Can We Blame the Media?SWell yes, sure, of course we can. But how? It's easiest to just blame greedy bankers or something, because Wall Street assholes act the same way in good times and in bad, and we lionize them in good and castigate them in bad (also we deregulate them in good and bail them out in bad, but whatevs). But now we have our media-blaming excuse: Howard Kurtz, media "critic" for the Washington Post, has weighed in on the financial crisis and is appointing blame in equal measure to everyone! That is the fair way to do things, you know. So hey let's join him in blaming the MSM. The fact of the matter is regular work-a-day journalists, even the high-falutin well-off name ones, don't get finance. Because no one really gets finance besides financiers, and journos are all soft-sciences arts majors. Math is hard! Even now they don't "get" it (though everyone's on the tail end of their "conversant at cocktail parties" crash course, and it shows). Honestly, we spent a couple years studying for BFA, of course we have no fucking clue what happened here. And as both media producers and media consumers, we're reasonably more conversant on many national public interest issues than Joe Sixpack Americans. And yes, in 2004 when the SEC decided to allow investment banks to self-regulate themselves we heard about it on Kos or something and were outraged and all that. But:
Yet major newspapers did not report on the voluntary program's adoption in 2004, which the Times now trumpets as a turning point. (The Journal ran an eight-paragraph piece on Page C4.)
And honestly there were so many other things to be outraged about in 2004! The fact that serious business and finance journalism is written in opaque for-experts-by-experts style certainly helped the crisis along. The fact that the first real attempt at populist entertaining business journalism was the fact-free Bud Lite-sponsored happy hour that is Fox Business is obviously indicative of the larger problem here, which is that no one understood that the nation's economy was built on a house of cards except for the people who didn't care, the people who constructed the house of cards, and Ron Paul. So we understand the crisis through an unhelpful lens of politics—we can explain the political machinations behind the bailout bill, yes, but is it good or bad policy? Paul Krugman says it's bad-but-necessary, or something. What a cop-out! The People are actually to blame, yes; the stupid people who didn't pay attention to the terms of their loans and lived outside their means and gambled everything away while gorging themselves on bacon-wrapped shrimp at Red Lobster. Except who were the ones pushing the "ownership society," giving huge incentives for homeownership to people who shouldn't own homes, never providing anything but misleading information, convincing themselves that housing prices would never ever ever fall? Both political parties, two presidents, and all the respectable press. There was a dereliction of duty by everyone in the nation responsible for serving the public trust, which certainly used to mean journalists too. It took Time until March of this year to explain credit default swaps, but at least they did explain it in March. And now we're probably in for another corrective period, in which like after the Lewinsky free-for-all and the credulous lead-up to the Iraq war, the press will spend a self-flagellating year promising to do better in the future. When honestly all they need to do is edit the business section so we can understand it and move that shit to the front page every now and then.