Noam Chomsky: As Bad as Things Are, American Society Is a Lot More Civilized Than It Was 40 Years Ago

Renowned linguist Noam Chomsky has been one of the media's most vocal critics over the decades. But he believes that the industry, if not its largest players, is slowly improving.

"When you've got the media controlled by corporations, and most of those corporations have the same interests as other corporations, what strategy is there to roll that back?" American Association of Geographers executive director Doug Richardson asked Chomsky at the AAG Annual Meeting in Boston in April.

"WelI, I think there are two parallel tracks, both of which have been followed," Chomsky answered. "One is to change the media, and I think that's been done."

"There's a lot wrong with the media, the major media... the New York Times, CBS, the Washington Post. Plenty wrong with them," he concedes. 

"[But] I think they're a lot better than they were 30 or 40 years ago. Part of the reason is that society has just become more civilized. ... For example, take the two basic crimes of American history—the near extermination of its indigenous population and slavery. Back in the 1960s, these weren't particularly regarded as crimes. What they were saying about indigenous populations in the United States—not just the United States, the whole continent—was that the hunter-gatherers straggling around never possessed the land. And so it didn't mean anything to take it away from them," he explained. "That is no longer true."

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"The false history has been very significantly overcome. It's now possible for not just scholars, but high school students to learn a good deal of what really happened," Chomsky added. 

What's the second "parallel track" that has radically improved the industry? Alternative media.


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