War, Propaganda and the Media by underground

War, Propaganda and the Media

How can the media be used to peddle propaganda in a liberal democracy?

The notorious Nazi Party Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, once said, “it is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion” (1948). He also likened the press to a “great keyboard on which the government can play.” Goebbels was a master of manipulation and is largely credited with selling the Nazi cause to the German populace.

In her 2007 book A Russian Diary, Anna Politkovskaya wrote of the overwhelming influence President Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin had over all aspects of Russian society, from business, to individual lives, to the media. A journalist writing for the Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta, Politkovskaya described the pro-Putin stance of the media: “As election day approaches, the television news bulletins increasingly resemble heartening dispatches on Putin’s achievements”(2007, p. 67). She recalls occasions of press censorship, threats from political leaders and an occasion where journalists were even detained for filming an anti-Putin demonstration. Those in the media that do not apply self-censorship and question the Kremlin risk losing their jobs. “Where freedom is, there is low pay, irregularly paid. The big time is the mass media that play ball with the Kremlin”(2007 p.154). Politkovskaya made a name for herself as a journalist who would tell the truth no matter what, reporting on the situation in Chechnya and the Caucasus, and the truth behind scandals such as the Dubrovka theatre siege in 2002 and the Beslan school siege in 2005 (2007, p. 44-45). Refusing to be silenced ultimately took her life; Politkovskaya was murdered outside her Moscow apartment in October 2006.

However, in liberal democracies the overt propaganda of the sort Goebbels used to great effect in Germany, or the political pressure placed on journalists like Politkovskaya in Russia would not be possible. But it would naïve to believe democratic governments are unable to use the media to sell their policies to the voting masses. And as we have seen in recent years with the “War on Terror” and the Iraq War, the media can be as complicit as their governments in deceiving the public.

In the new introduction to their 1988 book Manufacturing Consent, Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky present the “propaganda model” as “an analytical framework that attempts to explain the performance of the US media in terms of the basic institutional structures and relationships within which they operate” (2002, p. xi). They argue the media “serve, and propagandise on behalf of, the powerful societal interests that control and finance them”(2002, p. xi). This situation has arisen though changing social, political and economic factors that influence what news reaches us and how this news is presented. According the Herman and Chomsky: “The raw materials of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print”(1988, p.2) There are five of these filters: The size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass media firms; advertising as the primary income source for the mass media; the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business and “experts funded and provided by these primary sources and agents of power; “flak as a means of disciplining the media; and “anticommunism” as a national religion and control mechanism (1988, p. 2).

Herman and Chomsky argue the gradual centralisation and concentration of the ownership of the media has assisted the propaganda model. Ben Bagdikan notes in the 1983 edition of Media Monopoly that 50 giant firms own almost all of the United States media, which decreases down to only 23 firms in the 1990 edition (1983 & 1990, as cited by Herman and Chomsky, 2002, p. xiii). Now there are only really nine; Disney, AOL Time Warner, Viacom, News Corporation, Bertelsmann, General Electric, Sony, AT&T-Liberty Media and Vivendi Universal (Herman & Chomsky, 2002). These large media companies have also diversified beyond the media field and non-media companies have established a strong presence in the mass media industry (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). For Herman and Chomsky, the ownership of the media by these large corporations poses a problem of conflict of interest. Considering media corporations are usually owned by larger parent companies who diversify and have interests in many different sectors, how do news outlets impartially and fairly report stories that involve or influence their parent companies? NBC is given as an example of this conflict, as the network is owned by RCA, which in turn is owned by General Electric. GE is a large multi-national corporation, with interests across the globe in several fields, including the nuclear power and arms industry. The corporation also contributes funding for the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank that supports intellectuals who promote pro-business messages (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). However GE need not be the only corporation singled out; all businesses are interested in tax rates, interest rates, labour policies and business laws, so the media owned by these companies will push the ideas that favour their interests. In essence, it is as though the business effectively lobbies the media.

The second filter is the use of advertising as the primary funding for mass media. Newspapers need advertiser to be able to sell newspapers under cost, without the support of advertisements, a paper would have to raise the price of their product and therefore be unable to compete with cheaper competition. So it is an imperative for newspapers to appeal to advertisers. Advertisers want to know there will be an audience for their advertisement, but not just any audience will do, they want an affluent audience who have the income to purchase their products. Working class and radical papers are therefore at a disadvantage (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). Herman and Chomsky provide an example from post World War Two Britain of how the advertising imperative can undermine the quality of the media. Despite having a readership of almost double that of The Times, the Guardian and the Financial Times combined, left wing paper the Daily Herald, as well as the News Chronicle and the Sunday Citizen, folded due to a lack of advertisers (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). When media require support from the business sector it is inevitable that social democrat and worker’s papers will lose out. The media risk losing their advertising if they broadcast or print something critical of multinationals. Herman and Chomsky argue this explains why there is, in their view, a lack of media attention and criticism of environmental degradation and war profiteering.

