Manufacturing Consent

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media explores the political life and ideas of the world-renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist. Chomsky illustrates how the media tacitly manipulates public opinion to further the agendas of the powerful. A compelling examination of the suppression of news about the US-supported Indonesian invasion and subjugation of East Timor brings home the point. This is a good introduction to the man and his ideas on government, economics, and the media’s relation to the citizenry. While it only scratches the surface of Chomsky’s many ideas, it is a worthwhile introduction to both the man and one particular element of his theories, namely that all major US media serve the interests of the corporate/government oligarchy. Great archival footage of the early Noam. This film provided an interesting analysis of the influence of modern media on shaping opinion in U.S. society. It gets a simple point across – the media is owned by the Elite, so don’t trust what it says. This explores the idea that media control by the corporate power structure so effectively frames the messages we hear, that we don’t even question their underlying assumptions. The message of the movie is that the mainstream media is a tool of the State, and that people are indoctrinated through repetition and omission into believing things that are simply not true. Because big companies own major media outlets, the result is that media stories reflect their biases and frame the debate. American mass media, like all other corporate ventures, is required by law to seek profit at any cost — truth or fairness are expendable. I have worked in community television and know exactly what Mr. Chomsky means about controlling what people see. As a master control operator I frequently chose what show to put on the air and how many times I ran a story, show, or documentary. My actions got me into trouble more that once when others at the station did not share my enthusiasm for the choices I had made. Chomsky objects to such things as the way TV punditry is an exercise in sound-bite jousting. This does not allow the citizenry to use its enormous cognitive powers on societal problems like endemic poverty, ill-health, capital flight, oppressive work conditions, or the evisceration of regulatory controls on corporate America. Instead, people spend their days engaging in extremely complicated analyses about J-Lo or who will make the NFL playoffs. Chomsky raises issues worth pondering, such as the media underreporting acts of genocide in East Timor during the invasion by Indonesia, a country friendly to the USA. Most Americans have never heard of East Timor, even today, when there is still fighting going on there that is hardly ever covered by the media. For decades both GOP and Democratic administrations have supported, equipped and armed the Indonesian military invasion of East Timor. Chomsky covers this well. It is interesting to hear Prof. Chomsky’s views. But I found the most interesting aspect of this film is how people react to Chomsky – and how he, in turn responds to them. We see him in front of hostile audiences who set out to discredit his ideas and debunk his theories. His response almost universally displays amazing restraint and an impressive command of his facts and knowledge of history. He is also quite modest about his role, and appears genuinely embarrassed at the attention paid to him, as a person, as opposed to the ideas he is espousing. He displays restraint and humility when faced with popular acclaim, and often makes it a point to remind audiences of the vast network of unsung activists that his research seeks to foment. But what makes him a great man is his fearlessness when eviscerating sacred cows (academics like Allan Dershowitz, Michael Walzer, and Milton Friedman, pop culture figures like Tom Wolfe, pseudo-journalists like William Buckley, the entire NY Times editorial staff, and a raft of government officials like Robert McNamara and Henry Kissinger). All the while empowering viewers to believe in their own intellectual abilities. This film suffers slightly from being made before wide use of internet, back when we were more constrained by mainstream media filters for news. Manufacturing Consent is rather like watching the movie 1984 in the year 2004. To a certain extent, the media abuses it describes have been somewhat mitigated by the advent of the World Wide Web. Groups forming from individuals at home, and the explosion of information, are having a profound effect on deconstructing the mass media viewpoint. However, this movie was ahead of its time in bringing up issues that led us into war in Iraq. Seeing him discuss the US media’s hypocrisy and complacency in international matters from the 1970s shows that not much has changed. His ideas for grass-roots activism foreshadow the net-roots activism now going on. This is an expertly made documentary. Often fascinating if overlong (167 min of talking heads). Never boring, but sometimes tedious and repetitive. Some viewers may feel this presentation is too long, stretched out over 3 hours. However, in order to chronicle Chomsky’s long career, the length is justified. Overall, this documentary has a lot to say and kept me thinking after the movie ended. Grade A education. This was a great lesson, not just entertainment. Essential viewing for every US citizen. All of the USA should be required to watch this. It rates four stars because of the socially redeeming value of the subject matter. Because this film is a bit dated, it may confuse people who lack strong knowledge of politics and history. The Corporation is a far more accessible and current film — I would suggest seeing that DVD before you try this one. I had not read Chomsky’s books before, and have become more interested in doing so. Since watching this film, I’ve read most of his books of dissent and seen all the taped lectures I could get my hands on. I highly recommend renting videos of his lectures, especially Imperial Grand Strategy. There are a lot of Chomsky DVD’s out there. However, most of them are just recordings of him giving a talk or two. Manufacturing Consent is the definitive film. Documentary 1992 NR 167 minutes.

SEE ALSO:

Ralph Nader

Howard Zinn

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