Saturday, January 23, 2021

Review: Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman & Noam Chomsky

 Rating: 4/5 stars

This feels like a bit of an odd book to review. On the one hand, the propaganda model, presented in this book, is a great heuristic for understanding which stories are told and how they are told that is still critically relevant in 2020. The propaganda model in action is demonstrated exhaustively; narratives are well organized and claims are well cited. On the other hand, this wasn't exactly Baby's First Leftist Critique Of Mainstream Media, and so while the ideas were familiar to me, the examples used were actually quite unfamiliar to me. This book, which was written before I was born, ended up being a bit more of a crash course in the American invasion of Vietnam/Cambodia and 1970s-1980s Latin American history than an education of how media narratives shape public perception. Which was still useful, but the book wasn't really written to communicate this.

Brief grab-bag of other random thoughts:

  • It was very gratifying to have genocide by the US described using the word genocide.
  • Chomsky really ought not to describe himself as 'the foremost media critique on the Left'.
  • The additional prologue added in the early 2000s should be read after reading Chapter 1 and not before Chapter 1 (extensive references to 'the propaganda model' without actually introducing what that means first, i.e., the reader is assumed to know the point of the book they have not yet read yet).
  • The audiobook reader could have conveyed some of the dry humor/snarkiness a little better, but instead kept to a very academic tone.
  • Some non-fiction books translate very well to audiobook and this was not one of them.
  • Would have liked to see a little more about media coverage of domestic issues, which also are at the mercy of the propaganda model and also shape how Americans view international issues.

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