Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Manufacturing Consent: Naom Chomsky and the Media

1992, 167 minutes, Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick

"States are violent institutionsOne cannot and should not be proud of any government," says Naom Chomsky, This unnecessarily long film does no service to its title character. Chomsky in this documentary heavy with cinematic gimmicks is turned into one more brand name to be marketed--in fact it ends up bending backward trying to manufacturing a kind of consent about the very person who is so critical of the procedure. Chomsky's talks and interviews are a delight to listen, but this rag tag collage, punctuated with often irrelevant newsreel footage (presumably to make his thoughts accessible, though they are simple enough) makes for tiresome and painful viewing. On the plus side, there would be a modicum of fresh informational material which could keep admirers of the scholar-activist engaged till the finish line.


Interviewer: How far does the success of libertarian socialism or anarchism as a way of life really depend on a fundamental change in the nature of man, both in his motivation, his altruism,and also in his knowledge and sophistication?

Chomsky: I think it not only depends on it but, in fact, the whole purpose of libertarian socialism is that it will contribute to it.It will contribute to a spiritual transformation. Precisely that kind of great transformation in the way humans conceive of themselves and their ability to act, to decide,to create, to produce, to inquire.

Precisely that spiritual transformation is what social thinkers from the Marxist tradition, from Luxemburg, say, through anarcho-syndicalists, have emphasised. So, on the one hand,it requires that spiritual transformation. But also, its purpose is to create institutions which will contribute to that transformation.


In dealing with social and political issues,in my view, what is at all understood[br]is pretty straightforward.There may be deep and complicated things.[br]But, if so, they're not understood.The basic... To the extent that we understand[br]society at all, it's pretty straightforward. And I don't think those simple understandings[br]are likely to undergo much change.


Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths.The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain,which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy,on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic formulation.Now, it's long been understood very well that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails,as long as it's possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited,that the world is an infinite resource and that the world is an infinite garbage can.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[br]and concern for others. Or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialised class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice,require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole.By now, that means the global community. The question, in brief,is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided.In this possibly terminal phase of human existence,democracy and freedom\are more than values to be treasured.They may well be essential to survival.

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