Anything & Everything

March 6, 2009

There’s Nothing To Fear… But The Media Itself

Filed under: Daily Life,General Stuff,Musings,Thoughts,Writing — Susan Morgan @ 3:34 am
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I’m as concerned about the economy, my own livelihood and the value of my home as the next guy… but the unrelenting barrage of media attention on this topic is getting ridiculous. 

I was always taught to give credit where it’s due, and the seed of this idea came to life in my own thoughts while reading a piece by Paul Greenberg that appeared earlier this week in Jewish World Review. While he makes a lot of great points about optimism, and leadership, the ones I’ll touch on here focus on the doom and gloom economic reports delivered by the nightly news and mainstream media.

Greenberg’s points would certainly take the wind out of the sails of my ever-eager local anchor team…

In 2008, the American economy lost 3.4 million jobs, 2.2 percent of the labor force. If you remember, back in November of 1981 to October of 1982, we lost 2.4 million jobs — a smaller number of a smaller labor force, and coincidentally it works out to the very same 2.2 percent. What’s more, the unemployment rate this past January (7.6 percent) was far below the peak in 1982 of 10.8 percent. 

I actually heard that some companies are hiring this year. Hiring! What’s more, there are some technical jobs open at the companies in this regularly updated spreadsheet. There’s also a top 100 list out of Yahoo HotJobs that’s worth a look. 

And curiously, despite the economy that I’m told is hanging by the slimmest of threads, demanding immediate action and billions of dollars, I’m still waiting for a table at the local restaurant in my town, even on weeknights. The cash registers in every store I go in (especially the grocery store) are humming right along, and I continue to stand in my share of lines. The nail place is almost as booked as ever. Even reservations at ski lodges in my area, though down an estimated 10% this season, are still robust — despite all the gloomy economic news.

But unless you’re out there looking, you won’t be told this side of the story.

What’s so worrisome is that the mainstream media is so willingly (dare I say gleefully) reporting the economic downturn as the death of us all. It’s all doom… all the time. My local station has a smarmy graphic and catchy name for what’s going on… following drops in the stock market or releases of economic figures like they were casualty laden breaking news.

Greenberg caught a whopper of his own in mid February by the supposedly objective Associated Press

Quoting from an AP dispatch that appeared as straight news February 16, 2009 — “Passage of the stimulus measure — unprecedented in its cost — was a triumph for Obama as he struggles to lift the country from a financial nosedive unseen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.”

I checked, and found that story was reprinted everywhere, and if you tell people something enough, they come to believe it IS true. But Greenberg points out that comparisons to the 1930s are pretty unrealistic.

In the early 1930s, jobs were being lost at three times today’s rate, with one quarter of the country jobless by 1933. Over 10,000 banks would fail that year as well. While things today might be bad… even my parents (and those of their generation alive today) will tell you what’s going on right now is nothing like how dark and desperate it really was back then.

So what’s up? Why the emergency?

Funny thing about “emergencies” — people act without thinking, do things they might not otherwise… agree to anything (wage freezes, benefit cuts, service cuts) in hopes of surviving the crisis. The focus is on action… immediate, sweeping, grand gestures that are meant to strike fear in an unseen enemy, closing fast. Cooler heads usually can’t be heard over the hysterical din of the masses.

Now you can call me a cynic if you like… I’ve been (and probably will be) called much worse than that… but part of me can’t help but wonder if this “economic emergency” the media is trying so hard to cram down our throats is a clever way to get people to be driven by fear.

Why do that, you ask?

How much easier it is to present wage freezes, service cuts, toll hikes and the like when the dark cloud of the economic downturn looms overhead. How much simpler to get people to agree to just about anything that will “save” them during these uncertain days.

But what if we don’t need saving? What if we’re all just fine without all that, thank you? An article, and the email responses it generated in WritersWeekly, an online publication I get each week echoes the same theme. It’s just what I’ve been seeing here in suburban New Hampshire.

Which makes us all the more foolish if we let a complacent, well heeled and indolent mainstream media convince us otherwise. And if you need practical tips to fight the fear and take back your thoughts… here’s a great article that can help you do just that.

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