"I started reading Chomsky’s criticism of the Vietnam War when I was 17, and that’s when I first heard him speak. It was November 1969. Visiting a friend in Boston, I joined militant demonstrations aimed at shutting down the war research labs at MIT. Chomsky spoke to the activists assembled from across the Northeast; he was one of only a couple MIT professors willing to support the confrontational protests. (A large majority of MIT profs had voted to support an injunction against the protests.) In Chomsky’s political writings of that period, I remember a focus on the sanitized language that accompanied U.S. war crimes in the Vietnam conflict (“a euphemism for U.S. aggression”) — such as strategic hamlets (“concentration camps”) to protect the Vietnamese from guerrillas (“whom they were largely supporting”). His press critiques helped turn me into a media critic, and in 1986 I founded the media watch group FAIR. Chomsky was so influential that I sometimes wonder if FAIR would exist if not for him. He was one of the first people I asked to join our advisory board — he readily said yes, and has supported FAIR ever since. He spoke at the organization’s 25th birthday party in 2011. At FAIR, we continually pointed out that – while mainstream media in Europe and across the globe regularly featured Chomsky as an expert on U.S. and Western foreign policy – he was virtually blacklisted by the mainstream media in his own country. Today he’s still largely blacklisted, but the embargo matters less in the new media environment of Internet and nonprofit publishers able to create bestsellers. His books and speeches are now much more accessible in the U.S. ...One of the highpoints for me in all the years at FAIR was watching Noam Chomsky appear as a guest on PBS’s MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour in 1990. He was invited after FAIR published our first study of the NewsHour, which revealed that its guest list was even narrower and more conservative than that of commercial news programs. The widely-discussed study proved embarrassing to the NewsHour – and had some impact. A major foundation soon quit funding the show. And, for a while, the program slightly broadened its guest list by making The Progressive magazine’s editor a regular pundit.
In another gesture at broadening, Chomsky was asked to make his first (and it turned out, last) appearance on public TV’s NewsHour. The date was Sept. 11, 1990. What Chomsky said on the show was totally clear and would not have surprised anyone even slightly familiar with his work. But it seemed to confuse interviewer Robert MacNeil.
CHOMSKY: 'It’s been a leading, driving doctrine of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s that the vast and unparalleled energy resources of the Gulf region will be effectively dominated by the United States and its clients, and, crucially, that no independent, indigenous force will be permitted to have a substantial influence on the administration of oil production and price. That’s been a leading principle of U.S. foreign policy since the 1940s, and, I think, it remains so, as we see.'
MacNEIL: 'And a valid principle, in your view?'
At hearing MacNeil’s question, Chomsky paused, apparently wondering if it was a joke or trick question of some kind. Chomsky then replied:
'That principle is not a valid principle in my view.'
In fairness to MacNeil, his confusion seemed to stem from never having interviewed a U.S. citizen before on the NewsHour who believed that imperialism and the taking of other people’s resources were bad things."
Source: The Blacklisting of Noam Chomsky by Jeff Cohen
"What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream"
+ Noam Chomsky - Z Magazine, October, 1997
'Part of the reason why I write about the media is because I am interested in the whole intellectual culture, and the part of it that is easiest to study is the media. It comes out every day. You can do a systematic investigation. You can compare yesterday’s version to today’s version. There is a lot of evidence about what’s played up and what isn’t and the way things are structured. My impression is the media aren’t very different from scholarship or from, say, journals of intellectual opinion—there are some extra constraints—but it’s not radically different. They interact, which is why people go up and back quite easily among them. You look at the media, or at any institution you want to understand. You ask questions about its internal institutional structure. You want to know something about their setting in the broader society. How do they relate to other systems of power and authority? If you’re lucky, there is an internal record from leading people in the information system which tells you what they are up to (it is sort of a doctrinal system). That doesn’t mean the public relations handouts but what they say to each other about what they are up to. There is quite a lot of interesting documentation.
