Tinsel Town seems to love sequels. Either this or they’ve just run out of ideas. Right now there are follow-up films of James Bond, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings making the rounds. But there is another sequel of sorts coming to town, and in some ways it will make you feel like “déjà vu all over again” when you see the new documentary “Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times.”
Once again you may be asking, "Noam who?" Noam Chomsky -- besides being a man who, unlike Hollywood, will never run out of ideas -- is the renowned linguist, intellectual and political activist who is also a longtime professor at MIT. Ten years ago there was another documentary about him called “Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky And The Media,” and there is no time like the present to have the 74 year-old Chomsky in the public eye once again. He is one of the most erudite voices coming from the left, and rare is the time when you see him on a panel with the talking heads on the Sunday morning talk shows. He lacks the main criteria for being on TV -- he is neither telegenic, charismatic, nor confrontational. However, after watching him on film and hearing what he has to say, it really isn't a surprise after all that corporate television doesn’t want him. So you will have to go see him in a movie theatre instead.
Chomsky can speak at length and very intelligently on any number of topics but the main thrust here is what has been going on in this country since 9/11. He says that attacks like the one on the World Trade Center are horrific, yet the main reason that they are big news now is that they happened to the US on its own soil. He states that the US has supported brutal regimes for centuries when it’s in our interest, and that we need to find out the root causes of the attacks of 9/11 instead of going on the offensive. Amazingly so, all of what Chomsky says in this movie was recorded last spring -- before the current administration started beating the war drums in Iraq. As a counterpoint to President Bush, it would also be great to hear what Chomsky has to say in the commercial media about the state of the union today.
While it is always thought provoking and necessary to listen to what people like Noam Chomsky have to offer, it is unfortunate that we have to wait for the once-in-a-decade documentary to appear in order to do so. And this one, while providing a showcase for us to once again experience Mr. Chomsky, is not as well edited or coherent as was “Manufacturing Consent.” It jumps around from various speeches he gave last spring, interspersed with him talking in his office.
Still, if “Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times” is the only way for us to see this “rebel without a pause” -- as U2’s Bono calls him -- then you must make your way to the Castro Theatre in San Francisco this Friday the 31st through February 5th. And if enough people begin to “Demand Noam Chomsky!” instead of “Demand Your MTV,” we’d get to hear this voice of reason more than once every ten years.
© 2003 - Larry Carlin - Air Date: 1/29/03
Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky In Our Times