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Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media Paperback – January 15, 2002
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An absolutely brilliant analysis of the ways in which individuals and organizations of the media are influenced to shape the social agendas of knowledge and, therefore, belief. Contrary to the popular conception of members of the press as hard-bitten realists doggedly pursuing unpopular truths, Herman and Chomsky prove conclusively that the free-market economics model of media leads inevitably to normative and narrow reporting. Whether or not you've seen the eye-opening movie, buy this book, and you will be a far more knowledgeable person and much less prone to having your beliefs manipulated as easily as the press. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Herman of Wharton and Chomsky of MIT lucidly document their argument that America's government and its corporate giants exercise control over what we read, see and hear. The authors identify the forces that they contend make the national media propagandisticthe major three being the motivation for profit through ad revenue, the media's close links to and often ownership by corporations, and their acceptance of information from biased sources. In five case studies, the writers show how TV, newspapers and radio distort world events. For example, the authors maintain that "it would have been very difficult for the Guatemalan government to murder tens of thousands over the past decade if the U.S. press had provided the kind of coverage they gave to the difficulties of Andrei Sakharov or the murder of Jerzy Popieluszko in Poland." Such allegations would be routine were it not for the excellent research behind this book's controversial charges. Extensive evidence is calmly presented, and in the end an indictment against the guardians of our freedoms is substantiated. A disturbing picture emerges of a news system that panders to the interests of America's privileged and neglects its duties when the concerns of minority groups and the underclass are at stake. First serial to the Progressive.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The virtual side-by-side comparison of the media's treatment of the rape and murder of four US citizens working as nuns in the a US client state and the torture and murder of a Polish dissident priest is typical of the method by which they highlight how the media favors "worthy"victims, (coincidentally all murdered by regimes not friendly to us) and "unworthy" victims, sadly, unavoidably, somehow made victims of the disorder in our client states. Other examples include comparing media coverage of E. Timor to that of Kosovo, and how the media narratives and meta-narratives shifted over the course of US involvement in Vietnam and Cambodia.
That said, the book was a challenge to read. I find history and politics quite interesting, but the authors belabored their points (as an academic might, understandably, need to) far beyond the patience of a person reading the book in his spare time might be willing to tolerate. I eventually finished it, but just this once I'm excusing myself from the appendices. I feel the points they had to make were well made by page 70, and while it was all informative and solidly researched, I'm nearly giddy to close the cover on this one.
This book was first published in the late `80's, and this edition contains a 36 page introduction which was written in 2002. Herman and Chomsky are listed as co-authors, and I struggled with the question of which one wrote more of the book: I believe it was Edward Herman. The book has numerous strengths. Remember that it was written long before the era of the purported "fair and balanced" reporting of Fox News, and therefore addressing the truly "low-hanging fruit" of Fox's biased coverage is not included. Much of the book looks at what we refer to as our "newspaper of record," the New York Times. Their thesis is rather provocative: much of our "news" should be viewed as propaganda, just as we KNOW the "news" issued by various totalitarian regimes is propaganda. To test this thesis, they utilize a method that involves establishing what they call dichotomies: observe how a single event is reported in at least two disparate news sources, one usually outside the United States; the other is to observe the reporting on largely similar events, but one event occurs to a population deemed "hostile" to the United States, the other event occurs to a "friendly" nation. There is an entire chapter on "worthy" and "unworthy" victims.
The analysis is performed on events that occur in the `60's, `70's and `80's, and frankly some of the events had slipped off my "memory radar" (if it was ever there in the first place!); other events I intensely remember, in part, due to my personal participation. As one example that the authors examine in detail is the treatment of the murder of Jerzy Popieluszko, a Polish priest, and that is juxtaposed with the murder of Archbishop Romero, as well that of four American nuns in El Salvador. Replete with extensive tables that document the coverage, the murder of a Polish priest received many times more coverage, since it occurred in a country that America, at the time, viewed as "hostile," (since it was part of the Soviet bloc), whereas the murder, even of Americans, in an American client state was downplayed. Numerous other examples were also provided, including the shooting down of a civilian airliner by Israel, and how that was juxtaposed with the same incident done by the Soviet Union. Examination of the news from elections in Nicaragua (hostile) and Guatemala (friendly) were likewise compared. Another entire chapter involved the completion fabrication of a KGB-Bulgarian connection behind the attempted assassination of the Pope by a right-wing Turkish fanatic (I had completely forgotten about this incident... in terms of sheer fabrication, it is an important one to remember.)
The last third of the book, or so, detailed media coverage of the American wars in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Most of the analysis I felt was correct, and corresponded to the recollections of my own participation. However there was one glaring mistake, on page 183, where the authors claimed: "From January 1965, the United States employed Korean mercenaries, some 300,000 in all, who carried out brutal atrocities in the South." (Note: throughout most of the war the Koreans only had one division of troops, some 7,000 or so, the ROK "Tiger" division. It operated in Binh Dinh province, where I was). Furthermore, for 20 pages or so, the author, or authors appeared to have a running feud with author William Shawcross, of Sideshow Kissinger, Nixon,and The Destruction of Cambodia and other books. After reading these pages, it was still unclear to me what the feud was all about; certainly, overall, they seemed to be making much the same points, and Shawcross's book on Cambodia remains an essential read on that war. I also thought comments about Senator Eugene McCarthy were somewhat churlish.
Overall, even with the passage of time (or perhaps because this book has withstood the passage of time, as is even more true today, in the era of Fox News), this is a very important read for one interested in the "food chain" of how we are fed the news. Please overlook some of the flaws. 4-stars.
If you're looking for an easy to confirm fact-finding mission on our media propaganda system, look here first. It absolutely blasts our media's failings and blatant serving as a mouthpiece for our government, writing uncritically whatever it says lest they compromise their #1 source for news to their readers. If you seek to rise above the mindless propaganda, find its origins, and learn to avoid falling victim to it, you absolutely must have this book.