Sunday, March 9, 2008

Manufacturing Consent. I like this man Chomsky. He could end up really being something. Out now (********8/10)

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media is a movie that was released in 1992, but has only now come to DVD. I have been waiting to see it in at Rogers Video for a few weeks, but it has always been out when I went in. It could well have been the same guy hanging onto it for three weeks, because there is an awful lot of stuff on this two-disc set to get through. Chomsky, for those who are unfamiliar with his work, was (and perhaps still is) the leading intellectual in the world in terms of political criticism. In Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky turns his genius toward the media, and attempts to show how media, as a corporate entity, can't help but be biased. The film is a Canadian documentary that follows Chomsky as he put out his book of the same title in 1992. It follows through on many of Chomksy's key points. One of the major examples of media bias he looks at is genocide. Specifically, the genocide that took place in Cambodia in the 70s. The Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot were real enemies. They were officially sanctioned enemies, they could be looked at as evil and their actions despicable, and the media (he looks specifically at the New York Times) covered those atrocities every day. While at the same time, a similar genocide was taking place in East Timor, where Indonesia had invaded, and hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered. But there was virtually no coverage at all in the American media of that genocide, because the Americans (and Canadians, in point of fact) were involved. We were both supplying weapons and supplies and ammunition to the Indonesians so that they could kill more Timorese. There was money to be made, you see.

By the way, of you can find it, a great book to read is a Canadian publication called Inside The East Timor Resistance, written by Constancio Pinto and Matthew Jardine. It contains a preface by Nobel Peace Prize winner Jose Ramos Horta. You can actually read the entire thing on line here:

http://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&id=GYnPZuDwLiMC&dq=%22inside+the+East+timor+resistance%22+pinto&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=PZ4qlGO4E_&sig=eqcVMNBIp28_gWINlXvqDZJg3xA#PPP1,M1

I think you can at least cut and paste that link. Full disclosure - my uncle published that book - but it was the first book I ever read about real things that happen to real people that affected me in such a devastating way.

Anyway, back to Chomsky. The documentary is terrific. It is very in-depth, it is three hours long, and every minute is fascinating. Yes, Chomsky is wordy, and yes, he might be a bit difficult to understand for a while, but if you pay close attention to what he is saying, he makes absolute sense. He suggests that the media, by deciding which genocide to cover, which war to cover, how to portray that war, are complicit in events such as genocide the world over. Of course if the American or Canadian people could learn on TV or in the paper how their country, and by extension themselves, were helping to eradicate an entire population, they would not stand for it. Or at least, we hope they wouldn't. I thought I would throw this in here - there are many famous figures that show up in the film debating various subjects with Chomsky as he went on tour, and I was pleased to see Peter Worthington, then-editor of the Ottawa Sun, appear in one of those debates.

And the bonus features are a must. A retrospective on the film including a 2007 interview with Chomsky, where he reflects on the changes since the film was made. Perhaps many of us know that media have changed drastically since 1992. If not the message, certainly the mediums. Or media. Well, you know what I'm saying. I'm not Chomsky-level articulate. The best of the special features is a complete debate about the Vietnam war from a 1969 episode of William F. Buckley's show Firing Line. Buckley, who died just a few days ago, was perhaps the most articulate and intelligent defender of the right in American politics in the media age, and watching these two intellectual titans go at each other for half an hour is an amazing thing. This DVD is worth it just for the bonus features!

The Chomsky-Buckley debate is also available on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYlMEVTa-PI

In a bizarre way, Buckley was actually the forerunner of Bill O'Reilly, and this clip is the funniest thing I have seen on Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report in a long time:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ20sGn05Kg

If you don't rent Manufacturing Consent, I understand. It isn't for everybody. But if you don't watch that Colbert clip, you won't laugh as hard as I did just now.

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