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MSM Reporting as Propaganda (No One Minds Our New Financial Masters Edition)

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I’m of two minds about taking up this theme, since stating what ought to be obvious but is nevertheless unpleasant and inconvenient is apt to get one branded as lunatic fringe.

Access journalism has created what is in many respects a controlled press. And that matters because people are far more suggestible than most of us wants to admit to ourselves.

Let us start with the cheerleading in the media over Wall Street, and in particular, Goldman earnings. Matt Taibbi, in “Good News on Wall Street Means… What Exactly?,” tells us why this is so distorted:

It’s literally amazing to me that our press corps hasn’t yet managed to draw a distinction between good news on Wall Street for companies like Goldman, and good news in reality.

I watched carefully the reporting of the Dow breaking 10,000 the other day and not anywhere did I see a major news organization include a paragraph of the “On the other hand, so fucking what?” sort, one that might point out that unemployment is still at a staggering high, foreclosures are racing along at a terrifying clip, and real people are struggling more than ever. In fact the dichotomy between the economic health of ordinary people and the traditional “market indicators” is not merely a non-story, it is a sort of taboo — unmentionable in major news coverage.

The press has been on a downslope for at least a decade, as a result of strained budgets and vastly more effective government and business spin control (and it was already pretty good at that, see the BBC series, The Century of the Self, via Google video, for a real eye-opener). I met a reporter who had been overseas for six years, opening an important foreign office for the Wall Street Journal. He was stunned when he came back in 1999 to see how much reporting had changed in his absence. He said it was impossible to get to the bottom of most stories in a normal news cycle because companies had become very sophisticated in controlling their message and access.

I couldn’t tell immediately, but one of my friends remarked in 2000 that the reporting was increasingly reminiscent of what she had grown up with in communist Poland. The state of the US media became evident to me when I lived in Australia during the run-up and the first two years of the Gulf War. I would regularly e-mail people in the States about stories I thought were important and I suspected might not be getting much play in the US. My correspondents were media junkies. 85% of the time, a story that had gotten widespread coverage in Australia appeared not to have been released in the US. And the other 15%, it didn’t get much attention (for instance, buried in the middle of the first section of the New York Times). And remember, Australia was an ally and sent troops to the Iraq.

Why does this matter? Because influence via the adept packaging of information and images is very effective. The creator of the public relations industry, Edward Bernays, was the nephew of Freud and set about to use the subconscious to shape public opinion. His books included This Business of Propaganda and Manipulating Public Opinion. But it doesn’t fit our self image of being masters of our own view to recognize that we might be swayed.

In his classic, Influence: The Art of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini describes how salesmen can adeptly use social conditioning and norms to elicit favorable responses. Cialdini, a social psychologist, notes that even though he is aware of these techniques, he is unable to resist them.

One experiment from cognitive bias research assembles a number of people in a room together, but all save one are actors. Everyone in the room is shown a series of lines and asked to say out loud which is the shortest (the background design makes it a bit difficult to discern without concentrating a bit). For the first five or six rounds, the actors (and the lone experiment subject) pick the shortest one. Then, the actors start calling the LONGEST line the shortest one. After a few round s of this (and inevitably, the one not in on the game looks puzzled) about one-third of the experiment subjects start agreeing with the crowd, even though that answer is clearly incorrect. And there is boatloads of other evidence of suggestibility. For instance, numerous studies have found that if a number of people tell an individual he looks tired or sick, he will start feeling tired or sick, as the case may be.

Back to the main theme: the media dares not say anything too negative about financial services firms or their government operatives lest they lose access. The private sector has learned the lesson of the Bush Administration, that the threat of freezing a reporter out is a powerful weapon. I have had some well connected readers tell of story ideas that they served up in some detail that the media would not touch out of fear of alienating their sources. This is the sort of thing that one associates with banana republics, but we have been operating on that level for quite some time.

Not surprisingly, the government and large corporations were firmly in charge of the message during the crisis (remember the gap between the MSM reporting and the anger in the populace over the TARP, which was finally noted ONLY when Congress responded to a barrage of calls and e-mails and voted down TARP v. 1.0?) and perhaps more important, in pushing the, “move past that car wreck, things are really better” message. From the Pew Research Center:

Three storylines have dominated: efforts to help revive the banking sector, the battle over the stimulus package and the struggles of the U.S. auto industry. Together they accounted for nearly 40% of the economic coverage from February 1 through August 31. Other topics related to the crisis have been covered much less. As an example, all the reporting of retail sales, food prices, the impact of the crisis on Social Security and Medicare, its effect on education and the implications for health care combined accounted for just over 2% of all the economic coverage.

Actions by government officials and business leaders drove much of the coverage. The White House and federal agencies alone initiated nearly a third (32%) of economic stories studied through July 3. Business triggered another 21%. About a quarter of the stories (23%) was initiated by the press itself and did not rely on an external news trigger. Ordinary citizens and union workers combined to act as the catalyst for only 2% of the stories about the economy.

Fully 76% of the datelines on economic stories studied during the first five months of the Obama presidency were New York (44%) or metro Washington D.C. (32%). Only about one-fifth (21%) of the stories originated in any other city in the U.S., and about a quarter of those emanated from two other major media centers: Atlanta and Los Angeles…

Once the economic situation showed some signs of improvement—and the political fights over legislative action subsided—media coverage began to diminish. After accounting for 46% of the overall news coverage in February and March, for instance, coverage of the economic crisis dropped by more than half (to 21% of the newshole studied) from April through June. And in July and August, it fell even further (to 16%). The clearest example came in cable news. Once the political battles subsided, coverage fell by about two-thirds from March to April.

Notice even Pew has fallen for the party line a bit. The stock market rally started in March. That is not a sign of economic improvement (Krugman has said something along the lines of “The stock market has predicted 20 of the past 9 recoveries.”).

So what do we have? A media that predominantly bases its stories on what it is fed because it has to. Ever-leaner staffing, compressed news cycles, and access journalism all conspire to drive reporters to focus on the “must cover” news, which is to a large degree influenced by the parties that initiate the story. And that means they are increasingly in an echo chamber, spending so much time with the influential sources they feel they must cover that they start to be swayed by them. It is less intense, but not dissimilar to the effect achieved when reporters are embedded in military units. The journalists often wind up adopting the views of the people they associate with frequently (I am sure readers will add more nefarious theories in comments, but the point here is a simple: an up the center description of what has happened to the media shows it has fallen under the sway of powerful interests).

Now how do we get to the propaganda part? Not only, per Taibbi, are we getting the view of the economy from the vantage of the bankers, as opposed to a broad swathe of the population, but we now we have the media (well, this example is that odd hybrid, an MSM blog) telling us there is no outrage. From the Los Angeles Times (hat tip JohnD):

Except for Michael Moore, whose new movie posits that capitalism is one big Ponzi scheme, the news Wednesday that banks are thriving and that Wall Street analysts are in line for big bonuses this year seemed to land with all the political weight of a dull thud.

Oh sure, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said he’ll soon hold hearings on executive pay at firms that got taxpayer bailout money, like AIG and Bank of America….

But with the Dow Jones hitting 10,000 and the economy stepping back from the precipice of last fall’s collapse, there was little of that tea-party outrage that might have been expected.

Have we moved on? Arguing that the country is now more concerned with Afghanistan and healthcare, the Wall Street Journal said of bonus outrage: “That’s so last March.”

Maybe taxpayers have simply given up on Washington’s efforts to corral Wall Street.

Now why is this sort of thing (and the media was full of more subtle versions, of happy talk re Dow 10,000 and Goldman earnings) more pernicious than it might appear?

The message, quite overly, is: if you are pissed, you are in a minority. The country has moved on. Things are getting better, get with the program. Now I saw the polar opposite today. There is a group of varying sizes, depending on the topic, that e-mails among itself, mainly professional investors, analysts, economists (I’m usually on the periphery but sometimes chime in). I never saw such an angry, active, and large thread about the Goldman BS fest today. Now if people who have not suffered much, and are presumably benefitting from the market recovery are furious, it isn’t hard to imagine that what looks like complacency in the heartlands may simply be contained rage looking for an outlet.

But per the social psychology research, this “you are in a minority, you are wrong” message DOES dissuade a lot of people. It is remarkably poisonous. And it discourages people from taking concrete action. I was surprised that some people bothered to comment on a post I put up yesterday, calling on people in the Chicago area to attend some peaceful demonstrations against the banking industry during the American Bankers Association national meeting, October 25 through 27. A few weighed in, saying (basically) “don’t bother”.

I suppose it makes a difference whether one is old enough to remember the 1960s. Because people in large numbers got out and protested, two sets of changes that seemed impossible came about: civil rights for blacks and an end to the US involvement in Vietnam (if you read the histories, the military and intelligence experts were on the whole persuaded it was an unwinnable war, but it was seen as too costly to US prestige for America to withdraw).

And even if the effort you make narrowly is not successful (does any one person’s effort have much impact?) it breeds apathy and cynicism to suggest that doing nothing is the best course of action. If nothing else, it is better for one’s psyche to do what one can, however small, to make a difference.

Now America does not have a tradition of taking to the streets; demonstrations and rallies historically are working class affairs. But the middle class is on a path of downward mobility while the elites continue to take the cream. The widening gap might waken some impulses that have been dormant in the American psyche.

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155 comments

  1. pwm76

    Well done again.

    I studied communications at one of the top universities and your various contentions are broadly correct. Good for you for being brave enough to say it.

  2. Peterpaul

    It is easy to say it; are we brave enough to act on it?

    That said, however cynical you are, you will be a bit more cynical and jaded after watching The Century of the Self…

  3. IF

    Good article. After Buiter got the Eastern Europeans out of the closet, you are going half a step yourself. (http://blogs.ft.com/maverecon/2009/10/kornai-on-soft-budget-constraints-bail-outs-and-the-financial-crisis/)

    But then again, from an Eastern European perspective it is still 10 or 20 years to demonstrations. The crisis affects too few people in the US (or in Europe) in a hard enough way. Things are moving in slow motion.

    The role of the media is indeed interesting. Everybody knows, well should know, that the US media is shallow, introverted and cheer leading. But they do tell plausible (or distracting?) stories. So does, from slightly different perspectives, the UK and German media that I am following. Even the Russian media tells plausible, intelligent stories from a completely different angle. Whom to trust? (And why?) And if not trust, how to reason? One can probably catch all of them with little lies, but how about the big ones?

