Edward S. Herman

Edward Samuel Herman (April 7, 1925 – November 11, 2017) was an American economist, media scholar and social critic. Herman is known for his media criticism, in particular his propaganda model hypothesis developed with Noam Chomsky, a frequent co-writer. He held an appointment as Professor Emeritus of finance at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania[1] and a media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy. He also taught at Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

Edward Samuel Herman
Edward Samuel Herman

(1925-04-07)April 7, 1925
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedNovember 11, 2017(2017-11-11) (aged 92)
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania
University of California, Berkeley
  • Economist
  • media scholar
  • social critic
Spouse(s)Mary Woody (died 2013)
Christine Abbott (m. 2015)

Ideologically, Herman has been described as a "dedicated radical democrat",[2] an ideology which opposes corporate control in favor of direct democracy while distancing itself from other radical movements.[3]

Early life

Herman was born in Philadelphia to a liberal Democratic family, the son of Abraham Lincoln Herman, a pharmacist and Celia Dektor, a homemaker.[4][5]

Herman received his Bachelor of Arts (in 1945), and later his MA, from the University of Pennsylvania. At University of California, Berkeley, from which he received his PhD in 1953, he met economist Robert A. Brady, who had studied the economics of fascist regimes, who was a significant influence upon him. Herman joined the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania in 1958, where he taught finance and became professor emeritus in 1989.[4]

Political views

Propaganda model

Much of Herman's scholarship has focused on developing the propaganda model to explain how "market forces, internalized assumptions and self-censorship" motivate newspapers and television networks to stifle dissent.

Rather than needing direct control over the media as in dictatorships, industrial democracies control popular opinion using "filters" which prevent politically controversial ideas from reaching the public. Chomsky and Herman specify five filters, in particular: the concentration of media ownership to a few corporations, the need to please advertisers and funding sources, the reliance on government-provided sources, flak, and anti-communist ideology. These influences combine to prevent politically inconvenient knowledge and ideas from reaching the general public.[6][7][8]

Vietnam War

Following the Vietnam War, Herman and Noam Chomsky challenged the veracity of media accounts of war crimes and repression by the Vietnamese communists, stating that "the basic sources for the larger estimates of killings in the North Vietnamese land reform were persons affiliated with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or the Saigon Propaganda Ministry" and "the NLF-DRV 'bloodbath' at Hue (in South Vietnam) was constructed on flimsy evidence indeed". Commenting on postwar Vietnam, Chomsky and Herman argued that "[i]n a phenomenon that has few parallels in Western experience, there appear to have been close to zero retribution deaths in postwar Vietnam." This they described as a "miracle of reconciliation and restraint".[9] In discussing the 1977 Congressional testimony of defecting SRV official Nguyen Cong Hoan, on the subjects of mass repression and the abrogation of civic and religious freedoms,[10] Herman and Chomsky pointed to contradictory accounts of post-war Vietnam, concluding that while "some of what Hoan reports is no doubt accurate ... the many visitors and Westerners living in Vietnam who expressly contradict his claims" suggest "Hoan is simply not a reliable commentator."[11]

Chomsky and Herman authored Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact & Propaganda, a book which criticised U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia and highlighted how mainstream media neglected to cover stories about these activities; the publisher Warner Modular initially accepted it, and it was published in 1973. However, Warner Modular's parent company, Warner Communications, disapproved of the book's contents and ordered all copies to be destroyed.[12][13] According to Jim Neilson's book Warring Fictions: Cultural Politics and the Vietnam War Narrative, the publication of Counter-Revolutionary Violence was stopped by an executive of Warner Publications, William Sarnoff, who thought its discussion of American foreign policy "was a pack of lies, a scurrilous attack on respected Americans, undocumented, a publication unworthy of a serious publisher". Because of a binding contract, copies were passed to another publisher rather than destroyed.[14]

In 1967, Herman was among more than 500 writers and editors who signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse to pay the 10% Vietnam War tax surcharge implemented by Congress upon the initiation of President Johnson.[15][16]


The two men later collaborated on works about the media treatment of post-war Indochina, Cambodia in particular. Beginning with "Distortions at Fourth Hand", an article published in the American left-wing periodical The Nation in June 1977, they wrote that while they did not "pretend to know [...] the truth" about what was going on in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot, while reviewing material on the topic then available, "[w]hat filters through to the American public is a seriously distorted version of the evidence available". Referring to what they saw as "the extreme unreliablity of refugee reports", they noted: "Refugees are frightened and defenseless, at the mercy of alien forces. They naturally tend to report what they believe their interlocutors wish to hear. While these reports must be considered seriously, care and caution are necessary. Specifically, refugees questioned by Westerners or Thais have a vested interest in reporting atrocities on the part of Cambodian revolutionaries, an obvious fact that no serious reporter will fail to take into account". They concluded by stating that Khmer Rouge Cambodia might be more closely comparable to "France after liberation, where many thousands of people were massacred within a few months" than to Nazi Germany.[17][18]

