Quotes from Manufacturing Consent, by Noam Chomsky and Edward Hermann


- ‘In this book, we sketch out a ‘propaganda model’ and apply it to the performance of the mass media of the United States . This effort reflects our belief, based on many years of study of the workings of the media, that they serve to mobilize support for the special interests that dominate the state and private activity, and that their choices, emphases, and omissions can often be understood best, and sometimes with striking clarity and insight, by analyzing them in such terms.’ (xi)
- ‘The standard view of how the system works is at serious odds with reality.’ (xi)
- ‘We do not contend that this is all the mass media do, but we believe the propaganda function to be a very important aspect of their overall service.’ (xi)
- ‘Institutional critiques such as we present in this book are commonly dismissed by establishment commentators as ‘conspiracy theories,’ but this is merely an evasion. We do not use any kind of ‘conspiracy’ hypothesis to explain mass-media performance. In fact, our treatment is much closer to a ‘free market’ analysis, with the results largely an outcome of the workings of market forces. Most biased choices in the media arise from the preselection right-thinking people, internalized preconceptions, and the adaptation of personnel to the constraints of ownership, organization, market, and political power. Censorship is largely self-censorship, by reporters and commentators who adjust to the realities of source and media organizational requirements, and by people at higher levels within media organizations who are chosen to implement, and have usually internalized, the constraints imposed by proprietary and other market and governmental centers of power.’ (xii)
- ‘The mass media are not a solid monolith on all issues. Where the powerful are in disagreement, there will be a certain diversity of tactical judgments on how to attain generally shared aims, reflected in media debate. But views that challenge fundamental premises or suggest that the observed modes of exercise of state power are based on systemic factors will be excluded from the mass media even when elite controversy over tactics rages freely.’ (xii)
- ‘The propagandist naturally cannot reveal the true intentions of the principal for whom he acts….That would be to submit the projects to public discussion, to the scrutiny of public opinion, and thus to prevent their success….Propaganda must serve instead as a veil for such projects, masking true intention.’ Jacques Ellul (xiii)
- ‘That the media provide some facts about an issue, however, proves absolutely nothing about the adequacy or accuracy of that coverage. The mass media do, in fact, literally suppress a great deal, as we will describe in the chapters that follow. But even more important in this context is the question of the attention given to a fact – its placement, tone, and repetitions, the framework of analysis within which it is presented, and the related facts that accompany it and give it meaning (or preclude understanding). That a careful reader looking for a fact can sometimes find it with diligence and a skeptical eye tells us nothing about whether that fact received the attention and context it deserved, whether it was intelligible to the reader or effectively distorted or suppressed.’ (xiv-xv)
- ‘A constant focus on victims of communism helps convince the public of enemy evil and sets the stage for intervention, subversion, support for terrorist states, an endless arms race, and military conflict – all in a noble cause. At the same time, the devotion of our leaders and media to this narrow set of victims raises public self-esteem and patriotism, as it demonstrates the essential humanity of country and people. The public does not notice the silence on victims in client states, which is as important in supporting state policy as the concentrated focus on enemy victims.’ (xv)
- ‘It would have been impossible to wage a brutal war against South Vietnam and the rest of Indochina, leaving a legacy of misery and destruction that may never be overcome, if the media had not rallied to the cause, portraying murderous aggression as a defense of freedom, and only opening the doors to tactical disagreement when the costs to the interests they represent became too high.’ (xv)
- ‘The mass media serve as a system for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace. It is their function to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behavior that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society. In a world of concentrated wealth and major conflicts of class interest, to fulfill this role requires systematic propaganda. In countries where the levers of power are in the hands of a state bureaucracy, the monopolistic control over the media, often supplemented by official censorship, makes it clear that the media serve the ends of a dominant elite. It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent. This is especially true where the media actively compete, periodically attack and expose corporate and governmental malfeasance, and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest. What is not evident (and remains undiscussed in the media) is the limited nature of such critiques.’ (1-2)
- ‘The essential ingredients of our propaganda model, or set of news ‘filters,’ fall under the following headings: (1) the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms; (2) advertising as the primary income source of the mass media; (3) the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and ‘experts’ funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power; (4) ‘flak’ as a means of disciplining the media; and (5) ‘anticommunism’ as a national religion and control mechanism. These elements interact with and reinforce one another. The raw material of news must pass through successive filters, leaving only the cleansed residue fit to print.’ (2)