  4. Hal

    The US is a mature plutocracy. How could you think the plutocrats would be unseated by a short lived setback? The idea that what happened is going to alter their ways is silly wishful thinking. They have the public so well duped that it is powerless, which is just what the plutocrats want. The status quo ante will be up and running in no time.

    1. K Ackermann

      The public is not powerless. It is just unwilling. There is a huge difference, and I hope people like yourself start taking up the meme.

      1. Head

        Unfortunately the “public” is dead, replaced by the mass society, described by C. Wright Mills and others long ago. I agree with you that the onus is on the people, but the people no longer comprise a public.

        1. cougar_w

          I have instinctively known this to be true for a number of years. My wife (an olde-style hippy) argues with me about the importance of activism. I don’t have the heart to stop her being involved in trying to rally people — and it’s good for our children to see it, regardless — but I fear greatly that activism now is like shouting into the storm.

          Without the ability to move people counter to their comfortable daily patters… we are toast. Simply we will not turn this ship around.

          cougar

          1. rightcoast

            You wife is forgetting things is all. As the article here itself says, mass message management is a very powerful tool.

            We are moving into our 4th decade of non-violent protest being presented as the sole virtue of a good advocate of change. Especially in political change, where a prior generation teach children an idealized version of their own past. Change in the 60′s, like it our not, was not all sign waving and song singing. These kids out chanting the same 40 year old state approved chants that are actually *taught* in class at school as proper disobedience are not always given, and certainly not *emphasized* a complete perspective.

            Blacks burning down a dozen cities over one summer, and the NoI and Panthers saying “by any means neccessary” or “We are black people with guns, what about it?” aren’t a simple footnote in the civil rights movement. They are the oft-overlooked catalyst. I contend seeing Huey Newton on the front page of the NYT chasing Reagan off the lawn of the CA capitol and occupying the capitol building had something to do with the eventual Nixon mandates about MLKs non-violence being taught at school. Which “negro” would the establishment pick (instinctively, I don’t mean a conspiracy here)? The answer is obvious. These mandates eventually became a holiday, and Black history month going from an overview of history from Tubman to Carver to becoming MLK study month at school.

            Ehh, sorry for the sudden stop. I didn’t even get to good stuff like “Up Against the Wall Motherfuckers” at the DNC, yippies and offshoots, etc in regards to the war. What’s the point of all my typing? I’m with you in spirit. It’s too late anyway.

  5. biofuel

    The problem may be that people consume too much media. People drive to work – a controlled environment, then drive home, turn on TV and watch it and go to sleep. Weekend – a mall, a restaurant, a game on TV. In this suburb of over 20,000 people, the last town hall meeting was attended by over a 100. The burning issues on the agenda: what to do with all the empty foreclosed houses, levying fines on those who take garbage out for pick up too early. A few people lose jobs, lose a house, a car and are knocked out of this cycle, but the rest go on. People are disengaged from one another and from larger issues.

    Aside that, people trust their leadership and are naturally patriotic about their country. Furthermore, in a culture of individual responsibility, it is the fault of the individual when bad things happen to him or her. Revolts and disobedience are not an American thing, that’s what happens in the developing countries ,and they are poorer for it.

  6. Jojo

    Yves said “Back to the main theme: the media dares not say anything too negative about financial services firms or their government operatives lest they lose access.”

    Don’t forget advertising also! MSM, like Congress is owned and paid for by the plutocracy.

    This is why the news industry is dying and not coincidentally, why thinking people have turned to independent blogs, like yours, the real news and analysis.

    However, the fact that the DJI has pushed past 10k, despite all the obvious economic negatives, shows clearly WHO is in control. This is what Wall Street and the government wanted and this is what happened. The price of gold is the only element out of synch that the power brokers haven’t been able to control.

    I’ve also scratched my head about the pervasive “don’t bother” attitude, the mass acceptance by the majority of whatever explanations and news the government/MSM chooses to put out. With so many people, especially younger people out of work and idle, one would think that their should be a lot more protests and civil disobedience. But no. Perhaps there really is something being added to the food or water? Or maybe everyone is just too busy twittering, playing with their Iphones, listening to MP3′s and watching Youtube videos all day long….

    1. Francois T

      Why no mass protests?
      It’ll come; but only when the threats to survival become much more immediate, like barely any food on the table for entire tranches of citizens.

      And even then; look at Mexico. The amount of poverty down there is pretty staggering by our own standards. See any mass protests?

      Nope!

      Ironically, I believe only a dedicated group of powerful renegades* could change something, like financing and make legit a 3rd party.

      Now, THAT would be some change.

      *I’m willing to bet my last n’gwee that there are quite a few very wealthy/powerful Americans that looks at the actual socio-economic landscape with a bewildered “WTF is going on here?” amazement mixed with deep disquiet. Whether they’re willing to do anything about it is another matter, but the first step to action is to become conscious of your surroundings.

  7. trexbean

    O, well said! I work for a daily newspaper — the biggest in its state — and I tell you that, at every level, it has betrayed its duty to serve as a watchdog of government and big business. The people are sheep and the newspapers are Judas goats.

    1. cougar_w

      We applaud your openness. But how do you do it every day? Aside from the obvious economic realities of needing to keep a job (and you should)… how do you keep your spirit from being crushed?

  8. Daniel de Paris

    The widening gap might waken some impulses that have been dormant in the American psyche.

    As a reader of Tocqueville and a complete parochial Frenchy, I believe that the effective American way – politically speaking – is local and grass-root.

    There is practically no political action possible at Washington-level except for external affairs. Wars started in Washington can and have to be stopped in Washington.

    The chances of the US are at grass-root level. Grass-root movements à la sixties to stop these crazy military budgets and grass-roots justice action for financial crime.

    Concerning the latest, I am stumped. Why so few actions in New York jurisdictions!!

    1. s.tristero

      daniel is right, the last election proved his point. unfortunately the power of the grassroots was manipulated to achieve a certain outcome. however, that does nothing to diminish the power.

      the perfect time to prove this power once & for all is coming almost 1 year from now. every single Representative will be up for re-election. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. and the beauty of this is that is that this particular election will not be muddied by the Presidential sleight of hand. and also each district is small enough so that the $ requirements to run an effective campaign is not completely out of reach, IF there is a concerted effort in every district.

      i urge anyone who has even one activist bone in their bodies to seriously consider finding one person in their congressional district that is non-partisan and can effectively speak to the local people. the people, not the media.

      the last election showed us everything we need to know about the tactics and the strategies of how to run an effective grassroots campaign. the technology is available. it’s time to really put that to use.

      and before anyone rebuts by saying that i’m putting too much faith in the political process, please note that i have voted exactly 1 TIME in my adult life and i walked out of the voting booth without casting a vote for anyone because i was so disgusted with the process.

      this november i will be going to the polls again for my local mayoral election to cast my vote for Monty Burns.

      http://burnsformayor.com/

      so i’m way ahead of most on the apathy tip.

      with that said, constructive criticism welcomed.

  9. Jojo

    While this guy focus is more political than economics, he writes a bi-weekly column of outrage that fits in well with some of the elements in this blog entry.
    ===================
    The gang rape and the Republicans
    Behold, 30 U.S. senators who don’t give a damn about battered women

    By Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist
    Friday, October 16, 2009

    ….

    It is with this wonky filter in mind we turn our gaze to the gaping hellmouth that is the U.S. Senate, that drab cauldron of grumpy old men, defeminized women and tiny handful of rebellious dissenters, all of whom claim to have your best interests at heart but mostly only really give a damn about which lobbyist will help them best make their next boat payment.

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2009/10/16/notes101609.DTL&feed=rss.mmorford

  10. Anon

    Middle classes are unimportant in a service economy and neither is intelligent life forms.Pass me a Big Mac and the Simpsons are starting now.

  11. Constantnormal

    And (some) people wonder why the newspapers are dying, and why The Daily Show is where most of the younger set get their news.

    Thank God for Jon Stewart.

    1. DownSouth

      Skippy,

      Fabulous!

      Since your video deals with one of my favorite subjects–the interplay between illusion and reality; and Yves raises another one of my favorite subjects in her post—protest; let me use your comment as a hook to explore the place where those two meet—in the encounter between protest and pseudo-protest.

      The other day I stumbled upon this video that shows Martin Luther King in juxtaposition to Malcolm X, each talking about his preferred form of protest:

      http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=62478301&blogId=364528702

      As you know, the non-violent protests MLK organized were starkly different from the riots celebrated and encouraged by Malcolm X. And there was also a huge difference in effectiveness. MLK’s civil rights movement changed the face of America, whereas the riots left in their wake bitterness and destruction and no concrete improvement. As MLK wrote in Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community: “If a method is not effective, no matter how much steam it releases, it is an expression of weakness, not of strength.”

      At the bottom of that same video appear a number of links to other videos, and one is of Malcolm X speaking at Oxford Union. It’s almost surreal to watch it. Here’s this black man, speaking before an almost all-white audience, many dressed in bowtie and tails. And he’s advocating violence. “So my contention is that we are faced with a racialistic society, a society in which they are deceitful, deceptive, and the only way that we can bring about a change is to talk the kind of language, think the kind of language that they understand,” Malcolm X says. “The racialists never understand a peaceful language. The racialists never understand the non-violent language.”

      “Black Power is a nihilistic philosophy born out of the conviction that the Negro can’t win,” MLK went on to observe in Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community. “It is, at bottom, the view that American society is so hopelessly corrupt and enmeshed in evil that there is no possibility of salvation from within…”

      When I first got involved in grass-roots politics in the gay and lesbian community (back in the dark ages), one of my first clashes was with one of the so-called “peace and justice” groups. Under its broad umbrella it claimed to be fighting for the liberation of women, racial, ethnic, sexual and any other minority group one could imagine. It was well known in the community for the numerous protests it organized against a broad range of injustices. It also claimed to be an “arts” organization, and in its exhibitions featured outstanding art-as-politics creations such as “Finger Fucking Kay Bailey Hutchison.” (Hutchison is a Republican Senator from Texas.).

      So I’m shaking my head and saying to myself: “Gosh, this doesn’t seem like any way to make friends and influence people.”

      But that wasn’t the half of it. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered that the organization only existed due to a combination of city, state and federal “arts” grants, which comprised a majority of its funding.

