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Thought Police II: Media Airbrushing (Including Removal of Article With Negative Comments on TARP)

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We asked readers to clue us in to when the media posted stories where the headline spun the underlying report. Remember, many people read only the headline of certain news items, and even if they read the entire article, it might not dispel the impression conveyed by the headline.

Sighting of the day, from reader Michael D: “Industrial Output in U.S. Falls at Slower Pace as Recession’s Grip Eases” from Bloomberg, which is the headline on the news summary page. The story itself has the somewhat more evenhanded headline “U.S. Economy: Industrial Production Contracts at Slower Pace.” Michael deemed the story itself to be putting the best face possible on the data. For instance:

Output at U.S. factories, mines and utilities decreased 0.5 percent last month, less than forecast, after dropping 1.7 percent in March, Federal Reserve figures showed today in Washington. The New York Fed’s Empire state manufacturing index rose to minus 4.6, also beating economists’ estimates.

Today’s figures signal that manufacturing is bottoming out after companies slashed their stockpiles of unsold goods the most on record in the first three months of the year. Continued weakness in consumer spending means demand is too low for firms to raise prices: government figures today showed the consumer price index was unchanged in April after a March drop.

“This is another signal that suggests the biggest pocket of weakness in the overall economy was the fourth quarter and the first quarter,” said John Herrmann, chief economist at Herrmann Forecasting in Summit, New Jersey, referring to the manufacturing reports. “Weakness is dissipating and the economy is poised to grow in the second half.”

A second sighting comes from Tyler Durden. We posted last night on a Telegraph story, in which one Michael Patterson, head of a private equity firm that used TARP funds to buy a Michigan bank, said some less than positive things about it at an conference.

If you go to the link to the story now, guess what? The Telegraph has yanked it.

Tyler Durden had the presence of mind to put up the entire piece on his blog. Patterson has been issuing requests for retraction, claiming “factual errors” and the Telly complied. Patterson has had his “representatives” which I assume means attorneys, send a copy of the letter that Patterson sent to the Telegraph effectively disclaiming the entire content of the artice. . Durden has said he is willing to correct any factual errors (as opposed to deep sixing the entire story).

Patterson spoke at the Qatar Investment Forum. He has no reason to expect confidentiality; the remarks were made in a public forum with no restrictions placed on the attendees. Durden is soliciting input from fellow panelists and attendees as to what Patterson really said.

Update 4:00 PM. I am in contact with the Telegraph and Tyler Durden to understand what steps they are taking and what I can learn from that.

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16 comments

  1. Ned Bushong

    I wonder, do you suppose the governments efforts to prop up newspapers might have something to dp with this. Nah, silly me!

  2. asphaltjesus

    Yves,

    I follow your blog closely, but I think the 'Thought Police' posts are below your standards.

    1. To many, you are stating the obvious. NPR, The Telegraph and Bloomberg are a kind of 'retail' journalism that simply deliver the stories fed to them.

    2. What's the contribution? Let's say #1 is some kind of surprise to a reader. Even in that case, I think it doesn't bring new information and doesn't fit very well into the rest of your content/insight.

    Most personally and of least concern, I'm sick and tired of the opportunities articles like this provide for quick-and-dirty moral outrage replies. They contribute the most to issue fatigue because it's a bunch of do-nothing noise. Ugh, I'm starting my own moral-outrage->moral-outrage loop.

  3. jlivesey

    Asphaltjesus has a point, but you do, too. On one level this is an “outrage” story, but on another level it’s an interesting straw in the wind. What kinds of pressure have to be brought to cause a newspaper to withdraw a story, and what kinds of worries do such levels of pressure hint at?

  4. Yves Smith

    asphaltjesus,

    I could not disagree with you more.

    The media in this country is the biggest source of what people consider to be their collective reality. They also adhere to, or at least claim to, standards of accuracy and objectivity.

    The media in controlled societies is how propaganda is disseminated. If you aren’t aware of this potential, you are very naive. I lived overseas during the Iraq War, in Australia, which sent troops. I also monitored the US media and sent information to people in the US about news I was reading there that was did not seem to be in the US press. 85% of the time, no one I e-mailed has seen the flagged stories (and they were news junkies) 15% of the time someone had but it was not getting much coverage (say, short version buried in the print edition of the New York Times).

