50 pages 1 hour read

Edward S. Herman, Noam Chomsky

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

Nonfiction | Graphic Memoir | Adult | Published in 1988

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Important Quotes

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“The culture and ideology fostered in this globalization process relate largely to ‘lifestyle’ themes and goods and their acquisition; and they tend to weaken any sense of community helpful to civic life.” 

(Introduction, Page xiv)

Globalization, the authors argue, has a single goal: expansion of consumer markets. As corporations expand further abroad, their reliance on political support grows deeper. With so much money at stake, these corporations feel entitled to use governmental power as a cudgel to ensure these markets remain open. Since mass media conglomerates are often subsidiaries of these same global corporations, they conveniently serve as propaganda machines in support of these globalization efforts. 

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“There are, by one count, 20,000 more public relations agents working to doctor the news today than there are journalists writing it.” 

(Introduction, Page xvii)

A popular conception is that intrepid journalists “discover” news stories by acting on anonymous tips or defying authority to root out corruption. In truth, much of the news comes from press releases or advertisers hawking products in the guise of legitimate news events. With companies slashing newsroom budgets in service to the bottom line, access to “cheap copy” becomes all the more alluring. 

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“Furthermore, in a system of high and growing inequality, entertainment is the contemporary equivalent of the Roman ‘games of the circus’ that diverts the public from politics and generates a political apathy that is helpful to preservation of the status quo.”

(Introduction, Page xviii)

The whole point of a free and independent press is to keep the public engaged and aware. The authors argue that it does just the opposite. The mainstream media, rife with “infotainment” (particularly egregious on social media) that serves to distract rather than inform, works like a sleight-of-hand trick, pulling eyes away from the real story to focus on the diversion. That distraction has arguably grown worse since the publication of Manufacturing Consent; the majority of Americans—86% according to a Pew Research poll conducted in 2020—now get their news from devices that provide access to so much decontextualized information, they serve as little more than distraction machines.