Prescription #5 of “Some Prescriptions For Productive Goals” is (derived from “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky copyrighted in 1988 and 2002, New York: Pantheon Books) : Increase democratic media and increase a democratization of information sources.
The reader may not conclude that any or all of the model proposed and written about by Chomsky and Herman identified in the book, “Manufacturing Consent : The Political Economy of the Mass Media” is valid. However, independent of conclusions about the model, Prescription #5 : Increase democratic media and increase a democratization of information sources, can apparently help, among other things, counter; systemic media bias; the increased centralized power of media; and the role of media in fostering and furthering apparent poor, decisive, and consequential decision making (e.g., as the media appears to have done at least prior to the beginning of the Iraq War). Please consider the following examples featuring mainstream media journalists Christiane Amanpour, Jessica Yellin, Phil Donohue, and Charles Hanley regarding the Iraq war. This author could have identified other examples involving the Iraq War such as mainstream media journalists Dan Rather (e.g., “Dan Rather Admits Press Failure on Iraq — And Hits Corporate Media” by Greg Mitchell dated 6-8-2008, in “Huff Post Media,” www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-mitchell/?dan-rather-admits-press-f_b_105896.html), Katie Couric (e.g., “Couric Critiques Iraq War Run-Up Coverage” dated 2-11-2009, www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/28/earlyshow/main/4130854/shtml) and Ashleigh Banfield (e.g., “MSNBC’s Banfield Slams War Coverage” dated 4-29-2003, www.alternet.org/story/15578/?page=1). The information presented below does seem to support at least portions of the model. After the examples some basic information about the model from “Manufacturing Consent : The Political Economy of the Mass Media” is presented.
Mainstream media press reporter CNN Christiane Amanpour stated (“Amanpour: CNN Practiced Self-Censorship” by Peter Johnson Copyright 2008 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc., www.usatoday.com/life/columnist/mediamix2003-9-14-media-mix_x.htm#, posted 9-14-2003 and “The Press Self-muzzled’ Its Coverage of Iraq War” by Antonio Zerbisas published on 9-16-2003 in the Toronto Star, www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views03/0916-05.htm) on 9-10-2003 during an appearance on CNBC Topic A with Tina Brown : “I think the press was muzzled, and…self-muzzled. I’m sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News…put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did.” She also stated : “…did not ask enough questions, for instance, about weapons of mass destruction. I mean, it looks like this was disinformation at the highest levels.”
On 6-18-2007 with CNN co-host John Roberts on “American Morning” after Christiane Amanpour was named Commander of the British Empire by the queen of England (www.transripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0706/18/ltm.03.html, CNN.COM, Transcripts) : “ROBERTS: It’s coming up to 16 after the hour now. You have seen her in virtually every war zone on the planet, from Bosnia to Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Rwanda. Once it was said the sun never sets on the British empire. And so, it would seem, on our own Christiane Amanpour. She’s not just CNN’s chief international correspondent, she has just been named a commander of the British empire by the queen of England.
Christiane joins us now from London.
Christiane, congratulations. And I’m wondering, what are you thinking about all of this?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, I’m really, really thrilled. And I’m really proud.
It’s a long tradition. They set this up back in 1917. And it really is an amazing thing to be part of this.
But I think I’m really proud of the simple citation which says ‘for services to journalism’. And I really do feel, really genuinely from the bottom of my heart, feel that I share this with all of our colleagues and friends who believe in this kind of journalism, and, of course, with all of my colleagues and some of my best friends who’ve been killed, who’ve been wounded on the front lines of what we pursue because we’re so passionate about the real meaning of this profession.
ROBERTS: Well, you’ve certainly let nothing stand in your way as you have toured around the world to all of these hot spots, trying to shine the bright light of truth on some very dark places.
You know, ‘TIME’ magazine once called you the most influential foreign correspondent since Edward R. Murrow. I mean, that’s a pretty great thing to have said about you.
AMANPOUR: You know, it’s really nice, but I really strongly feel — and I feel more and more — that our job is simply to stick to the basics of what this profession is about. It’s about reporting without fear nor favor. It’s about recognizing the serious in this world and going out and telling the stories, giving a voice to those who don’t have a voice, and just simply trying to tell the truth, because our viewers really want it, they really deserve it.
And, you know, whether it’s against dictators, or whether it’s in elected governments, we must always remember that our job is not to be part of the propaganda campaign, but to report without fear nor favor, because if we don’t, we can get really into a big disaster. And I, as you know, feel very strongly that that’s what happened in the lead-up to the Iraq war.
AMANPOUR: And so I’m very, very committed to this.
