The Invisible Chomsky

On the topic of media silence, in chatting with a friend about independent media options, I remembered a modern instance of something being kept out of the mainstream news.

Almost 10 years ago now, in November 1998, Noam Chomsky gave a talk at Wellington’s Opera House. It was free entry, and I joined the line as early as I could to gain a seat. The interest from the public was so great that as well as filling the Opera House’s three levels, the organisers also provided a live video feed (which from memory had some issues) to the Paramount Cinema too.

His talk went largely over the heads of myself and most of my friends, but we tried our best to keep up. Despite the snazzy editing of the documentaries that have been made about his work, in person he came across as incredibly dry. All the same, we were thrilled to see such an incredible thinker speak in person and hoped to understand what he had been on about one day.

My most lasting memory of the talk, however, was the fact that the mainstream media totally ignored the entire visit. Nothing on the television news, nothing in the two main newspapers, and as far as I know nothing on the radio. The only local media I saw that mentioned it was a totally independent community newspaper called The City Voice, which sadly no longer exists. Clearly the advertising that got people along was almost entirely “viral”.

In 1943 we experienced media silence due to state intervention in a time of war. Fifty-five years later, it certainly wouldn’t have been the government getting in the way of this obviously interesting news story. I can understand that the media is under no obligation to cover every event or happening, but to this day I wonder who made the decision that this wasn’t newsworthy…


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