MANUFACTURING CONSENT: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. & Noam Chomsky Herman

MANUFACTURING CONSENT: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

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More heavy-handed analysis by the baron of linguistics, Chomsky (Rules and Representations, 1980, among others), and Herman (Finance/Wharton School). The subject is the actual effect of the mass media on public opinion and just what it is that the media attempt to accomplish. As the title suggests, the authors aim to demonstrate that the media in America tend to buttress elite groups and privileged organizations. Those who argue that the media are too aggressive, obstinate, or cantankerous in their public persecutions of selected government leaders or policies are wrong, the authors state. Rather, the media always serve a ""societal purpose""--which is ""not that of enabling the public to assert meaningful control over the political process by providing them with the information needed for the intelligent discharge of political responsibilities. On the contrary. . .the 'societal purpose'. . .is to inculcate and defend the economic, social, and political agenda of privileged groups. . ."" How do the media accomplish this? Via ""selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis, and tone."" This argument is not original; other books have argued (in much clearer prose) basically the same idea (e.g., The Media Elite, by Robert S. Lichter, 1986). And what further weakens this book are the strained examples that the authors choose: that media excesses in the Watergate scandal and in advocating an anti-Vietnam stance, for instance, were not cases of adversarial journalism, but of journalism coming to the defense of a weakened Congress (itself a prime example of a privileged group). Stretching for its thesis, and as a result not strongly argued.

Pub Date: Oct. 17th, 1988
Publisher: Pantheon