- ‘The elite domination of the media and marginalization of dissidents that results from the operation of these filters occurs so naturally that media news people, frequently operating with complete integrity and goodwill, are able to convince themselves that they choose and interpret the news ‘objectively’ and on the basis of professional news values.’ (2)
- ‘Advertisers will want, more generally, to avoid programs with serious complexities and disturbing controversies that interfere with the ‘buying mood.’ They seek programs that will lightly entertain and thus fit in with the spirit of the primary purpose of program purchases – the dissemination of a selling message.’ (17-18)
- ‘Economics dictates that they concentrate their resources where significant news often occurs, where important rumors and leaks abound, and where regular conferences are held. The White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department, in WashingtonD.C. , are central nodes of such news activity.’ (18-19)
- ‘Another reason for heavy weight given to official sources is that the mass media claim to be ‘objective’ dispensers of the news.’ (19)
- ‘Only the corporate sector has the resources to produce public information and propaganda on the scale of the Pentagon and other government bodies.’ (21)
- ‘It should also be noted that in the case of the largesse of the Pentagon and the State Department’s Office of Public Diplomacy, the subsidy is at the taxpayers’ expense, so that, in effect, the citizenry pays to be propagandized in the interest of powerful groups such as military contractors and other sponsors of state terrorism.’ (22)
- ‘The dominance of official sources is weakened by the existence of highly respectable unofficial sources that give dissident views with great authority. This problem is alleviated by ‘co-opting the experts’ – i.e., putting them on the payroll as consultants, funding their research, and organizing think tanks that will hire them directly and help disseminate their messages. In this way bias may be structured, and the supply of experts may be skewed in the direction desired by government and ‘the market’.’ (23)
- ‘We would expect official sources of the United States and its client regimes to be used heavily – and uncritically – in connection with one’s own abuses and those of friendly governments, while refugees and other dissident sources will be used in dealing with enemies. We would anticipate the uncritical acceptance of certain premises in dealing with self and friends – such as that one’s own state and leaders seek peace and democracy, oppose terrorism, and tell the truth – premises which will not be applied in treating enemy’s states.’ (34)
- ‘A propaganda system will consistently portray people abused in enemy states as worthy victims, whereas those treated with equal or greater severity by its own government or clients will beunworthy.’ (37)
- ‘While this differential treatment occurs on a large scale, the media, intellectuals, and public are able to remain unconscious of the fact and maintain a high moral and self-righteous tone.’ (37)
- ‘While the coverage of the worthy victim was generous with gory details and quoted expressions of outrage and demands for justice, the coverage of the unworthy victims was low-keyed, designed to keep the lid on emotions and evoking regretful and philosophical generalities on the omnipresence of violence and the inherent tragedy of human life.’ (39)
- ‘The worth of the victim Popieluszko is valued at somewhere between 137 and 179 times that of a victim in the U.S. client states; or, looking at the matter in reverse, a priest murdered in Latin America is worth less than a hundredth of a priest murdered in Poland.’ (39)
- ‘By relying only on government handouts and carefully avoiding readily available conflicting evidence and alternative views…’ (53)
- ‘The modern history of Guatemala was decisively shaped by the U.S.-organized invasion and overthrow of the democratically elected regime of Jacobo Arbenz in June 1954. Since that time, while Guatemala has remained securely within the U.S. sphere of influence, badly needed economic and social reforms were put off the agenda indefinitely, political democracy was stifled, and state terror was institutionalized and reached catastrophic levels in the late 1970s and early 1980s.’ (71)
- ‘The ‘solution’ to social problems in Guatemala, specifically attributable to the 1954 intervention and the form of U.S. assistance since that time, has been permanent state terror. WithGuatemala , the United States invented the ‘counterinsurgency state.’ ’ (73)
- ‘During the Reagan years, the number of civilians murdered in Guatemala ran into the tens of thousands, and disappearances and mutilated bodies were a daily occurrence. Studies by Amnesty International (AI), Americas Watch (AW), and other human-rights monitors have documented a military machine run amok, with the indiscriminate killing of peasants (including vast numbers of women and children), the forcible relocation of hundreds of thousands of farmers and villagers into virtual concentration camps, and the enlistment of many hundreds of thousands in compulsory civil patrols. Reagan, however, visiting Guatemala in December 1982, commented that head of state Rios Montt was ‘totally committed to democracy’ and was receiving a ‘bum rap’ on human-rights abuses. Two months earlier, AI released its report describing sixty different Indian villages in which massacres of civilians took place in a three-month period, with the total killed exceeding 2,500. The Reagan policy toward Guatemala was, as with South Africa , ‘constructive engagement.’ From the beginning, the administration strove to embrace and provide arms to the military governments.’ (73)