      When I started snooping around, I discovered that government subsidy of protesters or protest groups is quite typical, especially if violent and offensive rhetoric, posturing and ineptitude are the hallmarks of the protest product. For instance, Peter Skerry in Mexican Americans: The Ambivalent Minority has this to say about California’s “renowned higher education infrastructure”,

      in particular its extensive system of public colleges and universities. These have served as secure bases for Chicano activists pursuing their highly ideological brand of politics since the late 1960s and early 1970s…

      And Richard Bernstein had this to say about the funding of protest politics in Dictatorship of Virtue:

      The fact is that assaulting the establishment, declaiming against the racism and sexism of society, reiterating the approved phrases about oppression and exclusion, promising to uncover previously neglected worlds, these require not a jot of courage these days. These are the sanctioned activities of the counterestablishment, the gestures and idioms that gain approval and lead to good opportunities, to jobs, to prizes, to book contracts, to prominence in American life… There is no risk in smashing the icons. There are millions of dollars in foundation grants available for people who claim they are doing so.

      All of this government and private largess lavished on protesters and protest groups remained somewhat of a quandary for me until I moved to Mexico, where political theater has evolved into a most highly refined art form. Here the plutocrats fund the unions, the protesters, the press and the putative opposition party. You name it, they pay for it all. So I began to put two and two together about how that might work in the US as well.

      But on the US scene, perhaps it was Hannah Arendt who was quickest to grasp what was going on:

      No doubt, “violence pays,” but the trouble it pays indiscriminately, for “soul courses” and instruction in Swahili as well as for real reforms. And since the tactics of violence and disruption make sense only for short-term goals, it is even more likely, as was recently the case in the United States, that the established power will yield to nonsensical and obviously damaging demands—such as admitting students without the necessary qualifications and instructing them in non-existent subjects—if only such “reforms” can be made with comparative ease, than that violence will be effective with respect to the relatively long-term objective of structural change.
      –Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic

      We were all quick to pick up on the fact that the tea partiers and healthcare protesters were not protesters but pseudo-protesters. According to James Q. Wilson, writing in Political Organizations, pseudo-protest concerns itself not so much with concrete objectives as it does with venting frustrations and moral outrage. Pseudo-protest has as its goal the articulation of a broader cause, vision of the world, or ideology; whereas protest seeks more palpable rewards such as jobs, decent living wages, the end of segregation or the right to vote.

      Protest is a moral act and an extremely effective agent of change. Pseudo-protest is therapy for persons with a chip on their shoulders or a job for the growing ranks of professional protesters. It is impotent or even an impediment to change.

      Protest seeks to persuade and garner support for its cause. Pseudo-protest is in-your-face, offensive and alienates more than it wins people over to its putative cause.

      Protest is discouraged and punished by the establishment. Pseudo-protest is encouraged and even organized and funded by the establishment.

      Psuedo-protest has given protest a bad name because protest is so rare that most have forgotten what it is. Many, if not most, mistake pseudo-protest for protest.

      1. Skippy

        Concur, and thanks for the video its been awhile, yes both had the same goal, but persistent negotiation (spirited if one must) always brings better out comes.

        In fact if I was to set up a protest there would be no banners or chanting, everyone neatly dressed, absolutely no symbols of political or other monolithic ideology’s etc, and only a small pamphlet with a very simple message, but the size of the crowd would need to be large (silence can be deafening/unsettling)and absolutely no, absolute leader.

        Skippy…do you want to post more Hannah Arendt, Crises of the Republic…yes you do…yes you do…I know I’m a dag lol.

      2. s.tristero

        both of you make excellent points. nice to read that others are digging deeper underneath the surface.

        couple thoughts after watching the video:

        - found it interesting that malcolm kept his hand on the left side of his face while (if you look very carefully) you will see a twitch on MLK’s right cheek when confronted by malcolm’s accusations.

        - also note that the moment that malcolm became more compassionate and MLK became more ‘radical’, both men were assassinated.

        downsouth, i’ve noticed very similar psychodynamics going on in the ‘professional anarchist’ movement, i.e. many of those who the MSM followed during the G20. i honestly don’t believe they understand that they are guinea pigs and are reinforcing the exact forces that they are rebelling against. and they’re too stubbornly smart to even consider it and to consider that maybe the ‘fascism’ that they are fighting resides in their own hearts.

        p.s. skippy…that video is absolutely brilliant.

  12. fresno dan

    “And that matters because people are far more suggestible than most of us wants to admit to ourselves.”

    I tend to agree, but being contrarian (or more accurately curmudgenly) I would point out that we are not sheep being LED to the slaughter, we are sheep STAMPEDING to the slaughter – we believe in hope. I believe Churchhill once said the best arguement against democracy was speaking to a voter for 5 minutes (I would amend that to 1 minute).

    1. cougar_w

      The US public education system was originally founded with the main purpose of creating… an informed, literate electorate to act as the foundation of our democracy.

      ‘Nuf said.

  13. Bruce P.

    1. After years in politics, I learned, well before the recent contraction in the “news” business, that many, many reporters essentially chased press releases. Plus, having known many press secretaries on the Hill, it became apparent that these folks, no matter how wonderful as individuals, were essentially channels for someone else’s thoughts; most press secretaries know how to convey information without really understanding it. The same might be said for many reporters.

    2. Read Neil Postman’s classic “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” Published in 1985, Postman probed deeply into the role of media, particularly television, and accurately dissected it for the dangerous farce it was becoming.

    3. Finally, although Postman wrote that many folks might see Orwell’s “1984″ echoing in his book, he insisted that the more appropriate and salient reference would be Huxley’s “Brave New World”, with its somatized civilization, needing its fix of pleasure and amusement to remain content.

  14. frolix22

    Good article and I agree with it. In fact, the shaping of public opinion, and what qualifies as “mainstream” or “reasonable”, by the media has become almost an obsession of mine.

    That said, this is all very familiar. The basic ideas you present here are similar to those found in Chomsky and Herman’s book “Manufacturing Consent”, probably the single most important book ever written about the media. Of course, that book is invisible in the mainstream, as the media model it posits actually predicts it would be.

  15. Richard Kline

    Pew: “Ordinary citizens and union workers combined to act as the catalyst for only 2% of the stories about the economy.” This is plain fact, and says everything about the agenda of those who produce or published putative ‘news’ for the MSM. Real people with real lives in a typical world _never_ make it into the media. Freaks and shriekers, yes; people who live a life, no. The viewpoint of the media is aimed only at the top 5% of earners: only issues that they might deem ‘important’ make the ‘news,’ and even then only from the perspective of that income strata. Try finding a genuine working class or ethnic minority viewpoint, not filtered through newspeak to an acceptable tenor for ‘polite society.’

    This has been true for at least 20 years, not that the media was healthy or direct before then. I remember when we had in close sequence: a President caught redhanded breaking the Constitution thumb his nose at Congress while spewing pablum—and the MSM just couldn’t bear to call him out; a massive speculative bubble in equities and real estate, 1980s version, which the MSM thought was the best thing since bear bonds; a totally unnecessary war—Bomb the Ragheads 1.0, with 2.0, 3.0, and now 4.0 (Pakistan) following—which the MSM found was just the right stuff for ratings so long as they waved a big flag. Truth in reporting was stone dead by the back part of ’91. Since then, we’ve only had Yellow Press Lite, Grande, and Capsicum.

    And that thing called access journalish, ooiiiiiiyyyy! It is plain fact that anyone in officialdom would lie to you, a journalist, with dry palms and straight gazes if they thought for a second it advanced their agenda a hair. The function of journalism is not to report what is accessible but to find what is inaccessible. The official version is only the specimen on a slide to be subjected to tests against other information. Access journalism is just armslength public relations. At best.

    So the function of a citizen is first, to understand that the official view is certain to be a spun-sugar bouffant of lies, and then second, to gather information which tests its accuracy. This is not, actually, that hard to do, because real information about the world and its venal, sad, hilarious ways lies everywhere by the roadside for the taking. —But even that is too much of an effort for homo Americanus. The fact that most Americans get their ‘news’ from television, a substantiall fact-free action video, tells the story in words few enough to fit on a postcard. “La-La Land, wish you were here. XOXOXO, the Family.” *hmmphh*

    So one shouldn’t be surprised that the MSM has declared the ‘recession’ to be ‘over.’ For the 1$, it is, and that is the entirety of their intended audience. And those who might make a difference are too busy shopping at Walmart thinking what a deal they’re getting to stop for a minute and think. ‘Thinking’: now _there’s_ something TRULY un-American.

  16. Toby

    Excellent, thank you for this.

    I turned off my TV almost a year ago, and follow freer sites such as this one. I am a happier man for it, although angry too at the things you describe above. My faith in The System was broken a long time ago. Only radical change can restore it.

    1. Jerry

      After trying to get PBS to cover the “real economic story”, I too turned off t.v and get my news from the internet.

      1. cougar_w

        I turned off my TV 20 years ago. We don’t have one in the house. My children have virtually zero exposure to MSM, and read a lot.

        Their friends come over, find no TV to watch, and accuse us of being retrograde freaks.

        The pressure to just take the drug is intense and unrelenting.

        cougar

    2. Jonathan

      I turned off my TV almost 6 months ago. It ranks up there as having been one of the best things I have done in my entire life. Even though I mostly just had the TV on in the background, I think it was enough to dull my senses. I now feel like I am smarter, healthier and much happier.

      Trust me. Your world will change for the better if you turn off the TV.

  17. But What do I Know?

    Just a corollary to that thought, Yves–last night the financial MSM was falling all over itself to describe what a great growth company Google was. As far as I can tell–Yahoo Finance is my source–their revenue for the last five quarters has been between 5 and 6 billion. Does that sound like runaway growth to you?

    I know this is trivial compared to the larger picture problem that you are talking about. Just call if Exhibit Z.

    I’m not a disgruntled short, either–in fact, I stand to benefit if GOOG rises. But when I started reading your piece it seemed like this is the kind of thing you were talking about. Just thought you’d like to know.

  18. mechanic

    Do ya think that allowing the media to concentrate with the likes of Rupert Murdoch, GE, Disney (oh the irony), etc. had anything to do wid it ?

  19. RueTheDay

    We are a month or two away from a 10% U3 unemployment number. It will be interesting to see how the media portrays the return of double-digit unemployment. I was in middle school during the early 1980′s and distinctly remember the unemployment rate (and the inflation rate) being front page news on a regular basis at the time.