ROBERTS: We should mention, Christiane, that right after this interview you’re on a plane and you’re heading for Jordan. We want to ask you about the Middle East crisis there.
Is there a danger here when you see the split in the Palestinians, the rise of Sunni extremism in Lebanon, Iran’s influence in both of those places, that the Middle East could be ripe for a conflagration that could spread across the region?
AMANPOUR: Well, I really do think that nobody could have imagined even a few years ago that the entire Middle East, not just Iraq since the 2003 invasion, but so many of the neighboring countries and so many of the important places such as Israel and Palestine, are in such a terrible situation right now. And to see this situation come to a head, whereby now the Palestinians are almost in a civil war with each other — some of them call it a coup d’etat, but the fact of the matter is they’re split right now, and there’s no real — no real sort of way to figure out how to conduct meaningful diplomacy to get out of this.
Yes, everybody’s saying that they’re now going to recognize and work with Mahmoud Abbas. But, you know, where were they when he really needed them to work with them? You know, what did create this split between the two Palestinian factions? And after all, of course, because of the failure of Fatah, that’s why people voted for Hamas.
AMANPOUR: And now what happens to the people in Gaza, 1.5 million people? What will happen to that? And there’s no real easy answer out of that right now. It’s a very, very dangerous situation.
ROBERTS: Well, we look forward to your reporting there, Christiane, in the future. And again, congratulations from all of us here. It really is a terrific honor.
AMANPOUR: Thank you.
ROBERTS: And it couldn’t have happened to a better person.
AMANPOUR: I’m proud to do it for CNN.”
An excerpt from mainstream media host Anderson Cooper 360 on CCNN dated 5-28-2008 (Anderson Cooper – 080528 – Jessica Yellin, You Tube and “Jessica Yellin’s Confession about Media Censorship in the Iraq War,” by Matthew Rothschild, May 29, 2008, in “The Progressive,” www.progressive.org/mag_wx052908) shows Jessica Yellin discussing her experience as a journalist (which at a later time it was identified per the article in “The Progressive” that this was referring to her experience while she was at MSNBC) stating : “I think the press corps dropped the ball in the beginning when the lead up to war began, uh the press corps was under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war that was presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the President’s high approval ratings and my own experience at the White House was that the higher the President’s approval ratings, the more pressure I had from news executives, and I was not at this network at the time, but the more pressure I had from these executives to put on positive stories about the President…” Anderson Cooper asked : “You had pressure from news executives to put on positive stories about the President?” And Jessica Yelin replied : “…they wouldn’t say it in that way, but they would edit my pieces. They would push me in different directions. They would turn down stories that were more critical and try to put on pieces that were more positive. Yes. That was my experience.”
Some excerpts (www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/btw/transript1.html) From Bill Moyers Journal Transcript: April 25, 2007 “Buying The War”; the exerpts are from the parts featuring Phil Donahue and Charles Hanley.
“PHIL DONOHUE (MSNBC, 1/13/03): Tonight: Anti-war protesters taking on the government, is there a place for them in this post 9/11 world or are they just downright unpatriotic.
PHIL DONOHUE: And I just felt, you know, what would be wrong with having one show a night, you know, say, ‘Hold it. Wait a minute. Can we afford this? Do we have enough troops? And what about General Shinseki? And where are all– you know, what is Guantanamo?’ I mean, ‘What’s wrong with this?’ I thought people who didn’t like my message would watch me. Because no one else was doing it. That’s why, I couldn’t get over the unanimity of opinion on cable. The drum was beating. Everybody wanted to bomb somebody. And I’m thinking, ‘Wait a minute.’ So here I go, I mean fool that I am, I rushed in.
PHIL DONOHUE: Scott Ritter is here and so is Ambassador…
BILL MOYERS: You had Scott Ritter, former weapons inspector. Who was saying that if we invade, it will be a historic blunder.
PHIL DONOHUE: You didn’t have him alone. He had to be there with someone else who supported the war. In other words, you couldn’t have Scott Ritter alone. You could have Richard Perle alone.
BILL MOYERS: You could have the conservative.
PHIL DONOHUE: You could have the supporters of the President alone. And they would say why this war is important. You couldn’t have a dissenter alone. Our producers were instructed to feature two conservatives for every liberal.
BILL MOYERS: You’re kidding.
PHIL DONOHUE: No this is absolutely true.
BILL MOYERS: Instructed from above?
PHIL DONOHUE: Yes. I was counted as two liberals.
BILL MOYERS: They’re under-selling you. (laughter)
PHIL DONOHUE: I had to have two… there’s just a terrible fear. And I think that’s the right word.
