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Media-Created “Reality”

Here is a telling divergence. A survey from Mass Mutual Consumer and Saving Index taken in November, showed that 73% of Americans feel optimistic about their personal finances, up sharply from February. Retail sales over the holiday were strong. But polls keep showing that when asked, most Americans do not feel positive about “the overall economy,” and a majority do not think that President Biden is doing a good job in handling the economy.

Polls on sentiment are always frustrating, because they demand “yes or no” answers to complex questions. But even so, there is clearly a discrepancy here. People are more optimistic about their finances, but not about the country’s economy? Well, my thought is that most of this is due to the absolute onslaught of media talking down the economy, leading their headlines or news stories with “the “struggling economy,” “inflation surging, “Biden in trouble as economic woes continue.”

These news stories are actually made up. Of course the economy is not perfect, it never was. But virtually every metric we actually see, is positive. Jobless claims are way down, perhaps a record low last month. Wages are up, about 5.5% year over year. People have more disposable income on average. This is by no reasonable standards a struggling economy.

Inflation is the big concern. Every story I see headlined says “inflation surging,” as if it is going up every day, 6%, 10%, 20%, and on up. No, it is about 6% . That is too high, but this country has seen inflation spikes for a few months, many times in the past. And there is a reason for this now; supply chain disruptions, plus the return to work, pent-up demand, and extra savings available to spend. This will almost certainly go down. If it does not, then we can get upset about it.

I am not saying that for various individuals, this is not a concern. But in general, as attested to by the poll mentioned above, most Americans are feeling better about their personal finances, and so many more people are back to work. Again, while I am by no means an economist, I have seen various ups and downs in the economy, and this is not a down, it is mostly an up.

.I try not to watch too much of the news, but when I do turn it on, the first story is almost always negative on the economy, and either directly or indirectly negative about Biden, as if things are falling apart, and he is incapable of doing anything about them. This is simply factually wrong. It is a theme which the media keeps purveyng in the face of contrasting evidence.

Now of course we have the legitimate worries about the Omicron variant. That could have many bad effects, primarily of course the physical dangers. And it would hurt the economy, not just here, of course, but in the world. Actually, the inflation is worldwide, very little to do with any policy that the Biden Administration has done or not done. But the media absolutely refuses to tell us that. The media will make it all of a piece; as if Democrats have somehow caused the variant

Ron Insana is someone who comes on the news shows sometimes, he is a longtime commentator on CNBC, the business channel. Every time I see him, he is reasonably optimistic about the economy, he points to various positive numbers, and puts it in perspective. I am sure, that like the entire staff of CNBC, is is far from a liberal. But he is honest, and he looks at things, and is on the bullish side in terms of the economy. But not the people who write headlines for written media, or chyrons for broadcast media, or who anchor news desks.

I continue to bring up the media, because I think it is immensely important Their version of reality becomes more skewed. And clearly the people who watch it, are getting their cues from them, and that is why they think that the economy is in bad shape, even if their finances are not at all.

This becomes pernicious. I was rather amazed when I first saw Biden’s favorable numbers drop. It started with Afghanistan, which was not great, but hardly a debacle. But now virtually all the national polls show Biden sinking with regard to his handling of the economy, even his handling of the pandemic (which has actually been excellent, in my view). If someone asked these respondents why they did not think that he was doing a good job on the economy, they likely would have little to say, other than “high prices.” When the inflation goes down, as it will somewhat, they will still have a negative view of his handling of the economy. Simply put, it is because they are being told to see things that way, and it is working, more than I ever would have thought, even knowing how bad the media has gotten.

The real danger is that the media has become so relentless and pervasive in their “coverage,” that they are more important in public perception than the actual reality. If they told you that the sky was green, and you looked up to see that it was blue, you might not believe them, but some would start to. That is of course is something that one can see with one’s eyes, to test the accuracy of it.

But with regard to very complex things like the economy, the media now apparently has the power to actually create perceptions. This becomes self-perpetuating. Once people are conditioned–and there really is no other word for it–to feel that the economy is bad, and that Biden is responsible for it, or at least not doing anything to “fix it,” it becomes a core of belief, almost impossible to shake, even if one were given facts, which is rarely the case.

We are heading toward Congressional elections, with a sizeable majority of people thinking that the economy is doing poorly, when it is not. Democrats cannot win in such a situation. Some of them, in Congress, or on the occasional news show, try to provide data; then the host thanks them, and goes back to the scare headlines, or the next show does. So we are moving toward a “fact-free” world, where people are being told what to think, or how data should be looked at, and they follow along.

Again, there is no reasonable rationale for Americans to be viewing the economy as in bad shape, particularly as compared to the last administration, where wage were stagnant, all the benefits went to the very rich; there was no social spending, public agencies were severely underfunded. But they are; and it may be that no good economic news (assuming that they even are told it) is going to change that assumption.

Does the media now control America? I go back to the novel “1984,” where the state propaganda network pounded out “news” telling people that things were wonderful under Big Brother, and that what they might have heard yesterday about Eurasia was not what they actually heard at all. That was intended by Orwell for dramatic effect, born out of his hatred of Soviet Russia, and also as a warning. Are we moving closer to that world?

If so, can we do anything about it? I never want to just write doom-laden analysis without at least trying to come up with some ways in which we can fight against it. I know that RD has moved to mostly listening to podcasts, not watching news. I personally do not have the patience to listen to many podcasts, as some of them seem to take a long time to get to their point. But I am not as knowledgeable about which are the better ones. Most podcasts, are, I assume, largely listened to by people who already have strong opinions; they are mostly not “persuadables.” So I don’t know how much the podcasts can act as an antidote to the barrage of conventional media.

We could decide to stop watching the news shows. That would damage their ratings, but I don’t know that they would get the proper message. We could write to them, or leave phone messages, to tell them how upset we are at their biased coverage. That always seemed to work for the Right, which was yelling about “liberal media” for decades

I wonder if Democrats in office should more forceful in pushing back against the unfair and inaccurate aspects of media coverage. Of course, the media always has the last word; they can call it “whining,” or
“desperate Democrats attacking the media.” We well remember Hillary Clinton being mocked and savaged, because she wasn’t holding press conferences; then for every single word that she said during any of them. It seems as if it is a “heads you lose, tails you lose” game that they play. And the truth is that there really are not too many highly insightful and fair-minded people among the current media.

We could stop watching their entertainment and sports shows, that might actually concern them. We could stop buying most of their advertised products. I like those ideas, but only if we make them aware of the cause and effect.

I am not the only person who has wondered why some very rich person on the liberal side does not start his or her own network, as a counterbalance to mostly all right-wing news all the time. But none has. These are exigent circumstances; and as in Poe’s somewhat allegorical story, “The Masque of the Red Death,” one cannot escape through money and retreating from the world, it will find you. So wake up, multimillionaire liberals, and realize that we cannot win anything lasting unless we have the media to tell people what is actually going on.

There is reality, however phenomenological a concept that may be, and then there is the reality created by those who want control over us, achieved by carefully filtering and even creating their own version of reality;

Last night, I watched the very touching and inspiring concert with Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga, which was on my local CBS station. When I turned the TV back on later to set something to tape, it was still on that station and there was some kind of paid-for religious hour on this network station. And in the literally thirty seconds that I watched, it ran headlines, “Collapsing economy.” “Chaos..” Cancel Culture” “What do we do? Where do we turn?” I had no interest in seeing what faux religious/right-wing political/we want your money, answer they would have, but the very fact of this program, and others like it, suffusing the airwaves, was disconcerting in itself. That, or a version of it, is what far too many people are being bombarded with every day. And there is a lot of money behind it.