    It will also be interesting to see what happens when U3 crosses the 10.8% post-Great Depression record set in 1982, which I suspect will happen early Q2 2010. Will anyone in the MSM acknowledge the existence of a depression at that point?

  20. craazyman

    The primary problem, I think, is a lack of a clear and convincing alternative economic approach to the one we now have.

    The issues of central banking, credit, regulation and capital ratios are so esoteric and so remote that few Americans can really build a world view around them. Not out of lack of intelligence but simply because it’s a completely foreign language.

    In Vietnam the body bags and grainy video from the jungle were so emotionally brutal that they had the force needed for change. Waterhosing the children of Alabama, the ugly angry mobs of hatefilled faces, they shocked anyone of good conscience. And the ideological foundation of the American political system was the rocket fuel for social equality.

    But when it comes to money and wealth, there’s a strong historical sense that “our system” — loosely defined as government-supported and managed free market free trade capitalism — has proven itself better than all the alternatives. This is quite subjective in the particulars and details, but the big picture — compared to communist Russia, China, the third world, Africa and even the slightly sclerotic “old Europe” or the sort of strange and rough post-communist Europe. None compete in the popular mind as an attractive alternative.

    “If a few executives in New York make millions pulling the levers of our way of life, then, well, it’s a shame and they’re a bunch of assholes, but at the end of the day, what can we do about it?” This, I think, is sort of a distillation of the communal mind’s point of view at a subliminal level.

    The Goldman CFO, Mr. Viniar, recently channeled that vibe — I think unconciously — when he credit his firm for doing a lot of social good. And no doubt it does in many cases, supplying capital to many worthy businesses that provide valuable goods and services and jobs. The dual reality of these firms’ impact on soceity is an endless source of moral fog.

    There is nothing in this crisis to grab on to — intellectually and ideologically — for most people. Just a stewing frustrated rage that something isn’t right with the big picture. And so we have a bewildering range of targets for rage including too much government, too little government, taxes too low, taxes too high, not enough bank lending, too much bank lending.

    There’s no center, no point of communal traction that could be sloganeered into a reference point to rally around.

    “We want capital ratios and we want them now!” won’t bring out the marchers.

    “Bring Back Glass Steagal! Bring Back Glass Steagal!” won’t do it either.

    “Audit the Fed before we’re all Dead!” may bring out a crowd of cranks and intellectuals, but not mass demonstrations in the streets.

    And so people acquiesce to a state of affairs that they know is messed up, but they don’t know quite why or what to do about it– other than tune out the morons on TV and try to survive the night in the jungle. And they don’t want to risk a wholesale upheaval that might make things worse.

    It’s truly a policy wonk’s crisis. A crisis that requires some real statesmen and women who have political power, to step up and steer. Sadly, they seem few and far between.

    1. maynardGkeynes

      A very thoughtful and cogent analysis that is not nearly hysterical enough to have any impact. But I get it. Well said.

    2. Michael

      Thank you, You summed it up beautifully, “policy wonks crisis”.

      I think for the layman the key is:

      The fact that equities are up 30+% since the march lows on practically no volume, signals to me that most people of a certain age (late 40s to 60s) are praying there will be one more chance to get out before they retire or are forced to retire early. Since the volumes are low and no one is really buying, it also means no one is selling yet either. Once that pent up anxiety is released and equity mutual fund (401k) liquidations begin in earnest it’ll be a rapid ride down and people will start screaming as they watch stock prices plummet at a 1929 rate. Until then the whistling past the graveyard will continue. Once this current equities baloon is punctured, the last vestige of middle class hope will evaporate. Then MSM coverage will finally catch up with the mood of despair and we’ll start seeing early 80s type gloom coverage 24/7. Until then, the real reporting stays in the blogosphere.

      1. cougar_w

        My fear is the MSM will begin the search for a scapegoat. In part of divert attention from their own titanic failure, but also in large part to ingratiate themselves to the soon-to-be-active political movement to cleanse the American spirit of corrupting elements in society.

        That’s not MY idea, I’m just predicting how it’s going to be spun.

        I don’t know who will be our own Heinrich Himmler, but our Joseph Goebbels has already rolled out the red carpet. All that’s needed is for someone to recognize the opportunity and seize the day.

        cougar

    3. cougar_w

      All your points are correct. Nicely done.

      There is a term for this that you did not use, so I will roll it in:

      Complexity.

      When you can’t get at the root cause of something, and you feel stupid and impotent as a result, you are probably operating in an environment of extreme, manageable complexity.

      Complex systems have not only their own subterranean, Stygian interconnections, but also utterly unanticipated emergent properties. They are too complex for even their makers to understand how they work anymore and as such are almost completely autonomous.

      Know that complex systems cannot but fully understood, cannot be predicted, and are impossible to manage. They operate outside the human scale and are not bound within the normal operational parameters of human interactions.

      We are trapped in a complex system.

      We are trapped in a massive, complex machine of our own manufacture that became too vast for us to manage either as individuals or as groups.

      The machine is now grinding us into dog food and we cannot turn it off and we cannot escape and we don’t know what to do. None of us will emerge unchanged. Not even the elites.

      Welcome to the actual end of the Middle Ages. I don’t know what comes next, but not one of us is likely to recognize it from where we stand now.

      cougar

      1. percyklein

        I agree with your observations about complexity and enjoyed your point about the unpredicitability of such systems almost as much as the original post’s remark about unleashing the latent impulses of the middle class. For some time now, among friends, I’ve been reminding them that the sans-culottes not so long ago discovered virtue in portable guillotines and heads on sticks. All that is required is a flash point.

      2. Toby

        I like your analogy, the machine we can’t turn off. But I think there is an alternative to it, and hope it winds down before turning all of us into dog meat. The alternative that attracts me seems unimaginable to most: a resource-based economy. You say you can’t imagine how the future will look. There are those who think they have an idea. We out to test it out.

        The thing I find weird is that people often believe with religious conviction that there is no alternative to this strange monster we mistakenly call “free-market” capitalism. For some a return to earlier times when the market was free is the answer, for others more regulation, for others less. I’m in the radical change camp.

        As I have posted elsewhere, the way out of this increasingly self-destructive system is a resource-based economy, an economy without exchange, re-designed and re-engineered from the ground up to provide abundance, and encourage a truly efficient distribution of resources. Over 99% of people who hear the idea dismiss it without further thought. Typically they cite human nature, or the “scarcity” that underpins all economic activity. I find both dismissals weak and knee-jerk.

        The highly complex system you poetically describe as unknowable has arisen organically over millennia out of our ancestor’s monumental decision to start farming, a decision which began private property and a primitive sense of scarcity in the way economics understands it today. These two “institutions” are the foundations of capitalism. Must they forever underpin everything we do? Is there really no other way?

        I’d love to hear why that has to be the case, because I don’t think they are immutable aspects of human existence, nor, by my lights, are they necessary for high culture. Everyone is hollering for change, but no one will consider radical change. What am I missing?

  21. geof gray

    Quelle horreur! Financial news is now becoming as befouled and propagandistic as is world news. Foreign correspondents of the NY Times always write their dispatches on the assumption that the US is more ideal moralistic than all the countries that they cover. Look at this dispatch by Adam Nossiter: “China has been determined in its pursuit of minerals in Africa, often without consideration of how countries are governed.” Hm, does the US ever cares about how oil-rich countries are governed? Let me re-write this sentence: The US has been determined in its pursuit of oil in the Middle East, often without consideration of how countries are governed.” The only word I would change is often: I would replace it with always.

    1. Yakkis

      They left out the part about how China is coveting “our minerals” in Africa in countries, where we don’t consider either how they are governed.

  22. Yakkis

    It’s ludicrous that you have to qualify your post with saying that it sounds like the lunatic fringe. If anything, the MSM has become the lunatic fringe.
    I cringe whenever I accidentally have to listen to TV or radio these days, or accidentally glance at a newspaper.
    All I can say Yves is that you’ve become the de facto econ/finance journalist (along with some other bloggers) and as far as journalists go, you aren’t even in the same league as the propagandists.

  23. Andrew Kaplan

    Great post, yves.

    Same trend, unfortunately, has infected sell side investment research. As u say, corporate America watched & learned from the Bush administration’s successful efforts to get fawning coverage thru the use of “freeze outs” of non-compliant reporters. Today, sell side analysts who have negative ratings or write critical things about the companies they cover (or even non-critical things that are not “pre-approved” by the companies themselves) are denied the opportunity to speak to senior management, or to host road shows for buy side investors, or even to ask questions on public quarterly conference calls. Individual analysts are forced to choose between doing real research or getting access to management (and, with it, the ability to provide the services such as conference calls & company visits that institutional investors will pay for)…and it’s no surprise which one generally wins out.

  24. wally

    Very sad; very true.
    This country is not just a little bit bought, it is bought inside and out. We do not own our government or our media. I don’t know where it leads eventually.
    One prediction: lots more troops to Afghanistan. Why? Because you never bring an army home to conditions like this.

  25. BuckyDent

    I feel much better now. I was a reporter a LONG time ago, and began to wonder if the press has always been a Tool, but I was too stupid to notice. The notion that it’s been a steady decline and we’re now bordering on MiniTru is dead-on.

  26. gatopeich

    Thanks Yves, you’re my heroine, _and_ my heroine!

    Regarding the state of journalism, yesterday we had a bitter example, when many so-called “news” channels interrupted whatever was going on to show ‘live’ images of a flying balloon. Is that barely an adult’s choice of news?

    I was myself amazed as I watched it happened on my country’s public TV. Gosh, I live in Spain, the fucking balloon was flying over Denver, obviously empty! They even paid with our public money for such ‘hot news’.

    Seriously, what’s going on with journalism, globally? Makes me so angry… And it is like this every day (were it not for NC, John Steward, and very small local initiatives).

  27. John

    Great article and some great responses.

    I can only speak for myself, but there are a few things that have caused me to go from angry and yelling about it to anyone who would listen (as well as letting my elected representatives know how I feel) to a sort of pissed-off-apathy. By the way, I’m not in finance but have a job (still) that pays well and that I enjoy.

    (1) We beat TARP! Yay! — I was one of the people that read Mish every day and followed his advice in order to defeat TARP v1.0. That was a great feeling. Then the market kept going down and TARP v2.0 ended up passing. Mish said he thought it was a better bill than TARP v1.0, but I thought it was actually worse. I felt pretty dispirited after TARP v2.0 ended up passing.

