Filtering the News: Essays on Herman and Chomsky's Propaganda Model


240 pages
Contains Bibliography
ISBN 1-55164-261-1
DDC 302.23





Edited by Jeffery Klaehn
Reviewed by Geoff Hamilton

Geoff Hamilton is a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of
British Columbia.


This book presents a collection of articles that assess and apply Edward
Herman and Noam Chomsky’s “propaganda model” of mass media
discourse as it relates to a variety of contemporary news stories. That
model, first articulated by Herman and Chomsky in Manufacturing Consent:
The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), posits five filters that
shape journalistic content in the service of money and power. The
contributors to this collection examine this filtering and its
pernicious impact on the truth in essays on George W. Bush and the Iraq
War, Israel Asper and Israeli propaganda, the civil war in El Salvador,
Dan Rather’s patriotism, The Globe and Mail and East Timor, and the
environment in newspaper reporting. Two chapters also deal with
criticism of the propaganda model and mount a defence of its efficacy.
The consensus of the contributors, as the collection’s editor Jeffery
Klaehn frames it, is that we live “in an era in which corporate
ownership of media has never been as concentrated, right-wing pressure
on public radio and television is increasing, the public relations
industries are expanding exponentially, and advertising values dominate
the news production process.”

In general these are persuasive essays, well-researched and precisely
argued. Valerie Scatamburlo-D’Annibale’s essay on Bush and Iraq,
which documents journalistic cowardice and gullibility in the lead-up to
the Iraq War, is particularly incisive, though many of her examples and
arguments will be very familiar to those who have followed this subject
closely. Robert Jensen’s essay on Dan Rather’s confused and
self-serving defence of “patriotic journalism” is by far the most
adventurous, provocative, and compelling piece in the book.

More, perhaps, could have been said about the rising influence of
Internet journalism and the challenge it poses to the media elite
fingered by the propaganda model. Nevertheless, this is a credible
collection of essays that amounts to a devastating attack on the
superficiality, venality, and corporate tractability of the contemporary
mass media.


“Filtering the News: Essays on Herman and Chomsky's Propaganda Model,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,