Manufactured Consent

Manufactured Consent

Agree or disagree that media and governments are using manufacturing consent

The term “manufacturing consent” refers to the creation of propaganda by the government or the ruling forces, which is broadcasted through the media to influence the masses’ opinions. Use of propaganda is common in totalitarian states. Nevertheless, democratic states may still use propaganda to change the perceptions and opinions of the masses. As Chomsky asserts, totalitarian states often result to “creation of necessary illusions that influence people to apathy.” The media and governments in the U.S. occasionally use manufactured consent. The media strictly controls content disseminated to the masses – what Chomsky refers to as “genius of structural constraints.” Owing to time limitations and the need for concession, the media strictly controls the ability of people to influence the masses. For instance during political talk shows, the guest are force to “repeat conventional thoughts” owing to time limitations.

Can a society be ‘democratic in which consent is being manufactured?

A society in which consent manufacturing occurs cannot be democratic. However, there could be a tendency by the masses to perceive the ruling class as promoting the democratic values, while in reality this is only the “creation of necessary illusions” as Chomsky contends. Chomsky further asserts that the common person harbors a “naïve faith” that is created by the government and media and passed down as illusions. In the U.S. for instance, there exists what the masses believe to be democracy. On the other hand, the government uses an elaborate system for shaping the people’s opinions, which is quite similar to totalitarian regimes that aim at influencing people’s opinions.

Are such “illusions” necessary as Chomsky claims?

The “illusions” are not necessary and only serve the interests of the ruling regime. The creation of illusions in the media involves what Chomsky refers to as “a propaganda model”, where propaganda messages are released to the public via the national media. The national media yields great power over other smaller media houses, and thus in shaping public opinion. The national media establishes the general framework for operations, detailing the manner in which other media operates. National media outlets include The New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC, CBS, and among others. According to Chomsky, the national media creates illusions through a number of ways, which include topic selection, emphasis, distribution of concerns, bounding of debate, information filtering, framing issues, and through other means.

Provide a clear example of a conspiracy theory

Conspiracy theory is evident in Chomsky’s talk. Conspiracy theories comprise of speculations that an individual, organization, and/or government have planned to cover up something. Chomsky introduces a conspiracy theory where the national media such as The New York Times, Times, and others planned to cover up war atrocities meted out on the inhabitants of East Timor. The war, sparked by invasion of Indonesia into East Timor, is one of the worst genocides in the twentieth century. Chomsky contends that despite the story receiving publication in the London Times, other national newspapers such as The New York Times published a shallow story that did not depict the real situation at East Timor. Networks publish conspiracy theories as a way of changing or influencing the public opinion. For instance, the coverage of the East Timor invasion depicted the war as a matter of least concern.

The extent to which media manipulate public opinion

The media significantly manipulates public opinion through a number of aforementioned strategies such as topic selection, emphasis, distribution of concerns, bounding of debate, information filtering, and others. Currently, viewers have more autonomy due to the emergence of the internet and especially social media. Viewers are able to access unfiltered information on social media and quickly as it happen. For instance, the recent shooting of a black man in Minneapolis caused uproar as the public watched the happenings live.

Part B

The documentary exploring the concept of “manufacturing consent” provides readers with a new perspective concerning the ruling regimes and their control of the citizens. “Manufacturing Consent” provides a critical analysis of the tools used by governments to influence people. An important ingredient in the control process is the “manufactured consent” or propaganda, and the channels through which dissemination to the public occurs, which is usually the international media. The documentary arouses mixed feelings of distrust to the media. This is especially on realizing that some of the featured headlines and stories on national media are nothing but propaganda, and meant to influence the public. The documentary shows that there is need to compare information from a variety of sources before forming conclusions. As Chomsky warns, the average person’s mind is crowded by a “naïve faith”.

After watching the documentary, unanswered questions linger in the mind. Judging by Chomsky’s assertions, the media is awash by illusions meant to create illusions. The first question involves how people can distinguish between illusions and reality. It would be interesting if Chomsky provides guidelines on how the average man can distinguish media illusions and learn to identify the truth from the sea of manufactured consent. Second, the documentary fails to outline clearly the main motivations for mass media channels to publicize illusions or propaganda to the public. As earlier mentioned, the documentary has changed my personal perception of news media. It is important to be cognizant of the fact that the political regime and other influential persons can use the news media to shape the public opinion for their personal gain.


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