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Episode #148 ... On Media pt. 1 - Manufacturing Consent

2020-12-14 | 🔗

Today we discuss the 1988 work of Chomsky and Herman entitled Manufacturing Consent. 

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Stephen West. This is philosophize this thinking to the fine folks that support the show on patron. Thank you to the good people out there that support the showed, through the contribute. What you think the shows worth model on the website. Today's episode is the first in a series on media and its uncanny ability to shape our beliefs. I hope he loved the show today. So I want to begin this series on media by taking a look at it from a bit of an alien perspective, or at least alien to how we often hear people talk about media and what it does for us want to begin today by talking about the concept of media as a plural form of the word, medium Because, ultimately, that's what it is. You know we don't often think of media in this way, especially things like the news media like I was the news typically described well, it's often described as the fourth estate of government, the implication being that these people that report, the news to us are practically thought of as publics
servants the Tipp of the spear going out there in the world. While we live our daily lives there, the people they're gonna, ask the tough hard hitting questions that help keep us in form, so we can know what's going on in the world and vote accordingly, every four years there often framed as other performing a service for us. Many of them passionate about the truth, passion about getting to the bottom of what's going on, but what, if we were to think of media as a plural form of the word, medium dictionary defines medium as they quote, intervening substance through which impression are conveyed to the senses. Another waits defined is as the quote substance in which an organism lives or is culture. Now, regardless any sort of fourth estate mythology that can be tackled.
about news media forget about what our culture tells us? The media's doing for us want to consider on this episode here today that both of these definitions for the word medium could equally describe the service that the news media provides for us every day see to the thinkers recovered. Today, it may be incredibly useful to think of the news media as an intermediaries between us and reality, meaning the reality of the world is that we can't get on a jet ski rocket across ocean and see what's going on in Bolivia, for example, but man isn't it great that we have these thankless truth, loving public servants out there on the news that can do it for us and create a nice little short,
that a moving pictures it tell us exactly what is going on on the other side of the world media in this way serves as a filter the intervening substance through which impressions are conveyed to the senses. But another thing the thinkers recovering today would want us to consider. Is that look say you could somehow have control over those impressions that are conveyed to give people their impressions of what the world is like to have the only key to a lock on a door that people wanted open for them every day by. Needless to say, I have quite a bit of consolidated power. What would a media landscape look like if such a concentrated level of consolidated power existed when we even know about it would require a conspiracy on a level so vast that it would just be impossible
We're gonna be exploring the origins of modern mass media today by looking at the work of known Chomsky and Edward Herman, published in nineteen, eighty eight entitled manufacturing consent with many other references to Chomsky later work entitled media control. Now the term manufacturing consent is actually a borrowed term, rightfully so Chomsky Herman begin making their case about media by alluding to theories originally laid out by Walter Lit. in the early twentieth century. A time they saw as a point in history were the filter of media between us and reality start to take on a very different role in our lives right off the bat somebody out there might be wondering- and rightfully so, When you live in a democracy, why doesn't even makes sense to try to control media in the first place? How evil would you have to be? I mean: don't we all stand to bear
if it from people being educated, knowing what's going on and as accurate away as is possible. But this is part of the beauty of women's work. There are philosophical arguments you could make an friend, without being evil, necessarily that make a strong case for controlling what the average person consumes. Livin says these ideas are nothing new. They were used with linen. They were articular
by marks. The only thing relatively new hears that these same tactics are now starting to be applied to the democratic societies in the early twentieth century. So again, why would doing this benefit? Anyone at all Lippman lays out like this. There was a type of person out there that could think of a democratic society in terms of their being three major classes. We have on one hand, people that hold real positions of power more on them in a second, the second class, or what he calls the specialised class, which are more or less just elected officials that do the bidding of the public in a democracy and the third class as what he calls. The bewildered heard. which are the rest of us, you and me no masses and just to clarify these are not the views of Lippman himself he's describing one way that people could view a democratic society and how to run up now. People that hold real positions of power have ways that they control and direct the behaviour of these other two classes. They control the specialised clasped, the elected
goals by controlling the parameters of their entire lives as elected officials. So, in this way, theoretically a politician with all the qualifications in the world with the best intentions in the war, cannot survive for very long or even when an election in the first place, if they're not with the play by the rules of the people that make the rules whenever we happens next, is they become tacitly indoctrinated into a way of getting things done politically, there's a method. This is the way to do things in Washington. If you want to become part of a committee that can actually get things done, you dont fund raise by appealing to certain powerful private interests you dont get reelected, rub elbows with the right people in the existing government, your elbows are gonna be around for very long and so far this all makes sense, but the more difficult problem that has to be solved by people in positions of power is how do we control the herd? Don't have you noticed, but there's a lot of people out there. The masses are scary to people and
