Dissent In America

It's hard to imagine a comparably dissident program getting such treatment in the U.S. I recently saw a movie entitled "Manufacturing Consent: Necessary Illusions", which was produced with the help of the Canadian film board. The filmmakers basically followed Noam Chomsky around for a year or so and made this wonderful film about the bias of American media. I love it when documentaries let idiots discredit themselves. These filmmakers really worked to find the right embarassing material in this regard. One highlight came when an ABC news producer was commenting on why Chomsky never appears on Nightline. He made some comments about "concision" and speculated that Chomsky was incapable of being succinct--something that was clearly untrue at that point in the documentary. Next he made some silly comment about how Chomsky's views about media seemed to come from Neptune. Then, from ABC news footage, the filmmakers dredged up a NASA simulated fly-by of Neptune narrated by the same guy(!), leaving the impression that the producer's metaphors and ways of knowing are bounded by the quotidian interests of ABC news.

Anyway, to return to my point, I don't think that "Manufacturing Consent" is played very often on American TV. Yet, while in France last summer ('94), I was asked if I had seen it! Our Medialand is filled with a species of Sophists who will argue any which way to seem to be "hard hitting." There's no force of conviction one way or the other; I see it over and over again. Even the relatively good guys like Bill Moyers are so afraid to step over the lines drawn by Jesse Helms and Co. that one is apt to think dissent is unreasonable. The most refreshing things one can find, I think, come from CSPAN and I don't even receive that now. Sixth months ago is saw Gore Vidal on CSPAN. That was the closest thing I've seen in years to a radical monologue on American television.

Even when the NY Times gets it straight and denounces the accelerating slide toward class disparity, I have to remind myself that this is the gesture of a talk show host bent on enhancing his ratings. The only bright spots I see in this picture relate to the influence of internet based communication on the media. That's the sort of thing I'm thinking about. In particular, I'm brewing an essay about narrative in video games. My gut feeling is that until people begin to focus some attention on these messages, young people will be subjected to a bleak seduction that offers no classics, no entry into critical or social being. So, perhaps a discourse about the meaning of video games will serve as some sort of bridge for people to relate them to other more developed discourses.