Manufacturing Сonsent: Noam Chomsky

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“Chomsky is credited with the creation of the theory of generative grammar, considered to be one of the most significant contributions to the field of theoretical linguistics made in the 20th century. He also helped spark the cognitive revolution in psychology through his review of B.F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior, in which he challenged the behaviorist approach to the study of mind and language dominant in the 1950s. His naturalistic approach to the study of language has also affected the philosophy of language and mind. He is also credited with the establishment of the Chomsky–Schützenberger hierarchy, a classification of formal languages in terms of their generative power”.

Noam Chomsky is one of the greatest living thinkers of contemporary times. His views and discourses have a lot of weight and importance in the world we live in today. Manufacturing consent is a landmark book by Noam Chomsky that relates to the role of the media when it manufactures or creates consent and approval in people by giving them false pictures and through the use of rhetoric.

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Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

The book was jointly written by Edward S. Herman and Noam Cnosky – it was first published in 1988. The authors of this book put an analysis called the “propaganda model”. “The book argues that since mass media news outlets are now run by large corporations, they are under the same competitive pressures as other corporations. According to the book, the pressure to create a stable, profitable business invariably distorts the kinds of news items reported, as well as the manner and emphasis in which they are reported. This occurs not as a result of conscious design, but simply as a consequence of market selection: those businesses who happen to favor profits over news quality survive, while those that present a more accurate picture of the world tend to become marginalized”

Rhetoric is the art of using symbols to produce effects that are often dramatic or shocking. “The rhetorician Kenneth Burke has put this neatly by defining rhetoric as symbolic action, acting through symbols. As symbolic animals, humans constantly use symbols to influence one another. We argue for political positions. We solicit sales by phone. We pass along information and traditions. We teach our children to recognize the set of things that are red. In a broad sense, this is all rhetorical activity”.

“The slippage of reality, its elusiveness encountered even in a basic search for a definition, is an element of the hyper real – a condition in which the distinction between the ‘real’ and the imaginary implodes. There is no static definition of hyper reality, and the interpretations employed by theorists vary on some of the most essential terms. The concept most fundamental to hyper reality is the simulation and the simulacrum. The simulation is characterized by a blending of ‘reality’ and representation, where there is no clear indication of where the former stops and the latter begins representation, where there is no clear indication of where the former stops and the latter begins”.

Semiotics refers to to refer more narrowly to Charles Sanders Peirce’s theory of signs. The basic component of this theory is that the idea of sign being a type of relation. The sign is used as a process of semiosis or represents interaction and relation between three elements: the representament, the object, and the interpretant

The term “Meme” was created by Richard Dawkins. It basically refers to or represents a unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another. Examples of these are tunes, catchphrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.

Visual rhetoric is employed to manufacture and create consent in design. Similarly, Noam Chomsky in his book ‘Manufacturing Consent’ elaborates on the role of media that uses rhetoric to create consent. We will look how closely are these two concepts related and how can Chomsky’s views and concepts of design be actually used in a way that they reconcile or do not conflict with the objectives of design itself.

Design is a means to affect and influence people and their choices related to various arenas. People are convinced and persuaded that this is the right piece of design. Therefore, they are persuaded that the design is right from every aspect and they should spend their money, time and concentration on a particular type and kind of design.

Visual rhetoric basically refers to the use of graphics and text together in such a manner that people or the audience is convinced and forced to look at that particular piece of design. Familiar symbols, eye-catching graphics and catchy jingles are used in a way that people are automatically allured.  The advertisement warning about the dangers of forest fires process to create alluring designs. The pictorial examples above clarify the concept of visual design and the usage of symbols to create consent.

Design language is an important tool in the process too.Design language basically is the language in the product that sends the consumer certain messages and he/she then makes a decision in the light of it. The decision could be both to buy and not to buy the product. Design language consists of symbols and pictures. However, the designers should also understand the responsibility that comes with it. They should avoid sending false messages at any cost because the consumer really believes what he sees in the product design.

The view of design as presented by Noam Chomsky is very different from what other visual historians and critics have on offer. He almost always makes use of his anti-imperialism views when discussing it and feels that political opinions are created by promoting false images by the Government or the political parties as well as various groups whether they are of a political, religious or ethnic nature. They are also used by various organizations to further their causes.

Noam Chomsky’s views of visual design and rhetoric and crystal clear and they can be reconciled with contemporary design, only when commercialism is out from the priorities of designers today and they are able to produce design messages that are true and do not mislead. Only then can pure design emerge that is free from the shackles of consumerism and commercialism.


  1. The definition of rhetoric and its concept: Retrieved Nov 1, 2006
  2. The definition and concept of hyper reality
  3. Design: Desirability in design: Retrieved Nov 1, 2006.
  4. Institute of Design: Communication design: Nov 1, 2006
  5. Manufacturing Consent: Consent in Design: Retrieved Nov 1, 2006
  6. City Space: A Semiotic and Visual Exploration of Graffiti and Public Space in Vancouver:  Retrieved Nov 1, 2006
  7. Moneycontrol India > News > Competing for the Future is a visionary book > > Book Review > C K Prahalad, Smart Manager, Retrieved Nov 1, 2006
  8. The Disturbed Tree by ~Bakenius on deviantART Retrieved Nov 1, 2006
  9. Manufacturing Consent – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved Nov 1, 2006
  10. Noam Chomsky – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Retrieved Nov 1, 2006

Cite this page

Manufacturing Сonsent: Noam Chomsky. (2017, Mar 30). Retrieved from

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