This is a power. How do you control the multi very nature of all the things that could possibly want well to the people who believe in this view of society, the herd is most effectively controlled by keeping them distracted and a number of different ways. But again this brings us back to the original question. Why distract the herd in the first place, especially in a democracy? Why not give them access to the best information we possibly can so that they can vote in the best way they can? Chomsky gives a great example the worldview behind this kind of thinking he centuries us. Imagine your parent and you have a three year old kid: the need to take care of for anyone. That's been around a three year old kid. You know
it is about four seconds away from destroying itself at any point in time throughout the day and to combat this as apparent, you need to set up an extremely narrow set of parameters for their existence. You may give em a toy to play with you may put on some cartoons. Just you can have a few minutes were the distracted enough that they know Tredah explore the light socket daddy's barbecue fork, but here's the thing Chomsky sense. As apparent you have the ability to give that toddler as much. freedom as you want. Really you can do anything you want. You could give that toddler permission to run across the street any time they thought it was a good idea, but why would anyone ever actually do that as apparent Not only would that be completely dumb, but it would be irresponsible and responsible is gonna, become an important word to these people in power that have this view of society. This is how people holding this view of societies
members of the hurt we need to limit the parameters of their life could very simple and keep them distracted. Give him some toys to play with give me some cartoons to watch, so they don't do too much damage with their complete lack of understanding when we let them explore the light sockets of the world. Similarly, we can't have a bunch of what they call irresponsible men running the show. We need responsible ones, ones that actually know how to bring about positive change in society, ones that recognize the dangers of giving the herd political power, because, similar to the impulsive unaware nature
toddler running across the street, the herd reacts impulsively and often violently to the emotional stories of the day, lacking the knowledge and experience and foresight to make measured long term decisions bottom line is we need to treat the herd like their little kids, make them think they have freedom of thought. But again, freedom is always freedom within certain parameters, and if we can limit those parameters, we can limit the possible world views that people can have and thus keep them in line more or less with what the quote responsible men, the truly qualified individuals have deemed to be the best way forward for the hurt now limiting what ideas are acceptable to believe. As
pretty easy throughout human history, and it only became more easy with in a totalitarian state. I mean people organized in the street with some message of political dissent, that's inconvenient to the responsible class. You just send people out into the street and beat them into submission, but throughout the 20th century that have become less effective, largely in part due to democracy, freedom to assemble freedom of expression. These things are spreading at a rate that they never had before. So the people in positions of power had to come up with a new tax a new way to limit the parameters of people's thinking. While still making them believe that it was there
idea to hold the position that they defended and vote the way that they voted. This was the moment that people in positions of power came up with an idea that would change the course of democracy in the age of mass media. No Chomsky has a famous quote about it. He says quote: propaganda is to a democracy, but the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state. Let's talk about the history of this. The origins of this shift in strategy predate world war, one though Chomsky and Herman site, one of the big points of inception as Woodrow Wilson, Creole Commission right around the time of the first World WAR when working and Co. Listen with the British Ministry of Propaganda, they created a campaign to deliver specific messages to a United States that, at the time, was not really that interested in getting involved in foreign affairs. They did this to drum up support for a type of patriotism that aligned itself with the. U S: involvement in world one well, but U S ended up getting involved in World war, one in a big way and the strategy.
So well for people in power that we can see an example of the same tactics immediately after World WAR, one in Mccarthyism and in the red scare, in other words, the interests of corporations, the government, enlargements, Two actions at the time benefited from us entering into World WAR one and have communism as a pejorative via the red scare and a Chomsky and Herman. This new strategy, a propaganda, worked strongly? Well for them all the way up until around nineteen. Thirty, five, with the passing of the Wagner ACT, most notably, that it allowed laborers to organise and vote in a collective way that just I've never been possible before once the effects of the Wagner ACT started to show once labour started getting small levels of power over the interests of large corporations and people started getting elected that were actually acting on behalf of these workers. People in positions of corporate power had to do something to try to get things back to the way they work Not a coincidence that, just two years later in the year, nineteen thirty seven is the first time we
a brand new innovation in these media propaganda tactics, something that came to be known as the Mohawk Valley Formula, the Mohawk Valley formula, is a strategy where you use media in various ways to bust a strike, meaning that, if workers have a problem with some policy that a corporation has because they feel like there being no. treated and they use this new power to organise to strike against that policy? The Mohawk Valley formula is a formula designed to align the motives of the strike with some message, a message. It really has nothing to do with the strike or the policy in question, but this message diminishes the support that the workers are going to get from the public. At the time it was popular to paint striking workers as an American, the interests of unions and of organised labors were against the interests of America and its future, so in other words, they effectively switch the conversation away from anything about specific policies that were being protested.
