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Ferrua, Pietro
Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media
A film by Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar
Article published on 31 August 2003
last modification on 26 April 2015

by r-c.
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1st Part

2nd Part

Canada, 1994.

Color and B&W, 170 mins.

National Board of Canada.

The story goes more or less like this: The New York Times is ready to admit that Noam Chomsky is the most important American intellectual. American contemporary anarchists, thus, are proud of this compliment and add to the list John Cage, considered the most influential composer of the 20th century, and Ursula Le Guin, whose novels have been translated into more foreign languages than any other writer. Then The Times asks, "How come such an intelligent man is so strongly opposed to the policies of the American government?" We are told that Chomsky chuckled at the oxymoron. (But is there an oxymoron?)

Obviously, The New York Times does not respect intelligence enough to want to learn from it. If I had the chance to ask them some questions, they would be these: If you really appreciate Chomsky’s intellect, why do you assume that he is wrong, instead of questioning Mr. X or Y (and here you put the name of the president or state secretary or defense secretary of your choice, of today or yesterday, Republican or Democrat - the difference being minimal)? Do you prefer to learn something from the man you designate as the most important intellectual of America? (According to statistics Chomsky is the eighth most quoted thinker of world history, the ninth being none less than the German philosopher Hegel and the tenth being the Latin master of rhetoric Cicero - no other American is among the first ten.) Or do you prefer to listen to one of our troglodytes or cowboys of the administration? Who do you think you can learn more from? Why should you believe, follow, obey them, instead of Chomsky?"

A few months ago, a local newspaper asked its readers what they wanted to know in particular that they were not finding in the paper’s columns. I naively wrote to them saying that I was not satisfied with the official version of things, neither was I really interested what the fanatics on the other side had to say. (For example, it was not until someone suspected that Bin Laden might use his talks to send hidden messages to his followers that we ceased knowing what the "enemy" thought.) I also said that I wanted to know what wise men (and women) were thinking - neutral or pacifist people. I mentioned the Pope, the Dalai Lama, Chomsky, Coretta King and Ursula Le Guin. The newspaper did not answer my letter, but this film answers me instead, because it carefully explains to me how the press thinks and acts.

The typical anarchist questions authority by principle. Noam Chomsky, who knows the value of language, deconstructs official speeches and declarations, enucleates the lies, identifies the sources of misinformation, disassembles the entire mechanism and everything becomes clear. You will enjoy his humor, admire his breadth of knowledge, his depth of thought and, last but not least, appreciate his belief in a nonhierarchical society and his choice of libertarian socialism as the best answer to social problems.

Pietro Ferrua


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