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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Devastating critique of the American mass media, 30 Aug 2006
This review is from: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (Paperback)
In 'Manufacturing Consent', Herman and Chomsky provide a very powerful analysis of the way in which the 'corporate' media distort the reality of world events. The pair are +not+ conspiracy therorists, a label they are often dismissed with, but rather posit a number of ways in which journalists and editors unconsciously but inevitably serve the interests of those in power. The model of the media they present is supported by an overwhelming volume of citations, often from declassified government documents, and this characteristic rigor of research seems to leave very little room in which their opponents might manoeuver. However, these opponents have the power of repetition, and unfortunately this wins over reason and evidence almost every time; hence the bizarre beliefs of much of the Amerrican public.

The 'Propoganda Model' (PM) of the mass media posits five 'filters' which serve to emphasize those elements of the news favourable to the American elite (i.e. the goverment and the corporate interests that it serves), and edit out those that show it in a bad light. These are: "(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 goverment, 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." In the first two chapters, the authors expound the model that arises from these premises. In the remaing chapters they examine a number of case studies, including examples from Central America and Indochina, comparing the written records of the time - e.g. CIA reports, NGO investigations, foreign media sources - with the reports that appeared in the American press and television. These data (often quantifiable things such as column inches or number of front page articles) fit with convincing accuracy the predictions of the PM.

The presentation of the book is scientific in style: a hypothesis is suggested, and (overwhelming) evidence to support it is cited. These citations are what gives the PM its avantage over its rival model (i.e. that the media are agressive and noble seekers of the truth, who know no boundaries). As I said in the introduction, this rival model's persuasiveness lies only in the frequency with which it is repeated or implied. Of course the same could be said for the belief that the earth is flat; we have come to accept (or at least so we claim) that if we are given evidence that a conventional belief is flawed, we should reject it. This book, with its huge body of objective evidence, constitutes insurmountable proof that this rival theory is indeed fatally flawed, and should therefore be abandoned. The facts that this remains unacknowledged, and that the book's authors are patronised, fit perfectly the predictions of the PM.

I strongly recommend that you read this book: if you do so with an open mind, it will deepen your understanding, or shatter your illusions, depending on your current standpoint. However, for those falling into the latter category, i.e. those largely unfamiliar with Chomsky's thinking, I would recommend that you start out (as I did) with 'Understanding Power', which is somewhat boader in scope, dealing in addition with aspects of society other than the media. For those interested in how the British media compare with the American, the editors of 'medialens.org' have just produced a book called 'Guardians of Power' which I believe applies the PM to Britain, though I am yet to read it. Please do give 'Manufacturing Consent' a try; it is a true mile-stone in twentieth century thought, picking up with passion where Orwell left off.
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