Consent" 25 Years Later
Edward S. Herman (co-author with Noam Chomsky of "Manufacturing
Video - April 19, 2013
Edward S. Herman.
Edward is an economist, a media analyst, a prolific author. For
many years he was a professor at the Wharton School at Penn.
Among his many books are
also Corporate Control, Corporate Power, The Politics of
Twenty-five years ago, a book titled Manufacturing Consent,
written by Noam Chomsky and his coauthor Edward S. Herman, the
book broke new ground in analyzing the media and what they
called the propaganda model.
Now joining us to talk about the significance of the book then
and now is Edward S. Herman. Edward is an economist, a media
analyst, a prolific author. For many years he was a professor at
the Wharton School at Penn. Among his many books are
Manufacturing Consent, also Corporate Control, Corporate Power,
The Politics of Genocide.
Thanks very much for joining us, Edward.
EDWARD S. HERMAN, ECONOMIST AND MEDIA ANALYST: Good to be with
JAY: Why do you think the book made such a splash? And I wonder
if you expected it when you wrote it. It was--did you think it
was more an academic piece? Because it became essentially a very
popular book. It inspired a documentary film. And it's one of
the landmark books of the last 25 years.
HERMAN: It didn't make a big mark in the mainstream media. It
did make a mark on the left. But even there there was quite a
bit of debate, because the idea of a structural model that shows
that the media do what they do because of deep structural
factors and the idea that it wasn't going to be easy to change
ran counter to what a lot of leftists or liberals thought. They
thought that you could reform the media rather easily by rather
modest legislation that would make for a fairness rule. But the
propaganda model--Manufacturing Consent argues that there are
deep-seated factors at work here, and these aren't going to be
changed by simple liberal reforms.
JAY: And talk a bit about what you consider those deep-seated
factors. And to what extent do they still exist? Or have they
HERMAN: The propaganda model is a structural model. Its features
are--it features ownership, who owns the media, the fact that it
is based on advertising as the main funding source. The main
sources for the media are powerful people in the United
States--Pentagon officials and corporate officials and so on.
Another factor in the model is the extent to which negative
feedback, flak, comes also from powerful people. And then
another element in the model is that there's a basic ideology in
the United States--anticommunism, the belief in the free
market--and these are accepted by the mainstream media people.
So we have this set of factors that make up the propaganda
model, and they are powerful factors. They still are relevant
Some people think that the new media, which has somewhat
displaced the old media, is going to make for change. But the
interesting fact is that the old media did a lot of journalism.
It wasn't good journalism, but the old media--newspapers,
magazines especially--had investigative journalists. And with
the rise of the new media, the new media's absorbing a lot of
the advertising, so the old media, the newspapers are well known
to be in a crisis. They're losing ads and they're cutting back
journalistic staff on a huge scale, and the new media's not
picking up the slack.
But I thought and a lot of people thought that the new media
meant they were going to have to do more democratic media. But
media concentration has grown in the new media. And a lot of new
media is what is called social media. It involves a lot of
personal connections and ego-building, and it doesn't do
investigative journalism. Google, Facebook, these outfits are
not very--they don't do investigative journalism to any
significant degree. They gather stuff from others and they sell
it, and they want to sell it to advertising. So in the new
media, you've had a competition for advertising with the old
media, and the new media spent an awful lot of time figuring out
how to place ads.
JAY: If you go back to the mainstream newsrooms--and I've been
in--you know, I've worked in them and around them for many
years, and one of the things that always hit me, especially in
American newsrooms, is that there seems to be a fundamental
belief amongst the journalists themselves that American foreign
policy always had at its root a good intent. It was for some
kind of democratization, it was against some form of tyranny,
and that all the sort of terrible things that happened along the
way were, like, mistakes at the level of some individuals made
policy mistakes, or one particular administration, maybe the
Bush administration, did some awful things, but essentially from
Truman on there's good intent. And to what extent do you think
that's linked to the sort of structural factors you're talking
HERMAN: I think it's very deeply connected, because those
structural factors mean that on, say, sourcing, on where you get
your news, you go to the officials, you go to the State
Department, you go to the Pentagon to find out the truth. And
the owners are conservative folks. They're very rich folks. And
the flak, the flak, the negative feedback comes mainly from
officials, Pentagon officials and powerful right-wing sources,
and the underlying ideology which arises from the power
structure--communism is really bad, free markets are really
good; we're supporting those things, those are our objectives,
and therefore we're good.
