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Edward Samuel Herman (April 7, 1925 – November 11, 2017) was professor emeritus of finance at the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania[2] 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. He developed, with Noam Chomsky, the propaganda model of media criticism which says that “market forces, internalized assumptions and self-censorship” motivate newspapers and television networks to stifle dissent. 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.[3][4]

Edward Samuel Herman
Born (1925-04-07)April 7, 1925
Philadelphia, PA
Died November 11, 2017(2017-11-11) (aged 92)
Philadelphia, PA[1]

Herman was criticized for allegedly denying, downplaying the severity or shifting blame, for massacres and genocide in Cambodia, Srebrenica and Rwanda.


Early lifeEdit

Herman was born in Philadelphia, to a Liberal Democrat family, the son of Abraham Lincoln Herman, a pharmacist and Celia Dektor, a homemaker.[5][6]

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.[5]

Herman and ChomskyEdit


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".[7] 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,[8] 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."[9]

According to Jim Neilson’s book Warring Fictions: Cultural Politics and the Vietnam War Narrative, the publication of the first collaboration between Chomsky and Herman Counter-Revolutionary Violence (1973) 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.[10]


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.[11][12]

Their book After the Cataclysm (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".[13] 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".[14]

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'".[15]

Many scholars denying or doubting the character of the Khmer Rouge recanted their earlier opinions as the evidence of massive KR crimes against humanity mounted.[13][16] 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".[5]

Manufacturing ConsentEdit

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.[6][17] 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.[5] 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".[18]

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.[19] 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 author's "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.[20] 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."[20]

"The whole approach of the book is deeply simplistic" considers 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".[6]

Writings on SrebrenicaEdit

Herman has written about the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in articles such as "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre".[21] 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".[21] He criticized the validity of the term genocide in the case of Srebrenica, pointing out inconsistencies in the case of organized extermination such as the Bosnian Serb Army's bussing of Muslim women and children out of Srebrenica.[22][23][24] The historian Marko Attila Hoare said that the Srebrenica Research Group was formed "to propagate the view that the Srebrenica massacre never happened".[25] 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.[26]

Herman's position on the Srebrenica massacre has been criticized, in addition to Shaw and Marko Attila Hoare,[27] by John Feffer,[28] and Oliver Kamm.[29]

The Politics of GenocideEdit

In The Politics of Genocide (co-authored by David Peterson, with a foreword by Noam Chomsky, 2010), Herman argues that some genocides such as Kosovo and Rwanda in 1994 have been publicized in the West to advance an economic agenda, eventually leading to a 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.

On Rwanda, Herman and Peterson wrote that the Western establishment has "swallowed a propaganda line on Rwanda that turned perpetrator and victim upside-down" (p. 51); the RPF not only killed Hutus but were the "prime génocidaires" (p. 54). The authors argue that there was "large-scale killing and ethnic cleansing of Hutus by the RPF long before the April–July 1994 period" (p. 53); this contributed to a result in which "the majority of victims were likely Hutu and not Tutsi" (p. 58).[30]

Some authors like John Pilger commended the book.[31] and Dan Kowalik,[32] Elsewhere, the book sparked reactions from different authors and journalists like Gerald Caplan,[33] George Monbiot,[31] or James Wizeye, first secretary at the Rwandan High Commission in London.[34]

In the academic field, Rwandan history and genocide specialists like Martin Shaw, Adam Jones or the Rwanda specialist Linda Melvern dismissed the quality of the analysis presented and consider it genocide denial.[35][36]

Jones wrote

[Herman] has demonstrated no past familiarity or competence with this case, and yet he advances what is probably the most systematic denial of the Tutsi genocide I have ever read, at least from anyone who's not on trial for genocide or defending them. Herman and Peterson present an interpretation of the events in Rwanda from April to July 1994 that is a straightforward inversion of the reality accepted, and studied in intimate detail, by every major scholar and investigator of the subject. I am not aware of a single exception in comparative genocide studies and scholarship on Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. This is quite analogous to declaring that the Jewish Holocaust did not occur, and in fact, the real victims were Germans slaughtered by Jews.[36]

