Book Preview: Manufacturing consent (Noam Chomsky)

Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky

Please buy the book

The media play a vital role in indoctrinating people to accept an unequal society.

The media have many roles; it is the media’s job to inform us, entertain us and to amuse us. But the mass media have an additional vital task: the promotion of shared social values and codes of behavior. The government and ruling institutions need an outlet to ‘educate’ the general population with their ideals, and the mass media fulfill this role.

As society is massively unequal in terms of wealth and power, the media’s defense of the status quo is actually a defense of the interests of the dominant elite, ensuring that their politically and economically powerful positions are maintained. The media must therefore slant their coverage to produce stories that support the ruling political and economic classes: a tiny community of people who sit at the top of society.

In their role of defending the social hierarchies, the media effectively create propaganda backing the ruling classes. The propaganda model for the manufacture of public consent describes 5 editorially distorting filters of editorial bias, which are applied to the reporting of news in mass communications media:

  1. Size, ownership, and profit orientation: large companies operated for profit
  2. The advertising license to do business: media must cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers
  3. Sourcing mass media news: the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidise the mass media, and gain special access to the news, by their contribution to reducing the media’s costs of acquiring and producing, news.
  4. Flak and the Enforcers: negative responses (flak) to a media statement or program can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks).
  5. Anti-Communism: now replaced by the “War on Terror” as the major social control mechanism.

The mass media often proudly proclaim that they produce objective and trustworthy coverage whilst holding the powerful to account; the coverage of the Vietnam War is often used as an example. In reality, the media have no interest in defending the public interest against the wealthy and powerful. Instead, they protect the rights and privileges of the ruling elites by reporting events through a narrow, biased lens. This ensures that audiences accept their position in the unequal and unfair structure of society.

Yes Edinburgh West has a website, Facebook, Twitter, National Yes Registry and a Library of topics on Scottish Politics, including Media & Broadcasting.