Tags: discourse/language, knowledge, media, war/military, ideology, noam chomsky, propaganda model, representation, 06 to 10 mins
Length: 6:09; 3:41
Access: clip 1; clip 2
Summary: Strike up a conversation with a crowd of students about the media and odds are you will encounter a deep-seated suspicion that even in democratic political systems propaganda exists. Many people believe the media powerfully shape the public's vision of the world; yet when pressed, few are able to pinpoint whose view is being propagandized. Thus the public is suspicious, but divided on where to direct its suspicion. Fewer still are in agreement as to how the media most effectively succeeds in shaping public knowledge. In their book Manufacturing Consent: the Political Economy of the Mass Media, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky famously proposed a propaganda model, which argues that government entities and powerful businesses are able to control the information the media reports through five kinds of filters: 1) ownership (i.e., media outlets filter information that is incompatible with the interests of their parent companies); 2) advertising (i.e., advertisers pressure the media to filter information that is incompatible with the advertiser's interests); 3) sourcing (i.e., the media are dependent on government and major corporations for news bulletins, and these sources filter the information they share); 4) flak (i.e., the government and major corporations are able to pressure media outlets to filter information); and 5) anticommunist ideology (i.e., the media is influenced by dominant ideologies and filters information to align with ideology). In the first clip above, Norman Solomon, founder of the Institute for Public Accuracy, echoes this propaganda model. For instance, at the 2:35 mark, Solomon describes Herman and Chomsky's sourcing filter when he notes that journalists must take their cue from government organizations as to what is even worth mentioning. Lest students get the impression that propaganda is simply a matter of information either being "filtered" or reported, the second clip explores the way euphemism is deployed to cover up unpleasant events or avoid discussing events that reveal powerful actors, such as the state, in an unflattering light. William Lutz describes this use of euphemism in his influential essay "The World of Doublespeak," where he notes that in 1984 the U.S. State Department announced it would no longer use the word "killing" in its reports and would opt instead for the phrase "unlawful or arbitrary deprivation of life." Note that this is the second post on The Sociological Cinema to take up the topic of contemporary propaganda.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
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