit strategy, which now leaves everyone pointing fingers at everyone else, and once again a divided America is distracted.

5. Go to the public as a little child

Most of the advertising to the general public uses speech, argument, people and particularly children’s intonation, often close to the weakness, as if the viewer were a little child or a mentally deficient. The harder one tries to deceive the viewer . . . the more it tends to adopt a tone infantilising. Why? “If one goes to a person as if she had the age of 12 years or less, then, because of suggestion, she tends with a certain probability that a response or reaction also devoid of a critical sense as a person 12 years or younger (see Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars).”

I refuse to be talked down to by anyone, and anyone attempting this is not to be trusted.

6. Use the emotional side more than the reflection

Making use of the emotional aspect is a classic technique for causing a short circuit on rational analysis , and finally to the critical sense of the individual. Furthermore, the use of emotional register to open the door to the unconscious for implantation or grafting ideas , desires, fears and anxieties , compulsions, or induce behaviors . . . .

Fear is the one emotional appeal that works best: fear of immigrants, fear of minorities, fear of Muslims, fear of LGBT. Politicians know that people living in fear will give up their rights and choose authoritarians/tyrants to protect them. But as Ben Franklin told us, “People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”

7. Keep the public in ignorance and mediocrity

Undereducate the public, and make them incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used to control and enslave them.

The quality of education given to the lower social classes must be as poor and as mediocre as possible aimed at widening the gap of ignorance between the lower and upper classes, making it impossible for the lower classes ever to understand. (see Silent Weapons for Quiet Wars).”

The destruction of our educational system in my lifetime started in the eighties. But then, America has had a history of using education to push an agenda in many locales. Take the Scopes Monkey Trial, as an example. Religion and science battled it out. Evolution went against the Bible and the religionists won, though it was a puny victory. Today, however, slowly, over the decades, we’ve chipped away at our educational system. The Koch brothers started buying up local school boards (much cheaper than buying a senator or president. They also funded textbook companies, and helped publish this fantastic piece of misinformation, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming. Today Charles Koch says he regrets much of the funding he provided for his partisan causes.

8. To encourage the public to be complacent with mediocrity

Promote the public to believe that the fact is fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and uneducated…

I really cannot take this crap. People put pride in their cars, their homes, their lawn, but thinking they know better than experts? A must read is The Death of Expertise, by Tom Nichols. See also: The Dunning-Kruger Effect, because the really stupid think you’re the stupid ones.

9. Self-blame Strengthen

Make sure individuals blame themselves for their misfortune, due to their lack of intelligence, lack of abilities, or their little effort. That way, instead of rebelling against the economic system, the individual autodesvalida [self-defeats] and fills with guilt, which creates a depression that inhibits action. Without action, there is no revolution!

Herman Cain, while running for the presidency in 2012, said during an interview: “Don’t blame Wall Street. Don’t blame the big banks. If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.” The one thing they surely don’t want you to know is something sociologists call the cycle of poverty. The image below is from that link, and it struck me that one very important factor was missing. It talks about malnutrition, but does not mention that our brains need brain food. Sure, their energy due to malnutrition is low, but malnutrition also slows the brain. No matter how good the educational system is, it cannot help those whose brains are not being nourished. Study finds poverty reduces brain power.

The Cycle of Poverty

10. Getting to know the individuals better than they know themselves

Over the past 50 years, advances of accelerated science has generated a growing gap between public knowledge and those owned and operated by dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology and applied psychology, the “system” has enjoyed a sophisticated understanding of human beings, both physically and psychologically. The system has gotten better acquainted with the common man more than he knows himself. This means that, in most cases, the system exerts greater control and great power over individuals, greater than that of individuals about themselves.

Why do companies advertise? Because advertising works. Oftentimes we say to ourselves, “All this advertising. It doesn’t affect me.” But it does. I grew up with Mrs Olsen selling Folgers coffee and “ring around the collar” echoing echoing echoing. And the only cure for ring around the collar was Wisk detergent. People hated these commercials and made fun of them everywhere from late night shows to stand-up routines. But get this: they worked. Social scientists knew that annoying commercials worked, especially if they were repeated over and over. The more people saw them, the more they hated them, and the more the products sold. We are manipulated daily, hourly by the media, especially social media. Political campaign consultants cost big bucks, and candidates get their money’s worth. We are being manipulated . . . constantly.

Now I’ve Got Something to Say, Goddamit

I, and many of my brothers and sisters, fought in Vietnam. Previous to that, I had attended a Catholic, Military Academy, and though I hated school, I became one hell of a gung-ho patriot ready to die for my country. Besides, I had wanted to be a fighter pilot since I was a kid watching war movies. And then, just as I was being released from high school, Bell Helicopters came out with their AH-1G Cobra Helicopter, and nothing was going to stop me from flying that thing in combat. You may read a bit about that here, at the National Air and Space Museum.

