The documentary resulted after more than 500 hours of tape is presenting a comprised format of the rationalism libertarian socialism put forward by the reputed social sciences prodigy Noam Chomsky. Starting from the view of Walter Lippmann in 1921 that stipulates the two ways of obtaining control over the masses by force or by manipulation (creation of necessary illusions), the scholar builds an entire argumentation towards critical thinking and rational evaluation of the information provided by the media.
Starting from the premises that democracy requires free access to information and ideas, Noam Chomsky starts from putting forward several examples of distorted coverage assure by the American Leading Media in order to support his call for the necessary individual involvement and response to he refers as a conglomerate of corporations (elites) that are trying to obtain support for a certain agenda hidden by the public eye, by manipulation.
The linguist identifies how the media is doing this: by setting the general framework in which the public perceives the reality. This process involves several stages: the selection of topics, distribution of concerns, emphasis, framing of issues, filtering of information and bounding of debate. Basically, what the agenda’ setters are doing is to determine select shape, control and restrict in order to “serve the interest of dominant elite groups”.
Another important point highlighted by the political activist is that what keeps the media functioning is not the audience. What comes out of this process of adjusting the format is a picture of the world that satisfies the needs, the interests, the perceptions of the sellers, the buyers and the product.
The purpose of the critical thinkers is to find ways to see and act outside the framework. The process of “creation of necessary illusions” is not made only by setting the public agenda but also for diverting attention towards areas such as sports and entertainment, in order to train the building of irrational support towards certain policies.
In this contest, there is a great level of responsibility for the public that decides to look the other way from different realities, just because they are presented limitedly and inaccurately by the media. Chomsky presents himself as the result of the existence of influential people that are supporting him and improving the world just by being part of the concerned group.
Alternative media can be the answer for those trying to obtain information outside the corporate media.
The conclusion that Chomsky draws is less tragically than one might think: they are always ways to compensate the lack of resources if rational thinking is available. The documentary as its book itself is speaking about the limited durability of a system built on promoting only the value of material things compared with the necessity of being involved and in a kindly manner in a community and the choices that this certain group is making.
While the theory of propaganda and manipulation proposed by Chomsky is well structured and supported by a number of arguments, a question related to the capacity of the broad public to develop rational thinking and criticism. Still the current model of obtaining and transmitting information of any kind has largely changed in the last years, having both positive and negative results. The quick development of internet and social media helps the spread of information and events, giving voice to the silent masses. We can identify several cases in which tools such as Facebook and Twitter were used to advocate a certain cause. We have the example of gathering in one voice the disapproval of European policies such as ACTA or local projects backed-up by the Central Administration like Rosia Montana project. While the voice was given to the public, it is still unclear if this will produce also a change in how the public agenda is set by the government. Another relevant example could be the Twitter Revolution in Moldova Republic from 2009. This event led to the impossibility of choosing a new president by the Parliament and one can arguably think that it created the premises of a regime change after two and a half years of political tensions in Moldova.
The new realities brought by the economic crisis led to the decrease both in the funding and influence for the traditional media. At the same time, besides the development of Facebook, we are seeing a growing influence of a new category of influencers called the bloggers. Sometimes their audience is overturning the one of national newspapers.
In conclusion, the most important thing that I will keep in mind after this documentary is the importance of education and of building an alternative way outside the general framework created by different influence groups.