Saturday, March 15, 2008


"An important operational characteristic of the system, which facilitates general adherence to the party line without overt coercion, is the assurance and speed with which the line is established as a consensus truth, so that deviations and dissent quickly take on the appearance of foolishness or pathology, as well as suspiciously unpatriotic behavior. "
~ Edward Herman.

I found an old interview with Edward Herman, who co-authored Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media with Noam Chomsky. What follows is a description of the five media filters that, working all together, creates the extreme bias in the media. These filters serve to bring you the information that The System's elites want you to have, in the way they want you to hear it. It is through these filters that you are taught which victims are "worthy" and which are "unworthy".

The whole purpose of the media is to manufacture public support for the special interests that dominate government.

Here's your media lesson for the day:

The propaganda model argues that the way the media works is based on the underlying structural conditions under which the media operates.

It consists of five elements that can be looked at as filters of the news. Whether a news item is going to be used by the media or not is going to depend on whether it passes through these filters.

The first filter is ownership. Very wealthy people and corporations, like General Electric, own and control the dominant media. This is obviously going to give an elite bias to the media. You must assume that the people who control the media are going to dominate it. They're going to select people that they want, and they are not going to let subordinates get out of bounds.

[ . . . ]

The second filter is advertising. The media depend on advertising as their funding source. Newspapers probably get 70 percent of their revenue, on average, from advertising. Television gets over 95 percent from advertisers. The TV stations and networks all have people who go around and try to sell advertisers on their programs. They have to convince them of the merit of the programs in which they want to advertise.

What do the advertisers want? They not only want a large audience, they want an elite audience-the more money the audience has the better. They don't want to upset the audience. They want what is called "a favorable selling environment" for their products. So the advertisers have to be competed for, and they're the underlying funding source. There's no question that they influence what the media will do. They don't interfere all the time. They don't call the media up and discipline them; that's not the main way they work. The main influence they have is that they have to be competed for by the media, and the media has to convince them that their programming meets advertisers needs.

Some advertisers actually have explicit conditions on programming. For example, Proctor and Gamble, one of the biggest advertisers, has an advertising rule that's written down. It will not support programs that insult the military, or that suggests that the business community is not a good and spiritual community.

[ . . . ]

The third filter in our propaganda model is what we call sourcing. The media needs sources of news. The big media want sources that will supply them with news on a daily basis that's credible, reliable and doesn't cost too much. Where do you get that kind of news? You get it at the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, or you get it at the local city mayor's office, the police department, or the General Motors Corporation. These are the prime decision makers who make news.

There's a strong tendency for the media, especially the big media, to get close to sources that are powerful, who can give them news that's believable and news that doesn't cost a lot to get. So a lot of the news outlets have people stationed permanently at the White House, the State Department, the Pentagon, and so on. When they do this, they develop a certain relationship with these institutions. They become friendly with the people who provide them with the news, who are nice to them, and in doing that, they may occasionally get inside information, and so a symbiotic relationship develops between these big sources and the media.

[ . . . ]

The fourth filter is what we call flack, which means negative feedback. We can all produce flack. We can all call the paper or write a letter to the paper and complain, but the complaints that really affect the media are the ones that can really threaten them seriously, like the government, big advertisers, the Pentagon and other organized groups. So flack has its effect mainly from powerful groups, and some of these groups are already the ones that provide the news. This tends to further consolidate the power of these dominant sources.

The fifth filter is what we call ideology. In the American ideology, the one element in which Noam Chomsky and I think is important in the propaganda model is anti-communism. The anti-communist ideology was very important until the Soviet Union fell, but even now it still has some residual importance. The other ideological filter is the idea that the market can do everything, that it is the proper way of solving all our problems. These ideologies are really imbedded in the System, and they affect journalists, media editors, and how the media views the world.

Nowadays the primary ideology is the Global War on Terror, Inc., especially since all the lies about the primacy of the "free market" are pushing the American economy right over the edge--and dragging all the rest of the world with it.

What to do to learn the truth:

Actually, if you read the mainstream media, and if you have some advance knowledge of what to look for, there's a lot in there that you can find, but you have to know what to look for. In other words, you have to have frames of reference and an analysis that allows you to look at the media critically. This is where a guy like Noam Chomsky is so incredibly valuable-he's very smart-but he's also a very good producer of frames of reference. When you read his books you realize you're looking at a different world. You're learning to look at these things in a totally different light. So even when you're looking at the mainstream media, it becomes a little more illuminating because you can see what they've put at the bottom of the article that should be at the top.

[ . . . ]

Another important thing people can do if they have access to the web is to just surf around. If you go to Znet and fiddle around with sites on the different media groups, very soon you'll be in networks that'll give you a lot of alternative information. Getting into email and getting friendly with websites is enlightening. It's a wonderful alternative to reading the mainstream media.

I also mentioned the foreign press. On something like the Afghanistan war, even Britain-which is a close ally of the United States-even in Britain, you can read the Guardian, The Independent, The Mirror, or even the Daily Herald, which are all better than the New York Times. The U.S. media system has become so closed to alternative materials on issues where the government has strong positions and where lobbies are important, like in the Middle East, that even mainstream media in our allied countries provide a real option.

See the whole article, read an excerpt and then buy the book.

To see the application of the propaganda model to the Kurdish situation, see ZNet.

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