Manufacturing Consent

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Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
Cover of the first edition
Author Edward S. Herman &
Noam Chomsky
Country United States
Language English
Genre Politics
Published 1988 (Pantheon Books)
Media type Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
ISBN 0-375-71449-9
OCLC 47971712
381/.4530223 21
LC Class P96.E25 H47 2002
Preceded by The Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians
Followed by Necessary Illusions

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, proposes that the mass communication media of the U.S. “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without overt coercion", by means of the propaganda model of communication.[1] The title of the book, Manufacturing Consent, derives from the phrase "the manufacture of consent," employed in the book Public Opinion (1922), by Walter Lippmann (1889–1974).[2]

Chomsky credits the origin of the book to the impetus of Alex Carey, the Australian social psychologist, to whom he and co-author E.S. Herman dedicated the book.[3] Four years after publication, Manufacturing Consent: The political Economy of the Mass Media was adapted to the cinema as Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992), a documentary presentation of the propaganda-model of communication, the politics of the mass-communications business, and a biography of Chomsky.

Propaganda model of communication[edit]

Five filters of editorial bias

The propaganda model for the manufacture of public consent describes five editorially distorting filters, which are applied to the reporting of news in mass communications media:

  1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large companies operated for profit; and, therefore, must cater to the financial interests of the owners — usually corporations and controlling investors. The size of a media company is consequence of the investment capital required for the mass-communications technology required to reach a mass audience of viewers, listeners, and readers.
  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".[4] 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.”[5]
  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]
  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.[6]

Government and news media[edit]

Editorial distortion is aggravated by the news media’s dependence upon private and governmental news sources. If a given newspaper, television station, magazine, etc., incurs governmental disfavor, it is subtly excluded from access to information. Consequently, it loses readers or viewers, and ultimately, advertisers. To minimize such financial danger, news media businesses editorially distort their reporting to favor government and corporate policies in order to stay in business[citation needed].

Recent developments[edit]

  • In 2006, the Turkish government prosecuted Fatih Tas, owner of the Aram editorial house, two editors and the translator of the revised (2001) edition of Manufacturing Consent for "stirring hatred among the public" (per Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code) and for "denigrating the national identity" of Turkey (per Article 301), because that edition’s introduction addresses the Turkish news media’s reportage of governmental suppression of the Kurdish populace in the 1990s; they were acquitted.[7][8]
  • In 2007, at the 20 Years of Propaganda?: Critical Discussions & Evidence on the Ongoing Relevance of the Herman & Chomsky Propaganda Model (15–17 May 2007) conference at the University of Windsor, Ontario, Herman and Chomsky summarized developments to the propaganda model, followed by the publication of the proceedings of a commemoration of the twentieth publication anniversary of Manufacturing Consent in 2008.
  • In 2008, Chomsky replied to questions concerning the ways internet blogs and self-generated news reportage conform to and differ from the propaganda model. He also explained how access to information is not enough, because a framework of understanding is required.[9][clarification needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herman, Edward S.; Chomsky, Noam. Manufacturing Consent. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 306. 
  2. ^ p. 13, Noam Chomsky, Letters from Lexington: Reflections on Propaganda, Paradigm Publishers 2004.
  3. ^ Noam Chomsky, Class Warfare, Pluto Press 1996, p. 29: "Ed Herman and I dedicated our book, Manufacturing Consent, to him. He had just died. It was not intended as just a symbolic gesture. He got both of us started in a lot of this work."
  4. ^ James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power without responsibility : the press and broadcasting in Britain (First edition 1981, with many subsequent editions).
  5. ^ a b Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent.
  6. ^ Noam Chomsky, Media Control, the Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (1997).
  7. ^ Butler, Daren (2006-07-04). "Turkish publisher faces prosecution over Chomsky book". Reuters. Retrieved 2006-07-12. 
  8. ^ "Turks acquitted over Chomsky book". London: BBC News. 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2006-12-20. 
  9. ^ "Authors@Google: Noam Chomsky". 2008-05-02. 

External links[edit]