MSM: Sweden vs. USA, plus Krugman on inequality

An anecdote has it that Noam Chomsky grinds his teeth when he reads the New York Times. But he also recognizes that there is some serious and professional reporting alongside the skillful but goofy propaganda stream. One can say the same about the Swedish Dagens Nyheter, save the level of professionalism. Thus I subscribe to the NYT web edition to get a broader outlook, apart from it being somewhat less pathetically “mainstreamed” than DN.

When it comes to the selection and presentation of the kind of world news that has to be aligned in accordance with the propaganda model, the similarities between DN and NYT are striking. The material is probably molded already in news agencies, and then DN seems to snitch from NYT and others. Often the wording is identical, and certainly the bias. But there are some differences. Especially interesting is what kind of “big news” in USA that becomes “no news” in Swedish media.

To name one example: Citizens United, a central concept in US debate which is carefully kept out of media in Sweden for reasons one can only speculate on. Is it the fact that the Supreme Court’s decision is incomprehensible for most people here, who probably would compare it with codifying unlimited corruption?

Another more random example is the Cliven Bundy case, which has passed almost unnoticed here. It’s not that violence or crimes as such are censored, on the contrary. Events like school shootings and other mass murders in the US are covered intensely by media, so the difference opens the field for speculations again. Is it that crimes committed by individuals have limited implications for the society, whilst the Bundy insubordination revealed a weak public authority that opened for mafia-like actions challenging law and order (thus degrading USA)? It’s anyone’s guess.

On the Ukraine issue Swedish MSM has a completely one-eyed view applied to both commentary and news reporting alike, a view postulating that Vladimir Putin is the master villain responsible for everything horrible that happens. Thus we are not shared any inclusive reports on for instance the shelling of innocent civilians or the hardship people in Luhansk suffers, or anything else outrageous that the Ukrainian government is responsible for. In this case NYT has a more professional attitude and once in a while sends a reporter to give readers a more complete picture. (I’ve mentioned earlier one reason for this difference, namely that Russophobia, through some kind of epigenetic mechanism, seem to have become inherent in Swedish genes.)

With the morning coffee I consequently browse quickly through the DN site, continue with NYT to stop for some reading and then spend more time with The Nation and other informative links. In my opinion the prime voice of reason in NYT is Paul Krugman, an economist differing from many of his colleagues by using his brain instead of reflexively rely on dogmas from a depleted science. His progressive views are so rare in NYT that he appears to be a kind of liberal alibi for the prestigious paper.

(A cute parenthesis: for subscribers NYT has a top-10-list labeled “Recommended for you”. In analogue cases most sites has a simple plug-in that keeps track on visitor’s preferences, so that recommendations really reflect the reader’s interests. Not so the NYT; here “recommended” obviously means what the editor think I should read; hence links on that list very rarely fit my liking. But to find a link to Paul Krugman I just have to click on “Most read” or “Most emailed” instead, where Krugman’s columns regularly appear among the top hits.)

In his column today (ranked No 1 in “Most emailed”) Krugman has some really intelligent and informative commentaries on “Our Invisible Rich”. Developments have gone to such an extreme the last decades that people just can’t grasp how grotesque the inequality has become. In a recent survey people in various countries were asked how much they thought top executives of major companies make relative to unskilled workers. In the United States the median respondent believed that chief executives make about 30 times as much as their employees (which was roughly true in the 1960s) compared to the real figure which is something like 300 times more, not to mention the really lucky, like the top hedge fund managers, who pick up some 10 000 times more than an ordinary employee.

To this one may remark that neither Aristotle nor James Madison thought that such an unbelievable development would ever be possible. Both took for granted that a majority in a democracy would vote to expel inequalities of that kind, but they chose different solutions to the problem. Aristotle concluded that society had to accept equality as a basic principle, while Madison preferred democracy to be limited. One way for Madison to achieve this was to establish a senate not elected directly by voters. It turned out that Madison was too cautious; he had no clue as to what modern propaganda would be capable of in the coming centuries. Today the super rich are safer than ever from any democratic threats, though the senate nowadays is appointed directly by voters.

It’s not that people’s preferences are unknown. If they estimate the high boss’s salaries to be 30 times higher, they would prefer the difference to be considerably less. The tool to achieve that is called democratic struggle, and that is something bound to come – trough collective action.

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