Lachlan Sidak ‘21
Up until the past few years, many would have argued that private news stations in this country are vastly better than the state-run propaganda stations of authoritarian countries. However, as the digital age and the advent of the internet have allowed information to flow freer than ever, corporate media has been widely revealed to be almost, if not just as bad, as state propaganda networks. Media filters itself through the interests of those who control it. According to the “Propaganda Model” first posited in Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky, we can observe five types of filters through which we can view the stories in the news media.
I: The Ownership of Media: Making Sure the Story Benefits the People in Charge of the Publication
In 2012, 90% of all media in America was controlled by only six corporations: Comcast, News Corporation, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS. Since then, Viacom and CBS have merged, and News Corp. has split into two separate corporate spinoffs. One of these spinoffs, 21st Century Fox, has since been dissolved into Disney and the new Fox Corporation. News Corp., 21st Century Fox, and the Fox Corporation are all owned by Rupert Murdoch. Each company filters not only the news they choose to present but also their owned media in general to suit their own interests. Nearly all the media we consume has been filtered through one of these corporations. This consolidation essentially creates an oligarchy of increasingly powerful CEOs who can bend the public to their will through their vast reaching media empires.
II: Advertising: Making Sure the Story Will Be Attractive to Advertisers and Net More Money for the Corporation in Charge of the Medium
Mass media works in a cyclical nature when it comes to profits and advertising. Advertisers are looking for an audience to which they can sell their products. Media outlets are looking for money from advertisers. Stories are created, skewed, sensationalized, and presented to maximize audience interaction and therefore profit. The more audience members they can get, and the more ads they can fit in, the more money they can make.
III: Sourcing: Mass Media, Advertisers, and the Ruling Class
Mass media, advertisers, and the ruling class greatly benefit from each other, and this mutual benefit must be sustained by a constant flow of news, regardless of the reliability of it, or even the truth of it. This filter can best be seen with sensationalism. As has been established, the goal of mass media is not to present truth but to make money. The more eye-catching the story, the more people will want to consume it, the more money the owners will make. If a corporation can reliably provide a constant stream of sensational news stories, then they will keep people coming back again and again, netting a steady profit for itself, advertisers, and the ruling class.
If a person refuses to comply and serve the interests of the ruling class, then the mass media will turn against them and start throwing flak their way. Let’s take Citizen Kane, a film from 1941, as an example. William Randolph Hearst, the largest media mogul at the time, led a massive campaign to make the film virtually unseeable. He had journalists attack and lie about the director, Orson Welles, he banned every news outlet under his wing from advertising or even mentioning the film, and he made sure that the vast majority of theaters did not air it, for fear that they too might receive flak from his massive news conglomerate.
The best way to keep people from questioning the news they consume is to use a boogeyman to scare them. For example, historically, communism and terrorism have both served as distractions from investigations of the media itself. Fear operates similarly to how authoritarian regimes’ propaganda works. The only difference is that these massive corporations are only in indirect control, rather than the direct control of an authoritarian regime.
To summarize, it is through these filters that the ruling class subverts democracy and controls the general populace. Big businesses serve their own interests by manufacturing the peoples’ consent to be governed and avoiding the endangerment of their power an educated voting populace would bring. An obedient population can be manipulated at the will of the oligarchs. True democracy is the greatest threat to big businesses’ grasp on our country.
Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2008). Manufacturing consent. London, England: Random House.
The content of this article, as with every article posted on The Exchanged, does not represent the views of the staff of The Exchanged nor the National Cathedral School, St. Albans School, Protestant Episcopal Foundation, or any employee thereof. Opinions written are those of the writer and the writer alone.