The Practical Philosopher's Blog

Using the practical application of timeless wisdom to address modern issues

Is the Economy That Bad, Or is it Really Media Bias?

I have noticed for an unrelenting drum-beat of economic depression by the mainstream media during Bush’s terms in office. This has occurred, despite the fact we had a nearly unbroken string of growth quarters during the last 8 years. Now, with the collapse of the housing market-bubble, we have a necessary correction of bad fiscal behavior by BOTH lenders and borrowers.  But, to believe the media, we are just this side of economic Armageddon. It’s the sequel to the Great Depression.

But is it really that bad or is the reporting wrong? The facts point to a media message that is at odds with reality. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the current unemployment rate is 7.2%. That’s nowhere near the 20-odd% unemployment rates of the Great Depression and still about half the usual rate of our European neighbors. The financial sector is paying specifically for its bad behavior and those businesses that were uncompetitive or financially unsound (Big 3 auto makers, for instance), are the ones suffering solvency issues with the downturn in consumer spending.  Outside of that, most industries are only working against a general contraction of consumer activity and not the predicted ‘catastrophic economic collapse’. All I’ve seen personally when I go out is a ton of lowered prices, coupons, and key commodities like gasoline that have fallen to historically low prices. Call me silly, but this change doesn’t seem that bad.

So really, my hypothesis is that a Leftist-biased mainstream media is at the root of driving an unbelievably intense campaign of information ‘doom and gloom’. It seems like they don’t want to see (or want you to see) any positive social or economic realities. But why? Because it’s been a non-Liberal leadership in the White House and, until the last few years, a non-Liberal dominated Congress. History shows us that, until about the 90’s, there was a monopoly that controlled and shaped the news. Not because it was some vast conspiracy, but because there were so few channels for the news to flow through. The news primarily came through the Big 3 TV networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) and a finite set of major newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, etc). The other half of the equation, though, was that journalists have become increasingly more Liberal than their general public readership. Pew Research has documented this consistently. The Media Research Center noted a Pew Research poll in 2004:

Five times more national outlet journalists identify themselves as liberal, 34 percent, than conservative, a mere 7 percent. The poll also discovered that while the reporters, editors, producers and executives have a great deal of trouble naming a “liberal” news outlet, they had no problem seeing a “conservative” outlet, with an incredible 69 percent readily naming the Fox News Channel.

Another Pew finding at their Journalism.org site found:

The research from Weaver and his colleagues echoes the findings of a Pew Research Center survey from 2004 revealing that while the majority of journalists described themselves as moderate, they were clearly to the left of the public. One example was that journalists were considerably more willing to say that society should accept homosexuality than the average citizen was.

In a good Wall Street Journal article by Peggy Noonan, she illustrates the collapse of the monopoly:

…But in the past decade the liberals lost their monopoly. What broke it? We all know. Rush Limbaugh did, cable news did, the anti-monolith journalists who rose with Reagan did, the Internet did, technology did, talk radio did, Fox News did, the Washington Times did. When the people of America got options, they took them. Conservative arguments rose, and liberal hegemony fell.

If I am right, then we will see an abrupt about-face on the tone of economic rhetoric shortly after the inauguration coming tomorrow. We will have a distinct absence of Republicans/Conservatives and a nearly monolithic Democrat/Liberal presence in the White House and Congress. I am very interested to see if, suddenly, we see a media viewing the world with rose-colored glasses because we have the ‘proper’ Liberal perspectives in our government.

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Filed under: Economy, Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,

One Response

  1. pino says:

    Philosopher,

    This is great work! I am currently writing a piece on this very subject. I have long maintained that it is the doomsday media that has driven us down this road of fear and uncertainty. However, to be fair, we can also look to our own administration to see the same behavior. Starting with Paulson, then to Bush and finally with Obama, we have been lead to believe that this is the worst economy since the Great Depression; maybe worse.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

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