Libertarian vs Propaganda Model

Posted: February 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

The libertarian model of the media has historical roots in liberal philosophy in the Anglo-Saxon tradition — John Milton, John Locke, and John Stuart Mill. Its basic tenets are philosophically opposed to the authoritarian model. The Marxist critique of the libertarian model, simply stated, is that a libertarian press does not exist, largely due to capitalist ownership of the media.

Noam Chomsky is arguably the most articulate critic of the libertarian notion of a pluralistic media. He argues that the media serve the interests of their capitalist owners and the political elites that they control. In short, that the function of media is to “manufacture consent” around the status quo in capitalist societies.

For a libertarian argument, see this essay by Karn Horn arguing that the media should function as a free market with no claims to special status: “A Market Like Any Other“.  For an American historical interpretation of the libertarian press model, see “From Milton to Media“.

For Chomsky’s propaganda model, see this excerpt from the book Manufacturing Consent. There is also a Wikipedia entry on Manufacturing consent. And see this link for interview exchanges with Chomsky. For a more recent interview with Chomsky, see this link to the New Statesman: “Noam Chomsky“. Finally, several years ago Canada’s National Film Board produced a lengthy documentary on Chomsky and his ideas. To view that documentary, see “Manufacturing Consent“.


China and Censorship

Posted: February 3, 2012 in Uncategorized


The Chinese regime has long been criticized for censoring the media — both domestically and foreign news sources. For a general assessment of media censorship in China. The Chinese regime bans or censors TV news signals from networks like the BBC and CNN. When the BBC, CNN and other signals are not available in China, the regime censors the websites of these news organizations.

For the reporting of news in China, see this article in The Economist, “Reporting Chinese Politics: Hidden News“. For Chinese censorship of foreign news, see this New York Times article on how the Chinese regime blocked BBC and CNN sites before a Nobel Prize ceremony awarding the prize to a Chinese dissident: “China Moves to Block Foreign News on Nobel Prize“. Yet China has global news ambitions of its own. For China’s ambitions as a global TV news power, see “China launches global TV news network”, linked here. Also see “China funds English news channel CNC World in push for soft power”, linked here. Also see “China’s State TV Expands Globally“.

For a report on media censorship in China, see this document published by Council on Foreign Relations: “Media Censorship in China“.

On Chinese television, the popular Chinese talent show called “Happy Girl” (see image above) was inspired by American talent shows using the same format. However, China’s regime suddenly ordered that the show be taken off the air, apparently because it featured “voting” for contestants. See this article in the Economist, “No Voting Please, We’re Chinese” and this article in the New York Times, “Chinese TV Grows Racy and Gets a Chaperon“.  On the subject of TV dramas, see “China’s Censors Take on Prime Time TV“, “Chinese Censors Attack Frivolous Time-Travel Dramas” and, for alist of Chinese bans, “Chinese TV: A History of Bans and Censorship“.

Perhaps more controversially, China systematically blocks news and information on the Web that is deemed threatening or “inappropriate” — and these practices has proved controversial for Western companies such as Google and Yahoo that have sought to do business in China. See this BBC article, “Anger in China Over Web Censorship“. See also this article in Time: “The Great Firewall: China’s Web Users Battle Censorship“. Google originally acquiesed to China’s censorship demands, but eventually became frustrated and refused to cooperate with the Communist regime. On that subject, see “Google’s China Problem” and “Google Shuts China Site in Dispute Over Censorship“. See also “China Cracks Down on Internet Rumour by Detaining Men for Viral Video” and “China to Step Up Social Media Censorship“.

When China won the conteset to host the Olympic games, many wondered whether the event would encourage the country’s communist regime to reform its policies in fundamental areas like human rights. On that question, see this article, “Will the Olympics Democratize China?” On the same issue, see “Once A Winner, China Sees Globalization’s Downside“.

