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Monday, November 08, 2010

It's the Media, Stupid

TV in trash
Here's an item from the Sunday editorial page of my local paper, Wisconsin State Journal. I offer it not because it's unique, but because it's so common.

Faster to apply common sense than the left or the right.

More powerful than a high-speed locomotive between Madison and Milwaukee.

Able to flip power in Madison and Washington in a single election.

Look! Over in the voting booth! It's our hero: the independent voter.

He -- and she -- have spoken again. Thank goodness!

Trust me, it doesn't get any better. It goes on to hit all the popular punditry points; that voters are angry, that Democrats overreached, that Republicans aren't all that popular either, etc. Some are correct, some aren't so much, but it completely ignores the elephant in the room -- voters believe things that aren't true.

Those "common sense" Independent Superman voters reached their supposedly common sensical conclusions based on entirely erroneous information. The media has completely failed to inform people and no one is talking about this. I suppose this is less than surprising, since the media is where people go to talk about politics. Why run down your own business?

I've brought it up before, but a recent Bloomberg poll shows that 59% believe their taxes have gone up, 60% say that TARP money just evaporated, and 61% believe the economy is shrinking. None of these things are true and its all provable and documented. Voters went to the polls to vote against these things -- things that aren't happening.

Any discussion of what voters want, what they don't want, why they voted the way they did, what Democrats did wrong, what Republicans did right -- in short, any discussion of the 2010 elections -- is pointless and useless unless it figures in this point. In fact, any discussion of politics at all that ignores this point isn't worth your time. For all the talk about how government is broken, the fact that this is true only because the media is broken is lost.

And this is because the media -- TV's the worst, but pretty much all of it -- enables liars. We live in a world where there's no such thing as fact, just opinion. The world's scientists can get together and agree on a subject and, if any crank out there disagrees with them, it just becomes opinion. Facts = bias = bad. The importance of truth has become secondary to the importance of a gladiatorial battle of arguing pundits, spinmeisters, and partisans. They go on the TV, yell at each other for a little while, then you're supposed to decide what's true and what isn't. As the Bloomberg poll demonstrates, this is a lousy way to inform people.

So what do we do? Turn off TV news and throw away the editorial page. Pundits are idiots and media corporations have an agenda. Stop assuming they have anything useful to say, because it's just so damned obvious that they only have something confusing to say. It's not true of every pundit, but it's true of most.

I agree with the Journal on one point: I do believe in those Independent voters. The vast majority of people can be counted on to make good decisions most of the time -- it's why we don't all just wander out into traffic and die. But those voters can only make good decisions if they have good information. You want facts, opinion isn't worth jack. And yes, I do realize this is not an endorsement of this blog, which is basically my own op-ed page. Check my facts, follow my links, see whether they lead to a factual article or an just an opinion column.

And do that with everything -- right, left, up, down, north, south, and middle. Nothing is true until you've checked the facts yourself, because the people who are supposed to be doing the fact-checking for you are proven to be incompetent. No opinion is to be trusted.

Get informed -- or you just hurt yourself.


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