01 October 2008
Media doesn't get it...
I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!
The M3O (Mass Market Media Outlets) have contributed more hysteria, misunderstanding and confusion to the current financial problems than the entire membership of the FASB. I am no longer going to use the term "main stream media" anymore as it no longer adequately describes the reach of mass market media. All throughout the problem period these past few weeks, the M3O mischaracterized the proposed stabilization plan (a better term than rescue or bailout) as a free ride for a few market insiders and corporate entities. In reality, the proposed plan was a purchase of radically discounted equity in a market stalled by the burden of toxic debt (meaning high risk and even some default). At no point was the federal government going to give a handout to anyone.
A concerned citizen, with a modicum of ability, could have easily begun to piece together the origins of the crisis and the basics of the possible resolution. What happened was that every talking head, pundit, news outlet and other mass market outlet started screaming about "bailouts" and "interfering with the free market" (as if the onerous regulations of SARBOX, the SEC and cruel mark-to-market accounting rules are not interference enough). The American public, rightly concerned about funding a program with no hope of return pressured their infinitely malleable congressional representatives and the whole initial house of cards collapsed in a flurry of grandstanding.
Add to the sound and fury the din of angry liberals/conservatives, goldbugs and TLC conspiracy freaks and the public all but stampeded to halt any meaningful action on the crisis. If the American public (read rest of the world) can not grasp the basics of a global economy and why having free flow of capital and credit is important, then having a hysterical media harp about "free rides" and other ridiculous comparisons will not aid that understanding. To be fair, the government did nothing to help educate the population on the issue. I am not sure that anyone would have believed them, but at least make an effort!
Our society has become extremely complex. Every action has implications far beyond expectations (for good and ill). And yet we are making decisions largely from a place of fear and emotion. As citizens we owe it to ourselves and our society to be as educated on the facts as possible. Almost nothing offered by the M3O is of any value. The details we must understand are challenging to grasp and open to interpretation. Taking a purely partisan approach (whether ideological or philosophical) is ridiculous and dangerous in the extreme.