In 1979, Chomsky and Herman revised Counter-Revolutionary Violence and published it with South End Press as the two-volume The Political Economy of Human Rights. [19] In this work they compared U.S. media reactions to the Cambodian genocide and the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. They argued that because Indonesia was a U.S. ally, U.S. media ignored the East Timorese situation while focusing on that in Cambodia, a U.S. enemy.[20][21] Volume II of the book The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume II: After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology (1979), which appeared after the regime had been deposed, has been described by area specialist Sophal Ear as "one of the most supportive books of the Khmer revolution" in which they "perform what amounts to a defense of the Khmer Rouge cloaked in an attack on the media".[22] In their book, Chomsky and Herman wrote that "The record of atrocities in Cambodia is substantial and often gruesome" but questioned their scale, which may have been inflated "by a factor of 100". They wrote that the evacuation of Phnom Penh "may actually have saved many lives", that the Khmer Rouge's agricultural policies reportedly produced positive results and there might have been "a significant degree of peasant support for the Khmer Rouge".[23]

Herman replied to critics in 2001: "Chomsky and I found that the very asking of questions about the numerous fabrications, ideological role, and absence of any beneficial effects for the victims in the anti-Khmer Rouge propaganda campaign of 1975–1979 was unacceptable, and was treated almost without exception as 'apologetics for Pol Pot'".[24]

Todd Gitlin, in an email to The New York Times wrote that for Herman and Chomsky "the suffering of the Cambodians is less important than their need to pin the damage done to Cambodia in the 1970s primarily on the American bombing that preceded the rise of the Khmer Rouge to power".[4]

Herman and Chomsky's best known co-authored book is Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, first published in 1988, and largely written by Herman.[5][25] The book introduced the concept of the "propaganda model" to the debates on the workings of the corporate media. They concluded that "market forces, internalized assumptions and self-censorship" motivate newspapers and television networks to stifle dissent.[4] They asserted "in our model", the Polish priest Jerzy Popieluszko (a victim of the Communist state police) "murdered in an enemy state, will be a worthy victim, whereas priests murdered in our client states in Latin America will be unworthy. The former may be expected to elicit a propaganda outburst by the mass media, the later will not generate sustained coverage".[26]

Historian Walter LaFeber reviewing the original 1988 edition for The New York Times, thought "their argument is sometimes weakened by overstatement" citing Herman and Chomsky's attack on major American news sources for reproducing false government assertions about Nicaragua but failing to note that those same sources quickly attacked the government when the deliberate error was discovered.[27] Derek N. Shearer, also in 1988 for the Los Angeles Times, described the work as "important" and the "case studies" as "required reading" for foreign correspondents but in his view the authors "don't adequately explore the extent to which the mass media fail to manufacture consent, and why this might be so". To suggest the validity of his point, Shearer uses the examples of the Contras in Nicaragua and the deposed Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, both supported by the US government and conservatives but not by American public opinion.[28] Shearer also commented that they "persuasively demonstrate that in countries where the American government is involved—either openly or covertly—the press is frequently less than critical, and sometimes a partner in outright deception of the American public."[28]

"The whole approach of the book is deeply simplistic", according to Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and communications at Columbia University. "If you think that The New York Times is Pravda, which is essentially what they’re saying, then what vocabulary do you have left for Fox News? Their model is so clumsy that it disables you from distinguishing between a straight-out propaganda network and a more complex, hegemonic mainstream news organ".[5]

Writings on Srebrenica

Herman has written about the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in articles such as "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre".[29] Herman writes: "the evidence for a massacre, certainly of one in which 8,000 men and boys were executed, has always been problematic, to say the least" and "the 'Srebrenica massacre' is the greatest triumph of propaganda to emerge from the Balkan wars... the link of this propaganda triumph to truth and justice is non-existent".[29] He criticized the validity of the term genocide in the case of Srebrenica, pointing out alleged inconsistencies in the case of organized extermination such as the Bosnian Serb Army's bussing of Muslim women and children out of Srebrenica.[30][31][32] The historian Marko Attila Hoare said that the Srebrenica Research Group was formed "to propagate the view that the Srebrenica massacre never happened".[33] Michael F. Bérubé has also said the SRG is dedicated to overturning the findings of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, which has officially designated the Srebrenica massacre as being an example of genocide and the United Nations.[34]

Herman's position on the Srebrenica massacre has been further criticized by Marko Attila Hoare[35] and also by John Feffer[36] and Oliver Kamm.[37]

