Bait-and-Switch Boosterism on Trade Pacts

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FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting)

Bait-and-Switch Boosterism on Trade Pacts

Corporate media's incredibly uncritical boosterism of so-called "free trade" deals has been remarked on many times, and continues to be remarkable.

What else but blind faith would allow a story to carry a line like one in the October 12 New York Times, about textile industry opposition to the new deal with South Korea: "The production of shirts and sheets has shifted steadily from the United States to countries with lower-cost labor. Economists argue that this process strengthens the economy as companies and workers shift to more productive and lucrative kinds of work." Of course, if the Times has evidence of laid off textile workers' mass movement to more lucrative work, they're sitting on the scoop of the century.

Elite media's presentation of deals like those just passed with South Korea, Colombia and Panama consists of a barrage of unchecked claims: This time around, those featured funny numbers from proponents, who spoke of increased export growth without talking about imports--kind of like giving half a baseball score--and misleading context, like setting the deals within a storyline about jobs when there's no evidence such deals promote them.

Then you get a line, like that in the October 13 New York Times, once the deals have passed and been heralded as a "rare moment of bipartisan accord," that "the passage of the trade deals is important primarily as a political achievement, and for its foreign policy value in solidifying relationships with strategic allies. The economic benefits are projected to be small."

Some would call that bait and switch. For the corporate press on trade deals, it's standard operating procedure.

Janine Jackson

Janine Jackson is FAIR's program director and and producer/co-host of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. She contributes frequently to FAIR's magazine, Extra!and co-edited The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s (Westview Press).

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