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Paperback Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media Book

ISBN: 0375714499

ISBN13: 9780375714498

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

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Book Overview

A "compelling indictment of the news media's role in covering up errors and deceptions" (The New York Times Book Review) due to the underlying economics of publishing--from famed scholars Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky. With a new introduction.

In this pathbreaking work, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky show that, contrary to the usual image of the news media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

A Valuable Tool for Framing the Behavior of the Mass Media

As one can see by the quantity and voracity of the commentary on this book, it is an important and controversial work that deserves a read (though from misstatements in their commentary, I question whether some of the critics actually read it, however). Nearly two decades after its first publication, Chomsky and Herman's "Manufacturing Consent" stands the test of time surprisingly well in spite of the myriad far-reaching geopolitical shifts that have taken place. This is largely due to the open-ended nature of "Consent's" market analysis which rejects the notion of a large, unwieldy body of conspirators or the notion that the media is monolithic. Chomsky and Herman readily concede that exceptions to their theory can and do occur. "Manufacturing Consent" is an academic exercise, so it lacks much of the flair and pacing of popular current affairs literature. It is, at times, droll and tedious. What it lacks in style, however, it more than makes up for in substance as a critical lens with which to frame the behavior of the mass media. As an academic exercise, its assertions are well-sourced and it adheres closely to the standards of intellectual honesty. Chomsky and Herman begin with a thesis; that the behavior of the media can be understood (and even predicted) within the context of a "market analysis" of five "filters"; "(1) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business and "experts" funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) `flak' as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) `anticommunism' as a national religion and control mechanism." The latter, "anticommunism", has since been revised slightly (noted in this edition of the book) given the fall of the Soviet Union, as Herman has elsewhere noted; "the fifth filter - anticommunist ideology - is possibly weakened by the collapse of the Soviet Union and global socialism, but this is easily offset by the greater ideological force of the belief in the `miracle of the market.' There is now an almost religious faith in the market, at least among the elite, so that regardless of evidence, markets are assumed benevolent and non-market mechanisms are suspect." The rest of the book serves to provide examples that bolster this thesis as Chomsky and Herman illustrate the various ways in which the "Propaganda Model" plays out in the "agenda-setting media." They cover well-established paradigms in the social sciences like "worthy and unworthy victims." Some have criticized "Consent" as being "selective". This is certainly true; however it is not selective in any sort of deliberately manipulative way. "Consent" could easily be a 60-volume set - but the demands of concision require that the authors be selective about what examples they cite lest their work turn into

Eye Opening

Is the media free? According to this book by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, it is far from free. They argue that the media in America serves to promote the agenda of the elite class in American society. In other words, the media only provide one-sided news coverage. Their main point is that while the misdeeds of enemy nations are widely criticized, the misdeeds of America and American client states are rarely publicized. It's sad when Americans wonder why they are hated by those in other countries. They wonder because they simply don't know what's going on in the world in the name of the American people. The press refuses to print it, not due to any direct control by the government, but because those who control the halls of power are a small elite, and the chiefs of media are a part of that small circle. They have the same boss--multinational corporations.Let's look at one the examples from the book--Central America in the 80's. During this period, the media spent a lot of time demonizing the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Herman and Chomsky claim this focus was hypocritical considering the conditions in nearby El Salvador and Guatemala, both ruled by American-supported military governments. In these American client states, there were government-controlled death squads which terrorized and killed political opponents in a bloodbath beyond imagining. If you were going to start labelling terror states, these two states at the time would have been at the top of the list. However, the coverage of these atrocities was weak because it's easy to do business with a tightly-ontrolled military government. On the other hand, Nicaragua, with a type of communist government, was difficult to do business with, so we get lots of negative reports about Nicaragua even though the level of violence wasn't anywhere near the level of violence in the American client states, and if you didn't notice, the majority of violence against Nicaraguan citizens was committed by American backed Contras. So much for America's support of liberty and freedom across the globe. I guess the freedom that really matters is the freedom to grow cheap bananas for the world's supermarkets.As an American citizen myself, I'm worried about such media propoganda leading us down the wrong road. For example, if the media had bothered to do its job before the Iraq War, they would have done a little more investigation inot the Bush administration's bogus WMD claims and its close ties with the oil industry. We would have saved a lot of American and Iraqi lives. I recommend reading this book so that you can see what is really going on with the coverage of the American government's activities overseas. Don't let a few bad men ruin our international reputation.

