In the waning years of the last millennium, at my university, one of the cause célèbres of the progressive left was a concept known as “Manufacturing Consent,” the title of a book and film, by and starring Noam Chomsky. Its central thesis was that US mass media “are effective and powerful ideological institutions that carry out a system-supportive propaganda function, by reliance on market forces, internalized assumptions, and self-censorship.”

It’s fair to say that history has been pretty kind to this theory. Consider the support drummed up by mass media for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. To quote the public editor of the New York Times, “To anyone who read the paper between September 2002 and June 2003, the impression that Saddam Hussein possessed,

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