1. The mass media is mostly controlled by large corporations, who therefore support the sorts of things large corporations would be likely to support, like unrestrained capitalism and privileges for the wealthy.
2. The mass media is dependent on advertising, which also involves large corporations who support the sorts of things large corporations are likely to support. Further, these advertisers may have specific interests. For example, Texaco might be less willing to advertise in a source that frequently critiques Big Oil or raises concerns about pollution.
3. Journalists are dependent on sources. The most convenient sources are large well-organized entities in the midst of newsworthy events who issue press releases. For example, by far the easiest source for the latest news about a foreign war is the Pentagon. Furthermore, the Pentagon, while not always in fact trustworthy, enjoys a presumption of trustworthiness; if you interview some random foreigner, you would want to fact-check her very carefully, but if you parrot the Pentagon press release, you are assumed to have done due diligence merely because the source is so official. Other such convenient and official sources of news include the White House, the Department of State, local police forces, and local chambers of commerce. But all of these are members of the establishment and so have a pro-establishment bias. Further, the news relies on “experts” to confirm and comment upon news, and because of incestuous relationships between government, corporations, think tanks, and academia, the most credentialed and salient experts will almost always be pro-establishment.
4. Conservative groups fund “flak machines”, organizations and individuals whose job it is to complain that the media is “biased” whenever they are insufficiently conservative. In these cases, relentless nitpickers will shriek about every slight inaccuracy and condemn the journalists involved as liars and unpatriotic to boot. If the media parrots the official line, then journalists can be almost arbitrarily sloppy and nobody will call them on it. Therefore, journalists who get ground down by the constant harassment will unconsciously shift towards more pro-establishment narratives.
5. Anti-communism is “the dominant religion” of “our cultural milieu” so any journalist who disagrees with the establishment can be smeared with the label “communist” and forced “on the defensive”. Most “have fully internalized the religion anyway, but they are all under great pressure to demonstrate their anti-communist credentials.”
Il libro si occupa per lo più dell'azione USA nel terzo mondo. Riesce a dimostrare la tesi? Alcune considerazioni:
Okay, but what about media bias? Wasn’t that the whole reason we got into this mess?
C&H’s case studies of foreign wars aren’t great tests for their hypothesized mechanisms of bias. Their first two mechanisms are big media corporations pushing a pro-corporate worldview, and big corporate advertisers insisting on programming that reflects well on them and their corporate activities.
And I can see why a mass media dominated by corporate giants might be expected to agitate against labor unions, but it’s harder to see why it is so insistent on covering up a campaign of genocide by pro-American forces in El Salvador. It’s easy to see why they might avoid condemning oil companies in order to preserve ad revenue from Texaco, but harder to see why they would systematically underestimate casualties from US bombing missions on the Plain of Jars in Laos.
Their third mechanism, big Pentagon-style sources with press bureaus, certainly applies very well to these cases. But it doesn’t seem like it should necessarily generalize to every other type of story. When the media is covering an election, or a protest, where is the Pentagon-style source? Although C&H’s point that the police department, etc, can also be sources in this way is well-taken, this seems less pressing for a protest in Seattle than for, say, a bombing campaign in Laos, where a news source might have trouble getting Lao-speaking journalists into the midst of the carnage. Besides, what about cases where this produces the opposite bias? Might newspapers be overly friendly to regulations because they rely upon the regulatory body? What if there is a protest by a large, well-organized group that has cultivated links with the press?
Their fourth mechanism, flak machines, raise a similar issue. C&H view this as a rightist phenomenon almost by definition. They never consider the possibility that, for example, their writing an entire book saying the media is dishonest and biased might count as “flak” on their part. Any conservative criticizing the media is part of a “flak machine” intended to “keep it under control” and “destroy its independence”, but any leftist criticizing the media is bravely trying to expose its biases and bring the truth to light. This seems so obvious to them that they never even have to justify it. This is perhaps understandable in the conflict of foreign wars, where it’s more likely that would-be patriots will condemn reporting that reflects poorly on American troops, but in the context of domestic policy it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
That leaves their fifth mechanism, “anti-communism as the dominant religion of our culture”, a claim which hasn’t aged well since Manufacturing Consent came out in the ’80s. Worse, C&H’s argument for this position is almost word-for-word the same argument that conservatives use to claim that “anti-racism is the dominant religion of our culture”. I’ve even heard them use the specific phrase “dominant religion”.