Posted by: Keegan Clements-Housser | October 24, 2016

Propaganda Ascendant

In Chapter 4 of “Mediating the Message: Theories of Influences on Mass Media Content,” attention is drawn to the Propaganda Model, a concept proposed by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their text “Manufacturing Consent.” The model proposes that media can easily become propaganda for societal elites, even in the absence of more stereotypical heavy-handed state control.

Their premise, though not without its detractors, is worth thinking about. They posit that most successful news organizations are not only owned by large corporations with vested interests in promoting particular types coverage, but are also generally heavily reliant on governmental agencies and corporate PR offices as authoritative sources. These sources often heavily doctor the information they provide to journalists, helping to reinforce a perception of society that favors the elites, and is often not representative of the average citizen. Coupled with the need to not offend advertisers who pay the bills, this creates for a dangerous erosion in factual and unbiased reporting.

In an ideal world, of course, journalists would specifically seek out independent sources to corroborate information provided to them by governments or corporations. Unfortunately, as the industry continues to contract and newsroom layoffs become the norm, many newsrooms simply lack the manpower to do much digging into the information provided to them by society “elites,” as Herman and Chomsky would describe them. The implications for the future of traditional journalism are grim – unchecked, this trend could  see news become propaganda without a single censor office in sight.

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