Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media

By Harpelle, Ron | Canadian Dimension, September 1992 | Go to article overview
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Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media


Harpelle, Ron, Canadian Dimension


A few years ago I attended a screening of Peter Raymont's The World Is Watching. The film was about the selective process that went into mainstream news reports on events in Nicaragua. Afterwards the director appeared on stage with Ann Medina and the head of CBC's news department. Raymont was taken to task by the other participants for his depiction of mainstream media as being dominated by corporate interests. At the time Raymont carried with him a shield of sorts, a copy of Noam Chomsky's and Edward Herman's Manufacturing Consent. The director had applied lessons from the book to his film and it was, therefore, with great delight that I received a preview copy of a new Canadian film about Noam Chomsky.

The film, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media is a co-production of Necessary Illusions and the National Film Board. Manufacturing Consent works because it is Chomsky in his own words. With Noam Chomsky there is no need for a narrator to make links between ideas. He is where we would expect him to be, in university auditoriums, on radio talk shows and on television debating his critics. Viewers hear all of the arguments they are familiar with and witness the oratorical skills that have made Chomsky famous. Although the film is not as inspiring as hearing Chomsky in person, the attempt to portray a man and the complex issues he deals with is admirable. The film makers have not only captured the elements of Chomsky's arguments, but they have incorporated images that bring his ideas to life. Achbar and Wintonick have laced the film with archival footage, clips from Chomsky's past dramatizations and a variety of animation. The result is an evocative and effective illustration of the things Chomsky has been saying since the early 1960s. The brilliance of the Manufacturing Consent is that it takes Chomsky's arguments and makes them visual. For example, the film makers use the massive television screen at Montreal's Olympic Stadium to present Chomsky's views on competitive sports.

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