The Politics of Genocide

In The Politics of Genocide (co-authored by David Peterson, with a foreword by Noam Chomsky, 2010), Herman and Peterson argue that "genocide" has become a politicized notion through analysis of the media and comparative studies of what they title "constructive" and "nefarious" genocides. They argue the Kosovo War, the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and the War in Darfur have been publicized in the West to advance an economic and intellectual agenda. They contrast media coverage of these events with Sanctions against Iraq and the Iraq War, arguing that despite similar casualties to those massacres which receive the label genocide, there was an inverted response when Western powers were directly involved. Through analyzing use cases of the term "genocide", Herman argues the west has leveraged human rights abuses to advance its own agenda resulting in minority controlled government of pro-Western and pro-business Tutsi, while other "genocides", such as East Timor, have been largely ignored for the same reason.

The journalists John Pilger[38] and Dan Kowalik,[39] commended the book. Elsewhere, the book sparked reactions from different authors and journalists like Gerald Caplan,[40] George Monbiot,[38] or James Wizeye, first secretary at the Rwandan High Commission in London.[41]

Private life

Herman was married to Mary Woody, who died in 2013, for 67 years.[42] He married Christine Abbott in 2015, a long-time friend.[4]


Herman died from complications of bladder cancer in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania, on November 11, 2017, at age 92.[4]


  • 1966: America's Vietnam Policy: the Strategy of Deception (with Richard Du Boff)
  • 1968: Principles And Practices Of Money And Banking
  • 1968: The Great Society Dictionary
  • 1970: Atrocities in Vietnam
  • 1973: Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact & Propaganda (with Noam Chomsky)
  • 1979: The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume I: The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism (with Noam Chomsky)
  • 1979: The Political Economy of Human Rights, Volume II: After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology (with Noam Chomsky)
  • 1981: Corporate Control, Corporate Power: A Twentieth Century Fund Study
  • 1982: The Real Terror Network
  • 1984: Demonstration Elections (with Frank Brodhead)
  • 1986: The Rise and Fall of the Bulgarian Connection (with Frank Brodhead). ISBN 0-940380-06-4.
  • 1988: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (with Noam Chomsky)
  • 1990: The "Terrorism" Industry ISBN 978-0-679-72559-6
  • 1992: Beyond hypocrisy : decoding the news in an age of propaganda : including A doublespeak dictionary for the 1990s ISBN 0-89608-436-1
  • 1995: Triumph of the Market
  • 1997: The Global Media (with Robert McChesney) ISBN 0-304-33433-2
  • 1999: The Myth of The Liberal Media: An Edward Herman Reader
  • 2000 Degraded capability : the media and the Kosovo crisis (edited by Philip Hammond and Edward S. Herman) ISBN 978-0-74531-631-4
  • 2010: The Politics of Genocide (with David Peterson) ISBN 978-1-58367-212-9
  • 2019: Like A Cuttlefish Spurting Out Ink: Studies in the Art of Deceit (with David Peterson) ISBN 978-1-54566-755-2

