‘Manufacturing Consent’

Currently, there are at least two shocking news stories which have been little represented on the BBC or in the national MSM.  One is the decision of two health trusts in Northern Ireland to entirely stop providing statutory residential care for the elderly.  The other is the House of Lords vote which failed to kill off the controversial section 75 of NHS competition regulations.

Martin Rowson depicts the reporting failure in his cartoon, described by cif commentator lightacandle:

BBC News Invisibility Cloak – on the Lords sell off of the NHS – yes they ignored that one completely – as usual. The Lords now being a vulture friend of fat cat, seeing as one in four have interests in private health too. And what fools are we to allow it to go on…

It also happens to be the 25th anniversary of the publication of ‘Manufacturing Consent’ which examined the role of the mainstream media: 

The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda.


The video clip below is an interview with Edward S. Herman (who co-authored the book with Noam Chomsky) which commemorates the anniversary.  Speaking a few days ago, Edward Herman says to The Real News:

“All the problems of the propaganda media model we talked about in the book have grown worse”.

In 1992, Edward Herman wrote in ‘Beyond Hypocrisy’:

Dissenters are excluded in the normal sourcing and processing of news, so that freedom of speech is perfectly compatible with systematic barriers to views that jar and threaten. Reporters are forced to work within the limits imposed by the market system in order to survive and prosper in the media organizations….

Despite these structural facts, it is frequently asserted and has become a conservative cliché that the mass media, especially network TV and the leading establishment dailies, are both “liberal” and “adversarial” to established authority.

That certainly echoes the Tory view of the BBC.  Furthermore, Herman proposed two laws; a ‘power law of access’ and an ‘inverse power law of truthfulness’ which are interrelated.

 The structure of power that shapes media choices and determines who gains access also affects truthfulness in the mass media.

Those who have assured access can lie; the more powerful they are, the more easily they can lie and the less likely it is that their lies will be corrected.

The higher the rank the more “credible” the statement; the more credible the speaker, the greater the freedom to lie.  



Those who try to disprove the lies of the powerful have their limited access further reduced because their discordant messages would offend the powerful.  In any event, the messages of the weak and powerless can be largely ignored without cost to the mass media (whose biases would incline them toward avoidance anyway).

In his interview with The Real News, Edward Herman reiterates his view that ‘The media are simply part of the political force… lies are not contested.. the MSM does not allow alternative viewpoints .. We need a democratic order where the public’s interest feeds into the media.’  He considers that new media like The Real News show potential, but still believes that funding is needed for more investigative journalism.

Who on the left would disagree?

“Manufacturing Consent” 25 Years Later


Published on Apr 19, 2013

Manufacturing Consent for Invasion of Iran?


Manufacturing Consent

By CJ Stone

Previously Published By  CJ Stone, Hubpages

One of the most important books of the last 100 years is Manufacturing Consent by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky.

The book is an analysis of the media industry, and the various ways in which our news is distorted to create or maintain a particular world-view.

We believe we have a free press. What Herman and Chomsky show is that the press is effectively a propaganda outlet for the state-corporate interpretation of events.

The phrase “the manufacture of consent” was originally used by Walter Lipmann in his 1922 book Public Opinion. In fact the term “public opinion” when used by Lipmann is a euphemism for propaganda, since the book is about the control and manipulation of public opinion, not about attempting to follow it.

Lipmann’s basic idea is that the “bewildered herd” have to be lead by a political elite who use the power of the mass media to construct a version of reality which is in the interests of the elite. The book is a detailed exposition of how this can be achieved. It remains an influential book in the Public Relations industry.

Dodgy dossiers

We all remember the ways in which the news was spun in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003: the weapons of mass destruction deployed within 45 minutes, Saddam Hussein seeking nuclear material from Niger and all the rest, none of which turned out to be true.

You also may remember that when Tony Blair appeared before the Iraq inquiry he said that he would have taken us to war anyway, regardless of the excuse.

The reason I am reminding you of this is that we are again subject to a propaganda onslaught, this time about the nuclear threat posed by Iran.

A new International Atomic Energy Agency report talks of the “possible existence of undeclared nuclear facilities and material” in Iran.

On the basis of this George Osborne has just announced that Britain will stop business transactions with all Iranian banks, while the USA is putting sanctions on its petrochemical industry.

It’s that small word “possible” I would like to draw your attention to.

In fact the report acknowledges that low-grade nuclear material produced as a by-product of Iran’s atomic energy programme is accounted for and is not being diverted for weapons manufacture.

Nothing has substantially changed since the last IAEA report, with the exception of material from a solitary laptop, allegedly supplied to the Agency by a Western intelligence source, whose provenance has not been established.

All of this is following on from that frankly insane report in October about a plot to kill the Saudi Arabian ambassador using hired Mexican drug-trafficking assassins.

It’s at this point that I’d like to remind you of the dodgy dossier – information gleaned from a disaffected taxi driver, and cut and pasted from the internet – which made up the bulk of evidence in the run-up to the war on Iraq.

This is what Herman and Chomsky are referring to when they talk of “the manufacture of consent”. This kind of information doesn’t have to be true, it merely has to be repeated often enough and loud enough for people to start to believe that it is true.


Now let’s strip away the rhetoric and look at the facts.

Since 1945 the United States has invaded or been involved in conflicts in70 separate countries.

Iran has invaded no country in the last 200 years.

The United States has military forces stationed in 150 countries around the world, including Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf States, all of which border Iran.

Iran has no armies stationed anywhere outside its own territory.

Twice since the Second World War the United States has made direct military interventions on Iranian soil: once in the form of a coup de’etat against the democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadegh, in 1953, and once by backing Iraq’s brutal and bloody invasion in 1980, during which chemical weapons were deployed.

Iran has never invaded the United States.

The United States has an arsenal of 5,113 nuclear warheads.

Iran has no nuclear weapons.

I’ll leave it up to you to work out who the actual threat is.