Note to Readers: Announcing a New Project

Dear Readers,

Now that The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing has come to an end, you may be wondering what’s coming next.

In the next week, you’ll be receiving three things, including the beginning of my next book. What book? Hang on a moment. First, some housekeeping. 

Anonymous and I had a blast writing The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing, and wanted to wrap things up a little with an afterword. My friend’s idea is that this time, Anonymous will be interviewing me. 

That will be coming early next week.

Now, to the next book.

When Edward Herman died last year – the academic, not the actor of Intolerable Cruelty fame – I lamented publicly that no one had done a sequel to his famous callout/deconstruction/takedown of the mass media, Manufacturing Consent. Co-written with Noam Chomsky, the book had a huge impact on a generation of reporters, myself included. To this day, Manufacturing Consent cuts like a buzz-saw through the main deceptions of the American political system.

But the book, I felt, needed to be updated for the Internet age. A lot has changed in the media business since 1988, when MC1 was first released. 

For a year I considered taking on the project myself. But work at Rolling Stone kept me too busy, and also, I didn’t want to try anything even remotely like this without the blessing of Chomsky, whom I’d never met.

I reached out to Noam in the spring and roughly explained the project. A month ago, I went to Arizona to visit him. I told him I wanted to take a fresh look at the Manufacturing Consent theory, and dig in to what has and has not changed in the world of propaganda and media lying. Moreover, I said, I wanted to do my study from the perspective of a working reporter, a luxury neither Chomsky nor Herman enjoyed (although, as I would learn, Chomsky had some unique insight into the media himself – more on that later). 

Always affable and curious, Chomsky said he’d look forward to the project and we proceeded to have a long talk about how his famous “propaganda model” has held up over the years.

That discussion with Chomsky will be one of the other materials you’ll be receiving next week. It’s a long and wide-ranging interview with someone I grew up admiring, mainly for how, without direct experience, he seemed to perfectly and with appropriate viciousness describe my family business, the news media. It was one of the more interesting talks of my career, and I’m sure you’ll find it interesting. 

Next, you’ll get the first installment of the new book, which I’m calling:

The Fairway, or

Thirty Years After Manufacturing Consent, How Mass Media Still Keeps Thought Inbounds

(Note: This book has since been renamed Hate Inc.: How, and Why, the Press Makes Us Hate One Another.)

The book will address how Chomsky/Herman ideas like “worthy and unworthy victims,” “flak,” and “anticommunism as an organizing religion” predicted three decades of media disasters, using case studies like the WMD fiasco and the failure to predict the 2008 crash.

It will also introduce new concepts gleaned from my thirty years in the business (nearly fifty if you include a childhood surrounded by journalists). The new concepts include “You cannot be fired for being wrong,” “The Church of Averageness” (the dominant religion inside media companies), and “Superflak” – a new and little-explored business in which think tanks and political groups use social media trolls to keep reporters within the parameters of permissible opinion, i.e. on the “Fairway.”

If you hate the media and want a firsthand account of why it sucks so much, this book will be for you. It’s designed to help people see through the hundreds of gadgets and tricks people in our business use to push your opinions one way or another. The idea is to unspool these evil secrets just as the 2020 election – with its inevitable onslaught of media deceptions – begins.

All of that is coming soon, beginning next week. Until then, thanks for reading The Business Secrets of Drug Dealing. And a memo to new subscribers: you’ll get to read that book as well, once you sign up with Substack.

Thanks, and I’ll be back in touch soon –

Matt