Noam Chomsky - The 5 Filters of the Mass Media Machine

  • Propaganda

    •  A word often used about countries viewed as authoritarian through the lens of the Western media (i.e. North Korea, Kazakstan, Iran)

  • Press Freedom / Freedom of Thought 

    • Often used when talking about democracies (i.e. The U.S., France, Australia)

  • Noam Chomsky's legacy “Manufacturing Consent” (published 1988) blasted apart the notion that media acts as a check on political power, that media informed the public, served the public, so that we can better engage in a political process. 

    • In fact, media manufacture our consent. They tell us what those in power need them to tell us, so we can fall in line. 

  • Democracy is staged, with the help of media that work as propaganda machines

  • Media operate through 5 filters:

    • Ownership

      • Mass media firms are big corporations

        • Often part of even bigger conglomerates

        • Their end game: Profit 

          • It’s in their interest to push for whatever guarantees that profit

            • Critical journalism takes 2nd place to the needs and interests of the corporation 

    • Advertising 

      • Media costs a lot more than consumers will ever pay. 

        • Who who fills the gap? Advertisers

      • What are the advertisers paying for? Audiences 

      • It isn’t that the media are selling you a product (their output) their also selling advertisers a product: You. 

    • The Media Elite 

      • How does the establishment manage the media? 

      • Journalism cannot be a check on power, because the very system encourages complicity. 

      • Governments, corporations, big institutions know how to play the media game, how to influence the news narrative, feeding media scoops, official accounts, interviews with the “experts,” etc. 

        • They make themselves crucial to the process of journalism, so those in power and those who report on them are in bed with each other.

        • If you want to challenge power, you’ll be pushed to the margins, your name won’t be down, you won’t be getting in, you’ll lose your access, you’ll lose the story

      • When the media (journalists, whistleblowers, sources) stray away from the consensus, they get flattened. 

    • Flack

      • When the story is inconvenient for the powers-that-be, the following counteractions (flack) are taken:

        • discrediting sources

        • trashing stories

        • diverting the conversation 

    • The Common Enemy 

      • To manufacture consent, you need an enemy, a target. 

        • Communism

        • Terrorists

        • Immigrants, etc. 

      • A common enemy, a boogie man to fear, helps corral public opinion.

  • These 5 filters comprise this theory: Consent is being manufactured all around you, all the time.