Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Horace Jeffery Hodges on the 'Chomsky' Quotation Adduced by Colmes

Dear Bill,

You knew that I'd look into this, right? I tried three

1) "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and
obedience of the [U.S.] media."

2) "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and
obedience of the media."

3) "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and
obedience of the U.S. media."

The only official-sounding 'Chomsky' site that I could
find was something called Third World Traveler which
has the first variant:

"Any dictator would admire the uniformity and
obedience of the [U.S.] media."

But this site doesn't really seem to be sponsored by
Chomsky, and no source is given, so it doesn't take us
very far.

Interestingly, I found a site that uses the second
variant without citing Chomsky:

The Media words are used to disguise, not to
illuminate, action: You liberate a city by destroying
it. Words are used to confuse, so that at election
time people will solemnly vote against their own
interests. This is becoming a crisis in Taiwan, the
masses though mostly educated, are unable to do the
simplest things, to think. The Taiwanese are ordered
and manipulated to not think and to do believe in what
the media enforces. To the foreigners who wish to
dictate Taiwan, they have realized that any dictator
would admire the uniformity and obedience of the
media. Their goal is to keep the bewildered herd
bewildered. It¡¯s unnecessary for them to trouble
themselves with what¡¯s happening in the world. In
fact, it¡¯s undesirable, if they see too much of
reality they may set themselves to change it.


That was on November 16, 2003. However, it is clearly
plagiarism since the words occur earlier, as shown

College Pres Cheers Chomsky

By Richard P. Bruneau
Hartford Courant
November 10, 2003

Chomsky's indictment of America's business community
reveals the master at his hypocritical worst. Many
so-called "scholars," freed from competition in the
marketplace of ideas by tenure, parrot Chomsky's
ruinous anti-business rhetoric while foisting on their
students an academic foundation built on the toxic
intellectual landfill of the '60s. They remain
oblivious to the risks and responsibilities that
business leaders face in meeting a weekly payroll or
the creative intelligence it takes to manage
personnel, resources and products through the rapid
waters of the marketplace. Instead, they mimic
Chomsky's conspiratorial dogma (as reported in the New
Yorker magazine) that "politics is driven by the
economic interests of elite institutions." Unable to
detach themselves from this discredited socialist
maxim, they imagine that the conspiracy circle also
includes America's news outlets. For, as Chomsky
opines in a well-known quote, "any dictator would
admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S.

There's no point in showing all three variants on
scattered websites, for none of them provide a
specific citation.

However, I did find some interesting passages that
show Chomsky to be far more reasonable about U.S.
media. Here's one:


The mass media are not a solid monolith on all issues.
Where the powerful are in disagreement, there will be
a certain diversity of tactical judgments on how to
attain generally shared aims, reflected in media
debate. But views that challenge fundamental premises
or suggest that the observed modes of exercise of
state power are based on systemic factors will be
excluded from the mass media even when elite
controversy over tactics rages fiercely.

Source: Manufacturing Consent, Preface, p. xii.

And then there is this:

I actually have a high regard for the American media,
because I think there is a high level of professional
competence in a narrow sense. For example, if some
event is taking place somewhere in the world, and I
had to choose between the descriptions given by a
professional American reporter and reporters from
other countries where I know a lot about, I would
tend, by and large, to rely on the American reporter.
I think there is a high level of professional
competence and integrity in a technical sense. That
is, I think they are not going to lie. Well, there are
some who will, but, by and large, our reporters will,
in a sort of technical sense, try to find out what is
going on. What goes wrong is the choice of topics, the
framework of assumptions, the set of presuppositions
within which things are presented, the emphasis, the
tone and so on.

Source: Companion Book to the Film Manufacturing
Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media
, p. 167

As for the original 'quote' and its variants, the fact
that I found no citations leads me to suspect that
Chomsky never wrote it, at least not as it stands.
Possibly, he uttered it, but nowhere is a talk cited,

His other statements about media make this one sound
apocryphal. Even if he did state it, he might not have
been making a general statement about U.S. media but a
particular statement about U.S. media reports on a
specific issue.

So, unless somebody dredges up a citation, I'd cast
considerable doubt upon this 'Chomsky' quote. (Though
it does sound like something Chomsky might say...)


Jeffery Hodges


Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges [Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley]
Department of English Language and Literature
Korea University
136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
South Korea