Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky used the phrase “manufacturing consent” to describe how the media acts to garner the consent of the governed for policies and actions to which an objectively informed constituency might not consent. This builds on the premise by the great and precocious Étienne de La Boétie that government always requires the consent of the governed. The media, Herman & Chomsky’s theory holds, manufactures this consent.
Recently, however, I have noticed that the phenomenon goes beyond manufacturing consent and now qualifies as manufacturing advocacy. I have noticed that when I try to tell people one-on-one about the truth behind the propaganda, (most recently, for example, with regard to the Ukraine), the majority of people don’t evaluate the new evidence they had been previously shielded from, they actually argue against it! The responses differ between left and right, but the result is the same: irrationally advocating the unprincipled behavior of our agents in government against our own interests as tax-paying citizens who value liberty and justice for all.
Here are two typical responses I got recently when I offered my well-documented claim that Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland plotted with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt to install a new government in Ukraine weeks BEFORE the coup.
From the right: “You’re crazy! Russia invaded the Ukraine because Obama is incompetent and weak. All I can say is, he better not cut defense spending after this!”
So thanks to the media spin from the right, otherwise fiscally conservative people are not only accepting the “weakness” meme, they are denying evidence of the State Department’s provocations and demanding more dollars get dumped into the black hole of the military industrial complex! I’m not weak on defense – I think defense is arguably the only legitimate expenditure of the federal government – but look at this chart and tell me we shouldn’t be able to get away with less spending and still defend this country. (Perhaps demanding our government stop with the provocations would help!)
The response from the left, on the other hand, is a shocking retread of the right’s response during the Bush era: “We don’t know what those in-the-know know. We better trust our leaders on this one.”
I have concluded that most engaged citizens believe what they hear on cable news – at least from one’s own brand of cable news – to be for the most part an honest effort to convey the truth with respect to both facts and analysis. Furthermore – and this is where the consent becomes advocacy – we are invested in this belief because if that stuff is all lies, then what on earth is a responsible citizen with a real job supposed to do? You can’t do your own investigative journalism – you don’t even have time to analyze all the stuff that’s out there already! And if nothing on either side is true, then maybe there’s no one there fighting the good fight! Maybe there’s no point in voting! That would mean there’s no hope short of revolution! (That thought has crossed my mind anyway.)
I must say, however, in defense of the “global political awakening,” I was very pleasantly surprised (to continue the same example) when I got an overwhelmingly positive response to my show outlining the convincing evidence that the US worked behind the scenes to install a new (non-democratic) government in Ukraine, and that our allies there shot their own people in the back to justify ousting the democratically-elected president of the country. (To evaluate the evidence for yourself, check out my recent article on the subject.)
Could be that my systematically laying out the evidence was all it took to overcome the manufactured viewpoint. Could be that being piped out over the airwaves gave me the credibility to compete with cable news. Could be that radio listeners in general (and my audience in particular!) are better informed or more open-minded than the average bear. Whatever the reason, it’s clearly not hopeless, but there is definitely an element of “manufactured advocacy” out there that makes it harder to get the truth out.
People think the news is censored – and I’m certain it is – but if the audience becomes so attached to the lie that they push back on the truth, censorship isn’t even necessary because no one will listen to the truth. . . . and that gets me back to wondering if there is a democratic solution after all.