- ‘This droll pattern of identical apologetics for each successor terrorist, and ex post denigration of the one ousted, is an Orwellian process that the Western press associates with totalitarian states, but it happens here. And it can only occur if the mass media are cooperative. They must be willing to downplay or ignore the large-scale murders going on in Guatemala in the first place. In that context, the serial apologetics, the lies defending each murderer, and the mind-boggling hypocrisy will hardly be newsworthy.’ (75)
- ‘The number of civilians murdered between 1978 and 1985 [in Guatemala ] may have approached 100,000.’ (75)
- ‘Most important of all, these were crimes for which we bear considerable responsibility, since they were perpetrated by clients who depend on our support, so that exposure and pressure could have a significant effect in safeguarding human rights.’ (83)
- ‘The structure of the Guatemalan murder machine and how it works would make a good story, and numerous details of its operations were available, but this did not fit the government agenda and the Times format.’ (85)
- ‘In the Dominican Republic in 1966, and periodically thereafter, the United States organized what have been called ‘demonstration elections in its client states, defined as those whose primary function is to convince the home population that the intervention is well intentioned, that the populace of the invaded and occupied country welcomes the intrusion, and that they are being given a democratic choice.’ (87)
- ‘The U.S. government has employed a number of devices in its sponsored elections to put them in a favorable light. It has also had an identifiable agenda of issues that it wants stressed, as well as others it wants ignored or downplayed. Central to demonstration-election management has been the manipulation of symbols and agenda to give the favored election a positive image. The sponsor government tries to associate the election with the happy word ‘democracy’ and the military regime it backs with support of the elections (and hence democracy). It emphasizes what a wonderful thing it is to be able to hold any election at all under conditions of internal conflict, and it makes it appear a moral triumph that the army has agreed to support the election (albeit reluctantly) and abide by its results. The refusal of the rebel opposition to participate in the election is portrayed as a rejection of democracy and proof of its antidemocratic tendencies, although the very plan of the election involves the rebels’ exclusion from the ballot. The sponsor government also seizes upon any rebel statements urging nonparticipation or threatening to disrupt the election. These are used to transform the election into a democratic struggle between, on the one side, the ‘born-again’ democratic army and people struggling to vote for ‘peace,’ and, on the other, the rebels opposing democracy, peace, and the right to vote. Thus the dramatic denouement of the election is voter turnout, which measures the ability of the forces of democracy and peace (the army) to overcome rebel threats.’ (88-89)
- ‘Other issues that must be downplayed in conforming to the government propaganda format are the U.S. government’s role in organizing and funding the election, the internal propaganda campaign waged to get out the vote, outright fraud, and the constraints on and threats to journalists covered the election. Another issue off the government agenda is the purpose of the election. If its role is to influence the home population, spelling this out might arouse suspicions concerning its authenticity.’ (89-90)
- ‘Nobody who proposed a peace option could appear as a serious candidate in Vietnam in 1967, and as we describe below, there was no peace candidate at all in El Salvador in either 1982 or 1984, although the polls and reporters kept saying that peace was the primary concern of the electorate.’ (90)
- ‘A further – and related – distinction was that the ruling Sandinista government was a popular government, which strove to serve majority needs and could therefore afford to allow greater freedom of speech and organization. The LASA report on the Nicaraguan election notes that their program ‘implies redistribution of access to wealth and public services. The state will use its power to guarantee fulfillment of the basic needs of the majority population.’ ’ (92)
- ‘Every arrest or act of harassment in Nicaragua was publicized and transformed into evidence of the sinister quality of the Sandinista government in the free press of the United States . Meanwhile…the Guatemalan and Salvadoran regimes could indulge in torture, rape, mutilation, and murder on a daily and massive basis without invoking remotely proportional attention, indignation, or inferences about the quality of these regimes.’ (93)
- ‘In El Salvador, the right to free speech and free assembly was legally suspended under a state-of-siege order of March 7, 1980. Decree No. 507 of December 3, 1980, essentially destroyed the judicial system, permitting the armed forces to hold citizens without charge or evidence for 180 days.’ (93-94)
- ‘In El Salvador, the only substantial newspapers critical of the government, La Cronica del Pueblo and El Independiente – neither by any means radical papers – were closed in July 1980 and January 1981, respectively, the first because its top editor and two employees were murdered and mutilated by the security forces, the second because the army arrested its personnel and destroyed its plant.’ (97)
- ‘None of these murders of journalists in El Salvador was ever ‘solved’ – they were essentially murders carried out under the auspices of the state. In Guatemala , forty-eight journalists were murdered between 1978 and 1985, and many others have been kidnapped and threatened. These killings, kidnappings, and threats have been a primary means of control of the media. As in El Salvador , nobody has yet been apprehended and tried for any of these crimes.’ (97)