And turn the conversation into whether you were for the interests of America or against them, I'm not gonna, make any points here about unions or corporations, or anything like that. It's not what the show is. The significance of the when it comes to the series has less to do with labour unions and more to do with how we can see echoes of this very same, strategy in the media landscape that we live in today. Sure any of you can work out a time to turn on the news, and you see some organized protest being painted in a light, good or bad that it really didn't deserve, and the people painting the picture benefited greatly from it being painted in that way. Consider also how common it is for a campaign of any variety to effectively sidestep the entire question at hand that has to do with specific policy and turn the conversation into some sort of witch hunt against something or fist pumping for something that's free
the impossible to disagree with just as a point of reference here as an example, let's look at some popular slogans from U S. Presidential campaigns at the whole family can enjoy keep Amerika great. Ok. Now what citizen voting in a u dot S presidential election could possibly disagree with that statement. You can disagree with a policy behind that campaign, but that's not really what we're talking about here. You can disagree that a merry great in the first place, but there's a sense in which you can re read that statement to mean that we should keep Amerika great and get away from the way things are now point is to disagree with this statement is to be anti american by default. So why even consider someone's opinion about who should be president if they don't agree with it
in other words Chomsky, would say the statement is utterly meaningless. The statement is so vacuous, but it's really not saying anything of substance, but it's not trying to say anything of substance anyway. The real point is to switch the conversation away from the real policy that lies underneath the slogan. Much like corporations would do so that people weren't discussing what the labors were actually striking against another example hope and change one human being can possibly disagree with the idea of hope of being a good thing like who even sits around coming up with an argument for something like that now, I think we're better off if we're all hopeless change, what person is against change in the face of social unrest and an economic downturn at the time that left people a misery it once again. The point is not actually to say anything of substance here. The point is to subvert substantive conversations about policy. That's going on behind the catchy vacuous one liner that only a lunatic could disagree with this.
Is shallow by design to get people to think. The question of this election is as deep as a kitty pool when, in reality, it probably is more like the depth of the ocean, but a bewildered heard of cattle can't last very long in the ocean or they'd all drowned about slogans like support our troops. Not do you support the policies connected to the war in which their fighting do you support the troops but How can you not support the troops to even start making that argument? Chomsky says you have to start by saying. Well, I dont not support the troops, and he says by that time you ve already lost what have you heard the slogan, peace and harmony somewhere now, on one hand, how can anyone ever disagree with that? Meanwhile, Santos might be handed out, T, shirts and buttons behind the scenes. The point to Chomsky and Herman is that this is one propaganda tactic that uses media to drastically limit the parameters of a discussion which, in turn, effectively manufacturers that counts
and of the herd. Hence the title manufacturing consent. We can see how this whole thing is structured more clearly, if we move away from things like presidential slogans and move more towards how consent is manufacture in the news media in particular, because here's the thing it this is all true. We have to ask the question. Our people, like Wolf, Blitzer Self, censoring for the sake of pandering to these people in positions of corporate government and institutional power, like is doubly blitz, come into work they choose a news stories himself, choosing them because of the direction he's getting from some cabal of corporate overseers. He s secret backroom meetings with about every other anchor journalist reporter editor columnist. Blogger are these people all on the payroll? Are they all get in an email in the mornin from the monopoly? Guy tell them what to report on the answer to Chomsky and Herman is no the problem much more insidious than that chance. He writes in his book. Media control quote joy.
when are not normally kept under control through top down intervention, but by journalists, internalization of price parties and definitions of news worthiness that conform to the institutions, policy end quote, but he actually illustrates had even better in an interview he did with the rapporteur in the nineteen. Seventy the rapporteur asked Chomsky, do you really think that I'm self censoring right now clear The rapporteur, knowing that every day the only intent when he does his job is to get to the bottom of what the truth is and not the pedal. Some narrative that's been given to him. Chauncey says back to him. I'm not saying that you think. Your self censoring. I'm sure you believe every word that you're saying what I'm saying is that if you believe something different, you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting what towns is referencing here is the primary argument presented in the book manufacturing consent. The news media is full of people that do their jobs. Really,
they can be ethical hard working have a true desire to deliver the best news they possibly can. They can be all these things, but they will always be operating within parameters that have been pre set for them by people in positions of corporate government. Institutional power that have an inordinate amount of control over media outlets and use that control to limit the narrative so as to keep the herd distracted and voting their way in keeping with the view of society are taking.