The third filter that determines what product news consumers receive from the media is sourcing. Herman and Chomsky state the media “need a steady, reliable flow of the raw material of news” (1988, p. 18). They argue media centralisation and the reduction in resources committed to journalism, through cost cutting, have made the news media “more dependent than ever on the primary definers who both make the news and subsidise the media by providing accessible and cheap copy” (Herman & Chomsky, 2002, p. xvii). In other words, press releases. As the media accepts it cannot afford to have reporters at all places where important stories break, they rely on press releases to fill the gap. To consolidate their position as sources of news, government agencies, business and lobby groups make a great effort to make things as easy for news organisations as possible. It is believed the use of press releases reduces the expense of investigative work, as information from government, corporate or established organisational sources is respected as credible (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). This information is then repackaged as a story, without the critique that is arguably required. They say this is common practice, arguing a significant proportion of news originates from public relations releases. As Herman and Chomsky cynically put it, “there are, by one count, 20,000 more public relations agents working to doctor the news than there are journalists writing it” (2002, p. xvii).

Criticism of the media is the fourth filter of the propaganda model: “Flak refers to negative responses to a media statement or programmes” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988, p. 26). These “negative responses” could be letters, phone calls, petitions, lawsuits or political criticism. If produced on a large enough scale, flak can become both uncomfortable and costly for the media, particular when businesses may pull their advertising. As Herman and Chomsky put it: “If certain kinds of fact, position, or programme are thought to elicit flak, this prospect is a deterrent” (1988, p. 26). They note the ability to produce flak, especially threatening and costly criticism, is related to power; in order to influence the media a critic must come from a privileged position, either in politics, business or a wealthy lobby group. Legal groups conservative media watch dogs have arisen, highlighting any criticisms of right wing economic or foreign policy to support the unfounded allegation of left wing bias within the media. Herman and Chomsky provide several examples of these conservative media lobby groups, including Freedom House, the Media Institute, the Centre for Media and Public Affairs, and Accuracy in Media (AIM). AIM was financed in the early 1980’s by corporate sponsorship, including at least eight separate oil companies (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). The annual income of AIM rose from $5000 in 1971 to $1.5 million in the early 1980’s. Herman and Chomsky believe this support explains what they argue is the function of AIM and other media lobby groups “to harass the media and put pressure on them to follow the corporate agenda and hard line, right wing foreign policy” (1988, p. 27).

Possibly the most effective way to silence and discredit left wing and anti-militarist ideology in the media is the final filter of the propaganda model, anti-communism. According to Herman and Chomsky: “Communism as the ultimate evil has always been the spectre haunting property owners, as it threatens the very root of their class position and superior status. The Soviet, Chinese and Cuban revolutions were traumas to Western elites, and the ongoing conflicts and well-publicised abuses of communist states have contributed to elevating opposition to communism to a first principle of Western ideology and politics” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988, p. 29). It is argued this helps to demonise the left, uniting the populace against not only those who support communist regimes abroad, but even those who advocate policies that threaten property rights or redistribution of wealth and resources. As a result the left has become fractured and discredited, as any party from the left can be written off as communist. And the accusation of being communist carried a cost during the Cold War, when a black and white mentality existed between the evil and oppression of Communism and the freedom of capitalist societies, a conflict of good and bad. The mass media reinforced the dichotomy of communism versus capitalism and “rooting for ‘our side’ was considered an entirely legitimate news practice” (Herman & Chomsky, 1988, p. 31). Herman and Chomsky believe the media were central to mobilising the public against communism using any information that was critical of the left. “Defectors, informers and assorted other opportunists move to centre stage as “experts” and they remain there even after their exposure as highly unreliable, if not downright liars” (1988, p. 30).

Written during the Cold War, Manufacturing Consent reflects the fears that existed during this period. However, with the fall of the Berlin Wall the “red scare” is no longer so persuasive, but perhaps the threat of international terrorism fills this void. Instead of allegations of sympathising with communists discrediting those on the left, now we see arguments the left are “soft on terror”, for example. Just as anti-communism could be argued to influence what gets media attention, anti-terrorism is just as persuasive in our post 911 world. Although referring to communism, Herman and Chomsky could easily be referring to militant Islam when they argue: “If the triumph of communism is the worst imaginable result, the support of fascism abroad is justified as a lesser evil”(1988, p. 29).

