Noam Chomsky explains his theory of media bias and institutional control of the masses. Biographical. [Dir: Mark Achbar, Peter Wintonick/ 166 min/ Biography, Documentary-Educational/ Canada/ Propaganda]
You’ve probably heard of Noam Chomsky. He’s a prolific writer, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a hero of the libertarian Left. This lengthy documentary paean to Chomsky gives both a biographical overview of his life and a comprehensive forum for his ideas.
As told here, Chomsky is skeptical of government to the point of advocating anarchy or near anarchy, but at the same time he’s a harsh critic of capitalism and private property. He seems to be suspicious of institutions of any kind, for the coordinated power they wield. What kind of world he’s for isn’t gone into much here, and it’s a topic on which even he seems to be a bit tentative; but what he’s against could fill volumes, and in fact has.
This film focuses mainly on Chomsky’s view that the media control the masses for the benefit of the privileged few. Those familiar with the degree to which media outlets define “the news” will agree with much of what he has to say, but mainstream advocates of liberty will find the class conflict angle of his theory harder to swallow. Yes, the media are biased. Yes, they are concentrated. Yes, they move in a herd. But that doesn’t mean that the media are the intelligent, controlling evil he suggests them to be. In particular, how are the media supposedly coordinated? Who exactly does it? Those questions aren’t answered here.
Secondarily, the film also covers Chomsky’s heroics, in particular his speaking out against the Vietnam War at a time when it was unpopular to do so, and his ongoing efforts to expose imbalances in media coverage of important events.
Chomsky is a much discussed person. If you want to know what his ideas are all about, this would be a good place to start. This documentary is thorough, professional, and even artful. But it’s also a lovefest that goes on for nearly three hours, with so much praise it seems at times to embarrass even Chomsky. It’s worth watching, but you may occasionally want to use fast-forward.