    (2) A ‘change’ president was voted in — I actually voted for a third party, but I thought Obama would be a radical change from Bush. Instead, he’s been Bush II. I now think that McCain would actually have been better than Obama because McCain is not nearly as charismatic as Obama is and I don’t think there is any way that the public would have let McCain get away with doing nothing in the financial reform area as it has with Obama. In summary, McCain would have tried to be Bush II, but the public would not have let him.

    (3) A local ‘bubble’ message board that I used to participate in was taken over by some realtor shills and some people with close connections to the investment banking world. Maybe ‘taken over’ is too strong of a word, but there was definitely a shift in the vibe of the board from anti-bailout to pro-bailout.

    (4) This blog only allowed comments from other bloggers for a while. When that happened, I felt like I didn’t really have much of an outlet for my rage against all of the financial shenanigans. I’m glad that this blog now allows comments from all comers.

    At this point, I feel that the MSM, the Executive Branch, and the Legislative Branch have all failed the people. Our last remaining hope is the judicial branch. Luckily, there appear to be some intelligent folks with working consciences in this branch of government who are still trying to do what is right. Maybe in the end, someone in the Executive Branch who isn’t bought and paid for will bring an antitrust action against all these too-big-to-failers and that’s how we’ll get these bastards.

    1. Jerry

      We need more than democrats and republicans…I read an artcle last year that predicted a new party would spring up in California as a result of this crisis…I hope so and maybe even 3 or 4

  28. gruntled

    All this whining amounts to nothing more than mental masturbation unless the public takes concrete steps to stop the nonsense we’ve been witnessing.

    What can you do?
    You can write to your congressman or senator, who will politely ignore you. You can “fire the bums” and elect new ones that promise you “change.” Unfortunately, it may be your vote but it’s actually Wall Street’s and drug/insurance companies’ money that gets them elected. So the new ones are no less beholden to special interests than the old ones, and public’s interests are screwed again, without hesitation.
    So again what do we do?

    1. rd

      We just keep voting them out until we get significant change.

      It took until 1932 to get a major voting change in the Great Depression. The legislative changes didn’t start happening until mid-1933, almost four years after the 1929 crash. It was six years from the 1974 bottom before Reagan was elected. We are only starting our second year from the 2008 collapse – this is still the early innings for the banks and politicians.

      Obama came in with the clout to make real change happen, especially with an atmosphere ripe for real change and a four year window before his next election. Instead, he has largely opted for the status quo and it would not surprise me if he is on his way to becoming a Jimmy Carter-like one term president.

      FDR got re-elected in the Depression becasue he was at least trying to make change happen and succeeded in a number of key areas, including banking/securities regulation and programs to help unemployment – he really did generate hope. They may have made technical monetary and policy errors in the late 1930s but that was also at a time when there were essentially no sophisticated economics models that could be readily applied – in the end they did reasonably well given the tools that they had at the time.

  29. rd

    I thnk part of it is the conditioning that people and the media have undergone since the early ’80s that the stock market is THE leading indicator and when it goes up that always means that good times are 6 to 12 months ahead. The same conditioning dictates that unemployment is always THE lagging indicator so it doesn’t really matter.

    That mantra is being repeated over and over again, so the level of worry is dropping. It was generally true in the 80s and 90s. However, we saw it start to break down in the 2000s with the largely good jobless recovery from the dot.com bust.

    Most of the people and the media cannot remember either the grinding of the ’70s or further back the ’30s where those leading and lagging indicator mantras did not really work. Unfortunately, there is a good chance that we are in the middle of one of those periods now so the framework that the people, media, and politicians are using is probably the wrong one.

    Since Wall Street lives and dies on a quarter-by-quarter basis with annual reports the extent of their long-term thinking, they actually have a very good model to take advantage of the next 5 to 10 years since they live in the moment. As a result, they are positioned to take advantage of those grinding ups and downs, especially if the population, media and politicians are conditioned to make sure they don’t go out of business if they happen to screw up big time.

    As a result, we are in a giant Monopoly game where one player has an endless supply of “Get Out of Jail Free” cards and can elect to pass “Go” or get a free loan from the bank whenever he is in danger of going bankrupt.

  30. OrganicGeorge

    The advent of “Happy Talk” local news, putting an emphasis on good looks and a pleasing on air personality, created a farm league of journalist who were uneducated and concerned primarily about their appearance on set.

    Like to many other short sited quick buck schemes; the bean counters at news divisions discovered they could increase Ad revenues by acting as cheerleaders for corporations, who returned the favor with gracious Ad buys.

    Real news was not important, in fact it hurt revenues. News bureaus culled out the reporters who actually try to bring some truth to the public, remember Ashley Banfield?

    Today incompetence rules the news rooms. From editors to headline writers. 40% of all news content comes from pre-packaged PR from corporations, advocacy groups and political operatives. It’s not news, it’s gossip.

    Let’s sum up all the basic foundations of the US democracy.

    1. Broken Financial system
    2. Broken Press
    3. Broken Government
    4. Broken Ag policiey
    5. Broken Tax System
    6. Broken Health Care
    7. Broken Educational system
    8. Broken Military
    9. Broken Social Safety Net

    The only person who could be encouraged by this list is Grover Norquist.

    1. cougar_w

      A very similar list was like manna from heaven to a certain former Corporal from the German Army in the run up to the Second World War.

      Watch for it.

      cougar

  31. wethepeeple

    Walter Lippman’s “Public Opinion” and Jacques Ellul’s “Propaganda: The Forming of Men’s Attitudes” are great reads. I became interested in this topic over the last 18 months, but my knowledge has led me to feel ‘demoralized’ (i.e. powerless) as I see no changes being made. Remember strategies for propagandists include preventing action and preventing the formation of sensible conclusions. Hence the frustration of so many in the face of their own inaction. It leads me to conclude that we all must ‘politicize’ the issues of the day. Don’t fall for the propaganda of ‘depoliticizing’ anything, because it remains the only mechanism for change…our votes! Voting is the only way to throw the bastards out! VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!

    1. EmilianoZ

      Vote, really?

      I remember Obama’s victory speech last November: “Change has come to America!” That’s why we voted for him, right? Change.

      What has he changed? Has he tackled TBTF? He tried to introduce the CFPA, but it’s losing all its teeth under the punches of the financial lobby.

      Republicans and Democrats alike have done the bidding of the financial “industry”. It was Clinton who repealed Glass-Steagall and signed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act.

      Voting is a waste of time.

  32. rich

    The very term “Banks” is propaganda.

    Imagine if instead of 3 hours of “balloon boy” yesterday, CNN spent 15 minutes explaining “Savings bank” vs. “commercial bank” vs. “investment bank”, why they were required to be separate after the depression and funds could not be intermingled, and how ideology engendered deregulation, thus leading to increased leverage and risk.

    It’s pretty simple.
    But how many people hear “bank” and think of their local branch ?
    How many people do not understand how the 80-00′s mimicked the 1920′s … with the same result.

    Or another “15 minute” topic … reporting on the creation and expansion of corporate personhood … and its impact on democracy.

    More broadly, though I think tribalism is a basic human instinct, I think American Exceptionalism is highly reinforced by our media — with disastrous impacts for our wellbeing (health care, wars, debt etc).

    1. rich

      What a great post & thread.

      Seems like as long as humans are “amusing ourselves to death” in relative comfort within “the society of the spectacle” and “manufactured consent” we will (in the aggregate) always be manipulated, misinformed and exploited. Makes me think there is little hope for the US.

  33. bakunin

    Nah. If voting could change anything it would be illegal. Absent a radical third party, the alternatives will be circumscribed to make choice meaningless. Collective bargaining for debtors, targeting the weakest consumer lenders with renegotiation or repudiation of debt, picking them off one at a time, that would be some fun. Encroaching on consumer credit markets with self-help associations modeled on kiva, that would be fun. Meantime mass brainwashing gives the few remaining skeptics lots of money-making opportunities. I can’t say I regret the chance to surf the ridiculous phony manias that crested in 2000 and again in 2007, or to bet against the currency and assets of “the world’s most productive economy,” and to watch the housing fetishists knock themselves out on the treadmill and pick off their liquid assets on the cheap. I’ll be happy to join the revolt, but it’s too soon because we haven’t hit bottom yet. We’ve got a long way to go.

    1. s.tristero

      “Encroaching on consumer credit markets with self-help associations modeled on kiva, that would be fun.”

      yes it would. even more fun to take the kiva model and move it out of the ‘charity’ realm and give small depositors & investors more opportunities & responsibilities to model their own risk/return portfolio.

      it would be no less than a liberation of the credit & capital markets. fun indeed.

  34. Eagle

    Actually, if they’re on a list you’re on, most likely they’re short the market, have predicted an utter collapse of social and economic systems, and are getting increasingly frustrated as their savings and credibility wash away. I’m not surprised they’re angry.

  35. Blurtman

    The Depression Will Not Be Televised

    You will not be able to stay home, brother.
    You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
    You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
    Skip out for beer during commercials,
    Because the depression will not be televised.

    The depression will not be televised.
    The depression will not be brought to you by Xerox
    In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.
    The depression will not show you pictures of Nixon
    blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John
    Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat
    hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.
    The depression will not be televised.

  36. David Patrick Columbia

    Edward Bernays’ book “Crystallizing Public Opinion” was Goebbels’ bible and the inspiration for the term “Kristallnacht” — ultimately the beginning of the end (but not before the complete destruction) of Germany under Hitler’s Nazi regime.

  37. Paul Handover

    This is such a revealing and important Post supported by some very sage comments. The way that Governments are ‘insulting’ their peoples is going to backfire. As a good friend of mine said recently, “What’s really galling is that all of us have done all the right things: Worked hard, invested our money in Wall Street, bought and paid for our homes and paid our taxes. Year after year, decade after decade.”

  38. DownSouth

    Ah, the sewing of hopelessness and disillusionment so that the people turn to defeatism or nihilism: It’s a method of social control as old as the hills, the ruling classes having deployed some of their finest thinkers to its engenderment and perpetuation, as elaborated on here by Reinhold Niebuhr:

    Nevertheless the tendency of religion to obscure the shades and shadows of moral life, by painting only the contrast between the white radiance of divine holiness and the darkness of the world, remains a permanent characteristic of the religious life.

