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On producing
Noam Chomsky's Response
How the Project Began
January 11, 2002

Dear Yamagami,

I read your letter, and Mr. Junkerman’s, with much interest, and appreciation -- naturally. As you may know, there is a film with rather similar intention, but from about 10 years ago, produced by Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick, called "Manufacturing Consent." It was shown quite widely around the world. Won prizes at international film festivals, was shown on national TV in many countries, and has sold quite a lot in video version, apparently. They had followed me for several years, filming many talks and discussions around the world, and included also interviews and critical commentary and much else. Perhaps you’ve seen it. They decided to focus mostly on East Timor and media, but other issues were brought in too.

I would be interested in principle. In practice it is not so easy. It’s a shame we were not in contact earlier. I have given quite a few talks in the past several months, some at universities, most elsewhere. A number of them were filmed. I don’t know if that would be of any use to you. Looking ahead, I see that the next talk I’m scheduled to give is at Town Hall New York, for FAIR (a media critique organization), a fundraiser I think. Then there are talks in Brazil and Turkey (where I have to go for a political trial; a publisher is facing prison sentence for publishing a book that contains a few sentences of mine on Turkey’s repression of its Kurdish population, considered treasonous in our democratic NATO ally). In March there are several in California. I’m sure there are also several talks in this area, but don’t have the details at hand. Talks are usually filmed by independent film-makers, who distribute them. There are dozens of these available, if you are interested. Some I understand are technically of rather high quality; some digitalized. But I don’t know myself.

About interviews, that’s difficult to arrange, but not impossible. My schedule is extremely intense, planned in excruciating detail well in advance. But it’s possible to work things in, though I’m afraid only at my office. I’m so busy that I have no time to go anywhere, even to a TV studio. Again, sometimes I can manage an exception, but it’s not easy. The advance planning is really intense.

Would be happy to pursue the possibility further. It’s most intriguing.

Incidentally, what you read in the newspapers and intellectual journals gives a very misleading impression of the state of public opinion here, not just on college campuses. There is far more opposition to the war than at comparable stages of any other military operation I can think of, even though in this case, for the first time in 200 years, US national territory was attacked, viciously in fact. People like me, who are available for speaking, are utterly deluged by invitations, and can’t possibly accept a fraction of them, and audiences are typically unusually large -- often thousands -- and quite concerned and supportive, largely. It’s true that intellectual opinion is extremely jingoistic and bitterly critical of any deviation, but it’s worth remembering that that is almost always the case. It was far more so during the Indochina wars, for many years, and in fact even in the days when popular opposition peaked, principled opposition to the war among intellectuals (I mean, opposition that went beyond that of the business community: that it was a failure and too costly) was virtually non-existent, a fact that is easily shown but consistently misrepresented in commentary -- by intellectuals, who prefer a different picture of themselves. That’s historically been the case. Just to mention one example, when the US conquered the Philippines a century ago, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians and carrying out horrifying war crimes, there was some opposition among intellectuals, the most notable case being Mark Twain, certainly well known. His sharp critical essays on the war did reach a public audience -- 90 years later, in 1992. What you may be reading now in the intellectual journals, particularly those in the left-liberal spectrum, is quite normal, and has little to do with public opinion, except insofar as it is an attempt to mold it.

Noam Chomsky  
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