Actually, I think it goes back a long way, Paul. But I think
that the idea of we were good and superior, you go back and read
Teddy Roosevelt and his views, we're the natural superior. This
has been an ingrained--pretty much ingrained, but it's part of
ideology, and the whole power structure reflects it. And as we
become an empire, well, of course we must be trying to do good.
The media are simply--they're part of the political economy.
They're reflecting what the deeper forces, the transnational
corporations, the government officials, what they want.
JAY: And you see a situation where even to this day Dick Cheney
can go on television shows and be interviewed and say, oh, all
the intelligence agencies thought there were weapons of mass
destruction, as if it wasn't a deliberate deception. And we know
so much now, both the Downing Street Memo--the British
intelligence in fact didn't think there were weapons of mass
destruction, and, in fact, even the American intelligence
agencies didn't think [incompr.] they're essentially bullied
into it. But the media still allows him to say these things, and
not just him. And then with President Obama, you know, after
critiquing the war because it was a stupid war, there's no
accountability in the media towards President Obama, how he
didn't call Cheney, Bush into account for an illegal war and
kind of adopted it as his own and carried on the same policy
now. And the media just--you know, Gore Vidal had this line
about U.S.A. being the United States of Amnesia. The media so
plays along with that, although individual journalists you talk
to, they certainly know better.
HERMAN: A lot of the individual journalists do know better, but
the ones that really rise to the top are the ones that will read
or accept the dominant view. So you're quite right. They
actually have been amazing. You know.
In spite of the new media and this supposed development of the
democratic order, when Bush wanted to go to war in 2003, he
could lie, and the lies would not be contested. I mean, The
Times and The Post both sort of apologized for not having been
more critical, but there were lots of people, Paul, who had an
alternative view, and it was extremely easy to show that the
Bush claims of weapons of mass destruction probably held by Iraq
were invalid. But the people who could say that were kept away.
JAY: So in terms of developing the new media--and I guess we're
part of that at The Real News--there is an opening here that
didn't exist before. I mean, the internet does make possible The
Real News and other independent news outlets who are saying
these sorts of things that won't get said on mainstream
television. But I think what you're saying--and I think it's
true it's still a very small segment of the population that we
get access to. But, I mean, the challenge, I think, for us is
that we're--you know, have to accept this world isn't going to
change, like, mainstream news isn't going to change, and it is
up to us to figure out how to get to large numbers of people.
HERMAN: Absolutely so. But I think you're doing an important
job, because the mainstream media does not allow alternative
viewpoints. It's true that we need more investigative
journalism, and The Real News Network probably, if it had more
money, would do so. But the next best thing is to get on the
program people who maybe have done investigative work, or at
least have a viewpoint that can't get in The New York Times.
That's where Real News Network can be very constructive and is
JAY: Yeah, I agree with that. In fact, we're just discussing now
with creating a sort of little conglomerate of independent news
outlets, where we're all going to collaborate and try to raise
some money to create an investigative fund for doing just what
you're talking about.
HERMAN: Good. That will be wonderful.
JAY: So just final thoughts 25 years after the book. Any other
reflection you have?
HERMAN: Well, I think things don't look good, Paul, because
we're in a war system and have war mixed with patriotism. The
government is very powerful and aggressive. Concentration in the
media keeps increasing. The internet has proved to be a
disappointment, but it still has some potential.
But I think still, Paul, what we really need: a rise of
democracy. I mean, we need a democratic order.
The sad fact, the tragic fact is that we've got--had more
inequality, and that has affected the political system. So we
have moved to the right. And the right-wingers don't want a more
democratic media. They don't even want a fairness doctrine, let
alone a system that I think would be good of actually
subsidizing an independent media. That would be a terrific
thing, but I'm afraid it's still in the distance.
Underlying it all we need a more democratic order, where the
public's interests can actually feed into the political process.
The trouble is that there's an interaction: if you have a lot of
media, they won't allow more democratization. And without more
democratization, it's hard to get a better media. But we have to
still keep fighting for that end.
JAY: Alright. Thanks very much for joining us, Edward.
HERMAN: Thank you, Paul.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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