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'Manufacturing Consent' Co-Author and Media Critic Ed Herman Dead at 92

His critique of US media still resonates

 

Edward Samuel Herman, who died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 92 on Nov. 11, didn’t just cry out “fake news” like so many politicians and media pundits do today referring to stories that they object to. Rather, he explained why so much of the news in the US is and has long been fake and how the seemingly independent system of news organizations go about creating it, almost as if they were operating under the direction of some government of propaganda.

The co-author (actually the primaryauthor, as his non-alphabetical top billing on the cover makes clear) with Noam Chomsky of the ground-breaking 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Herman, a professor of economics in the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, devoted much of his career to exposing the lies and distortions of the US media. But unlike most media critics, he took his critiques much deeper, explaining how the US media, especially since the end of World War II, have actually come to function as an unofficial Ministry of Truth, creating a false narrative of the US as a benevolent, democratic promoter and defender of freedom around the world, even as it has actually become the world’s greatest purveyor of violence, defender of tyrants and transgressor of international law.

Ed Herman, 1925-2017 RIPEd Herman, 1925-2017 RIP
 

I first got to know about Ed through his writings in publications like Lies of Our Times and Extra!, but especially because of Manufacturing Consent, a touchstone of any serious modern media criticism. After reading that book for the first time 15 years after I had begun my career as a journalist, I suddenly understood exactly why I had become alienated from my employers — both in newspapers and television — that I had to quit working as a staff journalist and become a freelancer after just seven years in the business. When I would find my best stories killed by editors, or buried on inside pages, I used to blame it on the gutlessness or idiocy of individual editors, not realizing that it was a systemic problem, bigger than individual editors or even individual news corporations.

Herman and Chomsky explained what I had, before reading their book, never quite realized: that what I was doing in reporting and writing news articles, was not at all the product of the industry I worked for. I was merely a cog in the machine helping them to harvest the real product, which is “eyeballs” — the readers or viewers of my work — which they could then sell to advertisers. Viewed in that light it became clear why our employers wanted us journalistic workers to focus on stories that had drama and controversy but that didn’t make readers feel overly angry or depressed, and they certainly didn’t want stories that offended major advertisers or, god forbid, entire industries or government regulators.

Realizing that, like a scythe or a threshing machine on a farm harvesting wheat, as a staff journalist I was just a tool, a cog, part of a machine on the media plantation harvesting eyeballs, and not a creator and a crusading tribune of truth, was a profound awakening.



story | by Dr. Radut