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Manipulating the News

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Americans have been manipulating the news since well before the American Revolution. Other Americans are fairly used to the news being manipulated. Not that it is a tradition, of course, but Americans (and Europeans and people all over the world) have always suspected the bearers of tidings good and bad to embroider their stories to suit their own preferences, delivery styles (their songs, ballads, righteous propaganda, evangelism, proselytizing, monarchism, democratism, revolutionism, racism, and so forth). Today the number one issue in America is the economy, followed closely by our foreign policy. The key item in our economy, from the point of view of regular people, is employment. The significant factor in this area is unemployment, and the latest news is that the rate of unemployment has (momentarily) dropped by 0.2% amid wild cheering from people who should know better!

More on unemployment in a moment, but first a little reality check on foreign policy. If you read the left blogosphere (DailyKos, FireDogLake, OpEdNews, American Liberalism Project, TomDispatch and others) you will read about the great disappointment in President Obama and his decision to augment our troops in the AfPak War by some 30,000. To tell the truth, I was not happy about the decision, but, folks, that was the decision, and I understand it as far as it goes. Clearly President Obama, before being elected and since (prior to his December 1st speech at West Point), has seen the Afghanistan theater as an important step (real or perceived) against terrorism (for him, his administration, our country and others).

Why then do bloggers bother to write so stridently and foolishly about the latest decision, when in fact the die is obviously and widely cast and their better bet is to set up the frame for the next decision, to establish popular metrics for determining whether we are getting anywhere or not. Of course, we all understand that the current decision depends heavily (probably foolishly) on unreliable folks in west Asia (and President Obama should be given credit for understanding this) so with all that, what position should the bloggists take? Should they point out how unreliable Afghans and Pakistanis have been? No! What good does that do? They should point out opportunities won and lost in the coming eighteen months. How are they to know about these opportunities? Through the news, of course! But the news is manipulated. We don't know what CIA and Blackwater (Xe) are doing; we only know that they are doing it primarily (perhaps) in Pakistan in spite of the Islamabad government's protests. People who know how complex this "game" really is begin to relax their vigilance and just let it happen, taking note only when an AP reporter tells them that some prime minister somewhere has been carted off by the military and that nuclear arms are now safer.

Bloggers (and indeed the entire network of professional journalists) must dig deeper into Afghanistan and Pakistan and produce information that is relevant to the decision that will be made about 18 months hence. We must be all over the governments in Kabul and Islamabad, but more than that we must understand the people there and go deeper than the barely credible polls. Take Obama at his word, the policy in place now IS an exit policy.

Has anyone written about the relationship between our wars and our unemployment problems? Does anyone remember demobilization after WWII? Does anyone think that the contemporary U.S. economy could absorb 100,000 demobilized troops? ... 200,000? I was going to ask the former Marine Corps guy who came around yesterday advertizing his new window washing company. Does this man show up on Bureau of Labor Statistics radars?

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The Bureau's stats for November are a delight for Xmas retailers. It appears that the newest millennium has arrived from the carefully scripted report. The first figure reported out by flash news services--165,000 jobs lost--is suddenly impossible to find online and now we read that only 11,000 net jobs have been lost in November. Recent month's historical data is revised to make the whole thing seem even less scary and more amenable to Xmas shopping sprees ... to buoy up the economy ... (of China)!

Take a look at the unemployment graph in the report linked to above. November shows a slight jog downward. But, look back at May 2009. Yes, there is another similar jog just before the whole thing began to climb at an alarming rate. Yes, clearly the recent three month's slope of the curve is less harrowing than that curve describing most of 2009, but please notice that the slope is still upward ... meaning that unemployment is still increasing. The best minds around predict a slump after Xmas ... principally because there is ALWAYS a slump after the Xmas retail sales. So, drawing a moderately bad slope on the unemployment curve is not naughty or unAmerican, it is simply straightening out the news ... and the record, because you sure do not want to risk your precious liquidity on BLS propaganda foisted off by a beleaguered administration and compliant media, do you!


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James R. Brett, Ph.D. taught Russian History before (and during) a long stint as an academic administrator in faculty research administration. His academic interests are the modern period of Russian History since Peter the Great, Chinese (more...)

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