Hate Inc. serves as a timely update to Chomsky and Herman’s Manufacturing Consent. Rolling Stone journalist Matt Taibbi’s book lays out how corporations subsumed the media.
The 1976 film Network painted a frighteningly prophetic vision of the media, more relevant today than it was then. In one iconic scene, Arthur Jensen, chairman of the network’s parent company, preaches the gospel of corporatism to the protagonist, Mr Beale:
“The world is a business, Mr Beale. And our children will live to see that perfect world in which there is no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit. In which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided. All anxieties tranquillised. All boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr Beale, to preach this evangel.”
“Why me?” asks the stunned Beale, to which Jensen replies: “Because you’re on television dummy.”
Taibbi’s critique shows how both flavours of mainstream news stoke artificial political division instead of reporting on institutional failures and how the 24 hour news cycles only intensified the problem.
Each outlet services a segmented market of opinions, feeding consumer’s fear and anxiety, keeping them returning like addicts to confirm their bias with new evidence of evildoing on the other side of the aisle.
American news consumers are now disciples of corporate news outlets catered to within a safe range of opinion, what Taibbi terms’ The Fairway,’ an earlier title of the book.
The “stage-managing of public opinion’” as Taibbi puts it is not done crudely by an editor waving a red pen but by keeping “‘dissent and inconvenient information’ outside permitted mental parameters.”
“The range of argument has been artificially narrowed long before you get to hear it,” Taibbi says of synthetically concocted cable news debates.
But for all the doomsaying, this book is bitingly funny. The tone is conversational and engaging. It’s like watching a burning building; you won’t be able to look away.
Matt Taibbi carries three books while on assignment; Scoop by Evelyn Waugh, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail by Hunter S. Thomson and, of course, Manufacturing Consent. And their influence oozes from his prose.
A standout chapter illustrates how structural barriers to the profession made it taboo to discuss class in the media.
It started when movies like All The Presidents Men made journalism cool. Upper-class kids wanted in, and so: “The next generation of national political reporters viewed people in power as cultural soulmates because at least socially they were.”
In the final chapter, Taibbi peels back the layers of misinformation to debunk Russiagate in excruciating detail, a process that may be revelatory for those who bought into the narrative.
Taibbi’s focus is not limited to the US; similarities in the UK media shown through the case-study of consent-manufacturing during the build-up to the Iraq war.
Hate Inc. covers much of the same ground as New York Times bestseller The Chapo Guide to Revolution. It contains similar concepts presented more seriously.
It provides a useful guide to understanding a media ecosystem that retains the reality-bending ability to sculpt public opinion and manufacture consent.
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Words by Tom Brady