Manufacturing Consent

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Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media
Cover of the first edition
CountryUnited States
SubjectMedia of the United States
PublisherPantheon Books
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardcover, Paperback)
381/.4530223 21
LC ClassP96.E25 H47 2002
Preceded byThe Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians 
Followed byNecessary Illusions 

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media is a 1988 book by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, in which the authors propose 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 derives from the phrase "the manufacture of consent," employed in the book Public Opinion (1922), by Walter Lippmann (1889–1974).[2]

The book was revised 20 years after its first publication to take account of developments such as the fall of the Soviet Union. There has been debate about how the Internet has changed the public’s access to information since 1988.

Origins of the book[edit]

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]

Propaganda model of communication[edit]

Five filters of editorial bias[edit]

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 they must cater to the financial interests of the owners, who are usually corporations and controlling investors. The size of a media company is a 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.” 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 disfavor from the sources, 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.[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]


According to Chomsky, "most of the book" was Herman's work.[7] Herman describes a rough division of labor in preparing the book whereby he was responsible for the preface and chapters 1-4 while Chomsky was responsible for chapters 5-7.[8] According to Herman, the propaganda model described in the book was originally his idea, tracing it back to his 1981 book Corporate Control, Corporate Power.[9] The main elements of the propaganda model (though not so called at the time) were discussed briefly in volume 1 chapter 2 of Herman and Chomksy's 1979 book The Political Economy of Human Rights, where they argued, "Especially where the issues involve substantial U.S. economic and political interests and relationships with friendly or hostile states, the mass media usually function much in the manner of state propaganda agencies."[10]

Further developments[edit]

  • In 1993, the documentary film Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (1992), directed by Mark Achbar and Peter Wintonick, partly based upon the book, presents the propaganda model and its arguments, and a biography of Chomsky.
  • 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.[11][12]
  • 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 on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of publication of Manufacturing Consent.[13]
  • 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.[14][clarification needed]

Film adaptation[edit]

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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herman, Edward S.; Chomsky, Noam. Manufacturing Consent. New York: Pantheon Books. p. 306.
  2. ^ p. xi, Manufacturing Consent. Also, 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. ^ Jump up to: a b Herman and Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent.
  6. ^ Noam Chomsky, Media Control, the Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda (1997).
  7. ^ p. 8, Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1995.
  8. ^ p. 204, Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar.
  9. ^ p. 205, Peter Wintonick and Mark Achbar.
  10. ^ p. 75, Herman and Chomsky 1979, The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume I: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, Cambridge: South End Press.
  11. ^ Butler, Daren (2006-07-04). "Turkish publisher faces prosecution over Chomsky book". Reuters. Retrieved 2006-07-12.
  12. ^ "Turks acquitted over Chomsky book". London: BBC News. 2006-12-20. Retrieved 2006-12-20.
  13. ^ Paul D. Boin (2007) Herman & Chomsky Media Conference notice from University of Windsor
  14. ^ "Authors@Google: Noam Chomsky". 2008-05-02.

External links[edit]