Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Media, The Establishment, and the Public

In the October 13 Democratic Party debate wrap-up, CNN commentators did a fact check of candidate claims, one of which was Bernie Sanders' assertion that the unemployment rate among white teenagers was 33%, among Latino teenagers was 36%, and among black teenagers was 51%. It was implied that Sanders was either deluded or lying since these figures allegedly refer to the UNDEREMPLOYMENT RATE, not the unemployment rate.

Just how serious a distortion is this, if in fact it is one? Well, not much of one at all, really, because Sanders' wider point, that in the allegedly greatest economy in world history millions of young people have lousy prospects of being properly employed, remains valid. Psychologists report that Millenials are the most stressed-out generation ever, expected to fulfill a success ethic incongruously juxtaposed to increasingly ephemeral "jobs" that offer little in terms of pay, benefits, or prestige. Forty-five percent of the unemployed are young people, and the average Millenial only lasts 2.6 years at a company these days. Some thirty percent of the workforce is contingent labor, that is, disposable workers without security. By some estimates 40 to 50% of income producing jobs will be short-term contract work by 2020. Career lifespans are now reaching 50 and more years, so half of Millenials can expect to freelance for their entire working lives.

Nit-picking about whether the proper term for this social catastrophe is "unemployment" or "underemployment" is a media "gotcha" game of little interest to the general public, and is one crucial reason why Americans - right, left, and center - despise the establishment media. The pundits can't see the forest for the trees, and engage in selective attacks rather than across-the-board rational analysis. No fact check was done on Hillary Clinton's schoolgirl-like gush that there was a "mass genocide" happening in Libya in 2011, a rather serious omission given that the country with the highest standard of living in Africa was plunged into bloody chaos, its popular government replaced by al Qaeda in de facto alliance with the United States.

This is also why we should take with a very large grain of salt the idea that media scrutiny of Donald Trump's statements must inevitably lead to a decline in his popularity. A media campaign to bring him down (in league with the GOP establishment) stands a good chance of backfiring, since the American public is sick of pundits and politicians both, and may very well continue to prefer Trump over the quadrennial trash hyped by the corporate media as "presidential" material. Seeing him under attack by forces the public strongly dislikes may make him more popular than ever. A better approach for the media to take would be to investigate Trump's popularity, which appears to be largely based on his stance vis-a-vis immigration.

And no, "hate" is not an explanation of anything.

Source:

Nicole Aschoff, "The New Prophets of Capital,"(Verso, 2015)

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