by Walter Lit, and we talked about earlier in the episode. There are certain messages we need reinforced the heard that keeps society moving forward in the correct direction and not at the whims of what they see as just a bunch of toddlers media is the delivery system for those messages and when you control the framework, the news is delivered in than anyone that falls to far outside the norms put in place either never gets a job reporting the news in the first place, or doesn't last very long, not unlike the public officials. We were talking about before. The first question I gotta be asking here is: how exactly are they accomplishing? This seems like a pretty ambitious goal. Chomsky and Herman lay out five primary filters that our news media has to pass through before it ever gets to us and begins informing our he about what's going on in the world. The first one is what they call media ownership. Chow He says in an interview, make no mistake
the word media is just another word for company meaning these are not public servants. This isn't saint dudes children's hospital. These media outlets are for profit endeavours and we should Never forget that fact. The same reason you never go into a meeting with your boss and read them off all the reasons you're secretly horrible at your job, if there were some hard hitting story or interviewed that a news outlets could potentially run, and it was gonna, go directly against the interests of the company at large and may be put it out of business. Why would anyone ever run that story? On the other hand, let's say I come across a story that strongly
goes against the interests of one year, competitor stations. You might be much more inclined to run that story than you ever would have. Otherwise, this dynamic serves as a filter of the information we get to inform our worldviews. The second filter our media has to go through is advertising now initially, you may think this is similar to the filter of media control, but part of what's being referenced here is that there is not just one single customer that a media outlets has. They have you as a customer sure, but equally they have advertisers ass. A customer. And what are they sell that these advertisers you audiences? So if it serves the interests to curate an audience that corresponds with the values of some specific brand of toilet paper, for example, so be it. The third filter we need to consider is the massive influence held by what they call the media elite. This is an interesting one. That's essentially saying that people in high levels of corporate government or institutional power-
were effectively decide the standard for what is news worthy at all? They decide what news is, for example, say: there's some sort of large public relations scandal that the government has to deal with, but the government itself gets to appoint a spokesperson to give the official statement journalists if they want to credible news story. Look to their sources on the issue side of government to try to get the scoop, in other words, their forced to maintain relationships with their sources on the inside. If they ever want to get something newsworthy and what happens if they don't play by the rules, if they like a piece of information that source didn't want them to vote now, they're cut off can't get any official statements. They can't get the news there name isn't gonna, be on the list of reporters that are allowed to go to the next press briefing and ask questions. The reporting gets too critical things oftentimes they become slandered as people
eventually falling into obscurity or labelled as crazy? This is the fourth filter that they call flak your job as a journalist is to get the news and if you had to follow a specific set of parameters in order to get it probably wouldn't deviate too far side of them, because if you did, you wouldn't be very good at your job anymore. We ve been condition to think that we see some sort of person on the street interview, hearing random people's opinions about things and we think well what that that's interesting at all. But what are we gonna get to hear the official statement, the one worth Bremen the news worthy statement when you are the source of news where information when you're the transnational cooperation the controls and media outlets. When you have power to push certain stories, you
and not cover ones. You dont like when you get to determine who the resident expert is and can pick and choose which export agrees with you. When you decide what is newsworthy, you decide what journalists even have to look for. In the first place you decide who gets have access to the news. You decide the lane. The reporters have to stay in. This is Why? Otherwise, totally ethical people were good at their jobs could be put The painting in delivering information that manufacturers the consent of the herd and make no mistake, that's the way they see it. The people in this way are being treated like a bewildered heard. The word corral, often used. We need to corral the herd by corralling public opinion, and this corralling is often accomplished by reporting the news through the filter of fear, fear of some common enemy. That's out there. This is the fifth filter. Chomsky Herman lay out and it's a big part of the reason, people continue to tune into the news every day and are willing.
listen to adds about dishwasher tablets. In the meantime, we need to keep people afraid of some common enemy. That's out their popular ones have incited Communis terrorists, illegal immigrants, maybe even Democrats and Republicans, but in all these cases the message is exactly the same. You need to stay informed about what this group is up to or could be the downfall of our society. Tuning tomorrow, to get the latest scoop about their evil plants sea, because when we think of media as the plural form, the word medium when we think news media as a filter between us and reality. Instead of a group of public servants working tirelessly to tell us the objective, Ruth about what's going on in the world, you can start to soften a bit. You can start to see that enemy out there, that you fear, that's destroying the world really are just fell, human beings that have lived a different life, the new, but their own fears.
but their own desires to save the world, their kids will one day have to live in. You can start to question the very foundations of what grand our social system ology at all, which will be the topic of episode to in the series coming soon. Thank you for listening. I talked in exile,
Transcript generated on 2020-12-17.