Noam Chomsky – The 5 Filters of the Mass Media Machine


‘Propaganda’.
Many use the word when talking about countries
like North Korea, Kazakhstan, Iran.
Countries viewed as authoritarian
through the lens of the western media.
‘Press freedom’. ‘Freedom of thought’.
People use those terms when talking about
countries like the United States, France, Australia.
‘Democracies’.
In 1988, Noam Chomsky co-authored a book with
Edward Herman called ‘Manufacturing Consent’.
It blasted apart the notion that media acts
as a check on political power.
That media inform the public,
serve the public
so that we can better engage in the 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 five filters.
The first has to do with ownership.
Mass media firms are big corporations.
Often, they are part of even bigger conglomerates.
Their end game?
Profit.
And so it’s in their interests to push for
whatever guarantees that profit.
Critical journalism takes second place to
the needs and interests of the corporation.
The second filter exposes
the real role of advertising.
Media costs a lot more than consumers will ever pay.
So who fills the gap?
Advertisers.
And what are the advertisers paying for?
Audiences.
And so it isn’t so much that the media are selling you a product – their output.
They are also selling advertisers a product
– YOU.
How does the establishment manage the media?
That’s the third filter.
Journalism cannot be a check on power
because the very system encourages complicity.
Governments, corporations, big institutions
know how to play the media game.
They know how to influence the news narrative.
They feed media scoops, official accounts,
interviews with the ‘experts’.
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’ve lost your access.
You’ve lost the story.
When the media – journalists, whistleblowers,
sources – stray away from the consensus,
they get ‘flak’.
That’s the fourth filter.
When the story is inconvenient for the powers
that be, you’ll see the flak machine in
action discrediting sources, trashing stories
and diverting the conversation.
To manufacture consent, you need an enemy
– a target.
That common enemy is the fifth filter.
Communism.
Terrorists.
Immigrants.
A common enemy,
a bogeyman to fear, helps corral public opinion.
Five filters.
One big media theory.
Consent is being manufactured all around you,
all the time.

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