In December 1988, Noam Chomsky delivered the Massey Lectures for the CBC, where he talked about propaganda and systems of indoctrination. During the Q&A session, he discussed the role of professional sport and pop culture in indoctrination:
So for most of the population the media system is I think a different one. It’s not just the case that it tries to entertain them, it tries to entertain them through means which will intensify attitudes that support the interest of elites. For example . . . let me give some cases. Take the emphasis on professional sports. It sounds harmless but it really isn’t. Professional sports are a way of building up jingoist fanaticism. You’re supposed to cheer for your home team. Just to mention something from personal experience – I remember, very well, when I was I guess, a high school student – a sudden revelation when I asked myself why am I cheering for my high school football team. I don’t know anybody on it, if I met anybody on it we’d probably hate each other. You know, why do I care if they win or if some guy a couple blocks away wins. And then you can say the same thing about the baseball team or whatever else it is.This idea of cheering for your home team -which you mentioned before – that’s a way of building into people irrational submissiveness to power. And it’s a very dangerous thing. And I think it’s one of the reasons it gets such a huge play.
Or . . . let’s move to something else. The indoctrination that’s done by T.V. and so on is not trying to pile up evidence and give arguments and so on. It’s trying to inculcate attitudes. I mentioned a couple of cases but there are a lot more. Let’s take, say, the bombing of Libya. Why did the American public support the [April 1986] bombing of Libya? Well, the reason is that there had been a very effective, and careful, and intense inculcation of racist attitudes about Arabs. Anti-Arab racism is the one form of racism in the United States that’s considered legitimate. I mean, plenty of people are racist, but you don’t like to admit it. On the other hand, with regard to anti-Arab racism you admit it openly. You read a journal like, say, The New Republic, and the kinds of things that they say about Arabs . . . if anyone said them about Jews you’d think you were reading Der Stürmer. I’m not joking. And nobody notices it because anti-Arab racism is so profound. There are novels that have a form of anti-Arab racism that’s hair-raising. The same is true of television shows and so on and so forth. An image has been created – the media are part of this, not all – of the Arab terrorist lurking out there ready to kill us. And against that background you could bomb Libya and people would cheer. Recall how effective that was, remember what was happening in 1986, there are a lot of measures of how effective this is. Remember that in 1986 when this happened the tourism industry in Europe was virtually wiped out because Americans were afraid to go to Europe, where incidentally, objectively, they would be about a hundred times as safe as in any American city. That’s no joke. But they were afraid to go to Europe because they got these Arab terrorists out there trying to kill us.
Now, that was not from New York Times editorials, that was from a whole array of television and novels and soap operas and a mass of symbolism and so on and so forth and that’s effective. The anticommunist hysteria is developed that way too. The communists are out there ready to kill us – who are the communists? – I don’t know, they’re out there ready to kill us. This is introduced by the kinds of symbolism that T.V. is good at, and cheap novels are good at and so on and that’s important. These are critical means of indoctrination.