    This tendency has more than one dubious effect. It certainly tends very readily to a moral, social and political indifferentism. The individual, and more particularly society, are regarded as too involved in the sins of the earth to be capable of salvation in any moral sense.

    Usually the individual is saved by the grace of God, while society is consigned to the devil; that is, the social problem is declared to be insoluble on any ethical basis. Thus Augustine concludes that the city of this world is “compact of injustice,” that its ruler is the devil, that it was built by Cain and that its peace is secured by strife. That is a very realistic interpretation of the realities of social life. It would stand in wholesome contrast to the sentimentalities and superficial analyses, current in modern religion, were it not marred by a note of defeatism. That note creeps easily into all rigorous religion, with its drift toward dualism. The injustices of society are placed into such sharp contrast with the absolute moral ideal, conceived by the individual conscience, that the religiously sensitized soul is tempted to despair of society. Religion thus degenerates into an asocial quest for the absolute. The soul seeks the perfection of God in either quietistic absorption or ascetic withdrawal from the world; and in each perfection is defined and experienced in purely individual terms.
    –Reinhold Niebuhr, Moral Man & Immoral Society

    The secular equivalent of the defeatism Niehbuhr describes is known as libertarianism. Libertarians have given up on the public realm and believe they can withdraw into a private realm that somehow, as if by magic, is perpetuated with no further engagement in the public-political realm. Hannah Arendt describes the phenomenon as follows:

    The extent to which the ambiguous character of the revolutions derived from an equivocality in the minds of the men who made them is perhaps best illustrated by the oddly self-contradicting formulations which Robespierre enunciated as the ‘Principles of Revolutionary Government’. He started by defining the aim of constitutional government as the preservation of the republic which revolutionary government had founded for the purpose of establishing public freedom. Yet, no sooner had he defined the chief aim of constitutional government as the ‘preservation of public freedom’ than he turned about, as it were, and corrected himself: ‘Under constitutional rule it is almost enough to protect the individuals against the abuses of public power.’ With this second sentence, power is still public and in the hands of the government, but the individual has become powerless and must be protected against it. Freedom, on the other hand, has shifted places; it resides no longer in the public realm but in the private life of the citizens and so must be defended against the public, and its power. Freedom and power have parted company, and the fateful equating of power with violence, of the political with government, and of government with necessary evil has begun…

    The conversion of the citizen of the revolution into the private individual of nineteenth-century society has often been described, usually in terms of the French Revolution, which spoke of citoyens and bourgeois. On a more sophisticated level, we may consider this disappearance of the ‘taste for political freedom’ as the withdrawal of the individual into an ‘inward domain of consciousness’ where it finds the only ‘appropriate region of human liberty’; from this region, as though from a crumbling fortress, the individual, having got the better of the citizen, will then defend himself against a society which in its turn gets ‘the better of the individuality’.
    –Hannah Arendt, On Revolution

    It is a testament to the intelligence and thoroughness of the ruling elite that the ancient tactics of social control, long used in religion, have now been extended to the world of “science,” infusing the academe with pseudo-scientific dogmas such as the “finding” that nothing possibly can be done to correct the problem of free-riding in society. Jonathan Haidt testifies here as to the juggernaut that existed in academe that destroyed the academic career of anyone so bold as to challenge that doctrine:

    http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/beyond-belief-candles-in-the-dark/jonathan-haidt-1

    “Rage is by no means an automatic reaction to misery and suffering as such;” Arendt observes in Crises of the Republic, “no one reacts with rage to an incurable disease or to an earthquake or, for that matter, to social conditions that seem to be unchangeable.”

    Arendt thus gives us the reason why, first through religion and then later through “science,” the ruling elite hoped to persuade us that the city of this world is a “compact of injustice,” that “society is consigned to the devil” and that the social problem is “insoluble on any ethical basis”.

    1. DownSouth

      The above comment should have been hung on this passage from Yves’ post:

      “I suppose it makes a difference whether one is old enough to remember the 1960s. Because people in large numbers got out and protested, two sets of changes that seemed impossible came about: civil rights for blacks and an end to the US involvement in Vietnam…”

  39. bakunin

    Hey Eagle, stalwart patriot though you clearly are, your reductive long/short dichotomy has always been a lame trite means of attacking market skeptics. It’s one more dishonest straw man. While you do see canned-goods and ammo manifestos on the left, everybody with a grain of sense knows that terminally-corrupt kelptocracies provide terrific opportunities. Lots o’ juicy market distortions, you know. Corruption is easy to exploit. The best way to wreck a system like this is not to fight it but to work it, feast like squirmy maggots on the pus while it decomposes.

  40. kevin de bruxelles

    Great post, it made my day.

    Seen from the point of view of the elites, the question is: how to best manage the decline. The answer is a mix of the old and the new: create a pacifying matrix of bread and circuses and deliver it with the efficiency that only a highly advanced technological society can manage. And as the pestilence of economic decline continues its relentless creep forward while at the same time wealth retreats into well-protected bastions; the matrix must be intensified to provide the masses with more and more of the soothing blue pills needed to dull the increasing pain of reality.

    This blog and most of its commentators have chosen the red pill and with it the despair that comes with knowing there are no easy solutions, only questions. For example our economic plague, what is the agent, what is causing it, what is playing the role of the rats and fleas from the earlier Black Death? My view is that its comes from the East, as it always does. The rat was the policy of a one-way opening of US markets to Japanese goods. This rat was immediately fed upon by the flea of resulting one-way flow of well-paid American jobs to Japan. No doubt in the immediate aftermath of WW2 this was a logical policy to help the Japanese get back on their feet. The first few victims in the resulting pestilence in the US were hardly noticed in the rising post-WW2 sea of prosperity. And then the policy was extended to Korea; but surely it was wise to help the South rebuild after their devastating war against the Communists? And anyway the sea of prosperity continued to rise, helping obscure the few resulting victims. From there the one-way trade spread to Taiwan and then Hong Kong and some of the victims in the US started to be noticed. Later one-way trade was granted to the tigers in South East Asian. By then the impact was well known; the stench of the rotting corpse of American manufacturing was easy to smell but impossible to stop. Finally China was given the same deal and we can no longer deny the economic pandemic.

    But taking the red pill also means knowing that my attempt at an answer may be as wrong as blaming the Jews for poisoning the wells was so long ago.

    Two events convinced me two throw my television away back in 1994. I read William L. Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich where he discussed how he had to take a leave of absence from Nazi Germany, where he was serving as a journalist, because even though he was a well-grounded intelligent person, the non-stop propaganda was starting to take a toll on him and it was starting to deeply affect the way he thought. A couple days later I felt complete disgust after I wasted several hours watching a celebrity involved in a low-speed chase on the California freeways and the decision was made. Once made, I started noticing other who were already doing the same thing. I am glad to see that many more are starting to take the same plunge. It is the first step towards finding a solution.

    1. MarcoPolo

      Darn it. I feel like I’m always late to see these posts. Hope you come back to see this. You’re stealing my shtick and it’s made my day. I’m the one who had been on the unsustainability of the Asian development model now for more than a decade. And I’m the one who doesn’t own a tv. Red pills can make you feel pretty alone.

  41. donna

    Kevin, I agree — I started fighting with friends over OJ and the trial, and it just never stopped. Some of them were so sucked up by the mainstream media’s obsessions and I couldn’t relate to their mindset anymore. it got worse when I noticed some friends cared more about characters on TV than those in their own lives, when friends told me they didn’t want to get together because they had to go watch Dancing with the Stars and other such nonsense. I try to talk politics or finance with people and their eyes just glaze over.

    I love Google Reader share and facebook since I can actually point people in the right direction. But all we can do is point the way, we can’t make them see the stars….

  42. Lee

    On the Dow hitting 10,000 and Matt Taibbi saying “‘On the other hand, so fucking what?’ sort, one that might point out that unemployment is still at a staggering high, foreclosures are racing along at a terrifying clip, and real people are struggling more than ever,” it is even more basic than what Matt suggests. Yes, that people are struggling is awful, but the news media does not even tell us what is the significance of 10,000! Not even a mention that it was at 14,000 just two years ago. Is this story news simply because 10,000 is a round easily identifiable number? How can the media have even a pretense of credibility when it is pushing numerology?

    1. cougar_w

      This year’s 10K will have to be 20K come 2015

      It’s called “inflation”, and the damage done with the printing of the dollar will surely tell by then.

  43. sharonsj

    I still watch TV. I just don’t watch TV news (there’s an oxymoron). Nor do I buy newspapers either. And I’m slowly giving up on radio because even the progressive stations pander to attention-deficit listeners. It isn’t possible to find real news unless you troll dozens of internet websites and piece together what’s really happening. How many people have time for that?

    1. tom powell

      Excellent post and comments. One of the latter that rings particularly true with me is Ben S (12:57pm). I agree we are moving toward an era when Americans will not have time or energy for the relative frivolity of today. Many are already there of course but apparently not yet a cricital mass. Well said, Ben.

  44. Ben S

    Here’s another point of view: The media is also a product of it’s consumers and obviously enough of them haven’t been paying attention so the media can get away with this and America gets the journalism it deserves. America can’t expect a great media establishment to last forever when really the whole country is more interested in hollywood gossip. And this may be self-correcting once most Americans have to return their attention back to what many in the rest of the world have to: making ends meet. Then democracy, an independent press, justice–we’ll come back to why all these things matter.

  45. Elliot

    All the cheerleaders continue to ignore the continued deterioration of the economy for average people. There is a growing disconnect between the economic health of America’s companies and America’s citizens. Companies benefit from bailouts, legal protection, and the deteriorating buying power of the American dollar. Just think, any corporation with a stable overseas source of profit automatically increases their bottom in converting foreign currency to U.S. dollars. These dollars make their way to shareholders, not to employees. Meanwhile, people continue to lose jobs at a rapid rate, wages continue to decline and foreclosures continue to rise. Whatever happened to government “of the people, by the people?” The pressure is building, the anger is growing. At some point it will explode. The question is where will it be directed, and more importantly, what change will ultimately come out of it?

  46. Cullpepper

    Ho ho ho.

    Look out Yves, you just became the new face of the neo-populist movement.

    I’ve been reading your blog for two years now, and you usually contain the rage to strictly quantitative arguments.

    Why the flag waving? I wonder if you’re getting irritated watching The Powers That Be set the system up for collapse, not knowing (or caring) what they do?

