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Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media Paperback – January 15, 2002
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In this pathbreaking work, now with a new introduction, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky show that, contrary to the usual image of the news media as cantankerous, obstinate, and ubiquitous in their search for truth and defense of justice, in their actual practice they defend the economic, social, and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate domestic society, the state, and the global order.
Based on a series of case studiesâincluding the mediaâs dichotomous treatment of âworthyâ versus âunworthyâ victims, âlegitimizingâ and âmeaninglessâ Third World elections, and devastating critiques of media coverage of the U.S. wars against IndochinaâHerman and Chomsky draw on decades of criticism and research to propose a Propaganda Model to explain the mediaâs behavior and performance. Their new introduction updates the Propaganda Model and the earlier case studies, and it discusses several other applications. These include the manner in which the media covered the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement and subsequent Mexican financial meltdown of 1994-1995, the mediaâs handling of the protests against the World Trade Organization, World Bank, and International Monetary Fund in 1999 and 2000, and the mediaâs treatment of the chemical industry and its regulation. What emerges from this work is a powerful assessment of how propagandistic the U.S. mass media are, how they systematically fail to live up to their self-image as providers of the kind of information that people need to make sense of the world, and how we can understand their function in a radically new way.
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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.
Herman's punchy, staccato presentation can be difficult to endure at times, but it is as effective as it is formulaic. His juxtapositions of certain events, particularly Russia's invasion of Afghanistan compared with the United States invasion of Vietnam, enables the reader (most importantly the reader immersed in U.S. media) to more easily consider events outside the propagandized frame. Just as Russia's loyal and patriotic media portrayed their invasion of Afghanistan as a liberation of the native peoples from the tyranny of local warlords (in effect "saving them"), so too goes the line from U.S. media outlets regarding military actions in Vietnam. And when events did not fit within the framework or serve a useful enough purpose, the press quietly, dutifully failed to report accurately (or frequently) on them, as in the case of 6 years of bombings of Cambodian peasantry.
Readers of the original publishing of this book might have been left a bit disheartened. After severely beating the mainstream media by exposing their propaganda methods, the reader is left with little tools with which to educate themselves, save for the call to join activist groups and share information through non-standard means. However, reading it today, in this era of an online and connected world, barring censorship, our ability to educate ourselves is limited only by our skill in searching and discernment.