Essay about Propaganda

Propaganda, to some may just be another word for advertising, but for many the word has a very negative connotation. The word is seen as advertising that manipulates the audience for the benefit of the advertiser. This negative view of propaganda is present in Herman and Chomsky’s book Manufacturing Consent. They point out propaganda in the media and how it has affected news and media outlets. But propaganda is not only present in news media, it can be seen in any organization, for example, higher education. Higher education is seen as important and by some, the only way to a successful life, but it is also currently filled with propaganda, potentially manipulating students for their money. And the evidence of the propaganda in higher education can be seen using four of the five filters of Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model: ownership, advertising, official sources, and flak.
The first filter Herman and Chomsky describe is Ownership. Their book is about propaganda in media, so their explanation is that most media sources are owned by one big company or a wealthy family. They stated in their book, “they are controlled by very wealthy people... and they are closely interlocked, and have important common interests, with other major corporations, banks, and government” (Herman and Chomsky, 14). The owner of the media source, who also controls all of its actions, have “common interests” which is usually money. They do not care about the actual news being told to the audiences, but instead the profit that could come from it, or even their reputation. Relating this to higher education, most schools in California, are owned by the state. The state of California has a whole state to be in charge of and most likely not only wants, but needs more money than they have. It could make one wonder, how important the education of the students is, compared to the importance of how much money the universities are making, or even how much money they fund to the universities. If the states truly cared about the education, they could be finding ways to help make higher education free. But instead, not only do students pay tuition, they pay a very high amount to park on campus, and it even costs money to apply for graduation. The schools do need money to function, but the state probably has no interest in finding ways to help out the students receiving an education, since that could only make them lose money.
Herman and Chomsky’s second filter was about advertising, they stated, “The advertisers' choices influence media prosperity and survival.” (H&C, 14). They explained that while news sources were selling newspapers, or now through the internet, that would not make them enough money to survive. They filled space with advertisers who would pay them to advertise their products and this is how they made most of their money. This filter related to higher education is a little less obvious, but one direct way the universities have advertisers is with the banks they are in partnerships with. For example, CSU Stanislaus has a partnership with Wells Fargo, so the ATMs around campus are all Wells Fargo, and the university ID cards are linked with Wells Fargo bank accounts. Wells Fargo must pay the university the best price to have their bank and not another be the bank represented on campus, and this could have made many students start an account with Wells Fargo. It’s somewhat different considering the schools do not make most of their money through the banks, but it is the most direct example compared to Herman and Chomsky’s model. Advertising could also be seen through all the food options available on campuses if they have food chains instead of only the main cafeteria. For a starbucks or any food chain to be located on campus they would have to pay the University giving them money, and then also advertising and making more money for themselves.
The third filter, official sources, is described as outside sources used in the news stories to provide credibility. The media also used outside sources so they cannot be seen as biased, because these sources come from other people who could claim to be experts, and back up their stories. They explained it when they wrote, “Partly to maintain the image of objectivity, but also to protect themselves from criticisms of bias and the threat of libel suits, they need material that can be portrayed as presumptively accurate.” (H&C, 19). In higher education, the official sources could be seen as the professors, as professors are usually seen as experts on their subjects, but it could also be the course guidelines given to the professors. Each class, no matter the professor, has a guideline of what will be taught, and this keeps the education being taught unbiased, consistent, and supposedly from an expert. Another form of official sources used by universities are the textbooks. They are outside sources, filled with information that is used to back up the course guidelines and the professors, and keeps the university unbiased. Herman and Chomsky stated, “Perhaps more important, powerful sources regularly take advantage of media routines and dependency to "manage" the media, to manipulate them into following a special agenda and framework.” (H&C, 23). The textbook companies are known to take advantage of the students, their prices are expensive, and every year there seems to be a new edition, making the textbook stay at such an expensive price every year. They make it very hard to buy older versions, or any book for a cheap value, and textbooks are usually required in every class.
The fourth filter of the propaganda model, is flak, or negative criticism. Flak in the media world, according to Herman and Chomsky, is whenever someone says anything negative towards the media source or one of the stories. Saying the news is fake, or sending hate towards the news companies is considered flak. They explained, “It may take the form of letters, telegrams, phone calls, petitions, lawsuits, speeches and bills before Congress, and other modes of complaint, threat, and punitive action.” (H&C, 26). So any form of negative action or words towards a University would be flak. This could be complaints made to the schools about a faculty member, student, or an event happening on the campus. An example of flak from CSU Stanislaus could be when one student participated in a white supremacy protest, and created a white supremacy club. Not only did the student receive hate, but the school did as well. People were not only saying negative things, but protested for the school to kick the student out of the university. Flak could also be seen through actions, for example if someone who donates money to the school, disagreed strongly with a student, faculty, or event, and decided to stop donating their money. Herman and Chomsky stated, “If flak is produced on a large scale, or by individuals or groups with substantial resources, it can be both uncomfortable and costly to the media” (H&C, 26). The negative criticism being in the form of losing a donation could greatly affect the university, which is unfortunate if it is the fault of one single person that caused negative views towards the university as a whole.
The final filter of Herman and Chomsky’s propaganda model, is ideology of anti communism. They describe this filter as the media using the idea of communism to scare their viewers and even make them against certain enemies. This filter is more directly linked to propaganda in media and not easily linked to higher education. But the first four filters are more general in their ideas of propaganda and able to be related to higher education proving whether it be through the ownership of the universities, the advertising present throughout campuses, the textbooks required in all classrooms, or even the negative remarks made towards the universities, propaganda is seen all throughout higher education. It would be nice if higher education sole purpose was to educate students and prepare them for their futures, but unfortunately there is evidence to the fact they most likely care about the money being received by students who believe higher education is the only way to be successful in their futures.
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