Manufacturing Consent - Noam Chomsky and the Media
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Funny, provocative and surprisingly accessible, MANUFACTURING CONSENT explores the political life and ideas of world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist Noam Chomsky. Through a dynamic collage of biography, archival gems, imaginative graphics and outrageous illustrations, Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick's award-winning documentary highlights Chomsky's probing analysis of mass media and his critique of the forces at work behind the daily news. Available for the first time anywhere on DVD, MANUFACTURING CONSENT features appearances by journalists Bill Moyers and Peter Jennings, pundit William F. Buckley Jr., novelist Tom Wolfe and philosopher Michel Foucault. This Edition features an exclusive ten-years-after video interview with Chomsky.
- Noam Chomsky's reflections on the film and its impact
- Extended excerpts from the 1969 Firing Line debate with pundit William F. Buckley
- Never-before-seen 1971 discussion with philosopher Michel Foucault
- Filmmaker bios and production notes
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Beyond that, "Manufacturing Consent" has exposed the institutional flaws of a media that is owned and sponsored by corporate powers. This theme is further explored by the director, Mark Achbar, in his equally enlightening documentary The Corporation. In the several years since it was released, countless people have turned their media criticism into media participation, and have developed the sorts of alternatives that have been so desperately needed. Countless magazines, blogs, small publishing houses, documentaries and other media tools have created options that were not available in the past. Conferences on media reform attract thousands of people, such as the gathering hosted by "Free Press" each year. And books by radical democrats like Chomsky have become best-sellers 9-11, and are promoted by populist reformers like Hugo Chavez Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance (American Empire Project).
Another reviewer expressed his wish that every American would see this film; and slowly but surely, a tipping point size of the population is either coming to know of Chomsky's work, or is coming upon the work of people who have been influenced by Noam's penetrating analysis - people like Robert McChesney The Problem of the Media: U.S. Communication Politics in the Twenty-First Century, Phyllis Bennis Challenging Empire: How People, Governments, and the UN Defy US Power, Robert Jensen Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity, Michael Moore Sicko (Special Edition), Paul Hawken Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Social Movement in History Is Restoring Grace, Justice, and Beauty to the World and so many others.
For other Chomsky material, I'd recommend the books of his long-time collaborator, David Barsamian of "Alternative Radio" which has a large catalogue of Chomsky lectures, interviews, and debates with figures like Richard Pearl. What We Say Goes: Conversations on U.S. Power in a Changing World is the most recent collection of their dialogues. See also Z Magazine which has been publishing Chomsky articles and interviews for over two decades.
"At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others, or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control." - Noam Chomsky
Chomsky repeated claims he eschews "sound bites" in his interviews, but he actually sound bites quite well (a credit to the filmmakers' editing). He is seen mostly in clips for various talks and debates, some of the debates in a quite informal setting allowing for more pointed and specific remarks to be made. Chomsky's background is put in perspective well (early upbringing and influences as well as his linguistics work at MIT), but the core of the film is his thesis that the mass media is a tool to help form public opinion to allow the government to carry out specific policies that benefit an elite few.
The film is not a Chomsky love-fest in that countering views are presented (in particular, the editor of the New York Times), though clearly the point of view of the film is that Chomsky is correct in his thesis. Two central examples of Chomsky's thesis are the comparison of media coverage between Cambodia and East Timor in the late 70's and the clear difference between defending someone's right to free speech without agreeing with the ideas proposed. What is most disturbing is Chomsky's discussion of how the media can marginalize those who even raise questions and in an eerie sense predicts the talking head shouting matches (laced with meaningless labels and rhetoric) that passes for "debate" today in the media.
Chomsky's writings, though he claims they're for the large mass of people that the state would like to simply not participate in the political process, are usually too difficult for the average attention span today. This DVD provides a very watchable, clear introduction to Chomsky's ideas and may provide the motivation to go through his writings. For those who think Chomsky is a liberal (as he is often labled), listen to when he discusses Carter's policies in Timor, and recall Carter was the "human rights" president. Highly recommended, considering the present state of the media in the US. The world is far more complex than the views you get on TV and when you ask the question: "why do they hate us so", you need to remember that you may not even have all the information to answer the question.