China restricts the number of American and foreign movies imports. China also puts pressure on Western companies, notably Hollywood studios, that make movies whose subject or themes offend the communist regime. Disney provoked the ire of Chinese communist regime by releasing the film, “Kundun“, about the politically sensitive subject of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. China threatened to block Disney’s business dealings in China, notably plans to open Disneyland theme  parks. To make amends with the Chinese regime, Disney rushed out another film more likely to flatter cultural sensitivities in China: the fantasy cartoon “Mulan“. For more on Disney’s troubles in China, see this article in Time magazine, “Disney’s China Policy” as well as this article, “Hollywood’s New China Syndrome“. Also see this article in the New York Times, “Disney Will Defy China On Its Dalai Lama Film“.

For a factoid on Chinese-Hollywood relations, see “Disney, Hollywood and Foreign Films in China“. On Disney’s attempt to ease tensions with China, see this article in the New York Times, “Disney Gains OK to Show Mulan in China” and on the BBC site, “Mulan Bridges Diplomatic Divide“. Also see this article in Time, “China vs Disney: The Battle for Mulan“. On reaction in China to “Mulan”, see this BBC article, “Chinese Unimpressed with Disney’s Mulan“. This article in the Economist, titled “Rupert and the Dragon“, indicated that media mogul Rupert Murdoch was watching Disney’s troubles in China carefully as he plotted his own Chinese business expansion. Disney was eventually rewarded for its diplomacy vis-a-vis China when it opened a theme park near Hong Kong. See this article, “Mouse Zedong? Disney Opens it Gates in Hong Kong“. Finally, in early 2012 China relaxed its quota restrictions on Hollywood films. See this article: “China eases foreign film quota“.

Authoritarian Model: Russia

Posted: January 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Russia had no freedom of expression or free press for nearly a century under the communist Soviet Union. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Russia went through a turbulent period of reforms during which the media and press were liberalized. The arrival of Vladimir Putin after 2000 has renewed criticism that the Russian regime has returned to old habits of press censorship and even assassination of journalists.

See this article in The Economist dating back to 2001: “Russia: Media Muzzle“, and this article “Fear and Self Censorship in Vladimir Putin’s Russia“. This article from Der Spiegel, 50% Good News is Bad News on Russian Radio, examines pressures by the Kremlin to focus on good news stories.

The murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya provoked an international outcry with accusations that the Kremin has ordered her assassination. See this article in The Economist: “A suspicious death in Russia“. See also “Brutal Censorship: Targetig Russian Journalists“. There is also a Wikipedia entry, linked here, listing journalists killed in Russia.

The Internet has challenged the Kremlin’s capacity to censor media in Russia. See this article in the Guardian: “Kremlin may tighten up Internet use in Russia“. There is some evidence however that Russians are turning to social media and blogs to get around state censorship. See this article, “Social media capitalise on Russia’s history of censorship“. See also “Russia’s Viral Dissident Art“.

On the launch of Russia’s RT news network, see “Russia today, tomorrow the world“.

Somewhat comically, see this story about how Russian police reacted to “protests” by doll figures (teddy bears, Lego men, and South Park figurines) holding up miniature placards denouncing the Kremlin: “Doll protestors present small problem for Russian police“. Finally, seet his report on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange on Russian TV: “Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to host Russian TV Show“.

Theories of Media

Posted: January 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Some links for introductory course reading: Political Theories of MediaFour Theories of the Press, and a GoogleBooks link.

Political Power and Social Media

Posted: January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

See here for Clay Shirky’s essay in Foreign Affairs, “The Political Power of Social Media“. A link to the Foreign Affairs site can be found here.

For a discussion of soft power, see this NPR link “In Digital Age, the Future of Power Must be Smart“. Also see this article by Joseph Nye, “The War on Soft Power“.

In the video below, from a report on Russia’s RT, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton tells Congress that America is losing the soft power war, referring to Russia’s new initiative in global TV news. 


In the 16th century, five centuries before Facebook, Twitter and the Arab Spring, viral network effects helped bring about the Protestant Reformation after Luther nailed his famous 95 theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. See this article in the Economist, “When Luther Went Viral“.