Wednesday, December 15, 2010

2010.12.14 — Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick's NFB Documentary "Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media"

@2:39:09 of 'Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media':
The point is you have to work. That's why the propaganda system is so successful. Very few people are going to have the time or the energy or the commitment to carry out the constant battle that's required to get outside of the you know, er, the McNeil/Lehrer or Dan Rather or somebody like that. The easy thing to do, you know, you come home from work, you're tired, it's been a busy day, you're not going to spend the evening carrying on a research project so you turn on the tube and you say it's probably right or you look at the headlines in the paper and then you watch the sports or something. 'Cause that's basically how the system of indoctrination works.

I am writing an economics course. Well, actually, I began writing it about ten years ago, and have worked on it more or less diligently in that time as my level of distress turned to anger at the economic reporting that was almost invariably pure propaganda. And too, my work on it has varied as my 'official' work has allowed or hindered my willingness to work on it.

A few months ago my wife suggested I apply to our local Continuing Education programme to see if they would carry it. I thought that a good idea, and did so. It was accepted. Today I received their mailed out winter catalogue — and sure enough, beginning February 21st I will be teaching a pared down to six hour version of that course. This short course I've called 'Economics Demystified'. [I am building its web page, but it's not quite ready to go live.]

So, what's that got to do with Noam Chomsky
Well, a big part of my course is to in fact De-mystify people who believe that economics is or is largely comprised of, what comes to them via the media. And given what I remember of it from watching 'Manufacturing Consent' about fifteen years ago or more, I wanted to include the film on the 'video links' section of my course's web site because Chomsky ravages the integrity of the media's eminence as an unbiased agency of societal knowledge and awareness. Because of its importance, I figured that someone somewhere on the wonderful WWW would have it, and that is in fact turned out to be the case. I found the complete film as a .wmv file at Google Videos, although it's graphics are pretty rough. 

So, last night, instead of watching 'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,' I watched the almost three hours long film of Chomsky being followed around by a Canadian NFB documentary crew:

The film is much much better than I'd remembered it! The last time I watched it I remember being 
very impressed because I had already come to see, on my own, at least some of the arguments Chomsky presents. And that was nice, seeing my observations validated and expanded by Chomsky. And he was challenging because he also highlighted the vastness of my ignorance. And, to a greater or lesser extent, I have continued my learning process without focussing exclusively on the media, or slavishly following Chomsky or anyone, but by meandering down my own path.

Given my meandering path, I was very amused/pleased with a response Chomsky made to someone who asked him which media outlets she could trust:

Now if you asked what media can I turn to to get the right answers, first, I wouldn't tell you that, because I don't think there's an answer.
The right answers are what you decide are the right answers. Maybe everything I'm telling you is wrong. Okay, could perfectly well be, I'm no god. But that's something for you to figure out. I can tell you what I think happens to be more or less right, but there isn't any reason you should pay any attention to it.
And that is what I've been doing — struggling to find the truth I see in the world.

For anyone who has even an inkling of a hint of a part of a thought that the media misrepresents the nature of our world society, do yourself a favour and watch it at GoogleVideos, or in the video link above.

The film examines with the very acute critical eye of Chomsky the role of the media in 'marginalizing' 80% of the population, and indoctrinating the balance to ensure that 'proper' democratic policies are embodied in the society to the benefit of those in position of power. And while it isn't  explicitly about economics, implicitly it argues that the manufacture of consent by the elite for the best of the democracy is primarily motivated by economic self-interest.

At one point Chomsky describes his role. And I was pleased — and horrified because it sounds so egotistical! — to see in his description what I think of myself and this course:
Chomsky: My work ... is not directed to intellectuals and politicians. It's directed to what are called 'ordinary people.' And what I expect from them is in fact exactly what they are. That they should try to understand the world and act in accordance with their decent impulses. And that they should try to improve the world. And many people are willing to do that, but they have to understand. In fact as far as i can see in these things I feel that I am simply helping people develop courses of intellectual self-defense. Interviewer: What did you mean by that? What would such a course be?
 I don't mean go to school because you're not going to get it there. Ah. It means you have to develop an independent mind. And work on it. Now that's extremely hard to do alone. The beauty of our system is that it isolates everybody. Each person is sitting alone in front of the tube. It's very hard to have ideas or thoughts under those circumstances. You can't fight the world alone. Some people can, but it's pretty rare. The way to do it is through organization. So courses of intellectual self-defence will have to be in the context of political and other organizations.

Here are two other interesting transcriptions from the film:
Individuals working behind the scenes are what empowers social change - the figureheads, the Martin Luther Kings and the George Washingtons, cannot succeed without the efforts of the forgotten many working in their communities, offices, etc.

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 [economic] 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 is 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.

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