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Chomsky rubbishes Medialens? September 19, 2010

Posted by dissident93 in Media Criticism.

Professor Chomsky has written a few kind blurbs for his loyal fans, the editors of Medialens. However, in one of these endorsements, Chomsky adds the careful qualification, “Its work, what I’ve seen of it…”. (My emphasis – RS)

I think that explains a lot. Prof Chomsky informed me (email correspondence, Nov 2007) that he didn’t follow Medialens closely. (For example, he said he didn’t recall seeing their criticisms of IBC – email, 19/11/07). Update: I recently asked Prof Chomsky if he’d put something on the record about a particular issue regarding Medialens. His response was to distance himself from them: “I know almost nothing about medialens, their positions, or their reasons.” (email, Chomsky to Shone, 18/06/2011).

I strongly suspect that if he were more familiar with their output, he’d be wary of endorsing them – particularly in light of the way Medialens use an ostensibly Chomskyite approach (sometimes peppered with out-of-context Chomsky quotes) to attack people such as George Monbiot and Nick Davies.

Rumbles over Flat Earth News

I wonder, for example, if Prof Chomsky was aware of Medialens’s intentions when they solicited his opinion on Nick Davies’s analysis (Chomsky hadn’t read Davies’s book, Flat Earth News). Chomsky replied (on the basis of one Davies article that Medialens linked to) that Davies’s approach was “complementary” to Medialens’s, adding, “I don’t really see any conflict. Just different topics”. He seemed unaware that Davies in fact wrote (in his book) some substantial (and original) material on media misreporting over Iraq. I wonder what Chomsky would make of Medialens’s later outbursts against Davies (they wrote of his book: “It’s not something to be praised; it should be exposed. It’s this stuff that finally kills people”). I also wonder what John Pilger would make of it, since he wrote the following kind blurb for Davies:

This brilliant book by Nick Davies, unrelenting in its research, ruthless in its honesty, is a landmark expose by a courageous insider. All those interested in truth – outsiders and insiders – should read it.
(John Pilger on Flat Earth News)

Chomsky has been generous in his endorsements of the work of fans, former students, etc. He even once wrote a nice blurb for a weird/witty cartoon book of iconic UFOs (Bill Barker’s Schwa). And, of course, he’s provided blurbs for Steven Pinker’s books, even though some of Pinker’s reactionary political views would normally be the type of thing to make Chomsky deliver a lecture about popular intellectuals unwittingly upholding western imperialism.

In some ways, Chomsky seems more sensible, pragmatic – less dogmatic – than many of his own biggest fans. For example, he’s “endorsed” (in a limited voting sense) democratic candidates such as John Kerry. (He’s been quoted as saying “Choosing the lesser of two evils isn’t a bad thing. The cliché makes it sound bad, but it’s a good thing. You get less evil”).

“Media Lens is very misleading on this occasion”.

Unfortunately, due to a confidentiality request, I can’t confirm that someone of the stature of Professor Chomsky wrote the above statement (or something very similar) to me in an email reply, after I asked the following question:

Media Lens has written that “professional rigour” in the Western media “does not exist”. They appear to derive this notion from [the] statement (in Deterring Democracy, p79), “The basic principle, rarely violated, is that what conflicts with the requirements of power and privilege does not exist” – which they also quote in the same piece. What do you make of the logic here? Of deriving (if that’s what they’re doing) these ultra-dogmatic nonsenses from a statement which can at least be supported with evidence?

What’s the point of publicising opinions which are anonymous (due to confidentiality requests, etc), and which therefore cannot be checked or investigated (as to context, etc)? For the answer to this question, you might want to ask the editors of Medialens, since they’re the experts on publishing anonymous smears. See, for example, their recent alert – see if you can determine the source of their “very misleading exercise” smear of IBC. Clue: you won’t be able to, since both the source and the source’s “colleague” (who apparently forwarded the anonymous smear to Medialens) are never named. It might as well be made up.