The result of the propaganda model is the status quo is reinforced. The media successfully pushes pro-business conservative ideology, whilst maintaining the illusion of impartiality, balance and fairness. They believe the dissent that is allowed is “kept within bounds and at the margins, so that while their presence shows the system is not monolithic, they are not large enough to interfere unduly with the domination of the official agenda” (Herman & Chomsky, 2002, p. xii).

Herman and Chomsky provide several examples of the propaganda model in action. Comparing popular media outlets in American, Herman and Chomsky compared the coverage of several different conflicts and human rights abuses around the world. They look at the use of language and the amount of coverage given to opposing sides in several respectable US newspapers and magazines: The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Newsweek and Time (Herman & Chomsky, 2002). If the propaganda model is to be credible, they must be able to identify examples of the way a conflict is framed in the media reflecting America’s relationships with the countries involved and whether any US businesses have interests in the region. Those countries America is friendly with, one should expect the media neglect to recognise their crimes, whereas one should expect the media to concentrate its efforts into criticisms of abuses by enemy countries.

Herman and Chomsky contrast the way the media approached human rights violations in Turkey, a US ally, and in communist Poland. The American government backed the Turkish martial-law government from its inception in 1980 and the business community supported the anti-communist movement in the country (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). Media attention to the torture of political prisoners and attacks on trade unionists in Turkey was hard to find, the issue only pressed by human rights activists and groups with little political influence. According to the propaganda model, if the media had chosen to cover the Turkish torture on its own people, it would have had to go to an extra expense to find and fact check its own information sources, as the US government was not obliging, they would receive flak from government, business and organised right-wing lobby groups and risk losing favour from their vital financial supporters, corporate advertisers (Herman & Chomsky, 1988).

Herman and Chomsky contrast this with similar abuses that occurred in Poland and the media coverage that followed. As the Reagan government saw protests over political prisoners and the violation of the rights of trade unionists as a noble cause and a great propaganda tool, the media expectedly followed suit. Official sources and Polish dissidents provided adequate information for the media to cover the stories with minimal effort. Applying the propaganda model, Herman and Chomsky argue sources did not receive the same scrutiny and the criticism of Poland did not receive the same flak criticism over Turkish abuses would have (Herman & Chomsky, 1988). And as Poland can be used in the propaganda war of the anti-communist era, the Polish abuses had more political use than those in the constitutionally secular Turkey.

As a result, Herman and Chomsky say there are worthy and unworthy victims as far as the media are concerned. The suffering of some people can be used as propaganda against unfriendly countries, whereas abuses against others are best neglected as they challenge the prevailing myth. If reported, unworthy victims are often dehumanised, reduced to statistics, on the other hand the human face of worthy victims is shown to suit the official agenda.

America’s special relationship with Turkey has led to other examples of selective reporting of abuses and the difference between worthy and unwanted victims. Bordering Iraq, Turkey and their southern neighbour share a tradition of persecuting their Kurdish minorities. A strategic ally for the West in the Middle East, Turkey’s has killed more than 30,000 in its conflict with the PKK, who seek an independent state (O’Toole, 2005). The PKK has been listed by the United States as a “terrorist group” so their persecution by the Turkish forces is easily justified by Western governments and the press. Saddam, although once a key ally for the US against the Ayatollah’s Iran, has been portrayed as the Hitler of our time, and was charged with gassing 5,000 Kurdish civilians to their deaths in 1988 (Penketh, & Verkaik, 2005). Saddam was executed in December 2006 for this crime. Despite Turkey’s treatment of its Kurds being in no way less barbarous than Iraq’s, its ethnic cleansing is categorised as “repression”, whereas Iraq engages in “genocide”. The ridiculous nature of this hypocrisy is summed up with a quote by former US Ambassador Peter Galbraith stating, “while Turkey represses its own Kurds, its cooperation is essential to an American-led mission to protect Iraq’s Kurds from renewed genocide at the hands of Saddam Hussein” (Herman & Chomsky, 2002, p. xx). Herman and Chomsky argue the word is used to demonise US enemies, but rarely applied to the Americans or their allies.

