Noam Chomsky

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How do the filters in Chomsky's propaganda model (in the book Manufacturing Consent) act as a censoring mechanism, and how do they apply to Moyers's "Buying the War"?

Filters in Chomsky's propaganda model act as a censoring mechanism. In Moyers's "Buying the War," government officials and the New York Times worked together to circulate a story that Saddam Hussein was on the cusp of procuring nuclear weapons.

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The filters in Noam Chomsky’s propaganda model act as a censoring mechanism because they help the mass media sort the news and focus on the items that align with the priorities of the government, the wealthy, and the powerful. The mix of large media corporations, advertisers, government information, and purported experts is tantamount to censorship. Combined, these entities possess the power to determine what is and isn’t newsworthy, shape public discourse about worthwhile news, and control how such news should be interpreted. According to Chomsky, this dynamic results in a natural “marginalization of dissidents,” so that the censoring mechanism is obscured by the media’s ostensible “integrity and goodwill.”

To apply Chomsky’s filters to “Buying the War,” think about how Bill Moyers depicts the relationships that Chomsky illustrates in his book. In the episode, Moyer shows how government leaders and the New York Times appeared to have worked together to circulate a story that Saddam Hussein was on the cusp of procuring nuclear weapons. On September 8th, 2002, the Times published an article about Hussein's supposed machinations, and then Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney went on TV talk shows to draw further attention to the reporting in the Times.

The above sequence bolsters Chomsky’s argument that the media comes with a censoring mechanism. The government of George W. Bush had a message (Hussein was on the verge of acquiring extremely dangerous weapons) and used the media (The New York Times and the television networks and their news programming) to amplify their voices and minimize voices that departed from their narrative.

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