Friday, August 06, 2010

The Media Filter

Two articles today in the MSM about how the MSM filters our news.

Paul Krugman:
One depressing aspect of American politics is the susceptibility of the political and media establishment to charlatans. You might have thought, given past experience, that D.C. insiders would be on their guard against conservatives with grandiose plans. But no: as long as someone on the right claims to have bold new proposals, he’s hailed as an innovative thinker. And nobody checks his arithmetic.
He's talking about Paul Ryan. The whole thing is worth reading.

When Ryan's proposal came out, I skipped over the usual voucherization (read privatization) of Social Security and other Republican memes, but what really caught my non-economist's eye was his proposal that raising interest rates would pull the money that corporations are sitting on out for investment. Um, if that money gets more return sitting there than it currently does, that will motivate alternatives? Even I can see what's wrong with that. But, as Krugman points out, very few if any of the financial reporters picked up on that rather obvious nonsense, nor the staleness of the rest of Ryan's proposal. They had a narrative, and they were running with it.

And here's Robert Kagan's read on President Obama's briefing on Iran:
It is here that this very straightforward briefing took a bizarre and amusing turn. Some of the journalists present, upon hearing the president's last point about the door still being open to Iran, decided that he was signaling a brand-new diplomatic initiative. They started peppering Obama with questions to ferret out exactly what "new" diplomatic actions he was talking about and, after the president left, they continued probing the senior officials. This put the officials in an awkward position: They didn't want to say flat out that the administration was not pursuing a new diplomatic initiative because this might suggest that the administration was not interested in diplomacy at all. But they made perfectly clear -- in a half-dozen artful formulations -- that, no, there was no new diplomatic initiative in the offing. As one bemused senior official later remarked to me, if the point of the briefing had been diplomacy, then the administration would have brought its top negotiators to the meeting, instead of all the people in charge of putting the squeeze on Iran. Some journalists nevertheless left with the impression that the big "news" out of their meeting with the president was a possible new round of diplomacy.

I left feeling sympathy for this and every administration. Apparently, even spoon-feeding doesn't work. The "news" out of this briefing was that the administration wanted everyone to know how tough it was being on Iran. I was especially struck by the remarks of a senior official, who pointed out that one effect of Iran's growing economic difficulties has been strikes in the bazaars. The student and opposition demonstrations of the past year have been political, but these protests are about economics. If the two ever join, this official suggested, that would pose a real threat to the regime. An interesting point -- though not to the assembled journalists.
Once again, they had a narrative, and they were running with it.

Update: More on Ryan from Krugman.

And here's another bunch of e-mails and other material exposing an unambiguous conspiracy to alter the balance of our media. Let's see how much play this gets in the MSM!

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