Sunday, November 4, 2007

Noam Chomsky on “Concision” in the US Media

Noam Chomsky: “All right, now, let’s suppose that you play the mainstream game. For example, the Yale University Press just came out with a volume called The Age of Terror. The contributors are leading historians, many of them at Yale, the top people in the field. You read the book The Age of Terror, the first thing you notice is there isn’t a single footnote, there isn’t a single reference. There are just off-the-top-of-your-head statements. Some of the statements are tenable, some are untenable, but there are no intellectual criteria imposed. The reviews of the book are very favorable, laudatory, and maybe it’s right, maybe it’s wrong. I happen to think a lot of it is wrong and demonstrably wrong. But doesn’t really matter, you can say anything you want because you support power, and nobody expects you to justify anything. For example, on the unimaginable circumstance that I was on, say, Nightline, and I was asked, say, “Do you think Kadhafi is a terrorist?” I could say, “Yeah, Kadhafi is a terrorist.” I don’t need any evidence. Suppose I said, “George Bush is a terrorist.” Well, then I would be expected to provide evidence, “Why would you say that?”"

Interviwer: “So that you aren’t cut off right there.”

Noam Chomsky: “In fact, the structure of the news production system is, you can’t produce evidence. There’s even a name for it — I learned it from the producer of Nightline, Jeff Greenfield. It’s called “concision.” He was asked in an interview somewhere why they didn’t have me on Nightline, and his answer was — two answers. First of all, he says, “Well, he talks Turkish, and nobody understands it.” But the other answer was, “He lacks concision.” Which is correct, I agree with him. The kinds of things that I would say on Nightline, you can’t say in one sentence because they depart from standard religion. If you want to repeat the religion, you can get away with it between two commercials. If you want to say something that questions the religion, you’re expected to give evidence, and that you can’t do between two commercials. So therefore you lack concision, so therefore you can’t talk.

I think that’s a terrific technique of propaganda. To impose concision is a way of virtually guaranteeing that the party line gets repeated over and over again, and that nothing else is heard.”

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