    If we passively submit to junk reporting and don’t signal that we collectively are on to it, it is guaranteed to continue. Calling it out lets journalists and editors know (and they most assuredly do read links to their stories) that biased reporting is being noticed. In my mind, this is one of the most important functions of the blogosphere.

    As for NPR and Bloomberg being retail journalism, NPR aspired to be the outlet to the intelligensia, it claims to have high standards, and Bloomberg is most assuredly NOT retail (If that were even a defense). The same stories appear on its professional service, for which investors pay thousands per month.

    Finally, “media watch” has long been one of the blog categories. If you click on it, you will see, for instance that I would regularly shred WSJ in its reporting on the credit crisis (it has gotten better as the crisis progressed).

    jlivesey,

    Recall that the standards for libel are WAY WAY lower in the UK. Here a story is not deemed to be libel if it is true. The Telegraph may have yanked it as a precaution until it did a legal review. I’ve seen Bloomberg stories completely disappear for 12-18 hours and then resurface, I assume for similar reasons.

  5. Todd Wood

    The thought police have nothing on the Father, but the Father does give and take away. If Jesus were here, I’m sure that he would be asleep and we would be waking him.

    Of course, he would tell us to go to our triangle.

    F S

    Sp

  6. getyourselfconnected

    I was able to get a copy of the letter the Treasury sent to Mr. Patterson to urge him to recant his words. Read it below:
    To: Mark Patterson of MatlinPatterson
    From: The Treasury, you Punk
    Re: Stupid words, but we can save this thing yet!

    Mr. Patterson,
    We at the Treasury were deeply saddened to read your comments made in Qatar concerning the TARP program. While we bent over backwards to hand out money so you and your ilk could spend taxpayer money to enrich yourselves, we are rewarded with this kind of slap across the face. Here at the Treasury we have a saying:
    “Don’t’ Piss Down My Back and Tell Me It’s Raining!”
    Which yes, we stole from the “Outlaw Josey Wales”; regardless please be advised that we do not take kindly to being portrayed as ripping off the public, we are doing that, but to say so is poor taste.

    Luckily after review of your comment transcript we at the Treasury have a way this can be fixed. Please find the text of what your new comments to be made, no later than Friday Morinng May 15th, will include. Do not change or alter these words in any way:

    “On my comments in Qatar I would like to clarify some items that were fabricated, misstated, misquoted, and mischaracterized. While I did use the word “sham” what was not reported was that I stated that the TARP program was in fact a huge “SHAM-WOW” that was in effect sopping up the market ills of bad assets. This service is vital to the smooth flow of credit to households and small business. It has been reported that I said the taxpayers were getting “ripped off” but if you listen to the transcript closely you will hear that what I said was that losses for the taxpayer on TARP had been “WRITTEN OFF” as impossible because the deal they were getting was so awesome.

    Thanks in advance for any corrections and any removal of any archived web material that states otherwise.
    Mark Patterson”

    The Treasury trusts you will follow our guidelines as not to jeopardize the bank secondary offerings during this silly market bounce. Not that we are threatening you, but we do control the IRS and your MySpace page does include many “friends” of the female gender that are, how shall we say, of an age bracket that may become inconvenient should the FBI want to look into it. Not that we control the FBI.

    Thanks in Advance,
    The Treasury, you punk.

    This is a joke letter in case anyone gets crazy. I am Kidding! But would you really be surprised if it was like this??

  7. Minh

    Great answer Yves. I'm one of the fascinated with the capacity of the MSM to form reality around us, in the USA and globally.

    The obvious thing that came to mind is the X/XX event. You know what I means. And there's a reason I use the X/XX format, because it reminds me of what my teacher of physics&polish told me when I came here to Poland to study from Vietnam.

    During the Solidarity movement, people would simply have a resistor (electronic part-to resist) put on clothes near their heart on the left. It's silent and effective means of communicate their allegiance.
    And it's funny too. Imagine a professor of physics have that on during teaching at university.

