‘Manufacturing Obituaries’: Media Falsely Reports Noam Chomsky’s Death

Some popular media outlets and international political figures came under fire Tuesday for falsely reporting the death of U.S. academic and social critic Noam Chomsky, who is fighting to recover in Brazil after suffering a massive stroke last year.

“Chomsky did not die. I just spoke to Valéria, his wife,” said Brazilian journalist Cauê Seigner Ameni.

“He is well,” Valéria Chomsky confirmed to ABC’s Chris Looft.

Beneficência Portuguesa de São Paulo, a hospital in Brazil’s largest city, said in a statement that Chomsky was discharged on Tuesday to continue his treatment at home, according toThe Associated Press.

The New Statesman ran—and subsequently deleted—a Chomsky obituary Tuesday following rumors of the 95-year-old’s passing. Other outlets including Jacobin kept or tweaked Chomsky obits, with telltale signs like the word “obituary” in their URLs belying their inaccuracy.

Commentators from across the political spectrum also posted reaction—from mournful on the progressive left to gleeful among liberals and right-wingers—to false reports of Chomsky’s death.

“Shameful and sad that Valéria Chomsky had to deny news of Noam Chomsky’s death over the phone here in Brazil, because a bunch of places decided to publish pre-written obituaries and posts at the first online rumor,” Brazilian academic Sabrina Fernandes said on social media.

“Since no outlet that reported the death decided to post an errata, it only got worse,” she added, condemning “the online scoop and attention industry… waiting… like vultures.”

Responding to numerous reports of Chomsky’s death in the Latin American corporate media, Mexico City-based Rutgers School of Communications professor Andrew Kennis—whose book Digital Age Resistance contains a foreword co-authored by Chomsky—told Common Dreams that “it is both a fitting and cruel irony that the fundamentally flawed, trillion-dollar-valued, conglomerate-owned, mainstream news media system has once again erred in its ways.”

“No, Noam is not dead. Instead, he’s struggling to recover with the unflagging dedication of his partner, who transported him the first chance Noam’s health permitted her to do so to receive top-rate medical care in Brazil,” Kennis added.

Some observers worked the title of one of Chomsky’s more than 100 books—Manufacturing Consent, which he wrote with Edward Herman—into their commentary on the false reports.

“Chomsky is NOT dead. If Chomsky was dead, he would be turning in his grave to see how quickly rumors spread and how social media functions,” said Croatian philosopher and Chomsky collaborator Srećko Horvat. “He might as well still call it: ‘manufacturing obituaries’.”

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