Posts Tagged ‘critical thinking’

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class="post-895 post type-post status-publish format-standard hentry category-propaganda tag-critical-thinking tag-manufacturing-consent tag-propaganda-model">

Manufacturing of Consent

January 26th, 2011

Democracy requires the free flowing information, critical thinking skills, and broad participation. When monopoly powers of any kind interfere with these principles, democracy suffers. Today, more than ever before, our democracy (or “Democratic Republican,” if you like) is under assault by monopoly powers–powers that control the media, political representatives, and write the rules for our society. Policy that flows from the interests of the powerful would never be accepted by the electorate, and using force wouldn’t work today (and would interfere with kind of market “freedom” that the powerful want to uphold). So the only way to get the electorate to go along with the interests of the powerful is to use propaganda. People’s consent must be engineered, manufactured. (…And it explains why conservatives still exist today, despite such broad access to real facts!)

The powerful have been using this method for centuries, but with greater sophistication since World War I. This explains why a citizen could make a comment like, “Keep your government hands of my medicare”; it explains why they would support repealing the “death tax,” which only effects the heirs of the very wealthy. It explains the strong connection that many Americans make between love of country and support for military strength and war. It explains why an under-paid employee will reject the idea of a labor union, viewing it as connected to socialism. More recently, it explains the overall low polling scores of the healthcare bill of 2010—even though most Americans accept specific ideas in the bill, many are willing to march to Washington with the Tea Party in protest…not realizing that they would benefit greatly from many aspects of the new law.

Understanding how power works is critical for citizens in a democracy, because it empowers them to fight back, and to remain independent. One of the best models for understanding power in general, and thought control specifically, is MIT professor Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model. Chomsky has been called by the New York Times, “Arguably the most important intellectual alive.” The Nation magazine has said, “Not to have read him is to court genuine ignorance.” The Boston Globe called him, “America’s most useful citizen.” The New York Times Books Review proclaims: “Chomsky is a global phenomenon…perhaps the most widely read voice on foreign policy on the planet.” He has also been called the most cited living scholar. His propaganda model was developed with Edward Herman. (See links to their books below.)

Chomsky and Herman’s propaganda model goes beyond the worn-out narrative of the “liberal media” that was conjured up by the Right. The model does not assume some kind of back-room conspiracy either. It is an “institutional analysis” of how facts become “filtered” to present content to the public that favors the media’s real customer: big businesses, those who advertise with the media establishment. As a result, media content comes out with a bias that favors the interests of those in power: the rich, corporations, etc. (However, there are independent media sources that are supported by consumers rather than “sponsors” and advertisers; some of the best sources are: Democracy Now!, The Nation magazine, public radio and TV, the BBC, Al Jazeera, city weekly magazines…see the links section of this blog). A documentary film about Chomsky’s model was released in 1993 (and it is excellent…and free online!). See also Chomsky’s books, “Media Control,” and “Necessary Illusions.”

We have included a summary of the propaganda model here. This model should be studied by all who seek the liberation and empowerment of ordinary citizens.

Propaganda Model

Five Filters Intro from Keyvan on Vimeo.

Chomsky Video

Good summary from Wikipedia (source):

Editorial Bias: Five Filters

Herman and Chomsky’s “propaganda model” describes five editorially-distorting filters applied to news reporting in mass media:

  1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.
  2. 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”. 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.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.