Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Wolf At the Door: Spin-Meister on Over-Reporting

Over at the SKV Communications' "Big Conversation" Andy Spinoza's Last Post is talking down the wall-to-wall and potentially self-fulfilling media over-reaction to the banking and economic travails of the day. Talking down the talking down of the economy. Talking up the rightness and indeed necessity of the media misery multiplier.

Some of the fundamentals are not good of course. The Thatcher model of un-tramelled greed and unfettered ingenuity in screwing the markets until the pips squeak has gone way way way too far. On the way of course these things produced great wealth and substantial tax revenues. But they simply were not sustainable.

Although it was spun in all directions - here (Guardian 30 Jan) praising the Thatch, here (Guardian 31 Jan) rather blaming her for current ills - I agree with the latter and Cameron's Davos speech did appear to me to recognise something important:

... an appeal to the political centre ground by calling for fundamental reform of the free market economy ushered in by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Markets were supposed to serve society "rather than suck the joy out of it or trample over its values", he said.

And later he recognised these vampire-capitalists as so sharp they might well cut themselves:

"Our financial system boasts people so bright they've created financial instruments beyond even their own understanding."

And immediately onwards to an extraordinarily foolish conclusion:

"Now they need to use those talents to help the poorest build assets."

Those feckwit whizzkids should be in prison! Not front and centre in social welfare services aimed at helping working people! If you're asking me!

But some of the fundamentals ain’t so bad. The interest rate cuts mean many people’s housing costs have come down dramatically. And spending power has actually increased through that. And many prices - even on imports are staying steady or even coming down. Again through that spending power has actually increased for those, the vast majority, still in work.

There has been a media feeding frenzy that has IMO been completely out of proportion. Money and securities markets work on sentiment and confidence. And those playing those markets can still switch things on or off to suit their own bets.

I remember when snow drifts really were epic, back in the day - and I still got to school! When the school bus was confined to the garage, on foot, two miles, uphill most of the way, by myself, aged 8 or whatever. So much milk to be drunk when I reached my destination!

I also remember those Tory recessions only too well. And Maggie snatching the very milk of human kindness from the system. And I really don't think the problems we now face are in the same league.

The media as a whole are not economics-savvy. Many bloggers are not. Few journalists seem to understand even basic statistics. And whoever is behind the graphics backdrops at the BBC and the other networks is showing a humungous contraction and fall when the true 1, 2, 3, 4% dip would scarcely differ from "flat" if plotted correctly.

Self-fulfilling prophesies do sometimes come true of course. And sometimes if we shout “Wolf!” enough we will be right one day. And the point of that story of course is that all that Wolf! crying inures the community to the full danger. And the result is usually narrated to a rather tragic conclusion. Though as an eternal optimist the classic story of fear and over-reaction was subverted chez-LOL and the wolf was eaten by the child. "And what did it taste like?" I would ask. And "Too hairy!" would be the cheery reply.

Why do we tell horror stories to our kids at bedtime?

Hairy times indeed. Just now however, many in the media are confused, inaccurate, imprecise and plain wrong. We all have a choice of viewing the cup as half full or half empty. Optimism tempered with smart working often triumph over tough times. Just now the opportunities are legion, as are the demons.

Here's to a short and actually not that sharp intake of breath. Followed by a determination that we achieve sustainable growth, improvement upon improvement, the worst of capitalism sitting on the naughty step from here to eternity.

IMAGE: Found at Outer Space Boy's blog on a kind of don't shoot the messenger/elephant in the room/cry wolf hybrid. A Where-are-we-going-with-this-wolf of a post. Where-wolf? for short.


Anonymous said...

And later he recognised these vampire-capitalists as so sharp they might well cut themselves:

You mean as opposed to good old socialists like Alistair Darling and the rest milking the system and electorate for everything they can?

This really is becoming a real blog for hypocrites Chris, and for those who still cannot quite believe that labour can be so sleazy and self serving over the past 12 years.

Chris Paul said...

And your point being? Your anonymous and you have a broken record.

Cameron pointed at Thatcher's part in setting off the cycle of bonuses and greed, he pointed out the city workers who were so clever they didn't understand what they'd thought up (or care at the medium to long term consequences), and then he wanted to redeploy them as community social enterprise advisers. A-fecking-amazing.

Er, no thanks.