BILL MOYERS: Eric Sorenson, who was the president of MSNBC, told the NEW YORK TIMES quote: ‘Any misstep and you can get into trouble with these guys and have the patriotism police hunt you down.’
PHIL DONOHUE: He’s the management guy. So his phone would ring. Nobody’s going to call Donahue and tell him to shut up and support the war. Nobody’s that foolish. It’s a lot more subtle than that.
Later in the article : PHIL DONOHUE: It should be said that we did fairly well in the ratings. We did not burn the town down. Nobody on MSNBC did. But we were certainly as good as anybody else on the network. And often we led the network.
BILL MOYERS: IN DUMPING DONAHUE, NBC CITED RATINGS. BUT A BLOGGER GOT HIS HANDS ON AN INTERNAL MEMO AND THE PRESS PICKED IT UP.
BILL MOYERS: Now that memo said, ‘Donohue presents a difficult public face for NBC in a time of war. At the same time our competitors are waving the flag at every opportunity.’ Did you know about that memo at the time?
PHIL DONOHUE: No. No. I didn’t know about that till I read about it in The NEW YORK TIMES.
BILL MOYERS: What did you think? What does that say to you? That dissent is unpatriotic? PHIL DONOHUE: Well, not only unpatriotic, but it’s not good for business.”
Another part of the Bill Moyers Journal article : “BILL MOYERS: BY LATE NOVEMBER 2002 THE PRESS HAD YET ANOTHER CHANCE TO GET THE FACTS RIGHT. FACING INTENSE INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE, THE WHITE HOUSE AGREED TO HOLD OFF MILITARY ACTION UNTIL SADDAM HUSSEIN PERMITTED A TEAM OF UN INSPECTORS TO RETURN TO IRAQ AND TAKE A CLOSER LOOK. THE FIRST INSPECTIONS BEGAN ON NOVEMBER 27TH CHARLES HANLEY, A PRIZE-WINNING REPORTER FOR THE ASSOCIATED PRESS, WITH MORE THAN 30 YEARS EXPERIENCE REPORTING ON WEAPONS ISSUES, WENT ALONG TO COVER THEIR WORK.
CHARLES HANLEY: What we did was go out everyday with the inspectors. These guys would roar out on these motorcades at very high speed and roar through towns and do sudden U-turns and drive over land and do all of these things to confuse the Iraqis about where they were going so that there wouldn’t be a call ahead telling them to put away all the bad stuff.
The inspectors then would issue a daily report. And as it turned out, of course, inspection after inspection, it turned out to be clean. They had nothing to report, no violations to report.
BILL MOYERS: IN JANUARY OF ’03 HANLEY WROTE ABOUT THE SUSPICIOUS SITES THAT THE US AND BRITISH GOVERNMENTS HAD EARLIER IDENTIFIED AS MAJOR CONCERNS. ‘NO SMOKING GUNS IN…ALMOST 400 INSPECTIONS,’ HE REPORTED. IT OUGHT TO HAVE CAST SERIOUS DOUBT ON THE WHITE HOUSE’S ENTIRE EVALUATION OF THE IRAQI THREAT. BUT REPORTING LIKE THIS WAS OVERSHADOWED BY THE DRUMBEAT FROM WASHINGTON WHICH IS WHY, HANLEY SAYS, SOMETIMES HIS EDITORS BALKED WHEN HE WROTE THAT THE WHITE HOUSE LACKED FIRM EVIDENCE ON WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION.
CHARLES HANLEY: And that would be stricken from my copy because it would strike some editors as tendentious. As sort of an attack or some sort of allegation rather than a fact. You know and we don’t want our reporters alleging things. We, you know, we just report the facts. Well it was a fact. It was a very important fact that seemed to be lost on an awful lot of journalists unfortunately.”