A tour de force

A tour de force, co-authored by one of the world's leading experts on language and meaning.@In this book, Herman and Chomsky put forward a "propaganda model" to explain the bias in Western (mostly US) media on international affairs. Their thesis is that, although the US is not a dictatorship where a single leader can censor the press, the very market forces that lead people to believe in the freedom of their press actually work to create a self-imposed censorship which creates a biased media, more intent on delivering audiences to their advertisers and vital corporate sponsors than in providing their readers with balanced and informed news.@The authors back up their theory with a large number of examples, and focus on 3 main topics: Latin America, Vietnam and the attempt on the life of the Pope in 1981. Using extensive quotations from US contemporary media reports, and comparing them with official sources such as government documents, White House memos, State Department press releases, as well as reports in non-US-based media, Herman and Chomsky are able to bolster their thesis of a propaganda model, and show that US media reports are nearly always skewed to show the US and its allies as the "good guys", and other (enemy) states as the "bad guys". When "they" do it, it's called "terrorism", when "we" do it, it's called "fighting for democracy and freedom." Such a statement seems too blatantly simplistic to require serious consideration; nevertheless, the authors do give it very serious consideration, and the evidence they have scrupulously collected is hard to refute. Moreover, their propaganda model helps to explain why and how this can be so, even (indeed, particularly) in a "free democracy": a number of filters act to screen out unwelcome aspects of news. A startling eye-opener, very well researched and cogently, passionately argued. These authors care intensely about lives lost due to state-sponsored violence, whether that state is the US or the Soviet Union or anywhere else. A must-read for students of media and communication, and indeed any intelligent reader curious about the forces that shape what actually appears in their newspapers and television news.

Incisive, scholarly, and, unfortunately, accurate

The one great pleasure about reading Herman and Chomsky's works is their scholarly approach. They reference copiously, thus empowering the reader to go deeper into the subject. I've listened to idiots rebuff Manufacturing Consent by suggesting it's one big conspiracy theory. Having read this book, I can, with certainty, conclude that those people have either never opened the book, or they held it upside down when they read it. What's patent about these writers' works is the growing gap between the intellectually rich and the rest of the population (the "sheeple"). You have incisive analysts who can tell the wheat from the chaff, and then there's the majority, who are busy watching football and studying the President's sexual habits. But, when you read manufacturing consent, you find out that this disparity is an output desired by those who govern, for it makes their job easier. In other words, they've introduced a new definition of democracy that says it's a system where a mighty few run the show and the rest are spectators.

Ciritical to understanding press censorship in America.

Manufacturing Consent, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's 1988 analysis of press censorship in America, is an insightful look at the ways public opinion and choices can be molded by dominating interests in a free society. Its value lies in the model Herman and Chomsky develop and test to account for this censorship; while they limit their investigation to a few specific cases -- three 1980s Central American elections, the alleged 1981 KGB-Bulgarian plot to kill the Pope, and the Indochina Wars -- their model is testable and can be applied and modified to a variety of events. Obviously, not all happenings in the world can fit between the covers of the New York Times. Herman and Chomsky outline five filters, interrelated to some extent, through which these events must pass in order to become newsworthy. First, huge transnational businesses own much of the media - a fact probably more true now than in 1988 with Disney, Westinghouse, and Microsoft bullying in on the news markets. The corporate interests of these companies need not, and probably do not, coincide with the public's interests, and, consequently, some news and some interpretations of news stories critical of business interests will probably not make it to press. Secondly, since advertising is crucial to keeping subscription costs low, media will shape their news away from serious investigative documentaries to more entertaining revues in order to keep viewer or reader interest and will cater to the audience to which the advertising is directed; before advertising became central to keeping a paper competitive, working class papers, for example, were much more prevalent, leading to a much broader range of interpretations of events (and thus more room for a reader to make up his own mind) than can be found by perusing the pages of the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe.Thirdly, media depend crucially on sources and these sources will inescapably have their own agendas. Reliability of information should be important (although it may not be as shown by the tabloidization of the mass media in Monica Lewinsky affair), but the press also needs a steady stream of events to make into news. This leads to a reliance on the public relations bureaucracies of government and corporate agencies for whom some measure of accepted credibility exists and who will also probably have a statement about major happenings. However, by relying substantially on the statements these parties, the media becomes less an investigative body and more a megaphone for propaganda; independent confirmation of facts as well as interpretation eludes it.Fourthly, there are costs to producing an incendiary news item -- one which attacks powerful interests whether they be advertisers, government agencies, corporate bodies, or public interest groups. According to the previous three filters, the media relies on these interests for its survival and cannot afford their sustained censure. While none of these filters guarant
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