As Americans prepare to gather and watch the Super Bowl today, it is worth remembering what renowned linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky said about the sporting event in the documentary about his life’s work, Manufacturing Consent.
The purpose of the Super Bowl — and sports in general — is “pure diversion. There’s the real mass media-the kinds that are aimed at, you know, Joe Six Pack — that kind. The purpose of those media is just to dull people’s brains.”
“This is an oversimplification,” Chomsky argues, “but for the eighty percent or whatever they are, the main thing is to divert them. To get them to watch National Football League. And to worry about ‘Mother With Child With Six Heads,’ or whatever you pick up on the supermarket stands and so on. Or look at astrology. Or get involved in fundamentalist stuff or something or other.”
The point is to “get them away from things that matter. And for that it’s important to reduce their capacity to think.”
“Take, say, sports — that’s another crucial example of the indoctrination system, in my view. For one thing because it — you know, it offers people something to pay attention to that’s of no importance. That keeps them from worrying about — keeps them from worrying about things that matter to their lives that they might have some idea of doing something about.”
“I remember in high school,” Chomsky continues, “and already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? I mean, I don’t know anybody on the team, you know? I mean, they have nothing to do with me, I mean, why I am cheering for my team?”
“It doesn’t make sense. But the point is, it does make sense: it’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements — in fact, it’s training in irrational jingoism. That’s also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that’s why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.”
The documentary Manufacturing Consent can be watched below.
Scott Eric Kaufman is the proprietor of the AV Club's Internet Film School and, in addition to Raw Story, also writes for Lawyers, Guns & Money. He earned a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California, Irvine in 2008.
Raw Story is a progressive news site that focuses on stories often ignored in the mainstream media. While giving coverage to the big stories of the day, we also bring our readers' attention to policy, politics, legal and human rights stories that get ignored in an infotainment culture driven solely by pageviews.
Founded in 2004, Raw Story reaches 9 million unique readers per month and serves more than 30 million pageviews.