Wednesday, February 1, 2012

How Media Misleads

Even public media like NPR misleads the consumer of its "news". Here is an excellent example by Dean Baker in his Beat the Press blog:
NPR Editorializes Against Growth In Europe

A Morning Edition segment on the recent European Union summit was headlined, "Most EU Nations to Sign Pact to Stop Overspending." This is both flat-out wrong and misleading.

It is flat-out wrong because the pact restricts deficits, not spending. It is misleading because it implies that the current crisis was caused by overspending. It wasn't. Most of the crisis countries had declining debt to GDP ratios before the downturn and two, Spain and Ireland, were actually running budget surpluses. The problem was caused by housing bubbles and the inept management of the economy by the European Central Bank.
If the media lies, then a representative government is impossible. And that makes the constitutional requirement for a free press a waste of effort. At least a significant majority of the press must be honest enough to tell the truth. A free press can be honest or sold out. The hope of the writers of the US Constitution was that the media was so fragmented and numerous that it would be impossible to manipulate the press as a whole. But the writers of the US Constitution lived in a simpler time when the US press was more like the bloggers of today: numerous and cheap to set up. They didn't envision "big media" with wall-to-wall coverage and a practical monopoly on the public's attention.

The coming of radio made possible the horrible dictators of the 1930s. The monopolization of the media in the late 20th century made possible the overweening power of right wing politics today. It took WWII to break the power of the dictators and give back popular democracies. What will it take to break the present day monopoly of big media and the rampant right wing politics that have created?

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