Friday, June 4, 2021

Review of Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman, Noam Chomsky

This review was written by Eugene Kernes


Short Description

Elaborate Description
Media is not independent.  They are dependent on social interests and those that finance them which shapes and constrains media policy.  Advancing their agendas and principles.  Using tools such as expert opinion to confirm their views, while producing criticism to claim neutrality.  What is put into news is decided by owners and managers who want to earn an income using the news.  Scant information on alternative views on topics is a choice by sovereigns of media.  Providing material that is biased in favor of politically worthy events and against those deemed unworthy.  Applying different standards in reporting similar events.  Government is a large source of news that has a large publishing department.  Taxpayers are in effect paying taxes to be propagandized to.  Media filters the news so well that they convince themselves that they are being objective.

What the media deems is worthy and unworthy, and the choice in words to express the events, are determined by what is politically advantageous/disadvantageous.  Politically favorable events are given more prevalence than those that are not politically favorable.  Unfavorable events are misrepresented to make them appear not so unfavorable.  This allows the presentation of enemies to be deserving of hostilities, while ignoring victims of hostilities by the nation or its allies.  Even if the more terrible events are perpetrated by the nation, the focus will be on the atrocities of enemies.  Presenting the information that no matter what the nation does, others are not allowed to defend themselves even in their own country.  Victims of the nation are silenced, so that the public would not disagree with prevailing preconceptions.  

The propaganda model includes factors such as concentration of ownership, income source, information sources, methods of media disciple, and ideological control mechanisms.  Part of the reason the media is biased is by choosing people who reaffirm preconceptions.  There are private and formal censorships which favor preconceptions.  Reporters who disagree with preconception, for various reasons, self-censor themselves and adept to organizational requirements.  Government is a large source of information, and makes the information readily available in appropriate formats for reporters to use.  Reporters who do not provide favorable news, are disciplined by not being given access to the information.  Reporters claim that getting alternative views is difficult, but they do not actually want to report the alternative views.  

A source of income for media is advertising.  What advertisers want is not just an audience, but an audience who will buy their products.  For this, the content the media presents attracts people who have the means to buy the products.  Thereby the wealthy tailor news in their favor because they pay for the products that pay for the news.  

Media needs sources constantly but has limited resources to be everywhere news might be, so they select the sources that have a reciprocity of interests.  Media becomes aware of important story locations, which the providing source gets favorable treatment.  Stories that hurt special interests are quickly removed from being presented.  

The media uses criticism as a way to suppress alternative ideas.  Criticism which allows for the coverage prevailing views and providing refutations to the criticism.  Pretending to provide criticism while not allowing adequate or accurate coverage of the events.  What helps the media in criticism is having a network of people to produce criticism. 

The book provides a few really powerful examples that support their propaganda model, but the book is difficult to read and the authors are not without their own biases.  The examples given are not given much context as to events that happened before, leading up the events, or what the events mean for geopolitics.  What makes the book frustrating at times is that they prove their hypothesis by showcasing historical events that they already did mass research on.  Not that this is a problem, but it does make seem that they prove their hypothesis even though it will take more to actually prove it.  What is missing from the examples are events in which the media behaved in an appropriate manner than biased manner.  This leads to the problem that there is no analysis of what it would take to have a non-biased news network.  A major bias of the authors is that they support their own ideology in attacking market-based economics, while claiming large scale government propaganda efforts.  Hence the contradiction that the market is somehow both not influenced by government and therefor purposely biases reporting, while also heavily influenced by government and therefore supports powerful interests.  The market cannot be both influenced and not influence by the government.  The authors do point out that the bias is coordinated by market and government powers, but the blame is usually on market forces.  

Questions to Consider while Reading the Book
•What is the raison d’etre of the book?  For what purpose did the authors write the book?
•Is media independent? 
•What is the propaganda model?
•Who decides what information is available? 
•What standards does the media use to report similar events?
•What are worthy and unworthy victims?
•What tools does the media use in reporting news? 
•What news gets attention? 
•Why do reports self-censor?
•How does the media use criticism?
•What happened in Vietnam? 

Book Details
Edition ISBN:  9780307801623
Pages to read:   407
Publication:     2011
1st Edition:      1988
Format:           eBook

Ratings out of 5:
Readability    3
Content          5
Overall           4