Those are three major sources of information about the nature of the media. You want to study them the way, say, a scientist would study some complex molecule or something. You take a look at the structure and then make some hypothesis based on the structure as to what the media product is likely to look like. Then you investigate the media product and see how well it conforms to the hypotheses. Virtually all work in media analysis is this last part—trying to study carefully just what the media product is and whether it conforms to obvious assumptions about the nature and structure of the media. Well, what do you find? First of all, you find that there are different media which do different things, like the entertainment/Hollywood, soap operas, and so on, or even most of the newspapers in the country (the overwhelming majority of them). They are directing the mass audience.
There is another sector of the media, the elite media, sometimes called the agenda-setting media because they are the ones with the big resources, they set the framework in which everyone else operates. The New York Times and CBS, that kind of thing. Their audience is mostly privileged people. The people who read the New York Times—people who are wealthy or part of what is sometimes called the political class—they are actually involved in the political system in an ongoing fashion. They are basically managers of one sort or another. They can be political managers, business managers (like corporate executives or that sort of thing), doctoral managers (like university professors), or other journalists who are involved in organizing the way people think and look at things.
The elite media set a framework within which others operate. If you are watching the Associated Press, who grind out a constant flow of news, in the mid-afternoon it breaks and there is something that comes along every day that says "Notice to Editors: Tomorrow’s New York Times is going to have the following stories on the front page." The point of that is, if you’re an editor of a newspaper in Dayton, Ohio and you don’t have the resources to figure out what the news is, or you don’t want to think about it anyway, this tells you what the news is. These are the stories for the quarter page that you are going to devote to something other than local affairs or diverting your audience. These are the stories that you put there because that’s what the New York Times tells us is what you’re supposed to care about tomorrow. If you are an editor in Dayton, Ohio, you would sort of have to do that, because you don’t have much else in the way of resources. If you get off line, if you’re producing stories that the big press doesn’t like, you’ll hear about it pretty soon. In fact, what just happened at San Jose Mercury News is a dramatic example of this. So there are a lot of ways in which power plays can drive you right back into line if you move out. If you try to break the mold, you’re not going to last long. That framework works pretty well, and it is understandable that it is just a reflection of obvious power structures.
The real mass media are basically trying to divert people. Let them do something else, but don’t bother us (us being the people who run the show). Let them get interested in professional sports, for example. Let everybody be crazed about professional sports or sex scandals or the personalities and their problems or something like that. Anything, as long as it isn’t serious. Of course, the serious stuff is for the big guys. "We" take care of that.
What are the elite media, the agenda-setting ones? The New York Times and CBS, for example. Well, first of all, they are major, very profitable, corporations. Furthermore, most of them are either linked to, or outright owned by, much bigger corporations, like General Electric, Westinghouse, and so on. They are way up at the top of the power structure of the private economy which is a very tyrannical structure. Corporations are basically tyrannies, hierarchic, controlled from above. If you don’t like what they are doing you get out. The major media are just part of that system.
What about their institutional setting? Well, that’s more or less the same. What they interact with and relate to is other major power centers—the government, other corporations, or the universities. Because the media are a doctrinal system they interact closely with the universities. Say you are a reporter writing a story on Southeast Asia or Africa, or something like that. You’re supposed to go over to the big university and find an expert who will tell you what to write, or else go to one of the foundations, like Brookings Institute or American Enterprise Institute and they will give you the words to say. These outside institutions are very similar to the media.
The universities, for example, are not independent institutions. There may be independent people scattered around in them but that is true of the media as well. And it’s generally true of corporations. It’s true of Fascist states, for that matter. But the institution itself is parasitic. It’s dependent on outside sources of support and those sources of support, such as private wealth, big corporations with grants, and the government (which is so closely interlinked with corporate power you can barely distinguish them), they are essentially what the universities are in the middle of. People within them, who don’t adjust to that structure, who don’t accept it and internalize it (you can’t really work with it unless you internalize it, and believe it); people who don’t do that are likely to be weeded out along the way, starting from kindergarten, all the way up. There are all sorts of filtering devices to get rid of people who are a pain in the neck and think independently. Those of you who have been through college know that the educational system is very highly geared to rewarding conformity and obedience; if you don’t do that, you are a troublemaker. So, it is kind of a filtering device which ends up with people who really honestly (they aren’t lying) internalize the framework of belief and attitudes of the surrounding power system in the society. The elite institutions like, say, Harvard and Princeton and the small upscale colleges, for example, are very much geared to socialization. If you go through a place like Harvard, most of what goes on there is teaching manners; how to behave like a member of the upper classes, how to think the right thoughts, and so on...
