Herman Chomsky

In order for all of us to have a good understanding of this webwork, let me begin by first discussing the reading A Propaganda Model by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky.

The reading basically revolves around the notion that the ruling class of society, which includes the wealthiest of classes and the government as well, all conspire through propaganda in order to maintain their respective power in society. The reading then goes into a deep and thorough discussion of how the media has played a role in this propaganda to maintain the ruling class power. Thus, the article inevitably questions the objectivity posed by mass media. Can media still be impartial if it is filled with propaganda?

The mass media, whose duty is to both “smoothen” conflicts of economic inequality in society and help maintain such inequality for the benefit of the ruling classes, undergoes a process consisting of five filters which help give media its direction and orientation.

1. the profit orientation of media. Such a filter begins with the fact that due to the large investments and multiple licensee procedures initially needed in the media industry, many of today’s media corporations are dominated by a few wealthy families. The article states that the top twenty four media giants found in the US are controlled by wealthy families such as the Sulzberger family of the New York Times, and the McCormick family of Tribune Co. But due to the size of such companies, the need for them to be absorbed by the market system was all but inevitable. It is through the market system, the valuation of stocks and profit-shares, that such media firms become greatly profit-oriented. With the rise of today’ globalization and the ever-shrinking world of opportunity, such media giants have turned into Multinational juggernauts that extend their reach far beyond the media industry. Companies such as GE and ITT are according to the article, “greatly involved in the controversial areas of weapon production and nuclear power”.

2. advertising license to do business. It is advertising agencies that sponsor and finance media programs. This forces profit-driven media corporations to promote the profit-driven orientation of both advertising and media agencies. How? They do this by locating and targeting audiences with purchasing power. This consequently also drives-out small and independent media companies that are unable to keep up with the pace and demand set by advertisers. If the media programs do not generate an audience with purchasing powers, or set the mood for “buying-frenzies”, they are driven out of business by such market systems.

3. sourcing news. This questions the objectivity of media broadcasting because its news sources mainly revolves around corporations that are also profit-seeking and government institutions. Limiting their scope to such institutions that give them a steady outflow of raw news lessens their expenses and costs. This is the problem when corporations become too profit-oriented. In this case, institutions such as the government which provide raw news data are able to control such news platforms sent into media corporations. And on the other hand, these media agencies remain fully concentrated on lessening their costs and on appealing to both their viewers and their news sources through the kind of false-objective information being dispensed. The government as well has also used their monopoly on raw news data to their advantage by producing their own media agencies. According to the article, “the Pentagon was publishing a total of 371 magazines at an annual cost of some $57 million, an operation sixteen times larger than the nation’s biggest publisher

4. FLAK. This is the defense mechanism versus the media that come in the form of letters, telegrams, lawsuits, etc. It is this instrument that forces media to broadcast “truth” that will not jeopardize the majority, most especially its audience with purchasing powers. The goal then of the media is to avoid negative P.R. it is forced to always seem “objective” and unbiased.

5. Anticommunism as a control mechanism. This is the notion that media simplifies ideas to make the world seem simply and two-dimensional. From terrorism’s “either you are with us or against us”, to the purchasing of products “it is either you buy or you do not”, the media projects the world to be just and fair. At the same time, such a disposition dispensed to the media’s viewers gives them the feeling that market systems and capitalism is good and part of the fuel that makes the world go around.

From my own perspective, this article generally revolves around one notion that is constantly being discussed in Marxian Economic theory; the notion that both Private Corporation and the State are capitalist-driven institutions. From the Marxian perspective, capitalism is the main adversary of the “utopian Marxist society” due to the existence of exploitation and the appropriation of surplus value into the hands of a few people, also known as capitalists.

In Marx’ discussion on the economics behind capitalist societies, he cites two critical ideas that greatly influence Herman and Chomsky’s A Propaganda Model. The way I summarize the article is that first of all, media organizations are complex and greatly intertwined with capitalist society and secondly, the role of the government is similar to such media institutions that seek profit and power.

