Archive for September, 2008

We are the censors (II)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2008 by xypeter

I agree with both of the comments about my post (regarding Chomsky and Abercrombie) — yes, wealth and power clearly control the media and everything else.

However, what i feel was omitted from the reading, was that society through mass share ownership controls wealth and power, therefore we are controlling the forces which repress us.  Abercrombie is a good example of this, because they mirror what society “tries to be,” — e.g. they mirror society’s fears of everyone escept the ideal, and they appeal to shame, thereby causing mass conformity in society; then their advertising money foists social conformity (even some would say fascism) on the population.

Many people complain about Abercrombie’s “explicit” nature, but really Abercrombie is the most right-wing kind of repression because it exalts a stereotypical ideal at the expense of 99.99999999% or possibly 100% of the real people.  Then, because Abercrombie is a share corporation, they and similar corporations use their money and power to silence both any media with honest sexuality, as well as any media which strays too far into anything which attacks the market — because Abercrombie is almost a pure representation of market forces.

It is too easy to attack “money and power,” but money and power are not just Thurston Howell III from Gilligans Island.  Money and power in America are a mass share-owning representation of ALL of us.

Peter C

The Propaganda is the Message?

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2008 by loragrass


Don’t believe everything you read.  That is the message I get from Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s “A Propaganda Model” as they lay out their theory of who controls the media—the big money media barons, advertisers (e.g., corporate America) or the government—or as the authors bring to bear a combination of all three.  In looking at the boards of directors of media giants, the authors find that  “active corporate executives and bankers together account for a little over half of the outside directors of the ten media giants” (p. 285).    

McLuhan warns in his essay that a large media can be “ a powerful tool with which to clobber other media and other groups” (p. 138).  Is this not what Herman and Chomsky say is what is happening?  In fact has been happening since lack of funding shut down those three British papers in the 1850’s. 

Is the “message” as McLuhan calls it that same sound bite?  Fed to the media from the Pentagon for example and repeated on local, network and cable news each evening, and read them again in the newspaper the next morning.  The media, in this propagated world speaks in a seemingly singular voice, and it is a voice that has whispered in their ear, by a large corporation with an agenda and a threat to pull advertising dollars.  A board member with a stake in another company—and the clout to force the issue?  Or a branch of the government with a message fed at press conference—and the tacit threat of what would happen if a member of the press were to bite the hand that feeds him.

The propaganda can be subtle.  A recent example:  it is no mystery that many news outlets, particularly broadcast, use retired members of the military as paid “analysts”. A New York Times investigation in April of this year uncovered just how tight that connection is, detailing a “carefully orchestrated” junket to Guantanamo Bay in 2005.  Were these former military men tricked into delivering Pentagon talking points, or were they just trying to keep their relationships solid with the military and the defense contractors who ALSO pay them for their access to the military?  The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle.

In his farewell address in 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower coined the phrase in warning against  “the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex”. He was referring to influencing the government, but if you are to believe Herman and Chomsky—and the New York Times—it seems that’s exactly what’s happened. 

The Factory

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2008 by writeinbk

Culture Industry is the idea that messages distributed through world-wide creative mediums is created, united, and regulated by the elite for the general public digestion. Mediums such as television, film, and radio must adhere to these ideas that are deemed easily digested by the public. Anything outside of these constraints, can be deemed a failure, and will not fit into the rest of society, if they are ever distributed. This industry feeds off of the rules of supply and demand. The public craves information, even if it is only a fraction of what they could receive, as it is better than receiving none at all. The result, information is pour out of a universal “factory” which can be identical, thus mis-leading, but must be and is accepted, unwillingly at times.

This is, in some way, similar to Herman and Chomsky’s view on the propaganda model.  The Propaganda Model focuses on the principals of regulation being filtered through several vices, which are used a controlling methods by the elite. Propaganda is more economically focused rather than cultural/technologically based. For example, if I were to make a documentary on my hate for vegetables and sold it to be NBC, under the Propaganda model, my message may be never make it to air as advertisers, supermarket tycoons, and Farming Unions would disagree with the message portraying to the public about their product. Not only would this create a potential loss in revenue for NBC, it could also cut important ties. Further, under culture industry, my message does not have the best interest of the masses, and would also be censored, especially if the government had been promoting broccoli.
Mcluthan theory is based more on the message and how it is conveyed through mediums. Propaganda deals more with what messages are chosen to conveyed and who controls these messages. The medium of which it comes through almost seems unimportant compared to filtered message.

