Sunday, August 15, 2010

Media 'Spin' as Scare Tactic

I always enjoy reading Dean Baker's blog. He has taken on the media world. He calls out the lies and "spin" that runs rampant in the media... yeah, that place where you think you get "just the facts".

Here's a post where he catches the Washington Post scaring people:
The Post had a piece on the expiration of the Bush tax cuts which reported an analysis by the Joint Committee on Taxation on the incidence by income group. The article noted that the analysis showed that 97 percent of tax filers reporting small business income would not pay higher taxes under the tax plan put forward by President Obama. However, it reported that 50 percent of small business income goes to taxpayers who would see an increase in their taxes.

It would have been worth noting that in most of these cases the tax increase would be trivial. For people with incomes between $200,000 and $500,000 the average tax increase would be $409 as shown in the chart accompanying the article. It is difficult to believe that a tax increase of this magnitude would affect business decisions to any noticeable extent.
When I was a kid I thought the newspaper, the news magazines, the radio news programs, and the TV news programs were all "just straight facts". Sadly, over half a century I've had it pounded into my head that "facts" are often missing in action. The media generally is selling a corporate, or big business, or wealthy elite point of view. They don't simply lie. They use "facts" but they pick and choose and they interpret them in ways that wouldn't be called fair by most people. Madison Avenue has nothing on the media when it comes to selling. But at least Madison Avenue puts their pitch into a framework known as an "advertisement" so the hapless consumer knows when something is being pitched. (OK, I realize that "product placement" and "social media marketing" are now fuzzing the edges and letting Madison Avenue drop the ad as a framework and become more insidious.)

The sad fact is that the powers that be no longer feel any restraint to keep fiction separate from fact or keep persuasion separate from fact. We are living in an increasingly dangerous world where you can't trust your perceptions. We live in a world where you have to hit the pavement running and wary and distrustful. This takes modern "alienation" to a whole new level. Your 'friends' may be befriending you not because they like you but because they want to sell you or they have been paid to persuade you. Your government may not have social programs meant to assist you but instead to change you attitude so that you are happy with less, happy to be manipulated, happy to be a 'better customer'. Brave New World.

The games the politicians are playing by telling you a "tax cut" is this or that, when in fact it isn't, is just a symptom of this brave new world.

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