In a recent interview, Noam Chomsky returned to a subject about which he has said a lot over the years -- consumer culture:
The advertising industry is a huge industry, and anyone with their eyes open can see what it's for. First of all, the existence of the advertising industry is a sign of the unwillingness to let markets function. If you had markets, you wouldn't have advertising. Like, if somebody has something to sell, they say what it is and you buy it if you want. But when you have oligopolies, they want to stop price wars. They have to have product differentiation, and you got to turn to diluting people into thinking you should buy this rather than that. Or just getting them to consume - if you can get them to consume, they're trapped, you know.
Chomsky has always seen through the lie which dominates our political culture. We do not -- in fact, we have never -- believed in "free markets." And, when people like Stephen Harper tell you they are totally focused on the economy, what they really mean is that they are totally focused on consumer culture.
The greatest threat to consumer culture is free thought. That, says Chomsky, is why public education has become an instrument of control, by which the propertied class keep the plebians in their place:
Schools are designed to teach the test. You don't have to worry about students thinking for themselves, challenging, raising questions. And you see it down to the lowest level of detail. I give a lot of talks in communities and places where people are concerned about education and I've had teachers come up to me and say afterwards, you know, I teach sixth grade. A little girl came up after class and said she was interested in something that came up in class, and wanted to know how to look into it. And I tell her, you can't do it; you got to study for the test. Your future depends on it; my salary depends on it.
It's all about keeping people scared. If you can maintain that sense of high anxiety, they'll do what they're told. Remember that mantra: do what you're told. When you scrape away all the rhetoric, that's what you're left with.
Any human being who sees him or herself as a moral agent -- someone who is truly free to make informed choices -- is a threat to the whole system.