    1. cougar_w

      Keep banging the drum.

      It won’t matter of course. Bang it anyway.

      After it all comes down we’ll be looking backward for some evidence that humanity is not completely, entirely, irredeemably and self-destructively stupid. And then, we will thank you for trying.

      Keep banging the drum!

      cougar

  47. Rickstersherpa

    Yves, thank you for this blog. Thanks to you, Dean Baker, Barry Ritholz, Paul Krugman, Mark Thoma, Bob Somerby (The Daily Howler) and all the great talents on Calculated Risk and Angry Bear I have had second chance at enlightenent. Your analysis in today was exceptional.

    Why have we not seen the mass demonstrations (which actually were quite common in American History up to the early 1970s)? I speculate that there might be four causes. First, suburbanization has spread out and atomized people. It has also lengthen the work day with the time added for commuting and it is more difficult for people to take time off of work. Second, TV and the passiveness it induces in those who watch it (Scientific American actually had an article summarizing the pscychological effects of TV and of coures there was the great movie by the late Peter Sellers, “Being There.”). Third, the decline of unions and their ability to bring people togeter for a mass movement. Finally, the movement of women into the work force eliminated a huge supply of potential volunteers and protestors who were heart of the anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.

    Again, thanks for a great blog.

    1. Glen

      And don’t forget two other pints. Firstly there’s been a significant dumbing down in the eduction process; people who can think for themselves are a rarity these days. Secondly the rise of the individual – ‘it’s all about me’ culture. The result? A society full of undereducated individuals who are incapable of thinking and acting on a societal level.

      1. cougar_w

        Evidence for your premise:

        The paper today was breathlessly reporting on the creation of a “hacker dojo” in Mountain View, sponsored by the likes of Google and MS. A place where young people could gather and hack on projects, compare notes, rub shoulders with mentors…

        In days gone by that was called a “club” and was common on high school and college campuses. This is how The Steves met and eventually cooked up the Apple 1, the rest being literally history.

        Now a-days, schools only focus on education toward standardized tests and white collar employment. Clubs and a broad curriculum are largely extinct, and even where they exist parents lack the vision to encourage exploration over pure academics and grades. In this corrosive environment Google and MS and others have to recreate the hacker incubators of old just to keep imagination alive.

        Of course, they’ll also siphon off any good ideas someone stumbles on, so it’s not really like the old days. More like the old days in a fish bowl, controlled and monitored for “developments”. But at least they understand the failure we have bred in our children, and the threat this poses.

        cougar

  48. Robert S. Robbins

    I canceled my newspaper subscription and cable TV a long time ago to save money. I was also disgusted by their torture advocacy. The mainstream media no longer deserves the privilege of providing me with the news.

  49. Frank Balzer

    Very well reasoned and written article.

    From anectdotal evidence, I would observe that there are two reasons the US people isn’t organizing and protesting.

    1. Many citizens are fully engaged in the corporate electronic cocoon. Thus they are usually not allowed an autonomous space allowing them to metamorphasize into “butterflies.”

    2. The huge and regular antiwar protests that occured during the first W Bush presidency were totally ignored by the media, and political elite. As a result, people gave up.

    Something similar occured after the period of intense political activism of the late ’60s and early ’70s.

  50. paul akers

    i agree with crazy mans view that their is no cogent new populist politician to make the myriad issues simple enough for the masses to understand and to cause real anger and change.Another problem is made reality or living in illusion.If most people do not think or feel their is a problem with government backstopping our entire economy and moral hazard being the new norm then does it really matter .Or put another way ,does this perceived reality only change when their is a catastrophe that produces another reality and this could be months or years away.Maybe its only in looking back do the majority begin to agree that the reality of the time was in fact only in our dreams and was a silly, tragic illusion.

  51. bwedin

    A Ray of Hope

    The way that the financial and political elites go about manufacturing consent is indeed depressing. And it grieves me to say that many of my psychologist colleagues have used our science to make the manipulation of the public ever more clever and elusive. The one real ray of hope I see is what’s going on over at Firedoglake around health care reform–where Jane Hamsher has mounted a very smart campaign to get progressive members of Congress to pledge to vote against any bill that does not contain a public option–which she’s combined with a grassroots fundraising drive (through Act Blue)to support the reelection campaigns of those who sign the pledge (thus immunizing them from retaliation from the insurance industry). If the Reps she’s signed up stick to their guns (and that’s a very big if), the Democrats will be forced to include a public option in the final bill. And that, in turn, may serve as a model for how to force through reform in other areas–including and especially financial-industry reforms. Naked Capitalism is a natural place for such initiatives to get underway. And Yves Smith has both the smarts and the spunk to make it happen.

  52. Advocatus Diaboli

    Seriously?
    ___________

    Goldman-Backed, Ayn Rand-Inspired Fund to Invest Record Amount

    http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aXnnkUJjQC9A

    By Duane D. Stanford

    Oct. 16 (Bloomberg) — Roark Capital Group, the Atlanta- based owner of brands including Carvel ice cream, plans to invest the most in its eight-year history next year as the private-equity industry thaws.

    Roark, named for Ayn Rand’s protagonist in “The Fountainhead,” invested $180 million last month in a pet retailer and a garbage hauler, managing partner Neal Aronson said. That’s almost triple the $65 million the fund committed in the previous 20 months, he said in an interview this month.

  53. weinerdog43

    Thanks Yves.

    I think there are 2 things that are critical regarding this situation that we face:

    1.) A free and open internet where the big providers cannot choke off intelligent discourse. In other words, net neutrality. Without it, we are subject to what our corporate masters want us to read. &
    2.) Finding a way to restrict/eliminate/manage corporate money in our government. You and I can never hope to compete with corporate donations to our congresscritters. Our government responds to them, not us.

    A great example is the current Grayson/Paul effort to reign in the Fed. Anything on the traditional media? Nope. Without the internet, no one would ever have heard about it, and Congressional action is where we leash these bastards.

  54. bill w

    Matt Taibi accidentally got it right when he noted that a friend of his stated that the news media in the USA was like communist Poland when he lived there. The whole slant of all MSM is far left biased; very similar to what we had in the 1920s and 1930s. The US media actually loved Mussolini and Hitler. Only World War II got the media back to reporting in a non-biased manner. If we had a real non-biased MSM in the USA none of this would have happened. The only reason that the facts have come out is due to the blogger community. They have done an excellent job of shedding light where the liberals and their bankster buds do not want us to go.

    1. bwedin

      “Far left biased”?

      Can you name us anyone in the MSM, besides Keith Olberman and Rachel Raddow, who are even remotely left? And even they seem quietly hawkish on Afghanistan–at least to judge from the guests they have on. The rest of the MSM seem to be either Bush Dog Democrats or Bushian Republicans. That’s what Yves Smith is saying. They all come out of the same sausage-maker.

    2. cougar_w

      I think you missed an important point in the whole “communist” red herring thing.

      Communism under the broader Soviet Union brand was much less about left-wing ideology and much more about totalitarian controls of thought and information and control of the media.

      And that would fit with the comment, and align with this thread; our own MSM is being used against us by the State (my current term for our nascent Fascist amalgam of governance and corporatist ideology that Mussolini envisioned back in the day) and as such the information forwarded to us by the MSM is at worst useless in decision making in a democracy, and at worst entirely corrosive.

      There is no more left or right. There is only a rolling disaster.

      cougar

    3. Jonathan

      Bill, your suggestion that the MSM is far left is itself an example of how the MSM controls our society. You listen to MSM (probably FOX) that tells you how bad the left media is. You then blame the left for all of the ills of society. Meanwhile others watch MSNBC and blame the right for all of the ills. The whole time the plutocracy laughs at how easily controlled the sheeple are.

  55. Hugh

    “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it”
    –Upton Sinclair

    This quote is a must for these kinds of discusions. The blogosphere came into being in reaction to the mixture of propaganda and infotainment the MSM have become. It has always seemed very funny to me that the MSM has decried the blogosphere for its lack of objectivity and then proceeded to churn out vats of Conventional Wisdom and stenography and called that professional and the way news should be done.

    I trace the root of the problem back 30 years and to media consolidation. News organizations moved further and further away from their audiences and readerships. They became more and more responsive to their corporate headquarters whose connection to or interest in news was tangential at best. And so a death spiral began. The holding companies wanted cut backs in costs to maximize profits and make sure no one rocked any boats. This produced a steadily crappier product. I can only suppose they thought they had a captive market but the internet and blogosphere created an alternative. Sure you have to pick and choose with them, but nowadays you have to do that and more with the traditional media. The bottomline is that consumers of news don’t have to accept crap reporting anymore. And it is killing the MSM and those whom Upton Sinclair described who are its stars, and well it should.

  56. Eogen

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the issues raised by Yves. She and the commenters capture a lot of what has neutered the press — cognitive capture, access, the need for happy advertisers — and I worry who will fund and publish investigative journalism as newspaper after newspaper heads for the boneyard (and we should remember that the force driving print to extinction is the internet,which set information free — free doesn’t fund a year long investigation).
    Still, all attempts to control or spin information ultimately fail: despite decades of living under ruthless suppression of a free press, it was amazing for visitors to discover, once communism fell, that average Russians were relatively well informed. That said, the censors in Russia were crude and blunt; in our case the masters of spin are much more subtle, the press cynical, and the citizenry compliant and uninterested.

  57. Eric L. Prentis

    The plutocracy controls the large corporations, and by extension the MSM, and Wall Street and plutocracy shills, i.e., the US politicians they direct with campaign contributions and through lobbying Congress. The plutocracy laughs at public demonstrations because they own the TV networks and spin the news propaganda in their favor.

    Fact: the plutocracy can never get away from the people. Solution: the plutocracy, and by extension their shills, understand “only” one thing, “MONEY.” The people control the plutocracy when then withhold the money, i.e., selective public monetary boycotts (SPMB) are the only solutions that get clear and lasting results.

    1. cougar_w

      Oh? that sounds a bit weak; they also control the courts and the prison system, you know.

      What they do not control is fire.

      cougar

  58. john newman

    I watched Bruce Bartlett on Kudlow the other day try to contend that the supply side juggernaut he accidentally launched twenty five years ago. While I think he was largely right in his reasoning at the time, supply side had the happy or sad, depending on your point of view, fortune of launching just ahead of the wave of corporate speech that would swamp our politics.