- ‘Perhaps the most important fact about El Salvador in the two years prior to the election of March 1982 was the decimation of popular and private organizations that could pose any kind of challenge to the army and oligarchy. As we noted in chapter 2, this was the main thrust of policy of the revolutionary junta from late 1979 onward, and thousands of leaders were murdered and numerous organizations were destroyed or driven underground. The teachers’ union was decimated by several hundred murders; the university was occupied, looted, and closed down by the army.’ (99)
- ‘In Guatemala, too, intermediate organizations such as peasant and trade unions, teacher and student groups, and professional organizations have been regularly attacked by the armed forces since 1954. The process of demobilization of institutions threatening the dominant elites culminated in the early 1980s, when by government proclamation ‘illicit association’ was made punishable by law. All groups ‘which follow, or are subordinated to, any totalitarian system of ideology’ (evidently an exception is made of the Guatemalan armed forces and the national-security ideology) are illicit.’ (99)
- ‘During the years 1980-84 the death squads worked freely in El Salvador, in close coordination with the army and security forces. The average rate of killings of civilians in the thirty months prior to the 1982 election was approximately seven hundred per month. Many of these victims were raped, tortured, and mutilated. All of this was done with complete impunity, and only the murder of four American women elicited – by dint of congressional pressure – any kind of legal action.’ (105)
- ‘Torture, killings, and disappearances continue at an extraordinary rate, and millions of peasants remain under the strict scrutiny and control of the government through the use of civil patrols and ‘model villages.’ Guatemala remains, in short, a nation of prisoners.’ Americas Watch (105)
- ‘In the propaganda framework, the security forces of client states ‘protect elections’; only those of enemy states interfere with the freedom of its citizens to vote without constraint.’ (109)
- ‘There was little effort made to disguise the fact that the purpose of the election, from the standpoint of the Reagan administration and the ruling army, was to alter the international ‘image’ of Guatemala in order to facilitate aid and loans.’ (110)
- ‘In chapter 2 we summarized Americas Watch’s demonstration that the Reagan administration made serial adjustments in its apologetics for each successive Guatemalan terrorist general, with a lagged, tacit acknowledgement that it had previously been lying. This had no influence whatsoever on Time’s treatment of State Department pronouncements as authentic truth – the standard from which other claims may be evaluated.’ (111)
- ‘The mass media’s sourcing on the Guatemalan election was confined almost entirely to U.S. officials and official observers, the most prominent Guatemalan political candidates, and generals. Spokespersons for the insurgents – what in Nicaragua would be labeled the ‘main opposition’ – the smaller parties, spokespersons for popular organizations, the churches, human-rights groups, and ordinary citizens, were essentially ignored by the media.’ (112)
- ‘In contrast with the Salvadoran and Guatemalan cases, the Reagan administration was intent on discrediting the Nicaraguan election, which threatened to legitimize the Sandinista government and thus weaken the case for U.S. funding of a terrorist army. The administration had been berating the Sandinistas for failing to hold an election, but the actual holding of one was inconvenient. From the inception of Nicaraguan planning for the election, therefore, the administration began to express doubts about its quality.’ (116-117)
- ‘Nor were the media affected by the army’s murder of the opposition leadership in both El Salvador and Guatemala . In El Salvador, the exclusion of the rebels was part of the U.S. government’s electoral plan; they were, therefore, not a ‘main opposition,’ and the debarment and even murder of their leaders did not compromise election quality.’ (125)
- ‘LASA also discusses in some detail the U.S. intervention in the election, noting the terrorizing overflights by U.S. planes during the election campaign, and considering at some length the U.S. efforts to induce the withdrawal of candidates. LASA reported the claims by both Liberal and Conservative party figures that the United States offered specific and large sums of money to get candidates to withdraw from the election.’ (129)
- ‘As the official observers reliably commend the elections as fair without the slightest attention to basic conditions, the media’s regular use of these observers for comments on election quality violates norms of substantive objectivity in the same manner as the use of any straight government handout by the Times or Pravda.’ (139)
- ‘As we stressed earlier, the media’s adherence to the state propaganda line is extremely functional. Just as the government of Guatemala could kill scores of thousands without major repercussion because the media recognized that these were ‘unworthy’ victims, so today aid to state terrorists in El Salvador and Guatemala, and the funding of contra attacks on ‘soft targets’ in Nicaragua, depend heavily on continued media recognition of ‘worth’ and an appropriate legitimization and delegitimization. As their government sponsors terror in all three states (as well as in Honduras), we may fairly say that the U.S. mass media, despite their righteous self-image as opponents of something called terrorism, serve in fact as loyal agents of terrorism.’ (142)
