The River

Monday, August 28, 2006

What's the big idea?

Lenin is offering a Youtube of a great television interview with Noam Chomsky that appeared on BBC2 on February 14, 1996.

A piece sums it up here.

With Marr's The Big Idea, we had a chance to see ideas that have been casually dismissed by the mainstream pitted against one of the media's finest. The result was fascinating. We saw that journalists like Marr are intelligent, lucid and rational, but only within parameters that preclude a deeper understanding of what is really happening in the world. We saw how the illusion of media diversity is maintained by presenting superficial and trivialized versions of the true dissident position. Above all, perhaps, we saw how journalists are intellectual herd animals who instinctively seek safety among the tried but rarely tested cliches of the mainstream: Watergate proves we have an anti-establishment free press, media-coverage virtually ended the Vietnam war, and so on. Normally this tactic succeeds in eliciting eager nods of agreement, or a humble shrug of 'I suppose you're right'. When confronted by a Chomsky, however, the facade of great expertise and intellectuality that is the stock-in-trade of the journalist, and which is normally so intimidating, quickly crumbles. Interestingly, the reaction of the viewer to the spectacle of this intellectual debagging is not surprise but relief: 'My God, I was right all along, and I thought it was just me!'

To listen to, and believe, mainstream journalists like Marr - who is undoubtedly an honest and sincere individual - is to be stifled and bemused by a necessarily superficial, misleading and confusing version of the world that cannot make sense because it cannot address the real issues. Marr is not a liar and he is not a crude propagandist; he is the unwitting product of a system that selects for the ability to talk intelligently and convincingly about anything and everything, so long as it is not genuinely costly to power. The crucial factor is that individuals are able to do this sincerely and with the firm conviction that what they are saying is the uncompromised, freely-expressed truth. This, in the end, is the real genius of the modern system of thought control-it is very subtle, invisible, and its greatest victims are often not the deceived but the deceivers themselves.

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