    Supply side came in 82, in 76 by judicial fiat money was declared to be protected free speech despite the obvious non commutative relation ship between the two: while money can always be converted into political speech, it the rare political speech (Palin) that can be converted into money. As corporate interests found their political feet, around 82, the systematic distortion of political discourse began.

    Watching Bartlett argue with Kudlow, the latter impervious to fact and well remunerated for it, was to see the distorting effects of propaganda in high relief. Your latter mention of the traffic in comments you have been seeing testifies to just how impenetrable the bubble that now encompasses both our financial and political centers is.

    While financial interests have arbitraged human nature through a range of techniques that form the perfect opposite of those proposed in Thaler and Sunstein’s “Nudge”, at the same time through the securitization of debt, consumer credit, the franchise business model, and the ineluctable creep of regulation, they have stopped all of the leaks through which wealth once trickled down. This has converted financial assets into a sort of Mandlebrot Sponge that can absorb all of the liquidity the world can flush into it without producing a trickle outside the asset holding class.

    Here in New York where I work there two distinct economies as polarized as the parties in Washington, but one is invisible and the other is represented by both of those polarized parties. The idea that wages are “sticky” is a quaint anachronism in the invisible economy of independant small businesses. Our income is down, our workers have pay reduced we are dealing with real and wicked deflation: we are in turn attacking our landlords, vendors and consultants to drive cost down.

    This is invisible because financial free speech fifteen years ago figured out how to capture the entire government: political donations precede votes and determine the choices we are free to vote on. If you don’t have the financial clout to fix the options, you don’t really get to participate. There is no feedback mechanism left to show this real deflation to those who see the world through the lens of the bubble, and the manipulations they implement have in fact solved THEIR problems.

  59. John Merryman

    In some ways, it’s a natural process, as top down structure and order becomes ever more static and disconnected from the bottom up dynamic, it eventually peels off, like dead skin. Whenever a formulation has realized full potential, it has peaked. So we tend to see what is most stable as being in decline, while not fully appreciating what is fluid and growing.

    I have a point of observation that I make in physics discussions which shows how effectively we are conditioned. Time is a dimension which goes past to future, right? So the earth travels this fourth dimension from yesterday to tomorrow. Or does tomorrow become yesterday because the earth rotates?
    Is time a fundamental dimension along which events exist, or does the changing configuration of the energy create events which go from future potential to past circumstance?
    I find most people without advanced degrees in the sciences are quite willing to consider time is a consequence of motion, not the basis for it, but those with skin in the game quite literally recoil from the notion. Just goes to show it matters what side your bread is buttered on.

  60. john bougearel

    Wow!

    “I never saw such an angry, active, and large thread about the Goldman BS fest today. Now if people who have not suffered much, and are presumably benefitting from the market recovery are furious, it isn’t hard to imagine that what looks like complacency in the heartlands may simply be contained rage looking for an outlet.”

    This is precisely what I needed, what we all needed to see in print. It is the sense that there is angry push-back from professionals on the periphery watching the shameless looting and profiteering of taxpayer dollars to pay themselves out with record bonuses, none of which would be possible without taxpayer dollars, and Goldman (an IB on the endangered species list last sept), whose very existence depended on Paulson and Bernanke bailing it out can now make merry 12 months later and go on with business as usual. Same goes for the JPM crowd reporting fantastic Q3 earnings to justify ginormous 2009 bonuses all the while their balance sheet continues to deteriorate….

    It is the angry push-back from those just outside the banksters that can make a difference to ending this exploitation and pilfering and “hollowing out” of middle class America. If this group pushes to get their voices heard beyond email threads that we might begin to see “change we can believe in.” Change we can believe in never happens from the top-down, that is just MSM BS, change we can believe in is a revolution from some sector of the populace. Often we think of revolution stirring amongst the masses or middle to lower classes, but that sort of revolution usually leads to violent conflict. If a sector of the population one degree removed from the banksters and politicians push back on the politicians and banksters, perhaps we might get to some meaningful change heartland America can believe in.

    Like in my dreams right?

    Meanwhile the contained rage that looks like complacency, forbearance, and acceptance remains precisely that, contained, for their is no place to constructively direct it short of going out on a sniper shooting spree to kill off the banksters one by one.

    1. Skippy

      I’m with you JB, vote of no confidence, shine my shoes, whack on tailored suit and present finger of defiance.

      Skippy…good to see you around here, but understand your wide these days.

  61. Bill Jones

    The main difference between the old soviet Media and today’s Corporate Media was that in the Soviet system everybody knew that they were being lied to.

    The US is now an economy that manufactures just 4 things:
    Bombs, Debt, Fear and Bullshit.

  62. G

    Somewhat relevant tidbit folks might or might not be aware of (all reported by an apparently approving journalist):
    http://www.time.com/time/printout/0,8816,1889153,00.html
    Time magazine story about the “Consortium of Behavioral Scientists, a secret advisory group of 29 of the nation’s leading behaviorists”
    “The existence of this behavioral dream team — which also included best-selling authors Dan Ariely of MIT (Predictably Irrational) and Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago (Nudge) as well as Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman of Princeton — has never been publicly disclosed, even though its members gave Obama white papers on messaging, fundraising and rumor control as well as voter mobilization….President Obama is still relying on behavioral science. But now his Administration is using it to try to transform the country. Because when you know what makes people tick, it’s a lot easier to help them change.”

  63. psychohistorian

    Great post Yves as evidenced by the quality comments.

    It is comforting to read passion rising in the populace.

    Now if it can only be channeled positively.

    We can create a more egalitarian society if we have the will to do so.

  64. john bougearel

    @Skippy,

    Your Psirens clip was hilarious,

    @ Yves,

    Please repost the oppportunity for Chicago people to peadcefully remonstrate Oct 25-27 during the national ABA this coming week. I am a lifelong Chicagoan, and there is no reason for me not to attend. Also, please let us know who is organizing this remonstration, where to be and at what times. If you know the details that is.

    I will be more than happy to be in the minority and told I am wrong. The truth of the matter is we who object are neither the minority or wrong. Being told such is intended to be dismissive and minimize our voice. I have reached the point where it is high time to push-back on the message we are being spoon-fed and to educate and promote the message that it is time to push back on the powers that be. We can start with peaceful demonstrations in the style of MLK. What was startling watching the MLK and Malcom X video clips is how relevant their experience of being black in America relates to being middle class in America today. It is high time middle class America finds its voice and is heard above controlled messages press releases leaked to MSM. We can not, above all, allow our voice to be drowned out by mainstream media and the powers that be who influence what is peddled through MSM. Our voices are certainly not being represented through our votes, and when that happens, it is no different than the early colonists who fought against taxation without representation. Since our votes find no voice in Congress or Capitol Hill, it is time for grassroots organizations to take over the role that was intended for our elected officials.

    And I get the pseudo-protest and protest points cited above in comments, and I get the Malcolm X message, but the MLK message of non-violent protest is authentic and not pseudo as some might imagine. There is power in non-violent protest, resulting in change that can be durable and long-lasting. But an effort must be made at a grass-roots level and it must sweep through the nation.

    The foregoing is in response to this excerpt from Yves:

    But per the social psychology research, this “you are in a minority, you are wrong” message DOES dissuade a lot of people. It is remarkably poisonous. And it discourages people from taking concrete action. I was surprised that some people bothered to comment on a post I put up yesterday, calling on people in the Chicago area to attend some peaceful demonstrations against the banking industry during the American Bankers Association national meeting, October 25 through 27. Some people weighed in, saying (basically) “don’t bother”.

    I suppose it makes a difference whether one is old enough to remember the 1960s. Because people in large numbers got out and protested, two sets of changes that seemed impossible came about: civil rights for blacks and an end to the US involvement in Vietnam

  65. Tony Foresta

    The finance oligarchs in concert with the socalled government execute military information domination, disinformation, perception management, and propaganda against the American people. Posse Commitattus precepts aside, – it is a pernicious and untoward practice, and one no American should countenance, nor tolerate. The parrots in the socalled MSM are a propaganda arm of the socalled governments which is owned lock, stock, and barrel by the predatorclass. America’s government is now one of the many tentacles of the beast that is the American predatorclass, and the finance oligachs. These shatains, shades, and beastse must be constrained, – or all hell will break loose.

    How much thievery and abuse are the American people expected to tolerate?

    1. John Merryman

      Predators require a niche in order to develop. They depend on their prey more directly than their prey depend on them to maintain growth within viable limits.
      If they destroy their foodsource, they die as well. If our monetary based economy collapses, these bankers are going to find their support structure collapse. Money has become a substitute for trust in a mass society and those who control it are profiting from it.

      It really goes to the heart of the paradigm. When we value every aspect of our lives in monetary terms, those who control the money, control everything denominated in it. If people understand money for the public utility it is AND the taxpayer is responsible for maintaining its value, we wouldn’t insist on turning all value into money AND we would insist on a public banking system that would use its profits as public income. Monarchies lost the patent on leadership, due to poor management and now the banks have succumbed to the same hubris. Their patent on inventing money has expired.

  66. Bill

    I watch internet blogs solely for my information . No TV whatsoever . Cept maybe reruns of Seinfeld , and movies on DVD . Salespeople from Charternet act surprised that I don’t want an upgrade from basic Cable. Basic propaganda channels.
    It will take another generation to make things change . The 60′s hippies are now the ones in power. They have sold out and betrayed their values from then and become fat and well filled in the establishment. Perhaps my grandchildren those born in the new millenium who will carry the torch . I teach my grandchildren to reason , ask questions, and come to their OWN conclusions . May they be powerful .

  67. Bill

    Line from Dave Matthews Band – song “Typical Situation ”

    Everybody’s happy
    Everybody’s free
    We’ll keep the big door open
    And everyone’ll come around
    Why are you different
    Why are you that way
    If you don’t step in line
    We’ll lock you away

    Hmmmm. Wisdom in those words

  68. Doug T

    In addition to the propaganda effect, it is almost certain that a large number of us are also suffering from (Patty Hearst’s) Stockholm Syndrome. We’ve become complicit with our captors.

  69. mark

    You’ve only scratched the surface. The other half of the equation is HOW the market got to 10,000. If you think the manipulation of the media is bad, you would be astonished to know what’s going on behind the scenes in the markets. Suffice it to say you’d be safer taking your retirement money to Vegas and betting on black.

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