Like their support for apartheid South Africa, Saddam Hussein and the Afghani Taliban, America supported the military dictatorship of President Suharto in Indonesia because it suited their agenda, most notably anti-communist policies. Reaching power after massacring the popular communists, Suharto maintained a reign of terror over 30 years, persecuting Indonesian dissenters and the people of East Timor. With US support over 100,000 people are believed to have been killed in the conflict (Curtis, 2003, in Pilger, 2005), however the killings received minimal coverage in the media. Herman and Chomsky attribute this to Indonesia’s special relationship with the US, the strong ties the South East Asian nation has with American businesses and its position as a model for capitalism in the region.

This can be contrasted with the coverage of the Serbian killings of ethnic Albanians. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavian was in the media spotlight during the middle of 1990’s as the region disintegrated into conflict. With NATO planning air strikes against Serbia, Slobodan Milošević was accused of killing around 2000 Albanians in Kosovo (Herman Chomsky 2002). Although not belittling the horror of the crimes, it has been argued the death toll was over inflated in the media. Herman and Chomsky accuse the media of using the deaths to prepare the country for war. Both countries suppressing an ethnic minority in a similar manner, yet they are portrayed in the media in completely different ways, because of the interests of Western governments and multi-national corporations.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq presents an excellent case study in the propaganda model and the media’s ability to deceive. The propaganda model argues the media relies heavily on press releases, particularly from government departments. The carefully spun ‘truths’ disseminated from White House press secretaries were lapped up by a lazy media, who failed in their role to keep the United States Government accountable. This was evident during the build up to the invasion in March of 2003, with the media toeing the official line and not challenging the dubious claims made to justify the war, as they really ought to have.

It can be shown the media does report conflict with bias and reinforce the status quo through reporting propaganda as fact and this is bought about by corporate and political pressures, but what influence does this have on the media’s audience? Although Manufacturing Consent stressed the propaganda model describes the force that shapes what they media does and not the effect this has on the voting populace (Herman & Chomsky, 2002), it can be shown that such an effect does occur. Research conducted on the public’s knowledge of the war and the relationship this has with their support for the war, perfectly illustrates the ability of the media to corrupt debate with misinformation and undermine democracy.

The Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press has commissioned surveys into the media’s coverage of the Iraq War and the effect their coverage has had on the voting public. Released in October 2003, the Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War survey asked what unfounded beliefs Americans held about the conflict, the media’s role in propelling this misinformation and the impact these beliefs had on whether voters supported or opposed the war. Focusing on just those myths that may have influenced people’s decision to support the invasion, the survey asked participants whether they believed “weapons of mass destruction” had been found in Iraq, whether there were links between Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and whether Saddam was linked to the September 11 attacks.

In February 2003, then Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the United Nations General Assembly and accused Iraq of deceiving the international community about its weapons programme (Guardian, 2003). Maintaining the belief Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, despite UN weapons inspectors finding no evidence of the purported weapons; Powell made the case for a military solution. However several years later no such weapons have actually been found, and the Bush Administration has acknowledged the information may have been flawed (The Age, 2004). Yet, the survey found 34 per cent of people believed weapons of mass destruction had in fact been found, with another seven per cent not sure (Kull, 2003). A substantial minority (22 per cent) even believed these weapons had been used during the recent war with the Americans (Kull, 2003).

It is not surprising this misperception remains. The first result that comes up if one Googles “WMD’s in Iraq” is a June 2006 Fox News story on two US Senators who claim “hundreds” of weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq since the 2003 invasion (Fox News, 2006). In fact, survey respondents were far more likely to believe the weapons had been found if they watched Fox News as their dominant news outlet; 33 per cent of viewers compared to the next closest 23 per cent for CBS News (Kull, 2003). Long after the invasion, conservative bloggers and websites still maintain the elusive weapons have been proven to exist or even found (Procter, 2007). This is despite the lack of weapons actually found, and the Bush administration conceding the information “proving” the existence of the weapons was flawed as early as mid 2003 (CBS, 2003).

Another claim made to help garner public support for the invasion was the myth Saddam Hussein had links to al Qaeda. Despite it being well known Osama bin Laden hated the Baathist Iraqi regime and the fact that both parties had contrary worldviews, the myth was well supported in the media, and therefore held by the public. Fox News reinforced this myth by dishonestly displaying a “war on terror” banner across the screen whenever broadcasting a story on Iraq, despite there being no relationship between Saddam and Osama. The September 11 Commission concluded there was no “collaborative relationship” between Iraq and al Qaeda, despite assertions from Vice President Dick Cheney only days before the release of the Commissions findings that links did exist (Milbank & Pincus, 2004). The administration has a history of making such ridiculous allegations; one need not look further than Bush’s “Axis of evil” 2003 State of the Union speech for another example. However, the media should be expected not to report such as allegations as the truth, although ideally the media should be able to rely on the authorities for credible information.