See also


  1. "Faculty List". Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. April 3, 2014.
  2. Herman, Edward (1997). Triumph of the Market: Essays on Economics, Politics, and the Media. Black Rose Books Ltd. pp. back cover.
  3. Aronowitz, Stanley (2013). Radical Democracy: Identity, Citizenship and the State. Routledge. p. 99.
  4. Roberts, Sam (November 21, 2017). "Edward Herman, 92, Critic of U.S. Media and Foreign Policy, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  5. Smith, Harrison (November 16, 2017). "Edward S. Herman, media critic who co-wrote Manufacturing Consent, dies at 92". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  6. Chomsky, Noam (1989). Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies. Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-89608-366-0.
  7. Edward Herman; Noam Chomsky (1988). "A Propaganda Model: excerpted from Manufacturing Consent". Chomsky.info.
  8. Larry E. Sullivan, ed. (2009). The SAGE Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences. Sage. p. 411.
  9. Chomsky, Noam; Herman, Edward S. (1979). 'The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism. South End Press. pp. 342, 352, 28.
  10. Human rights in Vietnam: hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, Ninety-fifth Congress, first session, June 16, 21, and July 26, 1977. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off. January 1, 1977. Archived from the original on March 7, 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  11. Herman, Edward; Chomsky, Noam (1979). After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology. South End Press. pp. 98–101. ISBN 978-0-89608-100-0.
  12. Barsky, Robert F. (1997). Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. pp. 160–162. ISBN 978-0-262-02418-1.
  13. Sperlich, Wolfgang B. (2006). Noam Chomsky. London: Reaktion Books. p. 86. ISBN 978-1-86189-269-0.
  14. Neilson, Jim (1998). Warring Fictions : American Literary Culture and the Vietnam War Narrative. University Press of Mississippi. Archived from the original on June 5, 2011.
  15. "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest", January 30, 1968, New York Post.
  16. History of War Tax Resistance Archived October 13, 2011, at the Wayback Machine; NWTRCC; January 18, 2004
  17. Chomsky, Noam; Herman, Edward S. (June 6, 1977). "Distortions at Fourth Hand". The Nation.
  18. For a discussion, see Sharp, Bruce (July 19, 2010). "Averaging Wrong Answers: Noam Chomsky and the Cambodia Controversy". Mekong.
  19. Barsky 1997, p. 187; Sperlich 2006, p. 86.
  20. Barsky 1997, p. 187.
  21. This Chomsky-Herman thesis has been challenged by Sophal Ear, who "argues that concurrent [media] coverage of human rights violations in right-wing regimes in Chile and South Korea exceeded the coverage given to Cambodia" during the genocide: See Sharp, Bruce. "Averaging Wrong Answers: Noam Chomsky and the Cambodia Controversy". Mekong. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  22. Ear, Sophal (May 1995). "The Kymer Rouge Canon 1975–1979: The Standard Total Academic View on Cambodia (Undergraduate Political Science Honor Thesis)" (PDF). Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley. pp. 42, 63. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 22, 2012.
  23. Chomsky, Noam; Herman, Edward S. (1979). After the Cataclysm. South End Press. pp. 136, 138–9, 160, 287, 158, 152.
  24. Herman, Edward S. (September 2001). "Propaganda System Number One: From Diem and Arbenz to Milosevic". Z magazine. Z communications. Archived from the original on April 16, 2013.
  25. "An Exchange on Manufacturing Consent". chomsky.info. 2002. Retrieved September 5, 2017.
  26. Herman, Edward S.; Chomsky, Noam (2008) [1988]. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. London: The Bodley Head. p. 34.
  27. LaFeber, Walter (November 6, 1988). "Whose News?". The New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2017. Herman responded to LaFeber's article, see Herman, Edward S.; LaFeber, Walter (December 11, 1988). "News and Propaganda". The New York Times. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  28. Shearer, Derek N. (November 13, 1988). "Citizens or Sheep". Los Angeles Times.
  29. Herman, Edward S. (July 7, 2005). "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre". Znet. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009.
  30. "Genocide Inflation is the Real Human Rights Threat: Yugoslavia and Rwanda". ZNet online ZMagazine. Archived from the original on April 16, 2013. Retrieved November 28, 2007.
  31. "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre". ZNet online ZMagazine. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2009.
  32. "Genocide Inflation is the Real Human Rights Threat: Yugoslavia and Rwanda". ZNet. ZMagazine. Archived from the original on April 16, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2009.
  33. Hoare, Marko Attila (November 23, 2005). "Chomsky's Genocidal Denial". FrontPage magazine. Archived from the original on October 19, 2017. Retrieved January 4, 2017.
  34. Bérubé, Michael F. (2009). The Left at War. New York & London: New York University Press. p. 105.
  35. Hoare, Marko Attila (2003). "Genocide in the Former Yugoslavia: A Critique of Left Revisionism's Denial". Journal of Genocide Research. 5 (4): 543–563. doi:10.1080/1462352032000149495.
  36. Feffer, John (April 6, 2009). "Why Yugoslavia Still Matters". Foreign Policy in Focus. Retrieved July 22, 2010.
  37. Kamm, Oliver (February 6, 2013). "Srebrenica denial just will not die". The Times.
  38. Monbiot, George (June 13, 2011). "Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers". The Guardian. For a response to Monbiot, see Herman, Edward S.; Peterson, David (July 19, 2011). "We're not genocide deniers. We just want to uncover the truth about Rwanda and Srebrenica". The Guardian. The original versions of their submitted texts are Herman, Edward S. (July 19, 2011). "Reply to George Monbiot on 'Genocide Belittling'". Znet., and Peterson, David (July 19, 2011). "George Monbiot and the Anti-'Genocide Deniers' Brigade". Znet.
  39. Kovalik, Dan (June 22, 2010). "The Politics of Genocide". HuffPost.
  40. Caplan, Gerald (June 16, 2010). "The politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda – Review of The Politics of Genocide". Pambazuka News (486).
  41. Wizeye, James (July 25, 2011). "To claim Tutsis caused Rwanda's genocide is pure revisionism". The Guardian.
  42. Holmey, Olivier (November 21, 2017). "Edward S Herman: Scholar whose radical critiques of US media characterised the fake news caricatured by Trump". The Independent. London. Retrieved November 22, 2017.


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