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Archive for the ‘Noam Chomsky’ tag

Peoria CBS Affiliate Manufacturing Consent?

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On January 12, I attended the monthly meeting of the Peoria Area Peace Network (PAPN). thew guest speaker was peace activist Eric Stoner who talked about what he found on a recent trip to Afghanistan. After Stoner’s presentation he was interviewed by local tv station WMBD. Mike Perillo of the PAPN has this to say about WMBD’s coverage of Stoner:

I do want to make a few comments on the WMBD interview. After having watched the interview, which was good for the most part, there are two lines that stick out. First, Kim Behrens says in a voice-over “Stoner admits the United States Military has helped rebuild the country [Afghanistan]” and then the anchorman, Jacob Long, who, as his bio describes “loves telling great stories”, does so by ending the segment on this: “Stoner would like to see the fighting stop, but says U.S. forces are playing a big role helping Afghan people restructure their government.” Notice that neither of these comments appears in quotes on WMBD’s website. Furthermore, WMBD never shows the video clips of Eric saying this. I knew Eric wouldn’t have made these comments or he was taken completely out of context.

After talking to Eric, he said that these two supposed statements he made were “just not true”, and there was nothing that he said that could have been misinterpreted that way. They had put words into his mouth, or as Eric put it “that is simply bad journalism”. We have not heard from WMBD after Eric sent them an email explaining to them that their credibility as journalists and a new outlet will be affected for their actions. We do not know if this was how Kim edited the video, or if the Jacob made the last comment on his own, or if someone in the higher-ups decided that these two pro-military comments should be added. I do not know right at this moment what further action the PAPN will take, but something needs to be said and done to make others aware of this. The media has done this for a long time now, and seeing it at a local level to this degree is very disappointing.

Mike and the PAPN and Eric Stoner himself have every right to be angry and disappointed with WMBD in this regard. But perhaps they should not be too surprised. In 1988 Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman wrote a book titled Manufacturing Consent, in which they discussed the role of the mass media in U.S. political discourse. They present a “propaganda model” as a tool to understanding how mass media distorts information and news.

Using the propaganda model, Manufacturing Consent posits that corporate – owned news mass communication media — print, radio, television — are businesses subject to commercial competition for advertising revenue and profit. As such, their distortion (editorial bias) of news reportage — i.e. what types of news, which items, and how they are reported — is a consequence of the profit motive that requires establishing a stable, profitable business; therefore, news businesses favoring profit over the public interest succeed, while those favoring reportorial accuracy over profits fail, and are relegated to the margins of their markets (low sales and ratings).

News media depend on government and corporate sources for the news they disseminate. Print or electronic outlets are reluctant to criticize such sources too harshly and so distort information to protect themselves from reprisals from business and government.

Chomsky and Herman further posit five “filters” that media outlets apply to distort news and information:

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.

I would suggest that in the case of WMBD v Stoner, the television station applied filter number 5 to its coverage of the PAPN event and interview with Stoner.

Also possibly relevant is the fact that WMBD is owned and operated by the Nexstar Broadcasting Group. Wikipedia informs us that “The CEO of Nexstar, Perry Sook, has donated over $4,300 to Republican candidates and officials.” That’s not a lot of money in the Citizens United era, but it does show that the ownership of WMBD is clearly in the GOP camp, and while the people of the U.S. have turned against the war in Afghanistan, many elected Republicans (and too many elected Democrats) have not.

The lesson learned (though probably not for the first time) by PAPN is that even local media have internalized the rules about what is and is not acceptable political discourse.

Written by slothropia

January 24th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

The Onion: Exhausted Noam Chomsky Just Going To Try And Enjoy The Day For Once

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I know how Professor Chomsky feels. Sometimes I’m just too tired to blog.

LEXINGTON, MA—Describing himself as “terribly exhausted,” famed linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky said Monday that he was taking a break from combating the hegemony of the American imperialist machine to try and take it easy for once.

“I just want to lie in a hammock and have a nice relaxing morning,” said the outspoken anarcho-syndicalist academic, who first came to public attention with his breakthrough 1957 book Syntactic Structures. “The systems of control designed to manufacture consent among a largely ignorant public will still be there for me to worry about tomorrow. Today, I’m just going to kick back and enjoy some much-needed Noam Time.”

“No fighting against institutional racism, no exposing the legacies of colonialist ideologies still persistent today, no standing up to the widespread dissemination of misinformation and state-sanctioned propaganda,” Chomsky added. “Just a nice, cool breeze through an open window on a warm spring day.”

Sources reported that the 81-year-old Chomsky, a vociferous, longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy and the political economy of the mass media, was planning to use Monday to tidy up around the house a bit, take a leisurely walk in the park, and possibly attend an afternoon showing of Date Night at the local megaplex.

There’s more. Good ole Onion.

Written by slothropia

July 2nd, 2010 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Satire

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E.J. Dionne Talks Corporate Media

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E.J. Dionne hit a a home run in his Wapo column today. He’s all about the rightward tilt in American media (details differ but the same principle applies for Canadian Corporate Media).

For starters he says:

A media environment that tilts to the right is obscuring what President Obama stands for and closing off political options that should be part of the public discussion.

And a little later:

While the right wing’s rants get wall-to-wall airtime, you almost never hear from the sort of progressive members of Congress who were on an America’s Future panel on Tuesday. Reps. Jared Polis of Colorado, Donna Edwards of Maryland and Raul Grijalva of Arizona all said warm things about the president — they are Democrats, after all — but also took issue with some of his policies.

All three, for example, are passionately opposed to his military approach to Afghanistan and want a serious debate over the implications of Obama’s strategy. “If we don’t ask these questions now,” said Edwards, “we’ll ask these questions 10 years from now — I guarantee it.”

And whatever happened to single payer as a policy option:

Polis, Edwards and Grijalva also noted that proposals for a Canadian-style single-payer health-care system, which they support, have fallen off the political radar. Polis urged his activist audience to accept that reality for now and focus its energy on making sure that a government insurance option, known in policy circles as the “public plan,” is part of the menu of choices offered by a reformed health-care system.

But Edwards noted that if the public plan, already a compromise from single-payer, is defined as the left’s position in the health-care debate, the entire discussion gets skewed to the right. This makes it far more likely that any public option included in a final bill will be a pale version of the original idea.

And finally:

…For all the talk of a media love affair with Obama, there is a deep and largely unconscious conservative bias in the media’s discussion of policy. The range of acceptable opinion runs from the moderate left to the far right and cuts off more vigorous progressive perspectives.

Dionne doesn’t ask the question but I will. Why does the media act as he describes?

I believe that to answer this question one needs to ask two others.

1. Who owns the media.
2. What is the function of the press in an open capitalistic society?

The answers to those questions lead me to the term, “Corporate Media”, not traditional media, and not mainstream media. In the United States and Canada, the press or the media is meant to promote and protect the interests of the corporations that run everything.

Don’t take my word for it. Just ask this guy.

Written by slothropia

June 4th, 2009 at 11:01 am

Repeat After Me: GE Owns MSNBC

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Bland and yet loathsome David Gregory will anchor MSNBC presidential debate and election night coverage, replacing Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann. Olbermann and Matthews will continue as analysts, sez the Gray Lady.

We all know why. Only corporate/conservative/GOP framing of issues will be allowed on cable news. Brokaw will continue his work as a McCain spokesperson.

Update: If more people would read Manufacturing Consent, fewer people would be surprised by the way media organizations behave. Brush up your Chomsky.

Written by slothropia

September 7th, 2008 at 10:09 pm