The Israeli conquest of Palestine has always been a difficult issue for Western mainstream media to cover. The difficulty lies not in the task of reporting the facts on the ground and transmitting an accurate depiction of them to the public, but in refraining from doing so.
The journalistic mission, to provide citizens with factual information that enables them to be informed participants in democratic decision making, conflicts with the corporate mission, to maximize profits and influence.
The role of U.S. mass media – and Western media in general – as a tool for disseminating propaganda was first argued by Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky in their landmark 1988 book Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Their analysis reveals a media propaganda system based not on “formal censorship” but rather “by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship, and without significant overt coercion.”
Although it does not consciously and overtly do so, Western corporate media serve the critical function of protecting the financial and business interests of institutional power.
“A propaganda model suggests that the ‘societal purpose’ of the media is to inculcate and defend the economic, social and political agenda of privileged groups that dominate the domestic society and the state,” the authors write. “The media serve this purpose in many ways: through selection of topics, distribution of concerns, framing of issues, filtering of information, emphasis and tone, and by keeping debate within the bounds of acceptable premises.”
More than 25 years later, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the BBC keep churning out work that continues to validate Herman and Chomsky’s argument in Manufacturing Consent. In no foreign policy story is this more apparent than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
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