The corporate media manufactures consent by manufacturing hate.
We transitioned from Hope and Change to Make America Great Again, but very little has changed with the economic and foreign policies of the American empire. A lot of this is due to the fact that we’ve been herded into our own partisan enclosures where we’re encouraged to hate other Americans who have different political views than us but never the oligarchs and the technocratic elite who are responsible for the ongoing disasters.
The end result has been a toxic political discourse that is only interested in scoring points against the other side to validate our own anger and dispossession. It’s an oldie but goodie–divide and rule.
In his new book–Hate Inc., gonzo journalist Matt Taibbi describes in great detail the process. Taibbi tells us that he had originally intended for Hate, Inc. to be an updating of Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, which he first read thirty years ago, when he was in college. “It blew my mind,” Taibbi writes. “It taught me that some level of deception was baked into almost everything I’d ever been taught about modern American life…. Once the authors in the first chapter laid out their famed propaganda model, they cut through the deceptions of the American state like a buzz saw.” For what seemed to be vigorous democratic debate, Taibbi realized, was instead a big con. “A lot of very serious social problems (like the failure to stop mass fraud in the mortgage markets) have completely bipartisan roots, but in the press we regularly sell people on a simplified image of politics, of two parties in complete conflict about everything. If one of those sides was yours, you seldom saw it besmirched by criticism”.
For all that, however, the most salient difference between the news media of 1989 and the news media of 2019 has been the disappearance of the single type of calm and decorous anchorman, who appealed to a nationwide demographic, and his replacement with a talking head like Sean Hannity representing team red, or a talking head like Rachael Maddow cheerleading for team blue. “In the old days,” Taibbi writes, “the news was a mix of this toothless trivia and cheery dispatches from the frontlines of Pax Americana…. The news was once designed to be consumed by the whole house…. But once we started to be organized into demographic silos, the networks found another way to seduce these audiences: they sold intramural conflict”.
And in this new media environment of constant conflict, how, Taibbi wondered, could public consent, which would seem to be diametrically opposed to conflict, still be manufactured? “That wasn’t easy for me to see in my first decades in the business,” Taibbi writes. “For a long time, I thought it was a flaw in the Chomsky/Herman model”.
But what Taibbi learned from years in the trenches is that the corporate media has devised a highly-profitable marketing processes that manufactures fake dissent in order to preclude real dissent. And precluding real dissent is close enough to public consent to accomplish the task. In other words, the Herman/Chomsky model is still valid.
Manufacturing Consent was one of the most important books I read as a young adult. It has colored my worldview since in that I cannot watch CNN or read the New York Times without thinking about how they are manipulating their audience. And manipulate they do. I’m constantly amazed at how propagandized Americans are.
For instance, Americans live in a global-corporate empire that has perpetrated numerous wars of aggression. Its military occupies most of the planet. Its intelligence agencies (CIA, NSA, etc.) operate a worldwide surveillance apparatus that can identify, target, and eliminate anyone, anywhere, often by remote control. Its propaganda network is all encompassing without any real way to escape its constant emotional and ideological conditioning. It’s telling that the most vigorous pushback came from liberals who were upset that Taibbi featured Rachael Maddow alongside Sean Hannity on the cover of Hate Inc.
The fact that our putative leaders and their corporate media lackeys don’t describe the US as an empire, and instead describe it as a “democracy,” doesn’t make it any less of an empire. The fact that the corporate media uses terms like “regime change” instead of “invasion” or “annexation” makes very little difference to its victims. Terms like “security,” “stability,” “intervention,” “regime change,” and so on are not meant for its victims. They are meant for us. To propagandize and to anesthetize us.
Lately, they’re doing away with subtlety and getting straight into what Orwell described in 1984 as the Two Minutes Hate. CNN published a fascinatingly manipulative and falsehood-laden article titled “25 times Trump was soft on Russia“, where they endlessly repeat the crazy idea that Trump is a Russian puppet. Meanwhile he has spent his administration escalating dangerous new cold war aggressions.
Maybe we’ve always been at war with Eastasia?
For the corporate hate machine facts are completely beside the point. The point is to propagandize Americans into supporting the system by keeping them in a state of constant hate and fear, preferably alone in front of their screens.