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Emotions and the brain

Help Manufacturing Consent A Propaganda Model Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media Necessary Illusions. Thought Control in Democratic Societies
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Analyse d'un téléjournal classique La fin programmée de la démocratie La disparition de l'information Stratégies de manipulation
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The elections that took place in El Salvador and Nicaragua at close to the same time in the mid-1980s offer a classic example of how two similar events were treated in dramatically different ways by the U.S. mass media, because the first was contrary to U.S. interests while the second was favourable to them.

In covering the El Salvador elections, the press presented the intervention of the guerillas as something terrible. In contrast, in covering Nicaragua, where the guerillas (known as "contras") were financed by the U.S. government, their intervention was portrayed as freedom-fighting.

Likewise, the U.S. mass media interpreted the long line-ups at the polls in Nicaragua as proof that the nationalist, socialist Sandinista regime was "dictatorial."But the line-ups in El Salvador were portrayed as a sign of democracy. (Later it was learned that the CIA had invested $2.1 million in the campaign of Christian-Democrat Napoléon Duarte, who was elected on May 6, 1984.)


In totalitarian countries where a culture of fear reigns, the control and censorship of the media by the state apparatus are usually obvious. But in Western societies with their privately-owned media, such control and censorship are far harder to detect.

But the propaganda is just as effective, even though it may be disguised by occasional attacks on specific cases of corporate fraud or government incompetence, to give the appearance of free expression for the common good. A closer look at how the mass media operate quickly reveals the limited scope of the social debates that they do present. Most of the time, it can be very instructive to focus less on the disagreements among the various antagonists and more on the assumptions that they share and that are never called into question.  

It is these assumptions, on which the major print and television media corporations are founded, that Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman have analyzed in detail in their many studies on the media in advanced industrial societies. Since Chomsky and Herman first propounded their “propaganda model” of the media, it has been proven time and again by the facts. This model shows how information is filtered imperceptibly through money and power to give us a view of the world that conforms to the one that the private interests and dominant elite of the nation want to convey.

The filters employed by the mass media allow only a limited range of metaphors to get through--chiefly those that emphasize security, property, and fear of conflict with authority--while suppressing those that emphasize concepts such as social equity and redistribution of resources. The essential components of this propagandistic model of the media comprise five main filters whose cumulative effect is, as Herman and Chomsky put it, the manufacturing of a predefined consent among the people who draw their information from these media. These five filters are:

  1) the large size of the companies that own the media, their growing concentration in a smaller and smaller number of hands, and the priority that these companies give to profits;
2) advertising as the primary source of revenue for the major media;
3) the blind trust that these media place in official sources of information, such as governments, companies, and experts from public relations firms that are often on the payroll of the institutions of power;
4) the criticisms that the powerful level at the media and use to discipline them;
5) the hostility of the major media to any perspective that is leftist, socialist, or otherwise progressive.

The institutionalization of these media filters serves to perpetuate social inequalities and a culture of fear. These filters are so thoroughly integrated into the unconscious of the journalists who work in the mass media that they wind up honestly believing that they are objectively interpreting the information that they receive.

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