Manufacturing Consent


While our neoliberal elite have been more than willing to offshore traditional manufacturing, they’ve kept the manufacturing of consent right here in America.

Though western countries claim to be democracies, they all suffer from income and wealth inequality, with many of them trending towards plutocracy. Neoliberal economic policies have made this wealth and income inequality worse everywhere. Here in the United States, our plutocracy is out of control. The owners of our country manage this inconvenient public relations dilemma by manufacturing consent through their ownership and control of the corporate media.

Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, in 1988, where they proposed that: “the mass communication media of the U.S. “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion”, by means of the propaganda model of communication.[1] The title derives from the phrase “the manufacture of consent,” employed in the book Public Opinion (1922), by Walter Lippmann (1889–1974).[2]

In Manufacturing Consent, Chomsky and Herman lay out a propaganda model where the media in the US filter out dissenting views so that the American people are fed a steady diet of pro-corporate, pro-war, pro-neoliberal “news”.

Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model is thus:

Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large companies operated for profit, and therefore they must cater to the financial interests of the owners, who are usually corporations and controlling investors. The size of a media company is a consequence of the investment capital required for the mass-communications technology required to reach a mass audience of viewers, listeners, and readers.

The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a “de facto licensing authority”.[4] Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.

Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that “the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring […] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become ‘routine’ news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers.”[5]

Flak and the Enforcers: “Flak” refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet’s public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.[5

Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91) anticommunism was replaced by the “War on Terror” as the major social control mechanism.[6

With the election of Donald Trump and everything that’s happened perhaps it’s useful to examine Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model again in light of recent developments.

Why are the media freaking out now about fake news?

Perhaps the corporate media, which by the way is even more concentrated than when Chomsky and Herman wrote Manufacturing Consent, is fearful of losing their gatekeeper role to alternative sources and views?

Could it be that the corporate media is freaking out because they’re worried their advertisers, who keep them enormously profitable, will realize how little influence they have now that they’ve been so discredited in the eyes of the American people.

Meanwhile, although the manufacturing of consent has remained in America, the corporate media does seem unduly worried about Russian imports.



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