The Media’s Manipulation of Public Opinion
With today’s jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor, I can’t help but point out one obvious reason why democracy is so superficial these days. Today is a perfect example of how mainstream media aims to manipulate public opinion and attention in the name of profits. This morning, the government’s job report was released, estimating that the U.S. economy added 69,000 jobs in May. Immediately, every major news outlet seized on the much-anticipated report to grab people’s attention and drive consumption of news.
There’s nothing wrong with reporting news on a timely basis, but creating headlines that incite panic and make outright assumptions of the future without more information is wrong. Obviously, when people read headlines like “Jobs Forecast Shifts Electoral Outlook,” “Worst US Job Data in a Year Signals Stalling Recovery,” “World Growth at Risk as US Employment Stumbles,” and “Total Mess: Dow Jones Suffers Losses For Year After Bleak May Jobs Report,” they immediately think that the economy is headed in the wrong direction and that the person responsible for it is the President, in this case Barack Obama (check out the screenshot from the Huffington Post; it’s absolutely ridiculous). Not one article or TV outlet mentioned the fact that the main reason why the economy is slowing is because of the GOP’s obsession with ensuring that government does nothing in the short-term to boost the economy, a strategy designed to do just what it is doing: scare people and hurt President Barack Obama. The headlines simply point to Obama’s chances in the 2012 election given the slowing economy, not the fact that the GOP is responsible for the slowdown in the economy.
How can we have democracy when the media is interested in always seizing opportunities like these to distort and hide the truth? The vast majority of people get scared when they read or listen to headlines like these, and few demand an explanation for why the economy is slowing. It should be the media’s job to provide that explanation in an unbiased way, not to scare people. Scaring people in this way simply causes them to do exactly what is counterproductive to the economy: spend less, invest less, and hire less.
Today’s jobs report is indeed bad news. But even worse news is the fact that the media wants to capitalize on it to scare people and further divide public opinion to have a more contested and less predictable presidential election. In the end, that’s what makes them money in the short term, even if it hurts them in the long term.