Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media Paperback – 20 Apr 1995
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"[A] compelling indictment of the news media's role in covering up errors and deceptions in American foreign policy of the past quarter century."--Walter LaFeber, The New York Times Book Review
A detailed and compelling political study of how elite forces shape mass mediaSee all Product description
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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.
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