Manufacturing Consent: The role The Media Plays In Shaping Our Opinions

Political Junkie News Media

March 31, 2017

I want us all to think about the media, the press….and especially their role in both protecting us and harming us at the same time.  And then….consider our role in being an informed citizen and protecting our rights and ourselves.

Much has been stated lately about the freedom of the press and their important role in being an effective watch dog over our democratic government.  After all, the press is reportedly the only non-governmental institution that is mentioned in our Constitution (as part of First Amendment).  Yet, on the other hand, Trump has labeled them the “enemy of the American people“, especially when they don’t simply report and go along with what he says.

Many of us who disapprove of Trump feel that the press did not adequately do their job during the election in calling out the faults of Trump and over reporting any suspected problems with Hillary.  Even now, they acknowledge that they gave Trump too much free coverage and contributed to his rise.  So it is a bit ironic that Trump considers them an enemy now that some of them are attempting to do their jobs.

So what are we to think?  Are they to blame for the rise of Trump or are they our hope in calling him on his ever increasing BS?

Manufacturing Our Consent?

Can we trust the press to do the right thing?  Years ago, Noam Chomsky pointed out the pitfalls of a press owned by corporate media factions driven by profits in his book Manufacturing Our Consent.   

Recently a short animated video outlining the key concepts from Chomsky’s book was released by Al Jazeera, narrated by Amy Goodwin who is host of Democracy Now!  It is worth viewing and only takes a few minutes:

What does he mean by “manufactured consent”?  Basically, Chomsky is saying that we all are vulnerable to giving our consent to the actions of our government without critical thought. This consent is created by the corporate mass media through silent and invisible (to most of us) propaganda.  The mass media he says, “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”.

The propaganda model for the manufacture of public consent is based upon five editorially distorting filters used by the mass media.  What are the “5 filters” outlined by Chomsky?  They are:

  • A corporate media whose ownership is driven more by profits than our receiving accuracy and truth.
  • Using the news reporting to drive profits by the selling of advertising….advertisers sell their products to us, we get “the news” without having to pay, the corporations increase their profits.
  • Media news is controlled by a tight group of elite who want to maintain their power and use the news reporting as a means to that end.
  • Any stories that tend to discredit the corporate media are discredited by the corporate media.
  • A common enemy (Communists, terrorists, immigrants) is used to divert our attention and keep us in fear.

Although many may not be familiar with Chomsky’s work here, most of us are familiar with these concepts.  For more on “Manufactured Consent”, you can view online a full length documentary on the book here:

Media as Protector of Our Freedom?

So where are we?  We have this press that is supposed to be our watchdog and keep the government honest but can we trust them if their motivations are driven by profits and maintaining the status quo?

To be clear, I want the media to move towards calling out Trump on his lies and BS.  I want there to be an open and honest press that we can count on to report some version that is close to empirical truth and not the blatant lies frequently put out by “Fox News” and Trump.  I certainly don’t want to view the press as the enemy of the people.

But given that there are some vulnerabilities in relying totally on the mainstream media to define our facts for us, what are we to do?

We are the Protector of Our Freedom!

Ultimately, we need to be responsible for staying informed on what is really going on and to act appropriately based on that knowledge.  We need to remember that at the end of the day, we cannot delegate the protections of our freedoms to others, we must be responsible.

Here are a few suggestions to that end:

  • Be aware of the limitations of getting all of your information from the mainstream corporate media.  Always remember, when you are viewing their reports, that they have other filters and motivations and take that in account as you absorb their reports.
  • Voice your concern over the protections of the media.  Push back on any Trump administration efforts to discount the media and see them as an enemy.
  • Get your news from different sources.  Especially seek out sources that are not part of the corporate mainstream.  Avoid the temptation to only listen to news sources that reinforce your pre-existing viewpoint.
  • Critically think about issues and consider what is in the best interest of everyone, the most people, our country, the world.  Don’t simply accept ideas and beliefs based on what fits best with what you have always believed, what your friends and family believe and the like.  Apply discernment to complex issues and avoid seeking simple solutions that don’t take the complexity of the modern world into account.
  • Consider the opinions of others, but listen to a variety of voices!  Seek to understand others, especially those who differ from you…but ultimately make up your own mind.
  • Finally, voice your opinion in a respectful manner!  Tell others your opinions.  Post thoughts online. Write your representatives.  But always remember to share your opinion in a way that maintains dignity and respect and focuses upon the importance of our human relationships.

Joe Bowman

Political Junkie News Media