Adorno & Horkheimer

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2008 by katherineer

I really enjoyed reading this piece because it gave me a lot of insight to how today’s society, culture and industries operates and what the future could look like. I think that the idea that Adorno and Horkeimer have that culture is an industry in itself and runs society is undoubtedly and sadly true. I believe that popular culture today such as certain movies and music is an industry. Today most of the time, movies, art and music are not about the artistic values, morals, and meaning, it is about money. What is popular makes money, which is why today’s culture is an industry striving for dollars. Like Adorno stated, “Movies and radio need no longer pretend to be art. The truth that they are just business is made into an ideology in order to justify the rubbish they deliberately produce.” (72). 


It really scares me that if you are not a producer of media you have to accept what you are given, it’s like you are an individual in society without a voice and has to take what you are thrown. In the reading Adorno discusses Kant and how his formalism allowed for individuals to discuss back, but today’s culture industry doesn’t allow this concept .” The sound film, far surpassing the theatre of illusion, leaves no room for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience, who is unable to respond within the structure of the film.” (75)


The whole definition of what is personality today is ironic because people like things that we are given. No one is really unique in this world because we really are controlled by this “cultural industry”. If I say I like watching The Hills, is that what I really like? Or do I just like it because I was shown it and like it. There is a difference because if The Hills wasn’t introduced to society then I wouldn’t know what it was and like it. Did it’s popularity get me interested in watching it? Thus lead to a bigger audience, more seasons and money for these creators…CAPITALISM

In essence we as individuals in society are products because we are what listens to music, we are who wears brands such as Pacific Sunwear, so we are walking products of manufactures.

I think that Chomsky and Herman’s Progaganda Model is similar in thinking of as Adorno and Horkheimer because Chomsky and Herman believe that what we are given by corporations are bias and filtered, so what we as individuals in society are given is just what we are given, it’s our culture industry and the news that “our” culture has to follow. (we are controlled by industry)

Cultural Industry

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2008 by christinatx

In the text from Horkeimer and Adorno, the cultural industry is an authority that leaves consumers or audiences utterly defenseless in its attempts to gain control and gain more economic strength.  Though Horkeimer and Adorno claim that we as consumers are powerless, we are given a false sense of control through the products we purchase, the music we listen to, and the movies we watch, etc. We are all seen as target markets to the cultural industry. The industry only provides what is deemed a need to consumers. Even audiences who are resistant or in opposition to the industries practices are seen as a target market themselves. The cultural industry is an inescapable entity.

The text also makes an interesting statement in that the cultural industry is not shy about its brazen practices at times and that we as the public are aware of this and yet still succumb to its ultimate agenda.  The industry runs on the ideology of what Hokeimer and Adorno call “just business” (71). They are aware that the public knows their intentions.  It seems that we are all cognizant of the fact that they are in the business of mass production.

Where Herman, Chomsky, Horkeimer, and Adorno are in agreement is on the topic of industry and power or control. All address within their texts that those with the greatest economic stake in the media industry ultimately retain dominance.  It is these stakeholders that set the trend and cycle for the consumers. Chomsky and Herman, unlike Horkeimer and Adorno go more into detail of the socio-political influences in media and the various mediums.

In relation to McLuhan’s idea that “the medium is the message”, McLuhan is more concerned with the concept of the content within the medium and what message it is distributing. The readings from this week are more concerned with the idea of the medium as a source of power or control over the audience and how these messages are constructed and formulated.

We are the censors

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2008 by xypeter

From my personal experience, speaking as the editor of a counterculture magazine — i.e. the largest gay youth magazine in the world — everything that Chomsky writes is absolutely correct and mirrors my own experience. Of course, Chomsky’s essay is a few years old, so it is a little out of date (e.g. it talks about anticommunism, rather than antiterrorism, which is the same thing) but the general areas are spot on.

I am particularly interested in Chomsky’s tridactic look at concentration of ownership, and the way that this interacts with both advertising and shareholder fealty. Only a high school journalism student (if even that) must truly believe in “objectivity” and “the separation of the editorial and business end” when advertisers and shareholders so clearly control editorial direction.  This is even true in the New York Times (in another class, I am researching the way that this supposedly liberal paper is out for blood on certain stories which are the pet peeve either of advertisers or shareholders).

I am especially interested in Chomsky’s assertion that reporters “even can convince themselves” that they are objective in spite not just of evidence but of logical impossibility that this is or could be so.  However, unlike Chomsky, I am not so innocent to believe them when they claim possession of angelic qualities — I have seen the reality of Abercrombie and Fitch and how they control the agenda of youth publishing.

