New Study Claims Mistruths Shaped Rush to War
Is The Same Type of Misinformation Influencing Economic Coverage?
It took almost five years for major studies to come out to confirm what most of us knew a long time ago about Iraq. The conclusion: the lies "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
So now it's "official" with two top journalist organizations documenting that the war in Iraq was facilitated and sold with a whopping 935 misleading assertions. May we ask: Why is it that truth takes so long come out in a land which proudly claims to have the freest media in the world?
If this happened in the recent past could the deception be continuing? If there were 935 lies abut the lead-up to war, how many are there today about our economy and the crisis we are now just beginning to experience?
Keep in mind that old adage: truth passes through three stages. First it is denied. Then the people who raise it are demonized. And finally, when it is irrefutable it is widely accepted usually with the proviso that everyone always knew it all along.
That is what seems to be happening today with a remarkable recent shift in political and media pronouncements about the economy. They have gone from boom to gloom, from inattention to "deep concern," from boosterism to worries not just about a recession-and many experts say we are in one-but something worse. A crash? A financial meltdown? A global downturn? A Japan-like "stagflation?"
Or horrors, may my mouth be still, will anyone express fear of that dreaded "D word," a depression?
As one who has been called an "alarmist" for forecasts warning of a "sudden collapse" in my film In Debt We Trust (In Debt We Trust.com) I know that the media prefers good news to bad, But what are we to make of a New York Times front page story with the headline "worries that the Good Times Were Mostly A Mirage" suggesting that we may have been misled, or misled ourselves, for years.
This is a point that Mike Adams makes with stunning clarity: "As the markets are finally demonstrating today, the "economic good times" spurred by a runaway housing price boom (and powered by astonishingly fraudulent lending practices by dishonest banks) are over. A day of reckoning has arrived, and the unwinding of this false wealth that has been propping up the U.S. economy for so many years is about to be unleashed upon the American people."
Will we soon be reading new studies cataloging all the errors and omissions in government statements, industry hype and business reporting that did not anticipate or glossed over the slow-motion build up of the economic downturn.
For weeks now, the markets have been falling or experiencing volatile shifts, dramatic ups and downs, suggesting deeper worries and anxiety. Now we are told that the mood up on the mountaintop in Davos where the super-elite of the World Economic Forum hold its annual tribal ritual is one of unconcealed dread.
In short, as we learned from all the misleading hype for the war in Iraq, that experts are not so expert. In fact they were mostly completely wrong. We know now that most of our politicians, regardless of party, bought into the mythology and may be incapable of telling the truth even now.
The pattern continues with critical voices on the economy not being heard with any regularity. The business press still relies on the analysts and CEOs who downplayed past problems or were complicit in present ones. Even billionaires like George Soros are covered more in Europe than in the US. He had his latest commentary in London's Financial Times sent to me. It suggests that this crisis, unlike earlier ones is much more severe and signals the end of an era.
And that is serious:
He writes "the current crisis marks the end of an era of credit expansion based on the dollar as the international reserve currency. The periodic crises were part of a larger boom-bust process. The current crisis is the culmination of a super-boom that has lasted for more than 60 years."
He concludes: "The danger is that the resulting political tensions, including US protectionism, may disrupt the global economy and plunge the world into recession or worse."
Note the phrase, "or worse."
Michael Dicks, head of research at Barclays Wealth, told the Independent: "The risk for policymakers is that they become seen as ineffectual, and the Fed had itself already inferred that its past program of interest-rate cuts has not been up to the task. We remain worried that the overly negative reaction of markets will become more and more self-fulfilling, polluting economic fundamentals."
Translation: The stimulus solutions are not a panacea and this crisis is beyond anyone's control because it is driven by unpayable debt, a deficit driven by war spending, structural imbalances and business cycles.
And, unfortunately, as Bill Bowles notes, our media often obscures the reasons for the panic and instead spins the upbeat drumbeat of officialdom by:
"Never call(ing) a recession a recession, just keep on saying that it's 'around the corner, maybe', a ridiculous response given that we are already in a recession as any fool can see.
'The big question is whether we are just seeing a bad month for shares - or whether this is the start of a bear market that could see share prices sliding for years.'
So questions get answered with, you guessed it, more questions."
But maybe "THEY" don't have answers-as we would expect them to-- and perhaps we do in the sense that the public and advocacy groups do not have to accept the flawed media framing of these issues that proved so wrong about the war then, and deceptive about the economy now.
We don't need more after the fact studies but, instead, robust action that will be stimulus for more economic equity, not subsidies for the institutions that caused the crisis in the first place.
News Dissector Danny Schechter wrote SQUEEZED, an e-book chronicling the crisis and calling for better media coverage. He is also "blogger-in chief" of Mediachannel.org, His new film is IN DEBT WE TRUST: America Before the Bubble Burst (Indebtwetrust.com) Comments to Dissector@mediachannel.org