"Manufacturing Consent" is essential reading for anyone interested in media studies or in what constitutes objectivity in journalism. That said, I wish these guys would issue a revised edition because the book could use some updates and improvements. For instance, I have always felt that Chomsky is brilliant in his assessment of political and media issues, but is only mediocre as a writer. Herman perhaps helps in that area here, but not enough. So for a book that lays out a five-filter "propaganda model" for media analysis, I was kind of expecting later chapters dealing with the authors' proofs that the model works to provide a systematic analysis applying the model to each example. Not so. In fact, the filters of the model are rarely explicitly mentioned, and then often with only allusions that analysis by the reader would likely produce some particular conclusion. While I think the conclusions Chomsky and Herman draw are substantially correct, they often seem to be providing more of a corrective historical text than a proof of the validity of their model. By the same token, they also often don't provide enough examples of the new stories they analyze, forcing the reader to either spend a lot of time tracking down the primary sources cited or else take the authors assertions on blind faith (something that the authors seem to rally against in journalism throughout this book). The authors also repeat themselves a lot, and put off some of their most convincing support for their model until the end. Furthermore, this book was written at a time when the USSR still existed and the cold war was still a reality, and comparisons to that situation offered in the book seem a bit out of place years later. In retrospect, this is perhaps my greatest complaint. The propaganda model is a bit too narrow. Now that the cold war is over, one of the five filters of the model, anti-communism, seems irrelevant, or at least of lesser importance. There seem to be some readily available corollaries, anti-terrorism for example, but nonetheless, the model seems too narrowly drawn with regard to the "anti-communism" filter. The authors provide some language for perhaps a broader definition of that filter, be it nationalism, anti-ideologies, fear of the "other", or something of that sort. But in the end, their model is somewhat limited to U.S. media in the 1980s and prior.
But this book raises some fascinating issues, even if, in my estimation, the authors discount sheer laziness or incompetence on the part of journalists. So often the failure of journalists to seek relevant facts is not the result of sinister motives, conscious or not, but just laziness on the part of individual reporters or cheapness on the part of publishers. I think that explains some of the continued preponderance of pseudo-news since "Manufacturing Consent" was written (like with tabloid celebrity gossip taking the place of researched journalism while still being called "news").
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