Later in the Bill Moyers Journal article : “CHARLES HANLEY: The media just continued on this path of reporting, ‘Well, the Bush administration alleges that there are WMD,’ and never really stopped and said ‘It doesn’t look like there are. There’s no evidence.’ That should have been the second sentence in any story about the allegations of WMD. The second sentence should have been, ‘But they did not present any evidence to back this up.’ ”
In the Introduction, of the Book, “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” the authors began by writing : “This Book Centers In What We Call A ‘Propaganda Model’, an analytical framework that attempts to explain the performance of the U.S. media in terms of the basic institutional structures and relationships within which we they operate. It is our view that, among their other functions, the media serve, and propagandize on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that finance them…This is normally not accomplished by crude intervention, but by the editors’ and working journalists’ internalization of priorities and definitions of newsworthiness that conform to the institution’s policy…Structural factors such as ownership and control, dependence on other major funding sources (notably, advertisers) and mutual interests and relationships between media and those who make the news have the power to define it and explain what it means…We believe that what journalists do, what they see as newsworthy, and what they take for granted as premises of their work are frequently well explained by the incentives, pressures, and constraints incorporated into such a structural analysis.” In their Concluding Note in the introduction on page xlix they wrote : “The propaganda model remains a useful framework for analyzing and understanding the workings of the mainstream media—perhaps even more so than in 1988….As we noted above, the changes in structural conditions that underlie the model, and that we believe strongly and often decisively influence media behavior and performance, have tended to increase the model’s salience…but it remains a central truth that democratic politics requires a democratization of information sources and more democratic media. Along with trying to contain and reverse the growing centralization of the mainstream media, grassroots movements and intermediate groups that represent large numbers of ordinary citizens should put much more energy and money into creating and supporting their own media—as they did with the Independent Media Centers brought into existence during the Seattle and Washington, D.C. protests of 1999 and 2000. These, and other nonprofit community-based broadcasting stations and networks, and a better use of public-access channels, the Internet, and independent print media, will be essential for the achievement of major democratic social and political successes.”
On page 2 the authors identify “…the routes by which money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print, marginalize dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to get their messages across to the public. The…news ‘filters,’ fall under the the following headings…” On pages 3-14 the first of five filters, “1.1 SIZE, OWNERSHIP, AND PROFIT ORIENTATION OF THE MASS MEDIA : THE FIRST FILTER”, is discussed and ends : “In sum, the dominant media firms are quite large businesses; they are controlled by very wealthy people or by managers who are subject to sharp constraints by owners and other market-profit-oriented forces; and they are closely interlocked, and have important common interests, with other major corporations, banks, and government. This is the first powerful filter that will affect news choices” On page 14, the second of five filters, “1.2 The Advertising License To Do Business : The Second Filter is identified.” On pages 16-17, they wrote : “In short, the mass media are interested in audiences with buying power…power of advertisers over television stems from the simple fact that they buy and pay for the programs…Public-television station WNET lost its corporate funding from Gulf + Western in 1985 after the station showed the documentary “Hungry For Profit,” which contains material critical of multinational corporate activities in the Third World…In addition to discrimination against unfriendly media institutions, advertisers also choose selectively among programs on on the basis of their own principles. With rare exceptions these are culturally and politically conservative…Advertisers will want, more generally, to avoid programs with serious complexities and disturbing controversies that interfere with the ‘buying mood.’ They seek programs that will lightly entertain and thus fit in with the spirit of program purchasers—the dissemination of a selling message…” On page 18, the third of five filters, “1.3. Sourcing Mass-Media News : The Third Filter” is identified. The authors wrote (pages 18-19) : “The mass media are drawn into a symbiotic relationship with powerful sources of information by economic necessity and reciprocity of interest. The media need a steady, reliable, flow of the raw material of news. They have daily news demands and imperative news schedules that they must meet. They cannot afford to have reporters and cameras at all places where important stories may break. Economics dictates that they concentrate their resources where significant news often occurs, where important rumors and leaks abound, and where regular press conferences are held. The White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department, in Washington, D.C., are central nodes of such news activity. On a local basis, city hall and the police department are the subject of regular news ‘beats’ for reporters. Business corporations and trade groups are also regular and credible purveyors of stories deemed newsworthy….Another reason for the heavy weight given to official sources is that the mass media claim to be ‘objective’ dispensers of the news. Partly to maintain the image of objectivity, but also to protect themselves from criticisms of bias and the threat of libel suits, they need material that can be portrayed as presumptively accurate.” On pages 20-21 they wrote ” To put this into perspective, we may note the scope of public-information operations of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the National Council of the Churches of Christ (NCC), two of the largest of the nonprofit organizations that offer a consistently challenging voice to the views of the Pentagon…Only the corporate sector has the resources to produce public information and propaganda on the scale of the Pentagon and other government bodies. The AFSC and NCC cannot duplicate the Mobil Oil company’s multimillion-dollar purchase of newspaper