In The Globalization of War, Michel Chossudovsky writes of the process of “manufacturing dissent,” which functions to channel the anger and frustrations of the people in a direction that does not challenge elite interests.
The concept of manufacturing dissent takes as its point of departure the notion of “manufactured consent,” used by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky to refer to the forging by the mass media of a popular consensus in support of established norms, values, and institutions. Fabricated through the media’s narrative and its factual distortions, the consensus functions to serve the interests of corporate elites. This fabricated mainstream narrative, Chossudovsky maintains, includes affirmation of the principle of democracy, and accordingly, the elite has an interest in accepting dissent and protest, in order to create the illusion of democracy. But the dissent cannot go too far, in that it cannot actually threaten elite interests. Therefore, the elite seeks “to shape and mold the protest movement, to set the outer limits of dissent, to control dissent.” It seeks to channel popular discontent in a direction that does not threaten to expose the fundamental historical and contemporary facts that presently are beyond the horizon of popular consciousness.
The manufacturing of dissent, Chossudovsky maintains, is achieved by donating financial resources to NGOs, civil society organizations, trade unions, and political parties that are involved in organizing protests against the established order. In this way, social movement leaders are coopted and manipulated, channeling the movement away from ideas and strategies that would constitute a true threat to elite interests.
Central to the funding of dissent are private foundations, including the Ford, Rockefeller, and McCarthy foundations, which fund antiwar collectives and people’s movements as well as environmental movements and supposedly progressive anti-capitalist networks, with the intention of molding and manipulating the protest movement. In addition, the channeling of protest movements is aided by the fact that “many NGOs are infiltrated by informants often acting on behalf of western intelligence agencies.” Through these means, the illusion of democracy is maintained, with anti-establishment organizations and protests visible to the public eye. But the elite remains firmly in control, as the protests and supposedly anti-establishment movements are rendered incapable of asking the most fundamental questions.