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

His critique of US media still resonates

Ed grew frail in recent years but remained as full of a passion for life as ever. Last year he had my wife Joyce and me come over for lunch at his beautiful if terribly in need of repair house perched on a steep, wooded hillside in Penn Valley, PA, because he wanted Joyce, an early keyboard player, to take a beautiful multi-volume edition of keyboard music by Domenico Scarlatti off his hands, as well as any of his huge classical record collection that she wanted. It turned out that in addition to being a brilliant economist and an incisive media critic, Ed was an amateur pianist and a lover of classical music —especially keyboard music. He even managed earlier this year to attend a fair portion of a day-long Scarlatti marathon Joyce organized for herself and her harpsichord students as well as other members of the Temple University Boyer School of Music’s keyboard faculty, presented by the Temple Library. Fortunately he didn’t attempt to drive to the campus himself. (To my horror, Ed kept driving his battered old early ‘90s Lexus into his 90s. When I inquired about the broken front and rear bumpers, the dented doors, the stoved-in headlight and the two precariously broken and dangling side mirrors, he said, dismissively, “Oh, the drivers in Philadelphia are terrible. I keep getting run into.” I got him a replacement right-side mirror from a local scrapyard and urged him to go to his mechanic and have it installed, but I don’t know whether he ever did it. Somehow he managed to avoid for years having some cop stop him and force him to get his treacherous wreck of a vehicle repaired or off the road.)

Ed remained as undaunted by the slings and arrows of his many conservative and liberal critics as he was by the aggressive Philly drivers he claimed were mauling his poor car from left and right, and while some of those liberal critics argued that his and Chomsky’s devastating characterization of US corporate media as propaganda vehicles could be demoralizing to opposition movements, Ed never seemed demoralized himself, but rather appeared energized by the battle. He was also not shy about tackling that taboo topic of Israel and the power of the Israel lobby in the US to influence US media coverage, particularly of Middle East issues, or about clearly characterizing Israeli policy towards Palestinians as “ethnic cleansing.”

Ed’s more than 20 books and his prodigious output of articles and essays on media issues remain as relevant today as when they were written. As Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibi wrote in a short obituary, not only is Ed’s work still relevant today, but “It's a shame he never wrote a sequel” to Manufacturing Consent, which we need “now more than ever.”

All of us concerned about the seemingly terminal decline of the Fourth Estate and of growing pressures on the alternative media from both government and the giant corporations that control the internet will sorely miss this warrior for truth and defender of dissent.

Ed, who lost his first wife of 67 years Mary Woody in 2013, is survived by Christine Abbott, a long-timer friend whom he married in 2015, as well as by a brother.

To date, the Philadelphia Inquirer has not published an obituary acknowledging the death of this critic of its work. This though the Inquirer diligently publishes obituaries about every professor of the city’s universities who dies.



story | by Dr. Radut