- ‘If there is no hard evidence it is because the Soviets are consummate professionals who cover their tracks and maintain ‘plausible deniability.’ ’ (147)
- ‘It is widely held that the media ‘lost the war’ by exposing the general population to its horrors and by unfair, incompetent, and biased coverage reflecting the ‘adversary culture’ of the sixties. The media’s reporting of the Tet offensive has served as the prime example of this hostility to established power, which, it has been argued, undermines democratic institutions and should be curbed, either by the media themselves or by the state. A propaganda model leads to different expectations. On its assumption, we would expect media coverage and interpretation of the war to take for granted that the United States intervened in the service of generous ideals, with the goal of defending South Vietnam from aggression and terrorism and in the interest of democracy and self-determination. With regard to the second-level debate on the performance of the media, a propaganda model leads us to expect that there would be no condemnation of the media for uncritical acceptance of the doctrine of U.S. benevolence and for adherence to the official line on all central issues, of even awareness of these characteristics of media performance.’ (169-170)
- ‘While dissent and domestic controversy became a focus of media coverage from 1965, the actual views of dissidents and resisters were virtually excluded. These individuals were presented primarily as a threat to order, and while their tactics were discussed, their views were not.’ (172)
- ‘As the war progressed, elite opinion gradually shifted to the belief that the U.S. intervention was a ‘tragic mistake’ that was proving too costly, thus enlarging the domain of debate to include a range of tactical questions hitherto excluded. Expressible opinion in the media broadened to accommodate these judgments, but the righteousness of the cause and nobility of intent were rarely subject to question. Rather, editorials explained that the ‘idealistic motives’ of ‘the political and military commands’ who ‘conceived their role quite honestly as that of liberators and allies in the cause of freedom…had little chance to prevail against local leaders skilled in the art of manipulating their foreign protectors.’ ‘Our Vietnamese’ were too corrupt and we were too weak and too naïve to resist their manipulations, while ‘their Vietnamese’ were too wily and vicious. How could American idealism cope with such unfavorable conditions?’ (172-173)
- ‘The Freedom House charge tacitly but clearly presupposes that the media must not only accept the framework of government propaganda, but must be upbeat and enthusiastic about the prospects for success in a cause that is assumed without discussion to be honorable and just.’ (173)
- ‘Quite generally, insofar as the debate over the war could reach the mainstream during the war or since, it was bounded on the one side by the ‘hawks’ who felt that with sufficient dedication the United States could succeed in ‘defending South Vietnam,’ ‘controlling the population,’ and thus establishing ‘American-style democracy’ there, and on the other side by the ‘doves,’ who doubted that success could be achieved in these noble aims at reasonable cost.’ (175)
- ‘An invader is an invader unless invited in by a government [that has] some claim to legitimacy.’ Economist (176)
- ‘In reporting the war in Afghanistan , it is considered essential and proper to observe it from the standpoint of the victims. In the case of Indochina, it was the American invaders who were regarded as the victims of the ‘aggression’ of the Vietnamese, and the war was reported from their point of view, just as subsequent commentary, including cinema, views the war from this perspective.’ (177)
- ‘While the press corps in those years diligently reported what the government said about Vietnam, and questioned the inconsistencies as they arose, too few sought out opposing viewpoints and expertise until too late, when events and the prominence of the Vietnam dissent could no longer be ignored. In coverage of the war, the press corps’ job narrowed down to three basic tasks – reporting what the government said, finding out whether it was true, and assessing whether the policy enunciated worked. The group did a highly professional job on the first task. But it fell down on the second and third, and there is strong evidence the reason is too many reporters sought the answers in all three categories from the same basic source – the government.’ Los AngelesTimes (178)
- ‘In a highly regarded military history and moral tract in justification of the American war, Guenter Lewy describes the purpose of the U.S. air operatings of the early 1960s, which involved ‘indiscriminate killing’ and ‘took a heavy toll of essentially innocent men, women and children,’ in a manner that Orwell would have appreciated: villages in ‘open zones’ were ‘subjected to random bombardment by artillery and aircraft so as to drive the inhabitants into the safety of the strategic hamlets.’ ’ (181)
- ‘The U.S. media did not point out that any basis for a free election had been destroyed, and that the unelected government was maintained in power solely because its aims were identical to those of the U.S. administration – that is, that it was a classic example of a puppet government.’ (182)
- ‘By the time of the U.S. land invasion in 1965, over 150,000 people had been killed in South Vietnam, according to figures cited by Bernard Fall, most of them ‘under the crushing weight of American armor, napalm, jet bombers and finally vomiting gases,’ or victims of the state terrorism of the U.S.-installed regimes. From January 1965, the United States also employed Korean mercenaries, some 300,000 in all, who carried out brutal atrocities in the South.’ (183)
