The Propaganda Model

“In most cases…media leaders do similar things because they see the world through the same lenses, are subject to similar constraints and incentives, and thus feature stories or maintain silence together in tacit collective action and leader-follower behaviour”

Edward herman and noam chomsky, manufacturing consent
Noam Chomsky Speaks to the BBC’s Andrew Marr About the Propaganda Model

The Propaganda Model was proposed by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent. Herman and Chomsky analysed the structure of the mass media in America and argued that the “choices, emphases, and omissions” of media outlets could be understood “with striking clarity and insight” by considering the nature of the institutions.

Essentially, Manufacturing Consent argued that:

  • Large media organisations such as the New York Times and Washington Post are corporations whose institutional goal/obligation is to provide profit to shareholders
  • In addition to this, many of these media giants are affiliated to even larger corporations (for example CBS owned by General Electric), which, again, have a legal obligation to maximise profit for shareholders
  • The primary income stream for the vast majority of media organisations is advertising revenue. In effect, therefore, the “product” the media sell are audiences and the “market” they sell to is other businesses (the advertisers)

Ed Herman (pictured)

Chomsky summarizes: “these are big corporations selling privileged audiences to other corporations. Now the question is, what picture of the world would a rational person expect to come out of this structure?”

A view of the world, in short, which favours the interests of corporations and the wealthy and ignores, ridicules or subverts views/stories which threaten their key interests.

If you can spare 20 seconds watch Chomsky stump Marr!

Chomsky and Herman proposed five key filters of the Propaganda Model that determine the “news that’s fit to print”. You can read more about them here.

The most convincing element of the propaganda is the weight of evidence behind it. Click here for an overview.