Okay, you look at the structure of that whole system. What do you expect the news to be like? Well, it’s pretty obvious. Take the New York Times. It’s a corporation and sells a product. The product is audiences. They don’t make money when you buy the newspaper. They are happy to put it on the worldwide web for free. They actually lose money when you buy the newspaper. But the audience is the product. The product is privileged people, just like the people who are writing the newspapers, you know, top-level decision-making people in society. You have to sell a product to a market, and the market is, of course, advertisers (that is, other businesses). Whether it is television or newspapers, or whatever, they are selling audiences. Corporations sell audiences to other corporations. In the case of the elite media, it’s big businesses.
Well, what do you expect to happen? What would you predict about the nature of the media product, given that set of circumstances? What would be the null hypothesis, the kind of conjecture that you’d make assuming nothing further. The obvious assumption is that the product of the media, what appears, what doesn’t appear, the way it is slanted, will reflect the interest of the buyers and sellers, the institutions, and the power systems that are around them. If that wouldn’t happen, it would be kind of a miracle. Okay, then comes the hard work. You ask, does it work the way you predict? Well, you can judge for yourselves. There’s lots of material on this obvious hypothesis, which has been subjected to the hardest tests anybody can think of, and still stands up remarkably well. You virtually never find anything in the social sciences that so strongly supports any conclusion, which is not a big surprise, because it would be miraculous if it didn’t hold up given the way the forces are operating.
The next thing you discover is that this whole topic is completely taboo. If you go to the Kennedy School of Government or Stanford, or somewhere, and you study journalism and communications or academic political science, and so on, these questions are not likely to appear. That is, the hypothesis that anyone would come across without even knowing anything that is not allowed to be expressed, and the evidence bearing on it cannot be discussed. Well, you predict that too. If you look at the institutional structure, you would say, yeah, sure, that’s got to happen because why should these guys want to be exposed? Why should they allow critical analysis of what they are up to take place? The answer is, there is no reason why they should allow that and, in fact, they don’t. Again, it is not purposeful censorship. It is just that you don’t make it to those positions. That includes the left (what is called the left), as well as the right. Unless you have been adequately socialized and trained so that there are some thoughts you just don’t have, because if you did have them, you wouldn’t be there. So you have a second order of prediction which is that the first order of prediction is not allowed into the discussion.
The last thing to look at is the doctrinal framework in which this proceeds. Do people at high levels in the information system, including the media and advertising and academic political science and so on, do these people have a picture of what ought to happen when they are writing for each other (not when they are making graduation speeches)? When you make a commencement speech, it is pretty words and stuff. But when they are writing for one another, what do people say about it?
There are basically three currents to look at. One is the public relations industry, you know, the main business propaganda industry. So what are the leaders of the PR industry saying? Second place to look is at what are called public intellectuals, big thinkers, people who write the "op eds" and that sort of thing. What do they say? The people who write impressive books about the nature of democracy and that sort of business. The third thing you look at is the academic stream, particularly that part of political science which is concerned with communications and information and that stuff which has been a branch of political science for the last 70 or 80 years.
So, look at those three things and see what they say, and look at the leading figures who have written about this. They all say (I’m partly quoting), the general population is "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders." We have to keep them out of the public arena because they are too stupid and if they get involved they will just make trouble. Their job is to be "spectators," not "participants." They are allowed to vote every once in a while, pick out one of us smart guys. But then they are supposed to go home and do something else like watch football or whatever it may be. But the "ignorant and meddlesome outsiders" have to be observers not participants. The participants are what are called the "responsible men" and, of course, the writer is always one of them. You never ask the question, why am I a "responsible man" and somebody else is in jail? The answer is pretty obvious. It’s because you are obedient and subordinate to power and that other person may be independent...'
+ What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream - Noam Chomsky (1997)
+ Source: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199710--.htm
'According to the Chicago Tribune, Professor Chomsky is “the most cited living author” and ranks just below Plato and Sigmund Freud among the most cited authors of all time.'