Submitted to Thinking Outside the Boxe from a Pennsylvania Correspondent
Herman and Chomsky suggest the media is made up by elitist for elites. What does this mean? In their book Manufacturing Consent they structure a “propaganda model” which purposes five filters that sift through the media before it is distributed to the general population. The first filter: Ownership of the networks that distributes the media. Owners are extremely wealthy individuals or corporations that support their own interest along with the interest of other wealthy individuals or corporations they are partnered with. The second filter examines advertising.
The advertisers invest their money in a particular medium to display their products or services. If they don’t think the story is likely to be viewed then they will back out, thus giving advertiser’s power in the media. The third filter: The sources by which the media is obtained. These owner- elitist hire people to find stories that are most profitable to them and exclude ones that could potentially damage revenue or political gain. The fourth filter is flak. This is the public’s response to the media they view. The fifth filter is anti-communism, meaning less government. Because media is language and images, it is important to look at symbolic interaction when considering what information is being observed and how.
Symbolic interaction addresses symbols within our society, how people act on them and what meanings are assigned. It is most commonly valued with language through tone and our gestures. Our culture decides the social construct of reality through our social interactions. It is thought that ultimately gives power to the naming of symbols. We can change the name, but the thought that manipulated its meaning seldom changes. News shows exploit symbolic interaction to convey their messages, the messages of the “propaganda model”.
CNN’s Headline News produces the Joy Behar show. For research the entire show along with all advertisements for the duration of show, were analyzed to conclude findings concerning the five filters and symbolic interaction. Most intriguing was the overall layout of the production. Every news clip, expert panelist, and Joy the host were framed in boxes that would pop on and of the screen quickly and repetitively. Everyone spoke with the excitement that set the pace for the box changes from person to person or clip to clip. The commercials also shared an excitement in lifestyle. They too were repetitive.
The marketing line up begins with gorgeous, eccentric, women modeling power and prestige on a skyscraper only to finish their evening having dinner on top of a jet plan with the perfect mate. While Tokyo air is selling lifestyles and dreams, various clips for upcoming news shows are selling the network. The following advertisements aired more than once: Untied Health Care, Choice Hotels, and Chevy, Sky miles Delta card, Invisaline, Morning Express, Good wrench and track phones for kids. These advertisements hit the mark only once: E Harmony, Cluturael, Clairton, Geico, Prilosec, Shake Weight, Fixodent, Progressive, Phillips health care at home, and Courtyard Marriot.
Without even discussing the news segments, symbolic interaction has played a significant part. The structured boxes and exciting language mimic the importance of today’s rapid pace society. The boxes highlight the significance of multitasking in this go getter culture. People have so many tasks to manage in their life and they repeat them day after day flashing in and out right on top of each other, just like the news clips, just like the panel, just like Joy herself. So who are these people? The advertisements are the key to finding the viewer.
The advertisements tell us the viewer is most likely early to middle aged. They have health insurance and car insurance. They buy cars to take their children to their numerous events. They need phones for their offspring so the family can catch up with each other’s busy lives. They need people to service their vehicles because time is more important than money. The viewer has money. They travel and they can afford luxury. They also have heart burn and digestive problems, maybe from managing too much in their go getter lifestyle. This brings us to the second filter. What type of news stories do the advertisers of this audience want them to see?
First up on the Joy Behar show, “Bullying”. They show several clips of an enraged black man yelling at students and a bus driver. The man gets on the bus and threatens the children. He screams that if they mess with his Cerebral Palsy daughter again they will have to deal with him, her father. He then proceeds to give the bus driver a severe verbal lashing. This story is family related and heightened. Good for the advertisers. While it may address an issue in some of the viewer’s families it is the right story not to hit most of the families in a personal way. For instance children are bullied everywhere for not having the right look. A story on these bullies may put the viewer’s children at the faulty end of the stick, considering these families have the means for the right look. This is also true of the first filter, owners, who want to tell stories of the disadvantage, the poor, and the have nots. They would not want to show a politician or a high powered lawyer acting in this manner.
The first and third filters of ownership and source of media are clearly displayed when a panelist mentions that the bus drivers job is to drive not babysit. She suggest what some private schools do, hire someone to manage the children on the bus. Joy Behar quickly turns the focus to the rage of the black man. It is her show and what she has to say on an issue has a greater precedence. It guides the viewer away from an issue that may actually change things for school bullying on the bus.
The forth filter flak, was the response of the general public to the father. He himself handled the situation with bullying. It was implied that a more cultured educated parent would have gone to the police after the school ignored his plea. This clip also appeals to the first filter. Again the elitist would not want to show their own off kilter. In fact the filters are used simultaneously throughout the story to gear it in the appropriate direction .The story gave more focus on the father’s bullying then that of his child. Wouldn’t it have been more productive to discuss this alternative person on the bus that could watch the children while the bus driver returned them safely to their homes? Of course money would have to come from somewhere to provide this position. They higher tax bracket individuals who send their children to private already have this service. Why should they have to pay for other people’s children? It almost sounds like communism to expect them to share their wealth. Although the story didn’t touch on society’s most threatening form of socialism, it does stay away from a public aid solution. All of Herman and Chomsky’s filters are present some more than others. The purpose of exposure to the media construct is to implement alternatives so that the viewer can retain objective information.