AH-1G, Huey Cobra

It’s become apparent over the years that murdering upwards of four hundred human beings, patriots fighting for their country, for their independence and self-rule, can leave a lasting mark on a young man at the age of nineteen. I quickly developed a history of engaging in dangerous behaviors, just one of the symptoms of an adrenaline addiction, but by my forties a heavy, dark cloud had settled over me, introducing an onslaught of intrusive thoughts, diminished self-worth, guilt, anxiety, suicide ideation, nightmares and night terrors. I ran a small computer consulting company, was respected by my clients and employees, but underneath I was out of control, using whatever drug that would take the pain away, and wound up bloodied from barfights, institutionalized, and locked up in jail with many memories of standing before a judge shaking his head.

I’m much better now. But I’m still angry with my country.

We are a warring nation and I could tell you the stats found in memes everywhere about how many actual years of peace we’ve had since the revolution, and I could even list out every damn war, most you’ve never heard of, but they were against our own native population, but let’s just admit: we are a warring nation.

We were told we went into Vietnam to fight “communism.” Communism isn’t a country, a state, a “vicinity,” or even a people. The poor people of any nation don’t give a shit what kind of government is in charge. They’re hungry. They care about eating and surviving.

Communism is an economic plan, a theory, a philosophy, an idea.

How do you fight against an idea?

Are there bullets that go into someone’s head, grab their communism ideas, and come out the other side? And if you attack an idea that is held by a people, do they not cling to that idea more strongly? Of course they do.

America sent troops to Vietnam not intending to win a fucking thing. What was winning? What did it look like? Can you tell when you’ve won? Are there benchmarks? And by the way, those bullets that remove ideas from people’s brains don’t exist. Our bullets removed lives . . . and hope.

We, as a people, have very short memories. Yesterday was the anniversary of 9-11, and everywhere patriots were once again proclaiming: “Never Forget!”

Well, after 9-11, we quickly forgot Vietnam. America wanted vengeance and when that happens, it’s best to step back and take a breath. But the politicos know this and that’s why they use the phrase: “Strike while the iron’s hot!”

The neocons in America, Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft et al, had been wanting to invade Iraq for a long time, and now the opportunity landed right in their lap. It didn’t matter that those who pulled off 9-11 were Saudis who had been hiding in Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or somewhere . . . except Iraq. Iraq had nothing to do with Al-Qaida terrorism. In fact, the first suicide bomb to go off in Iraq’s long history blew up only after we invaded.

All of America stood with President Bush at ground zero. All of America stood with President Bush as he entered Congress to address the nation.

The moment he said, “Either yer with us or yer agin us,” I stepped away. I could no longer stand with him. Sure, it’s patriotic to stand with your nation against a common enemy, but when someone uses that line, way too often they’re about to commit a horrible crime. And I was not going to go along with my nation committing crimes, especially in my name.

Jokes were everywhere about Saudis hitting us from Afghanistan so where do we invade? Iraq, of course.

I was against that war, obtusely. I wrote editorials for local newspapers, marched in protest, wrote in my newsletters, and screamed as loud as I could that invading Iraq was a violation of international treaties and in itself, a war crime.

Besides, we had the technology to go after the perpetrators alone.

Do you remember when terrorists took Israelis hostage at the ’72 Olympics? Do you remember how they murdered all their hostages?

Israel sent out assassins to get every single person who perpetrated that mass murder. The last one was executed not that long ago.

We had the technology to go after the perpetrators, but instead we invaded a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks and then-and-there we guaranteed that bin Laden had won the war he started. He got more than he’d ever dreamed of getting because his little outfit that held fewer than 50 members grew into the hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of thousands of people over there hate Americans and want to see us dead.

We went in with no plans (beyond occupying the Oil Ministry and allowing Haliburton to fill up oil trucks with stolen oil), no goals, no exit strategy.

We lost many of our troops and injured still more. We are responsible for the murders of over a million innocents and the displacement of millions more. And most of all we not only did not stop terrorism, we built it up bigger and better than anyone could have imagined, and then, to top it off, we imported quite a bit of it back to the States where we now have our own “domestic terrorists.”

And everyone is blaming everyone else because we’ve abandoned Afghanistan . . . just like we did years ago in Vietnam and just as I and a few others predicted because we have learned from history.

So, looking back on everything you’ve learned from Chomsky’s Ten Strategies, you now know how we have arrived at this place in history, manipulated by the media and politicians, here, today, tribe against tribe, each tribe believing its own facts, its own truths, and hating those who have their own facts and their own truths, and we’d better fucking stop this idiocy because society is not held together with superglue. It’s pretty damn fragile (as many of us have learned during the pandemic [which is not fucking over]) and scientists don’t give us long before it crumbles.