- ‘Media coverage or other commentary on these events that does not begin by recognizing these essential facts is mere apologetics for terrorism and murderous aggression.’ (184)
- ‘From the point of view of the media, or ‘the culture,’ there is no such event in history as the U.S. attack against South Vietnam and the rest of Indochina.’ (184)
- ‘Serious evaluation of the media is effectively over when we discover that the basic principle of state propaganda – the principle that the USSR is defending Afghanistan from terrorist attack – is adopted as the unquestioned framework for further reporting and discussion.’ (185)
- ‘…the UN Charter, which limits the use of force to self-defense in the event of ‘armed attack’ until the UN Security Council is able to respond.’ (186)
- ‘Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh were presented as ‘merely agents of Moscow and Peking whose primary means of gaining support was through terror and force (although occasional mention was made of the nationalist appeal).’ (187)
- ‘The Vietcong ‘infiltrate’ in their own country, while we ‘resist’ this aggression.’ (191)
- ‘We may dismiss the conception that the media ‘lost the war,’ although it would be quite accurate to conclude that they encouraged the United States to enter and pursue a war of aggression, which they later were to regard as ‘a tragedy,’ or ‘a blunder,’ while never acknowledging their fundamental contribution to rallying public support for the policies that they were ultimately to deplore.’ (192)
- ‘In no identifiable sector of American opinion would it have been possible even to ask the obvious question that would receive an easy and accurate answer in the case of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan: ‘Why do you think the southern resistance is attacking U.S. military installations in South Vietnam?’ ’ (193)
- ‘In the dismal record we see very clearly the consequences of mindless media obedience in a state with enormous resources of violence.’ (193)
- ‘More revealing was the massacre at nearby My Khe, with ninety civilians reported dead, discovered by the Press Panel inquiry into the My Lai massacre; proceedings against the officer in charge were dismissed on the grounds that this was merely a normal operation in which a village was destroyed and its population murdered or forcibly relocated, a decision that tells us all we need to know about the American war in South Vietnam, but that passed without comment. While the nation agonized about the sentencing of Lieutenant William Calley for his part in the My Lai massacre, a new ground sweep in the same area drove some 16,000 peasants from their homes, and a year later the camp where the My Lai remnants were relocated [in the Strategic Hamlets Program] in this operation was largely destroyed by air and artillery bombardment, the destruction attributed to the Viet Cong. These events too passed with little notice, and no calls for an inquiry – reasonably enough, since these too were normal and routine operations.’ (197)
- ‘The My Lai massacre was ignored when it occurred, and the substantial attention given to it later is a more subtle form of cover-up of atrocities. An honest accounting, inconceivable in the media or ‘the culture’ generally, would have placed the responsibility far higher than Lieutenant Calley, but it was more convenient to focus attention on the actions of semi-crazed GI’s in a gruesome combat situation with every Vietnamese civilian a threatening enemy.’ (198)
- ‘ ‘Producers of the NBC and ABC evening-news programs said that they ordered editors to delete excessively grisly or detailed shots [Epstein],’ and CBS had similar policies, which, according to former CBS News president Fred W. Friendly, ‘helped shield the audience from the true horror of the war.’ ’ (200)
- ‘In contrast to the heroic and humane image of the American soldiers defending democracy, the NLF and North Vietnamese were portrayed in ‘an almost perfectly one-dimensional image…as cruel, ruthless and fanatical.’ ’ (205)
- ‘The North Vietnamese and Viet Cong were portrayed as ‘savage,’ ‘brutal,’ ‘murderous,’ ‘fanatical,’ ‘suicidal,’ halfcrazed,’ ’ (205)
- ‘After testimony by Defense Secretary Robert McNamara in which he falsely claimed that the Maddox ‘was operating in international waters, was carrying out a routine patrol of the type we carry out all over the world at all times,’ Congress passed a resolution authorized the president to ‘take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression’ (416 to 0 in the House, Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening alone in opposition in the Senate).’ (207)
- ‘The reporting was ‘objective’ in that it correctly reported U.S. government statements, raising no question about them, presenting no relevant background, and marginally citing Communist denials while proceeding to report the events as Washington wished them to be perceived.’ (208)
- ‘In January 1973, the United States formally accepted a peace treaty that was virtually identical with the Vietnamese consensus it overturned by violence in 1964, except that by that time, the indigenous [Vietcong] had been effectively demolished and little remained in Indochina outside of North Vietnam.’ (210)
- ‘That the United States has a right to conduct military operations in South Vietnam to uproot the [Vietcong] and destroy the peasant society in which it was based, that its goals are democracy and self-determination, and that its forces ‘protect’ and ‘bring security’ to South Vietnamese peasants are principles taken for granted.’ (214)