First, today’s capitalism is greatly an intertwined relationship among various corporations. This was already made obvious in the article. Multinational companies of today do not only expand within one industry, but do so across the market into other sectors. In the Marxian economic theory, this arises from the evolution of the capitalist into the board of directors and the major shareholders.

It is through these major shareholders and the board of directors that other companies are able to get their hands into the management and subsequently, the profit of another company. Media corporations do not simply concentrate on the media industry anymore, but also wish to branch themselves out to other sectors that are seen as profitable. The problem that arises in such a capitalist system is that when industries become more intertwined, power becomes more concentrated into a few hands in society.

The story does not end here, Marx explains that a capitalist society revolves around two essential processes, the fundamental class process and the subsumed class process. The fundamental class processes are the procedures, institutions and activities that revolve around the production of goods and services. These institutions appropriate profit through surplus labor their workers are exposed to. This form of profit of surplus value must then be distributed, in the process known as the subsumed class process, to agents and other institutions that are responsible to the survival and development of such fundamental agencies. Institutions such as the government that create laws the protect manufacturing corporations, media programs that promote certain products, etc. this then explains the dependency-relationship of media corporation to advertisers and to the institutions that provide them news data. From a simple perspective the advertisers who are ultimately concentrated on selling their products, form the fundamental class process that provide media corporations, the subsumed class process, and their respective profits. Without the advertisers, media companies will be unable to survive. But in a more profound analysis, we can see that such media corporations also play a part in the fundamental class process by producing commodities, known as the audience, which are then sold to the advertisers based on the “price” dictated by the ratings market.

Combining our understanding of the relationship between the fundamental and subsumed class process, with today’s rise of multinational companies has created a very complex capitalist society. Today, major companies are able to take up multiple class positions within the capitalist system. Media corporations such as GE and ITT are no longer simply media corporations, but have branched out into other industries where they are able to get more and more profit. And in finality, profit-seeking corporations are then only able to garner profit by supporting the “profit-seeking” scheme employed also by other major corporations. This subsequently gives rise to propaganda that supports the sustenance of the dominant class.
This has led me to choose a video on Youtube about how Fox News was able to stop a program from being aired on its network because of repercussions it may have on certain advertisers. The program was about a gene-enhancing product injected into cows that made them produce more milk, but had harmful side-effects on humans. What the video made me realize is that today’s capitalist society has become so complex that corporations seeking more profit will do whatever it takes to keep both its viewers (in this case ignorant) and its investors (the milk company Monsanto) happy by all means possible.

and secondly, Marxian economic theory states that one should view the state just the same as any other private institution. The government as well seeks to increase its profits in whatever means necessar, whether it be through a fundamental or subsumed class process. And it more often than not, ends up also having a multiple class status in both processes. As stated in the article, the government controls many of its own media agencies that divulge news also stemming from the government itself. At the same time, it also gets more profit by providing other media corporations protection and licensing within the media industry. Why is this so? The government itself is also well deep inside the market system of capitalism. It ensures its survival based on power and profit garnered in such a system. Thus, governments become hungry for profit opportunities wherever it may find them.
Upon reading a segment in the article about how ITT once tried to overthrow the Chilean government, it made me recall a book I once read that was very much similar to what ITT had tried to achieve. A word of caution, this book known as the Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, as shocking as it will seem, is a true story. The video is about how the author of the book was recruited by a private institution that worked hand-in-hand in the government in making other countries dependent on the US market. The beauty of this video (which will give you a crash course on the book) is that it shows the symbiotic relationship between the government and various major corporations and how in this day and age, there are no longer any clear divisions among one and the other. To put it simply, profit-seeking institutions see themselves as a united front in maintaining their power as the dominant figures in society. Their interdependency among each other has caused them to work hand-in-hand in finding more opportunity to make a killing on those that are not part of the group.

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