Even the accusation that Saddam was in some way responsible for the September 11 attacks in 2001 has been made in media. This myth has also been dismissed by the September 11 Commission stating, “we have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States” (Milbank & Pincus, 2004). Remarkably, this was the misperception most commonly held by respondents. Only seven per cent believed (rightly) no connection existed, with the remaining respondents believing Iraq was either directly involved (22 per cent), gave substantial support to al Qaeda but was not involved in September 11 (35 per cent), or believing a few al Qaeda individuals met or contacted Iraqi officials (30 per cent) (Kull, 2003). Some respondents even claimed to have seen “conclusive evidence” of the link, despite the US intelligence communities back down on the allegation (Kull, 2003, p. 1).

Those who got their news from public broadcasters PBS or NPR were the most likely not to hold any of the misperceptions, with only 23 percent of PBS viewers and NPR listeners believers in the any of the myths. Those who watched Fox News (80 per cent) or CBS (71 per cent) were the most likely to believe one or more of the unfounded myths (Kull, 2003). The survey found that those who held one or more misperception were more likely to support the war; of those who had no misperceptions only 23 per cent supported the invasion of Iraq, whereas 53 per cent of those with one, 78 per cent of those with two and 86 per cent of those with three misperceptions supported the invasion of Iraq (Kull, 2003).

Former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan has recently admitted the reasons to wage war against Iraq were flawed and the war should not have been declared, although stops short of accusing the Administration of deliberately misleading or deceiving the public (Fox News, 2008). A recently released report is not so kind; a US Senate committee report found the Administration repeated exaggerated what was known about Iraq’s weapons programme and intentionally made the erroneous link between Saddam and al Qaeda and September 11 to push the case for war (Pincus and Warrick, 2008).

In a debate over whether the media failed the public, prominent evening news anchors Katie Couric, Charles Gibson and Brian Williams disagreed over the charge the media had not asked the tough questions prior to the war (Celezic, 2008). One problem noted by Williams was the inability of the media to verify or challenge the government’s claims. Both Couric and Williams also cited examples of pressure from the administration to report the correct angle, or else face difficulty getting information in the future. They each acknowledge that in post-September 11 America, there was an overwhelming sense of patriotism and conformity.

In March of 2003, as America and its “Coalition of the willing” prepared to enter Iraq, public support for the war was remarkably high in the United States. According to Pew Research, 71 per cent of respondents believed the decision to use military force in Iraq was the right one, compared to 22 per cent who saw the decision as the wrong one. Since then the popularity of the war was on a gradual decline, although the capture of Hussein in late 2003 did momentarily boost support for the engagement. By late 2005, those who opposed the war and believed the troops should be withdrawn exceeded those who still supported the war.

As reports of how the Administration had deceived the public and their reasons for entering Iraq were gradually discredited in the media, support for the war declined. Coupled with scandals such as prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in 2004, studies illustrating international animosity towards the United States and increasing casualty numbers reported in the media, the support for the war subsequently plummeted, as did George W Bush’s approval rating as Commander in Chief.

As all the initial reasons for invading Iraq have been dismissed, the proponents for the war have turned to “regime change” and “liberation” as the justification for the invasion and subsequent occupation. However the accusations levelled at the Bush Administration as to the real reasons behind the invasion have retained their credibility. Critics of the race to war have cited oil profits and reconstruction contracts as the real reasons for the conflict, allegations that have recently gained credence with a recent report. Dick Cheney’s former company Halliburton obtained lucrative contracts in Iraq under dubious circumstances, as have other businesses with military and administration connections (Corbin, 2008). Accusations are also abound private contractors have been misappropriating billions of money earmarked for reconstruction (Corbin, 2008). This reinforces the propaganda model’s assertion that business interests drive the media agenda, and war is big business.