space and other corporate investments to get its views across.” On pages 21-22 : To consolidate their preeminent position as sources, government and business-news promoters go to great pains to make things easy for news organizations. They provide the media organizations with facilities in which to gather; they give journalists advance copies of speeches and forthcoming reports; they schedule press conferences at hours well geared to news deadlines; they write press releases in usable language; and they carefully organize their press conferences and “photo opportunity” sessions…Because of their services, continuous contact on the beat, and mutual dependency, the powerful can use personal relationships, threats, and rewards to further influence and coerce the media.” On page 26, the fourth of five filters, “1.4. Flak And The Enforcers : The Fourth Filter” is identified. They wrote on pages 26-28 : ” ‘Flak’ refers to negative responses to a media statement or program. It may take the form of letters, telegrams, phone calls, petitions, lawsuits, speeches and bills before Congress, and other modes of complaint, threat, and punitive action. It may be organized centrally or locally, or it may consist of the entirely independent actions of individuals….The ability to produce flak, and especially flak that is costly and threatening, is related to power. Serious flak has increased in close parallel with business’s growing resentment of media criticism and the corporate offensive of the 1970’s and 1980’s. Flak from the powerful can be either direct or indirect. The direct would include letters or phone calls to Dan Rather or….indirectly by complaining to their own constituencies (stockholders, employees) about the media, by generating institutional advertising that does the same and by funding right wing monitoring or think-tank operations designed to attack the media…corporate community sponsored the growth of institutions such as the American legal Foundation, the Capital Legal Foundation, the Media Institute, the Center for Media and Public Affairs, and Accuracy in Media (AIM)…may be regarded as institutions organized for the purpose of producing flak…In 1982, when the Reagan administration was having trouble containing media reporting of the systematic killing of civilians by the Salvadoran army, Freedom House came through with a denunciation of the ‘imbalance’ in media reporting from El Salvador…The producers of flak add to one another’s strength and reinforce the command of political authority in its news-management activities.” On pages 29-31, the fifth of five filters, “1.5. Anticommunism As A Control Mechanism.” The authors wrote on page 29 that “A final filter is the ideology of anticommunism. Communism as the ultimate evil has always been the specter haunting property owners, as it threatens the very root of their class position and superior status…Liberals at home, often accused of being pro-Communist or insufficiently Anticommunist, are kept continuously on the defensive in a cultural milieu in which anticommunism is the dominant religion…It should be noted that when ant-Communist fervor is aroused, the demand for serious evidence in support of claims of ‘communist’ abuses is suspended, and charlatans can thrive as evidential sources. Defectors, informers, and assorted other opportunists move to center stage as ‘experts,’ and they remain there even after exposure as highly unreliable, if not downright liars…It is the mass media that identify, create, and push into the limelight a Joe McCarthy…The ideology and religion of anticommunism is a potent filter.” Also, on page 31 : “The five filters narrow the range of news that passes through the gates, and even more sharply limit what can become ‘big news,’ subject to sustained news campaigns.”
…AM – Question 3: If you were devising the Propaganda Model now, in 2008, what would it look like?
EH/NC: It would look very much like the 1988 version, with the ‘free market’ as a principal ideological underpinning along with ‘anti-terrorism’ and the ‘war on terror’ that have provided the needed Enemy or Face of Evil, with anti- communism pushed into a back-up and reminder/ideological role. Within this slightly revised framework, we would probably place more emphasis on globalization and dependence on government for favours and service; on aggressive government news management; on the rise or strengthening of right- wing mass media institutions (Sinclair, Clear Channel, Fox News), talk shows and blogs; and on the real but thus far weaker growth of other alternative media (including those based on the internet).
AM – Question 4: Your methodological approach is based upon the use of (a) empirical data (specifically content analysis, i.e. counting column inches), (b) the use of official sources and (c) the use of paired examples. Can you explain why you adopt such a framework in your analysis? Could such an approach be augmented by others (discourse analysis for example)?
EH/NC: We don’t confine ourselves to newspapers or official sources; e.g. in our important Table 2-1 on Worthy and Unworthy Victims  we have a column on CBS television news coverage, and our main focus is on the media themselves as sources, however they derive their own information (admittedly, very heavily from official sources). We do feature heavily the print media, partly because of ease of access and use, but also because they are more complete, with fuller information than television news, the latter often derivative from print media sources. Any weaknesses in objectivity or sourcing in the leading print media would commonly be amplified in television reporting. Where properly chosen, paired examples highlight bias, with quite similar evils (or virtues) treated very differently in alignment with the political interests of the state. This is a classic method of analysis  that fits well an analysis featuring propaganda service.
Our method IS a form of discourse analysis. We do not claim a monopoly of routes to the establishment of truth, so other forms of discourse analysis and other frames of analysis can complement, supplement and on occasion possibly yield better results than our own.  However, we believe that our broad framework continues to be serviceable. We note that it is often admitted by critics to work well in the important cases that we have discussed, but they rarely stop to explain why this is so and its implications.”
The current author was able to obtain the book ” Manufacturing Consent : The Political Economy of the Mass Media” copyright 1988, 2002 through interlibrary loan. The website, www.chomsky.info, contains a plethora of information including identifying books that Noam Chomsky has written.
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