Private lifeEdit

Herman was married to Mary Woody, who died in 2013, for 67 years.[37] He married Christine Abbott in 2015, a long-time friend who survives him, as does his brother Harris. Their sister, Barbara Herman Becker, died earlier in 2017.[5]


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Manufacturing Consent co-author Edward Herman dies at 92". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. November 15, 2017. Retrieved November 16, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Faculty List". Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. April 3, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post.
  4. ^ History of War Tax Resistance; NWTRCC; January 18, 2004
  5. ^ a b c d e 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. 
  6. ^ a b c Smith, Harrison (16 November 2017). "Edward S. Herman, media critic who co-wrote Manufacturing Consent, dies at 92". The Washington Post. Retrieved 17 November 2017. 
  7. ^ Chomsky, Noam; Herman, Edward S. (1979). 'The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism. South End Press. pp. 342, 352, 28. 
  8. ^ 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. 
  9. ^ Herman, Edward; Chomsky, Noam (1979). After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology. South End Press. pp. 98–101. ISBN 978-0896081000. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ Chomsky, Noam; Herman, Edward S. (June 6, 1977). "Distortions at Fourth Hand". The Nation. 
  12. ^ For a discussion, see Sharp, Bruce (July 19, 2010). "Averaging Wrong Answers: Noam Chomsky and the Cambodia Controversy". Mekong. 
  13. ^ a b 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. 
  14. ^ Chomsky, Noam; Herman, Edward S. (1979). After the Cataclysm. South End Press. pp. 136, 138–9, 160, 287, 158, 152. 
  15. ^ Herman, Edward S. (September 2001). "Propaganda System Number One: From Diem and Arbenz to Milosevic". Z magazine. Z communications. Archived from the original on 2013-04-16. 
  16. ^ Sharp, Bruce, "Averaging Wrong Answers: Noam Chomsky and the Cambodian Controversy", accessed May 5, 2013; "An Exchange on Cambodia," New York Review of Books, July 20, 1978, accessed May 25, 2013
  17. ^ "An Exchange on Manufacturing Consent". 2002. Retrieved September 5, 2017. 
  18. ^ Herman, Edward S.; Chomsky, Noam (2008) [1988]. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. London: The Bodley Head. p. 34. 
  19. ^ LeFeber, 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. 
  20. ^ a b Shearer, Derek N. (November 13, 1988). "Citizens or Sheep". Los Angeles Times. 
  21. ^ a b Herman, Edward S. (July 7, 2005). "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre". Znet. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. 
  22. ^ "Genocide Inflation is the Real Human Rights Threat: Yugoslavia and Rwanda". ZNet online ZMagazine. Archived from the original on April 16, 2013. Retrieved 2007-11-28. 
  23. ^ "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre". ZNet online ZMagazine. Archived from the original on October 1, 2009. Retrieved October 22, 2009. 
  24. ^ "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. 
  25. ^ Hoare, Marko Attila (November 23, 2005). "Chomsky's Genocidal Denial". FrontPage magazine. 
  26. ^ Bérubé, Michael F. (2009). The Left at War. New York & London: New York University Press. p. 105. 
  27. ^ 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. 
  28. ^ Feffer, John (6 April 2009). "Why Yugoslavia Still Matters". Foreign Policy In Focus. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  29. ^ Kamm, Oliver (6 February 2013). "Srebrenica denial just will not die". The Times. 
  30. ^ Herman and Peterson (2010), The Politics of Genocide, Monthly Review Press, p. 51, 58.
  31. ^ a b 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. 
  32. ^ Kovalik, Dan (June 22, 2010). "'The Politics of Genocide'". The Huffington Post. 
  33. ^ Caplan, Gerald (June 16, 2010). "The politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda - Review of The Politics of Genocide'". Pambazuka News (486). 
  34. ^ Wizeye, James (July 25, 2011). "To claim Tutsis caused Rwanda's genocide is pure revisionism". The Guardian. 
  35. ^ "Genocide Studies Media File: Denying Rwanda: A Response to Herman & Peterson". Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  36. ^ a b "Genocide Denial: Expert Assessments | George Monbiot". Retrieved February 6, 2016. 
  37. ^ 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. 


External linksEdit