Edward S. Herman

For other people with the same name, see Edward Herman (disambiguation).
Edward S. Herman
Born (1925-04-07) April 7, 1925

Edward S. Herman (born April 7, 1925) is 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 teaches at Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. He is perhaps best known for developing the propaganda model of media criticism with Noam Chomsky. 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 proposed by president Johnson.[2][3]

Herman received his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 1945 and PhD in 1953 from the University of California, Berkeley.

Herman and Chomsky


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 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".[4] 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,[5] 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."[6]


The two men later collaborated on works about the media treatment of postwar 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 "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.[7][8]

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".[9] In the book, Chomsky and Herman acknowledged 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 further asserted 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."[10]

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'."[11]

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.[12]

Their best known co-authored book is Manufacturing Consent, first published in 1988, and largely written by Herman.[13] The book introduced the concept of the "propaganda model" to the debates on the workings of the mainstream corporate media.

Derek N. Shearer, reviewing the original 1988 edition for the Los Angeles Times, wrote that the authors "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." While Shearer describes the work as "important" and the "case studies" as "required reading" for foreign correspondents, he adds a caveat; in his view, Herman and Chomsky "don't adequately explore the extent to which the mass media fail to manufacture consent, and why this might be so."[14] 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.[14] Historian Walter LaFeber thought "their argument is sometimes weakened by overstatement"[15] 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.[15]

Writings on Srebenica

Herman has written about the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in articles such as "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre",[16] 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".[16] He criticized the validity of the term genocide in the case of Srebrenica, pointing out inconsistencies for the case of organized extermination such as the Bosnian Serb Army bussing of Muslim woman and children out of Srebrenica.[17][18][19] The historian Marko Attila Hoare has been highly critical of the Srebrenica Research Group, asserting that it was formed "to propagate the view that the Srebrenica massacre never happened".[20] 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.[21]

Herman's position on the Srebrenica massacre has been criticized, in addition to Shaw and Marko Attila Hoare,[22] by John Feffer,[23] and Oliver Kamm.[24]

The Politics of Genocide

In The Politics of Genocide (co-authored with David Peterson, foreword from Noam Chomsky, 2010), Herman argues that some genocides such as Kosovo and Rwanda in 1994 have been heavily publicized in the West to advance a specific economic agenda, eventually leading to a minority controlled government of pro-Western and pro-business Tutsi, while other genocides, such as in 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).[25]

Some authors like John Pilger,[26] Dan Kowalik,[27] Hans Köchler,[28] or the editors of Media Lens[29] commended the book. The book sparked reactions from different authors and journalists like Gerald Caplan,[30] George Monbiot,[31] or James Wizeye, first secretary at the Rwandan High Commission in London.[32] Herman and Peterson replied.[33]

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 as genocide denial.[34][35]

For instance, Jones writes:

[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.[35]


See also


  1. "Faculty List".; April 3, 2014
  2. "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" January 30, 1968 New York Post.
  3. History of War Tax Resistance; NWTRCC; January 18, 2004
  4. Chomsky and Herman (1979), The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, South End Press, pp. 342, 352, 28.
  5. 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. 1977-01-01.
  6. 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.
  7. Chomsky and Herman, "Distortions at Fourth Hand", The Nation, June 6, 1977.
  8. For discussion, see Bruce Sharp, "Averaging Wrong Answers: Noam Chomsky and the Cambodia Controversy", Mekong.com, 19 July 2010.
  9. Sophal Ear "The Kymer Rouge Canon 1975–1979: The Standard Total Academic View on Cambodia", Undergraduate Political Science Honor Thesis, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, May 1995, p.42, 63
  10. Chomsky and Herman (1979), After the Cataclysm, South End Press, pp. 136, 138–9, 160, 287, 158, 152.
  11. Edward S. Herman "Propaganda System Number One: From Diem and Arbenz to Milosevic", Z magazine (Z communications website), September 2001
  12. Sophal Ear, The Khmer Rouge Canon, 1975–1979, accessed 25 May 2013; Sharp, Bruce, "Averaging Wrong Answers: Noam Chomsky and the Cambodian Controversy", accessed 25 May 2013; "An Exchange on Cambodia," New York Review of Books, July 20, 1978, accessed 25 May 2013
  13. 1 2 Derek N. Shearer "Citizens or Sheep", Los Angeles Times, 13 November 1988
  14. 1 2 "News and Propaganda". The New York Times. 11 December 1988. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  15. 1 2 Edward Herman "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre" Archived October 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., Znet, 7 July 2005
  16. "Genocide Inflation is the Real Human Rights Threat: Yugoslavia and Rwanda". ZNet online ZMagazine. Retrieved 2007-11-28.
  17. "The Politics of the Srebrenica Massacre". ZNet online ZMagazine. Archived from the original on 2009-10-01. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
  18. "Genocide Inflation is the Real Human Rights Threat: Yugoslavia and Rwanda". ZNet online ZMagazine. Retrieved 2009-10-22.
  19. Marko Attila Hoare "Chomsky's Genocidal Denial", FrontPage magazine, 23 November 2005
  20. Michael F. Bérubé The Left at War, New York & London: New York University Press, 2009, p.105
  21. 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.
  22. Feffer, John (6 April 2009). "Why Yugoslavia Still Matters". Foreign Policy In Focus. Retrieved 22 July 2010.
  23. Oliver Kamm "Srebrenica denial just will not die", The Times (blog), 6 February 2013
  24. Herman and Peterson (2010), The Politics of Genocide, Monthly Review Press, p. 51, 58.
  25. George Monbiot "Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers", The Guardian, 13 June 2011. Herman and Peterson responded to Monbiot in "We're not genocide deniers. We just want to uncover the truth about Rwanda and Srebrenica", The Guardian, 19 July 2011. The original versions of their submitted texts are Herman's "Reply to George Monbiot on 'Genocide Belittling'", Znet, 19 July 2011 and Peterson's "George Monbiot and the Anti-'Genocide Deniers' Brigade", Znet, 19 July 2011
  26. Dan Kovalik "The Politics of Genocide", The Huffington Post, 22 June 2010
  27. Monthly Review "The Politics of Genocide - New Edition"
  28. Edwards and Cromwell "A 'Malign Intellectual Subculture' - George Monbiot Smears Chomsky, Herman, Peterson, Pilger And Media Lens", Media Lens, 2 August 2011
  29. Gerald Caplan "The politics of denialism: The strange case of Rwanda - Review of The Politics of Genocide", Pambazuka News, #486, 16 June 2010
  30. George Monbiot "Left and libertarian right cohabit in the weird world of the genocide belittlers"
  31. James Wizeye "To claim Tutsis caused Rwanda's genocide is pure revisionism", The Guardian, 25 July 2011
  32. Edward Herman and David Peterson "We're not genocide deniers. We just want to uncover the truth about Rwanda and Srebrenica", The Guardian, 19 July 2011
  33. "GENOCIDE STUDIES MEDIA FILE: Denying Rwanda: A Response to Herman & Peterson". jonestream.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-02-06.
  34. 1 2 "Genocide Denial: Expert Assessments | George Monbiot". www.monbiot.com. Retrieved 2016-02-06.


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