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Laramie Movie Scope:

Noam Chomsky: Rebel Without A Pause

A few thoughts from a renowned thinker

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 15, 2004 -- This film is an interesting slice-of-life look at Noam Chomsky, one of the most noted intellectuals of our time. A prolific writer on semantics and social issues, he is also a social activist. His talks are always insightful and provocative. The film is made up mostly of snippets of Chomsky's talks in various settings, lectures, meetings with other activists and some meetings in informal settings. Although this film is more than a year old, Chomsky's views are remarkably current and applicable to the current heated political situation.

Chomsky talks at length on the so-called “war on terrorism” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and corporate control of the media. Chomsky's unique perspectives about manufacturing consent in the media are on display here. Don't expect a full primer on Chomsky's views, though. It is remarkably cohesive, provocative and lively, nonetheless. The thing that makes Chomsky so impressive is the depth and range of his knowledge. According to the film, Chomsky is a prodigious reader with a prodigious memory. If he wants to find out about something, he simply becomes an expert in that field through intense study.

Those who would portray Chomsky as some kind of far left liberal spokesman will be surprised by this portrait of the man. Chomsky skewers both the left and right, as well as intellectuals in general in this film. He notes, for example, that he is freer to speak on conservative talk shows than he is on PBS, which he describes as the most tightly controlled of all American networks. Chomsky seldom appears on American television networks, but is frequently seen on European television.

To give you an idea just how provocative Chomsky can be, he makes the following observation about the terrorist attacks of September 11. He notes that although the attacks killed nearly 3,000 people, they were nothing compared to many past attacks against other countries by the United States. He says people in the U.S. believe it is O.K. for American soldiers to kill 20,000 people in an attack on Iraq, for instance, but if somebody attacks our country, then that's totally unjust, even if it is payback. Americans like payback, as long as it isn't against us. Sounds reasonable, but it sure wouldn't get any American politician elected to any office.

Chomsky's ideas on manufacturing consent tie in nicely with his experience being all but banned from television talk shows in the United States. Most telling are his experiences with PBS. He tells a fascinating story about how he has to submit his comments in writing prior to his appearances on PBS. He has another good story about a PBS review, of one of his books, including a Chomsky interview, which got pulled off the air without warning. Even some of the top officials at PBS were mystified at that censorship. The review, cut to a mere 2.5 minutes, was finally aired after listeners called in to complain about the show being pulled off the air at the last minute. It just goes to show you. We're not as free as we think we are. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2004 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)