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Examining Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and The Media

Updated on August 25, 2012

The following is a paper which examines Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky And The Media, a documentary film about Noam Chomsky, a linguist and political activist. It explores his political views and his idea that the media is a profit driven institution which caters to the elite members of society.This paper contains information on Manufacturing Consent as well as personal opinions.

Manufacturing consent, as Chomsky argues, is a technique of control employed by the elite, including major corporations and the political class, via mass media outlets. The premise is that the decisions about what should be and is accessible to the general public are controlled by a small network of corporations whose objective it is to direct the ideological system of the public by way of deciding what information is accessible to the public. Essentially, as the title of the film suggests, manufacturing consent is thought control in what is assumed to be a free and democratic society.

In the opinion of Chomsky, manufacturing consent is a principal function of mass media. This is demonstrated by major corporations who utilize mass media outlets to generate revenue through ad space, which, as stated in the film, make up the majority of printed media.

2) When manufactured consent is reached in society, how does this affect our ability to examine crime and our criminal justice system as a whole?

Many individuals are surely aware that there are a small number of groups that control the majority of wealth in the nation. Not many individuals, however, may be conscious of the fact that much of the information they receive may be censored by the same groups that control the majority of the wealth and who may also be using mass media outlets to their advantage.

Granted not every incident or event from around the globe can be reported to the fullest and published each day. The information which the public has access to, however, can unfortunately be manipulated by a distinct few in order to profit or protect themselves. When the manipulation of information occurs, individuals are unable to examine events from the same prospective as they would have they had the entire truth.

Furthermore, Chomsky believes that media publications such as sports highlights astrological advice columns, and magazines such as The National Enquirer, divert the public’s attention away from issues that should matter. Chomsky uses the example of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor to illustrate the biased focus of media coverage when it benefits the institutions that in effect control the media. In his example, Chomsky illustrates how the media coverage of the East Timor invasion was literally nonexistent because it protected the United States from being viewed negatively. In addition, only 70 inches of newspaper column space was used to report the East Timor events whereas 1175 inches of column space was used to report the Cambodian genocide.

By allocating the majority of mass media resources to entertainment, it eliminates the need for individuals to engage in critical discussions regarding major political issues such as the invasion of East Timor.

The film demonstrates, Noam Chomsky's ability to critically examine and challenge public information and its sources. There are several ways for an individual to break out of conventional ways of thinking or interpreting information. For instance, one may simply observe an individual defy or question conventional norms in some way, such as Chomsky. Granted there are many conspiracy theorists that try though cannot persuade the educated public, there are, nevertheless, certain individuals who prove their theories correct and change the way others think. When Copernicus first found that Earth revolved around the sun instead of the other way around this idea would have been shunned by almost any person living at that time. It simply did not fit the zeitgeist. The same would be true for any idea that seems bizarre in modern times, such as psychic premonitions or reports from alien abductees. When individuals hold a universal framework of beliefs, the societal beliefs tend to endure while ideas that do not fit the framework are generally disregarded.

Although there does exist some reliable sources of information, it is quite unfortunate that our society is littered with deceitful individuals that potentially guide the accessible information and essentially the belief systems of the citizens. It is often difficult to determine when the information one receives is accurate, which makes it difficult for an individual to decide what one should believe or advocate. As a solution, one must gather all information obtainable, thoroughly examine any possible facts, and make informed judgments with the resources available to them.

Chomsky argues that society should focus on trying to do things that affect the structure of power because he believes that each individual has the right to autonomy and freedom to think for his or her self. With institutions controlling the information that the public has access to, individual thought is restricted because fragments of the truth are often biased or missing.

If the public is guided by lies or half-truths, they may not know and, consequently, may not have any control over how every day operations are run. In a society that is proudly labeled “free” and “democratic” individuals should have access to the same information that the powerful institutions have and also have the ability to make informed decisions about what they are in favor of and what they are in opposition to. If individuals have limited access to accurate information because it is manipulated by certain institutions of power, one may unknowingly be supporting a particular cause when one would otherwise be against it if given accurate information.

The need to change the current power structure is somewhat inspired by the apprehension of our free and democratic nation evolving into a totalitarian society in which a distinct few control the beliefs and ideas of the remaining citizens.

After viewing this video I have become somewhat more convinced of my already held beliefs regarding the manipulations underlying institutions of power and media coverage. It has been shown, through various sources, the link between the mass media and institutions of power. I am not in favor of a small percentage of individuals controlling the majority of the wealth and having some of the same individuals make the decisions about what I have access to. It is unfortunate that money can buy power regardless of the costs to society. The problem would not be so bad if the institutions of power did not mislead the public with inaccurate information and propaganda.

Manufacturing Consent Trailer


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