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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

June 23, 1991|Alex Raksin

DETERRING DEMOCRACY by Noam Chomsky (Verso: $29.95; 405 pp.) . While oft-celebrated in Europe as "America's leading dissident," Noam Chomsky, a linguistics professor who wears the unassuming mien of a Nebraskan minister, is virtually unknown in his own country. We can presume that he would have it no other way, for his obscurity confirms his thesis that in America, only those who essentially affirm the status quo can be granted a prominent forum for political debate.

At times, one can empathize with the many editors who have denied Chomsky a forum: Leftist patter about the need for social rather than military spending can bubble out of his soap box, obscuring real issues such as how to motivate as well as protect workers. But even at these moments Chomsky is a skilled rhetorician--the Left's answer to William F. Buckley.

And when his skills as a linguist come into play, "Deterring Democracy" can sparkle with inspiration. Arguing that consent in America is more often "made and manufactured" than given freely, for example, he shows how even "liberal" newspapers covered the Sandinistas' election defeat with the same propagandistic phrases that one finds in the totalitarian presses of Albania and North Korea.

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