Friday, January 2, 2009

The Media Shouldn't Be Blamed For The Financial Crisis

With retirement accounts shrinking across the country, everyone is trying to determine who is to blame for the financial crisis. After all, if we can place blame on somebody we can then burn them at the stake, and it will make us feel so much better, right? Recently the New York Times published a controversial piece that basically blamed the entire financial crisis on President Bush. Several publications have disputed this piece, including Newsbusters, and of course the White House. Surely President Bush had a hand in the economic carnage of 2008, but to say that he was solely responsible for it is pretty ridiculous. There are so many people that have a hand in economic matters of this country, and while the President is the figurehead, he most certainly is not the only one to whom blame is due. So what other names are being thrown out? Greenspan, Bernanke and Paulson are all likely candidates, but according to a recent survey by Opinion Research most Americans think a large portion of the blame falls on the media.

According to the poll 77 percent of Americans believe the media is to blame for stoking the financial crisis by spreading fear among consumers. My first reaction to this was a big, WOW. Yes, the media has spread a bit of fear and panic, and the stories of doom and gloom are certainly helping to sell more papers, but there is another reason why all you see are negative stories: Positive news is next to impossible to come by if you don’t just make it up. If the media had more positive news to cover, you can bet that they would do it.

Americans who wish to bury their heads in the sand can feel free to do so, but personally I want to know what is going on in the financial world and I want the truth, not some lame story meant to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. People hoarding their money out of fear fostered by what they have heard from the media may be making matters worse, but it is hard to blame reporters for doing their jobs and reporting the truth. It is falsifying information or misleading readers in some other way that we should scorn. Yet things are getting so bad that in the press release issued by Opinion Research, national expert on corporate liability and white collar crime issues Richard L. Scheff warns that members of the media could potentially be exposed to liability despite apparent constitutional protections.

This is of course absolutely ridiculous. What we are saying is that instead of the hard truth we want our media to report sugar-coated stories to make us feel good about the economy. If you want a bubble, that is one great formula right there: Get the public to buy into a bunch of hype so they can feel confident buying up overpriced assets, ignoring that the bubble will inevitably pop, bankrupting those who believed that everything was coming up roses when the market was really pushing up daisies. The media should be sued were they to feed false hope in this economic environment, but certainly not for reporting the truth. That defeats their entire purpose for existing. For the Americans who can’t handle this hard truth: Good luck to you, as you most certainly are going to need it.

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