    What you, people in the states have now is a take over of democracy by ideologically-mad men, corrupt men and greedy men. It's as simple as that. And people are hurt inside and outside of the USA, because of this "absolute power corrupt absolutely" effect. And it all started after X/XX

    So may be you should put on an resistor of 911 OhmThe rest of the world looking at this in horror, disbelief and after a while resignation. We know it, you know it, well, at least most of the thinking people, but it remains the way it is. The longer these distorted facts are described as reality, the sicker the whole society will get, and the more painful the awakening process will be.

  8. AP

    ✈▌▌

    there won’t be an official, objective investigation into the demolition job of X/XX, because the truth would be damning.

    when something like that can be pulled off and covered up, you can bet ‘they’ will keep getting away with whatever ‘they’ want. so an orchestrated financial meltdown that later proves to be a segway into the consolidation of a multitude of governments slash nations is not really a stretch of the imagination.

    paranoid? maybe. plausible? absolutely.

  9. Francois

    Let me get this straight: We’re supposed to believe that Ambrose Pritchard, a rather experienced journalist made that stuff up…or what?

    Isn’t there a recording of that speech, somewhere?

    I find difficult to believe it took only 24 hours to convince the Telegraph to yank that piece.

  10. Minh

    AP,
    I share your desperation somewhat. But let put it this way. I’m from Vietnam, you, presumably from the USA. Your country bombed the hell out of Hanoi in the Christmas bombing of 1972. If your pilots like John Mc Cain were better at their job, I wouldn’t be here to talk to you. So I do feel something like hatred toward the “Americans”. or “they” for short. But then who were/are “they” ? Would you counted yourself among them ?

    I came to the conclusion that “they” don’t exist. This “war” thing is simply a business that some people was destined, forced or otherwise inclined to take care of. Just like X/XX. Some was informed about X/XX let it happen by order the Norad to stand down. Some knew in advance, and buy some share of American Airlines, some were tipped to lease the building because of his origin would help to persuade the media dogs not to be unleashed.
    Some have access to anthrax make sure congressmen and pressmen to behave well and inline.

    All sorts of things were happening like planned, but was it really planned that stupidly, when the guy supposed to knew about all this came out on record and said “pull it” and the transport secretary was on record and on tape testifying about the stand down order. If that was planned centrally, then the planners were really absolutely dumb, lack any imagination, proportionally to their absolute power.

    The thing here is “they” as you said is in your own imagination. There’s no Jews, Neocons, CIA, FBI as such, just a bunch of really dumb men that manage to implode the greatest power on earth in 7 year and 7 days.So peacefully, but resist.

  11. Slug

    “when something like that can be pulled off and covered up, you can bet ‘they’ will keep getting away with whatever ‘they’ want.”

    Or, one can hope, the ever increasing gulf between the demonstrable truth and the media’s increasingly centralized and tamed corporate propaganda will cause more to become skeptical and aware.

    Because otherwise we’re screwed.

  12. Minh

    Slug,
    Why should you as americans be screwed ? You have oil, sand-oil in Canada, your best and peaceful friend. You have millions of hard working and productive peoples, mostly honest. You have millions of Mexicans in the south ready to come to work at slave wages as in China, a military that can smash any country that would attack you, including Russia+China+Vietnam+Cuba+…
    and plenty of rice,soya,cons,… ?

    No you’re screwed because of the system of government that in place. All this crisis is a number game, perception, and greed, fear and hate. You’re feed lies and propaganda to enrich the owners of such machines, bankers’ computers, TV stations … That’s the reality that you’re living in that made you unhappy, obese, depressed.

    Return to your constitution, remember the wars you fought against the British who wanted to tax you like slaves. Now they’re your own shadow goverment. Few men managed to create a perception that they’re the real power that live through elections, control everything etc… They’re not in control, and that should be obvious right now.

    You can go down further this road and fight a cessession war, drop dead like the USSR, or you can see you, the masses as the victim of their goverment that killed their own people in daylight, and have the gust to lie about it before the world at large, because they presumably have the biggest gun in town.

    It’s failing, not the American productive economy, but the banking system on top of it. And the bankers are trying to revive a zombie entity that suppose to represent the American people. How arrogant is that ?

    Remember “We the people” first.

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