- ‘The early response to the Tet offensive, during the period when media incompetence and unwarranted pessimism were allegedly at their height, was ‘an increase in the belligerency of the American public’; the immediate reaction of the U.S. public was to favor stiffened resistance [that is, U.S. resistance to an attack by South Vietnamese in South Vietnam] and intensified U.S. effort.’ The major sentiment aroused was ‘Bomb the hell out of them.’ ’ (217)
- ‘Secretary of Defense McNamara estimated NVA forces at 50,000 to 55,000 at the end of 1967, mostly in northern regions, with some 10,000 troops placed in Viet Cong combat units; the total roughly matches third-country forces, mostly Korean mercenaries, mobilized by the United States as part of its invasion of South Vietnam, and barely 10 percent of the U.S. forces of over half a million men.’ (219)
- ‘It is still impossible to gauge the breadth of the damage….But few seasoned observers see the devastation of Hue backfiring on the communists. They see as the greatest hope a massive and instant program of restoration underlined by a careful psychological warfare program pinning the blame on the communists.’ John Lengel (223)
- ‘Crop-destruction programs from 1961 had a devastating impact, including aerial destruction by chemicals, ground operations to destroy orchards and dikes, and land clearing by giant tractors (Rome plows) that ‘obliterated agricultural lands, often including extensive systems of paddy dikes, and entire rural residential areas and farming hamlets,’ leaving the soil ‘bare, gray and lifeless,’ in the words of an official report cited by Arthur Westing, who compares the operations to the ‘less efficient’ destruction of Carthage during the Punic Wars.’ (238-239)
- ‘In the South, 9,000 out of 15,000 hamlets were damaged or destroyed, along with some twenty-five million acres of farmland and twelve million acres of forest. One-and-a-half million cattle were killed, and the war left a million widows and some 800,000 orphans. In the North, all six industrial cities were damaged (three razed to the ground) along with twenty-eight of thirty provincial towns (twelve completely destroyed), ninety-six of 116 district towns, and 4,000 of some 5,800 communes. Four hundred thousand cattle were killed and over a million acres of farmland were damaged. Much of the land is a moonscape, where people live on the edge of famine.’ (239)
- ‘It is difficult to know how to react to a cultural climate in which such words can be spoken, evoking no reaction.’ (241)
- ‘The Wall Street Journal, for example, refers to ‘the $180 million in chemical companies’ compensation to Agent Orange victims’ – U.S. soldiers, not the South Vietnamese victims whose suffering was and remains vastly greater.’ (242)
- ‘In 1972, the United States backed the overthrow of Philippine democracy, thus averting the threat of national capitalism there with a terror-and-torture state on the preferred Latin American model. A move toward democracy in Thailand in 1973 evoked some concern, prompting a reduction in economic aid and increase in military aid in preparation for the military coup that took place with U.S. support in 1976.’ (245-246)
- ‘Postwar U.S. policy has been designed to ensure that the victory is maintained by maximizing suffering and oppression in Indochina, which then evokes further gloating here. Since ‘the destruction is mutual,’ as is readily demonstrated by a stroll through New York, Boston, Vinh, Quang Ngai Province, and the Plain of Jars, we are entitled to deny reparations, aid, and trade, and to block development funds. The extent of U.S. sadism is noteworthy, as is the (null) reaction to it.’ (247)
- ‘Our point is not that the retrospectives fail to draw what seem to us, as to much of the population, the obvious conclusions; the more significant and instructive point is that principled objection to the war as ‘fundamentally wrong and immoral,’ or as outright criminal aggression – a war crime – is inexpressible. It is not part of the spectrum of discussion. The background for such a principled critique cannot be developed in the media, and the conclusions cannot be drawn. It is not present even to be refuted. Rather, the idea is unthinkable.’ (252)
- ‘U.S. pressures – including, crucially, the withdrawal of aid – quickly led to the overthrow of the government in a coup by a ‘pro-Western neutralist’ who pledged his allegiance to ‘the free world’ and declared his intention to disband the political party of the Pathet Lao…, scrapping the agreements that had successfully established the coalition. He was overthrown in turn by the CIA favorite, the ultra-right-wing General Phoumi Nosavan. After U.S. clients won the 1960 elections, rigged so crudely that even the most pro-U.S. observers were appalled, civil war broke out, with the USSR and China backing a coalition extending over virtually the entire political spectrum apart from the extreme right, which was backed by the United States.’ (254)
- ‘ ‘By 1968 the intensity of the bombings was such that no organized life was possible in the [Laotian] villages. The villages moved to the outskirts and then deeper and deeper into the forest as the bombing reached its peak in 1969 when jet planes came daily and destroyed all stationary structures. Nothing was left standing. The villagers lived in trenches and holes or in caves. They only farmed at night. [Each] of the informants, without any exception, had his village completely destroyed. In the last phase, bombings were aimed at the systematic destruction of the [material] basis of the civilian society.’ [William SullivanUS Ambassador to Laos ] A staff study by a Kennedy subcommittee concluded that a main purpose of the U.S. bombardment was ‘to destroy the physical and social infrastructure’ in areas held by the Pathet Lao, a conclusion well supported by the factual record.’ (258)
- ‘The New York Times reviewed the war in Laos at the war’s end, concluding that 350,000 people had been killed, over a tenth of the population, with another tenth uprooted.’ (260)