If it can be argued the media’s reporting of Iraq ultimately made it possible for the invasion of Iraq to receive public support, it does not bode well for Iran. As Western governments continue to accuse Iran of a nuclear programme that has not ultimately been proven to exist, the media appear to be making the same faults it did prior to the Iraq War. Much has been broadcast and published on the suspected nuclear ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, although it appears much is merely speculation. The media is selective in what is considered news worthy; Ahmadinejad’s oft repeated “wipe Israel off the map” comment is frequently referred to, to illustrate the Iranian President as a madman, despite the comment being taken completely out of context (Celalifer, 2005). On the other hand, Israel’s Deputy Defence Minster, Matan Vilnai, threatened the Palestinians with a “shoah” the Hebrew term for Holocaust, if rocket attacks did not cease, a comment that received very little coverage compared to Ahmadinejad’s threat (BBC, 2008). Again the coverage is hypocritical, especially considering Israel’s alleged 150 nuclear missiles, and arguably reflects not reality, but political and economic interests (Maddox, 2008).

The propaganda model is not without its critics, and many potential flaws can be found in some of its premises. Watergate affair is often admired as a case of remarkable investigative journalism, as the revelation that Richard Nixon was involved in a break-in at the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate Hotel complex, eventually resulting in his departure from office. This could certainly be held up as an example against the propaganda model, as the scandal targeted the pinnacle of the established elite, the President of the United States of America. Not so, says Herman and Chomsky.

“Powerful groups are capable of defending themselves, not surprisingly; and by media standards, it is a scandal when their position and rights are threatened. By contrast, as long as illegalities and violations of democratic substance are confined to marginal groups or distant victims of US military attack, or result in a diffused cost on the general population, media opposition is muted or absent altogether”. (Herman & Chomsky, 1988, p. 300).

Nixon could do what he wanted, until he threatened the powerful. Break-ins also occurred at socialist political organisations during this era, but there was no scandal. It was not until the Democrats were targeted did the media take note, because the Democrats themselves also represent powerful elements of American society. Herman and Chomsky believe the argument actually reinforces the core idea of the model, of the overwhelming influence of power on the media, and state “the very examples offered in praise of the media for their independence, or criticism of their excessive zeal, illustrate exactly the opposite”. (1988, p. 301).

Does the propaganda model account for all the coverage of the Iraq War? How will the propaganda account for the coverage of recent human rights abuses by the American military? Surely the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, the accusations of torture surrounding Guantanamo Bay detention centre, as well as various other cases of violations of international and American constitutional law, cast doubt on the validity of the propaganda model. Herman and Chomsky do argue dissenting opinions are allowed to reinforce the illusion that the media is fair and impartial, however media criticism of US abuses has gone beyond simply being a dissenting voice. It appears the model still applies well to the Iraq War, although it looks as though there are times it falls short.

Arguably the internet has changed the situation, as mainstream media no longer has a complete monopoly over news. Although independent websites and bloggers have credibility issues, they do place pressure on the conventional media to cover all the stories. Perhaps the Bush Administrations waning influence at home and abroad, and the apparent failure of the Project for a New American Century, the rising influence of the internet and emerging superpowers China and India, all conspired to ensure the Administration has not the same influence over the media it had immediately after September 11.

Herman and Chomsky successfully apply the propaganda model to conflicts, scandals and dodgy elections from across the globe, from Africa, to the Middle East, from Europe to Asia, and across South and Central America. Although Herman and Chomsky do not ague the model means the public is always deceived by the propaganda, the Iraq War proves a well-reported lie can persuade the public to support an illegal invasion of a sovereign nation. Considering this, I think we can assume, with some confidence, that other examples given also led to misconceptions amongst a misinformed public, which in turn means democracy is undermined. As a result of the propaganda model, the role of the media is seriously thrown into question. Arguably, democracy can only work with an informed public, or else the system risks being corrupted by something akin to what Plato termed the “tyranny of the majority”. Herman and Chomsky posit the media as a tool for those who have influence to obtain more influence, which shockingly mirrors the view of Joseph Goebbels. Perhaps the author of the ever-relevant Nineteen-Eighty-Four, George Orwell, put it best: “The people will believe what the media tells them they believe” (1949).


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Celalifer, A., (2005), Ahmadinejad did not say “wipe Israel off the map”, http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article12763.htm

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O’Toole, P., (2005), Plight of Turkish Kurds continues, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/4540535.stm

Penketh, A., & Verkaik, R., (2005), Dutch court says gassing of Iraqi Kurds was ‘genocide’, http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/dutch-court-says-gassing-of-iraqi-kurds-was-genocide-520599.html

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Procter, A., (2007) New proof emerges that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction ambitions, http://amyproctor.squarespace.com/blog/2007/8/31/new-proof-emerges-that-saddam-had-no-wmd-ambitions.html

Seib, P., (2004), Beyond the Front Lines, New York: Palgrave.



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Very nice!!

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