I didn’t know, either.
Chyron: a text-based graphic overlay displayed at the bottom of a television screen or film frame, as closed captioning or the crawl of a newscast.
How do you know what you know … what you believe you know? If I make a statement with which you disagree, what are your grounds for thinking otherwise?
Manufacturing Consent One Chyron at a Time, by Luke Savage (Jacobin)
Matt Taibbi’s Hate Inc. is a raucous updating of Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman’s classic dissection of capitalist news. Its message is hilarious yet grim: behind the buffoonery of the 24-hour partisan news machine is a propaganda system devoted to upholding the power of entrenched elites.
Review of Hate Inc.: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another, by Matt Taibbi (OR Books, 2019).
… Matt Taibbi’s Hate Inc. is a seething, if amusing, indictment of American political media in the Trump era. But, more importantly, it is a systemically-minded account of the actual sources of media debasement and the ways in which particular patterns of behavior are hardwired into the news.
Those unfamiliar with Taibbi’s past work in media criticism, invariably skewering, may get a misleading impression of the book’s content from both its title and cover … (but) Taibbi offers us a necessary and timely update to the theories advanced by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their landmark 1988 book Manufacturing Consent and a series of illustrative case studies drawing on his own frustrations with contemporary journalism.
The basic thesis advanced by Chomsky and Herman was that management of public opinion in capitalist democracies rarely takes the form of overt propaganda or censorship, but is instead achieved through vigorous policing of what constitutes acceptable opinion such that, as Taibbi puts it, “the range of argument has been artificially narrowed long before you get to hear it.”
Taibbi argues that three significant changes since the late 1980s necessitate an update of the thesis pioneered in Manufacturing Consent. The first is the rise of conservative talk radio and Fox News, which triggered the partisanization of news so familiar to today. “Using a point of view rather than ‘objectivity’ as commercial strategies,” Taibbi writes, “these stations presaged an atomization of the news landscape under which each consumer had an outlet somewhere to match his or her political beliefs.”
The second major change is the advent of the 24-hour news cycle, which the author says trained reporters to “value breaking news, immediacy, and visual potential over import” while creating “a new kind of anxiety and addictive dependency” among consumers.
Finally, the rise of the internet and social media contributed even further to the general atmosphere of frenzied and atomized content consumption that today structures the news business.
Again and again, Hate Inc. returns to its central insight that the media is first and foremost a business driven by the pressures and imperatives of large-scale private enterprise. Though this will probably sound like a truism to many on the Left, it is nonetheless a useful materialist explanation for why the media tends to operate within discrete partisan silos: not, as is so often suggested, because the country suffers from some vaguely defined culture of “divisiveness,” but because it’s what the current business model both necessitates and demands. With audiences cordoned off into partisan market niches, the media can more easily commodify resentment and its leading talking heads can always get a ratings boost by stoking outrage, engaging in conspiracy, or just plain making stuff up.
It’s unclear what the solution is, or to what extent Taibbi even believes there is one. The preceding era of the news business, taken on by Chomsky and Herman in Manufacturing Consent, was arguably preferable to today’s media in that its ranks were more working-class and its leading voices less shrill. But the ethos of objectivity it projected was still the function of a business model driven first and foremost by the profit imperative (albeit in a somewhat more inclusive way) and ridden through with deference to corporate and national security interests.
Hate Inc. ultimately makes a forceful case that the American media is broken by design. Though no one will find this a particularly comforting thought, it’s nonetheless a liberating insight for those of us who would sooner suffer a hundred hours of sensory deprivation than sit through three minutes of Rachel Maddow talking about Donald Trump’s tax returns — or watch Kurt Eichenwald and Tucker Carlson do performance art on national TV.