- ‘Thailand, ‘where there has been no war, foreign invasion, carpet bombing, nor revolution, and where foreign investment is massive and the sympathy of the most advanced western powers is enjoyed’…No such comparison was undertaken, nor was there even a flicker of concern over simultaneous reports, buried in appropriate obscurity, about the tens of thousands of children, many under ten years old, working as ‘virtual slaves’ in Thai factories.’ (263)
- ‘The Finnish Inquiry Commission estimates that about 600,000 people in a population of over seven million died during [American bombing of Cambodia in the 1970’s], while two million people became refugees.’ (263)
- ‘By late 1971, an investigating team of the General Accounting Office concluded that U.S. and Saigon army bombing is ‘a very significant cause of refugees and civilian casualties,’ estimating that almost a third of the seven-million population may be refugees.’ (272)
- ‘The Khmer Rouge were a meaningless force when the war was brought to Cambodia in 1970….In order to flourish and grow, they needed a war to feed on. And the superpowers – including this country, with the Nixon incursion of 1970 and the massive bombing that followed – provided that war and that nurturing material.’ (279)
- ‘Paris-trained Communists, without local variation and with no cause other than inexplicable sadism and Marxist-Leninist dogma.’ (283) - ‘No individual can obtain for himself the information needed for the intelligent discharge of his political responsibilities….By enabling the public to assert meaningful control over the political process, the press performs a crucial function in effecting the societal purpose of the First Amendment.’ Justice Powell (296)
- ‘The major scandal of Watergate as portrayed in the mainstream press was that the Nixon administration sent a collection of petty criminals to break into the Democratic party headquarters, for reasons that remain obscure. The Democratic party represents powerful domestic interests, solidly based in the business community. Nixon’s actions were therefore a scandal. The Socialism Workers party, a legal political party, represents no powerful interests. Therefore, there was no scandal when it was revealed, just as passions over Watergate reached their zenith, that the FBI had been disrupting its activities by illegal break-ins and other measures for a decade.’ (299)
- ‘As we have stressed in this book, the U.S. media do not function in the matter of the propaganda system of a totalitarian state. Rather, they permit – indeed, encourage – spirited debate, criticism, and dissent, as long as these remain faithfully within the system of presuppositions and principles that constitute an elite consensus, a system so powerful as to be internalized largely without awareness. No one instructed the media to focus on Cambodia and ignore East Timor.’ (302)
- ‘Ben Bagdikian, observes that the institutional bias of the private mass media ‘does not merely protect the corporate system. It robs the public of a chance to understand the real world.’ ’ (303)
- ‘In essence, the private media are major corporations selling a product (readers and audiences) to other businesses (advertisers). The national media typically target and serve elite opinion, groups that, on the one hand, provide an optimal ‘profile’ for advertising purposes, and, on the other, play a role in decision-making in the private and public spheres. The national media would be failing to meet their elite audience’s needs if they did not present a tolerably realistic portrayal of the world. But their ‘societal purpose’ also requires that the media’s interpretation of the world reflect the interests and concerns of the sellers, the buyers, and the governmental and private institutions dominated by these groups.’ (303)
- ‘Given the imperatives of corporate organization and the workings of the various filters, conformity to the needs and interests of privileged sectors is essential to success. In the media, as in other major institutions, those who do not display the requisite values and perspectives will be regarded as ‘irresponsible,’ ‘ideological,’ or otherwise aberrant, and will tend to fall by the wayside. While there may be a small number of exceptions, the pattern is pervasive, and expected. Those who adapt, perhaps quite honestly, will then be free to express themselves with little managerial control, and they will be able to assert, accurately, that they perceive no pressures to conform. The media are indeed free – for those who adopt the principles required for their ‘societal purpose.’ ’ (304)
- ‘We see ourselves as basically good and decent in personal life, so it must be that our institutions function in accordance with the same benevolent intent, an argument that is often persuasive even though it is a transparent non sequitur.’ (305)
- ‘If one chooses to denounce Qaddafi, or the Sandinistas, or the PLO, or the Soviet Union, no credible evidence is required. The same is true if one repeats conventional doctrines about our own society and its behavior – say, that the U.S. government is dedicated to our traditional noble commitment to democracy and human rights. But a critical analysis of American institutions, the way they function domestically and their international operations, must meet far higher standards; in fact, standards are often imposed that can barely be met in the natural sciences.’ (305)
- ‘The organization and self-education of groups in the community and workplace, and their networking and activism, continue to be the fundamental elements in steps toward the democratization of our social life and any meaningful social change. Only to the extent that such developments succeed can we hope to see media that are free and independent.’ (307)

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