The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


For the past year the MSM has been reporting economic news using worst case hyperbole and outright misrepresentation in an effort to establish a state of fear among American consumers. The result, I think, is that the media is an important contributor to the public’s perception that economic collapse is just around the corner.

There is no doubt that we’re in an economic rough patch—the housing market’s bubble has burst, irresponsible borrowers and lenders have created a credit crunch and a higher than average number of home foreclosures, oil prices are the highest on record. But at the same time, unemployment numbers remain quite low (by any historical standard), inflation is still well under control, interest rates are very low (by historical standards), and economic growth (as measured by GDP) is still positive (a recession requires two quarters of negative growth).

Yet, John Stossel provides a typical quote on the economy from the MSM:
"It's been described as the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression. And it brings with it grave dangers for all American families ... ," said Martin Bashir on "Nightline." "Recession looms .... "

The Great Depression? The time when unemployment was 23 percent (today it’s just over 5.5 percent), when the stock market lost 75 percent of its value (today’s down market has lost just under 20 percent), when there was no employment insurance, no social insurance network of any kind? The allusion to the Great Depression is both inaccurate and inappropriate. Yet it’s common among MSM commentators.

Stossel comments:
The state of economic reporting in this country is abysmal. We might laugh at it if it didn't have bad consequences. But the more people hear such inappropriate comparisons, the more apt they are to believe them and change their behavior accordingly -- investing less and taking fewer economic risks -- thereby aggravating bad economic conditions.

No wonder, as the Associated Press reported, "U.S. consumers are the gloomiest they've been since the tail end of the last prolonged recession".

The question is: why are MSM outlets so doom and gloom? Part of it is the new media ethic that seems to believe that frightened citizens improve Nielsen ratings, so it’s very important to keep the populace frightened. And part, I think, is a distinct anti-administration bias that believes that anything that makes Bush look bad is a good thing and a boost for the MSM’s chosen candidate, Barack Obama.

The problem with such irresponsible reporting is that it’s bad for the country. It contributes to the economic downturn, perhaps even exacerbating it. But no matter, from the point of view of MSM personalities, viewer numbers, readership, and political partisanship trump accurate reporting every time.

It’s enough to put you into a depression.