The Tucson and UA communities had the opportunity to witness Noam Chomsky, known as the "father of linguistics" and as an acclaimed author, social and cognitive scientist, activist and philosopher, receive the Lofty Achievement Award before the 25th anniversary-showing of the acclaimed “Manufacturing Consent,” as part of the The Loft Film Fest.
“Manufacturing Consent” is a documentary film about Chomsky’s book that he wrote with Edward Herman called “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media,” which was published in 1988.
The film shows Chomsky’s notions about how mass media — composed of big corporations such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and more — can be used as a tool to shape a society’s thinking to support the interests of big, elite institutions.
The film included The New York Time’s scant coverage on the East Timor invasion and genocide by Indonesia compared to the Cambodian genocide, which happened around the same time in the late 1970s. The film also touches upon Chomsky’s idea about the reach big media outlets have, and the power they have to shape what the national news is going to look like.
With this film, Chomsky encouraged people to challenge and question the information they receive.
After receiving the award, Chomsky conversed with Loft program director Jeff Yanc about the ideas in the film, and how they can apply to today’s times.
Peggy Johnson, the executive director of The Loft, chose Chomsky to be the recipient of The Lofty Achievement Award because he has used the medium of film as a impacting way to communicate ideas.
“He did 25 movies, and we feel like he did an incredible contribution to film by sharing his thoughts on celluloid or on videotapes,” Johnson said. "He’s been willing to be interviewed by so many people, and added so much to so many films with his really accessible, deep thought about so many different kinds of issues.”
Toni Harris, who graduated from the UA years ago and works at Raytheon, came to the documentary showing because she wanted to learn more about Chomsky’s ideas. She also attended The Haury Conversation: Noam Chomsky Talks With Toni Massaro at the University of Arizona's Centennial Hall, and said she was interested by what she heard.
“… I’m hoping that Tucsonans will listen to him and learn a lot, and see both sides of the story. I think that America is both a great country and a country that has done a lot of bad things ... I liked what he said about how you have to hold yourself accountable. And if America wants to continue to be a great country, I think we need to hold ourselves more accountable and say to no to things that are wrong,” Harris said.
Ben August, who was among the many film attendees, is from out of town and came to Tucson to see Chomsky with his wife and her sister. He said he has been an admirer Chomsky for decades.
“We’re all just gathering to appreciate and celebrate the fact that Noam Chomsky is in Tucson. That’s a big deal ... because he’s a world figure. He is one of, I think, the greatest intellects or academics in the world right now. And for him to be in Tucson, to choose Tucson, and Tucson to choose him, I think is an amazing thing for the city,” August said.
He said he believes Chomsky is current, and likes his views about social justice and its place in our world.
“I don’t think, in my lifetime, that there is a more important time to be active and knowledgeable about what’s going on in our world, politically and economically,” August said.
Outside The Loft, there was a bust of Chomsky with which people were taking pictures and admiring. Paula Slater, a sculptor known for her works of historical figures and politicians, sculpted the statue. She attended the film as well as the conversation that took place at Centennial Hall the previous night.
She said she finds Chomsky to be “a sane voice in a mad world” and “one of the most brilliant minds today on the planet” in a politically fragmented world. She hopes that people are motivated to think deeper about things and come together.
“I think that President Trump is very divisive. I think the Republican Party right now is very politically motivated to the top one percent-earners, and I think a lot of people are getting left behind, and we need more socialized medicine, we need Obamacare, we need Republicans to step outside their bubble and start protecting people, and I think that Chomsky is very liberal … I think that he’s gonna be really good for that,” Slater said.
Also in attendance was Lexee Celenza, a senior at the UA studying international affairs and gender and women's studies.
She said she likes to sit with her friends in coffee shops and discuss different topics, including Chomsky and his ideas, and that she is excited he is now part of the UA community.
“…We have so many great professors at the University of Arizona, and we have so maybe liberated thinkers that are conservative, liberal, in the middle ... they’re everywhere, and they really think outside of the box. But they never really made reference to Chomsky ... they kind of talked about the same things, but they never made that connection. So I thought that was really interesting, and I’m super stoked now that he’s going to be at the UA, so he’s going to get that recognition,” Celenza said.
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