Chomsky, though, seems not to notice the complete-loop nature of culture and censorship. He, like most theorists in my view, does not note that that the censors are the censored.  Over the past decade especially, our so-called “share-owning democracy” has seen not just concentration of media owenership, but a mass purchase of media stocks by mutual funds (e.g. gigantic retirement funds like CALPERS) which are in turn held en masse by the great masses of middle-of-road shareholders.  The resultant conformatizing, blanderizing, hence stagnant point of view, means there can be no freedom of the press — if freedom of the press only belongs to the man who owns one, and nobody owns one, then there is no freedom of the press.

Horkheimer only partly gets this when he says, “under monopoly all mass culture is identical.”  He also questions the conflation of “economic power” and “quality”; of “poverty” with “amateurness”; and gives mucho examples of blanderization and the cruelty of economies of scale.  However, what both writers still don’t see — which by the way “The Merchants of Cool” did see — is that the buyer is the bought. That is to say, we are the censors; we are a nation that lives in fear of its own passionate expression; when we wear Abercrombie we are the enforcers of the bland social uncharacteristics of fear that we bemoan; we are the censors who adopted the repression we published for ourselves.  There is no “profiteer” when AOL-Time-Warner-Viacom-Vivendi IS us.  The problem is that we cannot not censor until we see that we are the censors.

P.S. After I wrote this, I watched “manufacturing consent,” and the whole thing was so true. I particularly agreed with Chomsky that even from childhood, many examples of language foisted upon children as mere “examples” in fact harbor in inherent “degeneracy.”  That was a conformatizing link I hadn’t thought of by name, but which I find very disturbing and even makes me question the inherent morality of our species.


Challenging the Culture Industry

Posted in Uncategorized on September 23, 2008 by katiekoep

Although Horkheimer and Adorno paint a very extremist picture in their depiction of the “culture industry”, I think their theory addresses some very poignant issues.  They explore a technological determinist’s world in which we are completely enslaved by the system.  Where media and government are one in the same and control everything that happens in our lives and in our world.  They describe (and this is way I say extremist) a complete destruction of true individuality in exchange for a bourgeoisie-formulated concept labeled as individuality.  Although very abstract and a little over-the-top, this idea of breeding well-constructed ideals into our minds brings me back to our discussion of the Merchants of Cool video and their formulation of the idea of “cool”.

Horkheimer and Adorno claim “individuation has never really been achieved”.  I would argue, however, that individuality is not meant to be thought of as a holistic archetype.  In fact, I would say it is quite the opposite.  It is many different attributes that are specific to different people and because they vary so widely, cannot be defined definitively at all, much less be constructed into a complete persona.  I see this consistent attempt to generalize very abstract concepts as the major flaw throughout Horkheimer and Adorno’s writing.  However, they sometimes employ such severe generalization that I am left wondering if this is not somewhat intentional.  The piece’s exaggerated nature does give it a little more spunk than some of the other theories we’ve read thus far.

With a very specific focus on effect, Horkheimer and Adorno avoid delving very far into the causes of this rigidly controlled society’s existence.  And this is where Herman and Chomsky pick up.  They attempt to take an in-depth look at the inner workings of the media system and the corporate powers who control our thoughts, actions and surroundings, according to the culture industry theory.  They explore corruption within the system and how that keeps us from receiving accurate information.  I am slightly skeptical of this piece as well (even with its ten pages of end notes).  Although I do not doubt the existence of corruption within the government and the media nor the monopolization of ownership within the media and in other industries, I seem to find some of their reasoning to be a bit of a stretch.  I say this specifically about their discussion of media ties to the government and the weapon and nuclear power industries.  But perhaps it’s just my naïvely idealistic unwillingness to believe that the system is so intricately constructed to censor information along every step of the way.

But overall, I found the readings quite interesting and complimentary of each other.  They provide opposing views to McLuhan’s theory, focusing much more on content – the people behind the medium and what they put into it.  But still build on the control issue and the theme of media as power.

They spark many questions about just how far this power can be taken and whether or not we have the ability to ever gain any kind of control.  I also think that the development of the internet as a public medium greatly influences these theories and perhaps even deconstructs them to some degree.  This brings into play McLuhan’s idea of specific ages being defined by their medium.  Have we reached an age in which we can voice our opinions freely and overcome the culture industry?