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Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
The book was revised in 2002, 14 years after its first publication, to take account of developments such as the fall of the Soviet Union. There has been debate about how the Internet has changed the public's access to information since 1988.
Chomsky credits the origin of the book to the impetus of Alex Carey, the Australian social psychologist, to whom Herman and he dedicated the book. The book was greatly inspired by Herman's earlier financial research. Since Herman's contribution to the book was so important, Chomsky insisted on putting Herman's name in front of his name, contrary to the pair's habit of alphabetic listing. Herman and Chomsky were close friends for fifty years.
Herman was a professor of finance at Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Chomsky is a linguist and activist scholar, who wrote many other books, such as Towards a New Cold War. Before Manufacturing Consent was published in 1988, the two authors had collaborated on the same subject before. Their book Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact & Propaganda, a book about American foreign policy and the media, was published in 1973. The publisher for the book, a subsidiary of Warner Communications Incorporated, was deliberately put out of business after printing 20,000 copies of the book, most of which were destroyed, so the book was not widely known.
According to Chomsky, "most of the book [Manufacturing Consent]" was the work of Edward S. Herman.:8 Herman describes a rough division of labor in preparing the book whereby he was responsible for the preface and chapters 1-4 while Chomsky was responsible for chapters 5-7.:204 According to Herman, the propaganda model described in the book was originally his idea, tracing it back to his 1981 book Corporate Control, Corporate Power.:205 The main elements of the propaganda model (though not so called at the time) were discussed briefly in volume 1 chapter 2 of Herman and Chomsky's 1979 book The Political Economy of Human Rights, where they argued, "Especially where the issues involve substantial U.S. economic and political interests and relationships with friendly or hostile states, the mass media usually function much in the manner of state propaganda agencies."
Propaganda model of communication
The book introduced the propaganda model of communication, which is still developing today.
The propaganda model for the manufacture of public consent describes five editorially distorting filters, which are applied to the reporting of news in mass communications media. These five filters of editorial bias are:
Size, ownership, and profit orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large profit-based operations, and therefore they must cater to the financial interests of the owners such as 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." 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." Editorial distortion is aggravated by the news media's dependence upon private and governmental news sources. If a given newspaper, television station, magazine, etc., incurs disfavor from the sources, it is subtly excluded from access to information. Consequently, it loses readers or viewers, and ultimately, advertisers. To minimize such financial danger, news media businesses editorially distort their reporting to favor government and corporate policies in order to stay in business.
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.
Anti-communism/war on terror: Anti-communism 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.
The two authors won the Orwell Award for their book, Manufacturing Consent.
In 2006, Fatih Tas, owner of the Aram editorial house, along with two editors and the translator of the revised, 2001 edition of Manufacturing Consent were prosecuted by the Turkish government for "stirring hatred among the public" (per Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code) and for "denigrating the national identity" of Turkey (per Article 301). The reason cited was that the introduction to this edition addresses the 1990s' Turkish news media reportage of governmental suppression of the Kurdish populace. The defendants were ultimately acquitted.
In 2007, from May 15-17 at the 20 Years of Propaganda?: Critical Discussions & Evidence on the Ongoing Relevance of the Herman & Chomsky Propaganda Model conference held at the University of Windsor, Herman and Chomsky summarized developments to the propaganda model on the occasion of the vicennial anniversary of Manufacturing Consent's first publication.
Made as a visual version of the book to represent the ideas of Noam Chomsky, the three-hour film discusses the propaganda model of communication and the politics of the mass-communications business, as well as a biography of Chomsky.
^Herman, Edward S.; Chomsky, Noam. Manufacturing Consent. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 306.
^p. xi, Manufacturing Consent. Also, p. 13, Noam Chomsky, Letters from Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda, Paradigm Publishers 2004.
^Chomsky, Noam. 1996. Class Warfare. Pluto Press. p. 29:
"Ed Herman and I dedicated our book, Manufacturing Consent, to him. He had just died. It was not intended as just a symbolic gesture. He got both of us started in a lot of this work."