In George Orwell’s 1984, set in a pre-computer era, Winston Smith, working in the misnamed Ministry of Truth, alters documents that contradict or conflict with his totalitarian government’s take on history, wiping out inconvenient truths or revising them to fit the current template.
In 2010, the establishment press ramped up its propaganda role, acting as a collective of preemptive Winston Smiths. They ignored or massaged important news stories in ways that prevented the vast, relatively disengaged majority of the population (probably 85%, but perhaps as low as 80% thanks to the Tea Party movement) from getting their arms around the truth without doing a great deal of independent research.
Reviewing my blog’s 2010 posts, I thought I might have a hard time coming up with ten obvious Smith-like examples. I found about 50. If I’m lucky, I may have addressed 10% of the really offensive instances that occurred throughout the year. What follows are ten of the worst, with occasional multiple offenses packed into one item. Except for the final two, the worst by far that I found, they are in no particular order.
1. Refusing to describe the U.S. homebuilding industry and new home market as the worst since World War II. The current meme is that it’s the “worst in 47 years of record-keeping,” except that in most instances the “record-keeping” phrase is omitted, giving readers the clear impression that at least 2010 wasn’t as bad as 1963.
Reporting the truth would make it painfully obvious that the Obama administration’s HAMP (Home Affordable Modification Program) and other initiatives have not only failed to revive the market, but have harmed it. The press won’t tolerate that.
2. “Channel-stuffing” at Government/General Motors. From July through November, the company shipped 112,000 more cars to its dealers than its dealers sold, increasing dealer inventories to an unreasonable 90 days’ sales. In doing so, GM, which according to accounting rules recognizes a sale when a vehicle leaves the factory, created over $1 billion in shipped-ahead profit.
This is a very effective technique for dressing up the books ahead of an initial public offering and making things look good for a while thereafter. But it’s not sustainable without a huge upward spike in sales, which isn’t happening. None of this is news in the establishment press.
3. ObamaCare’s work and marriage disincentives. Robert Rector at the Heritage Foundation has shown that if ObamaCare ever takes full effect, those who wish to advance themselves could face marginal health care subsidy-loss rates of more than 100% (I’m not kidding). A person’s “reward” for earning more income would be having to pay more for the same health care coverage than the additional wages they have earned.
Additionally, couples who marry or wish to stay married would lose thousands of dollars a year by doing so. If not stopped, the subsidy structure will virtually kill any incentives for financial self-improvement, and will be a recipe for breaking up untold numbers of families. Of course, the establishment press has raised no concerns over this.
4. Global warmists’ admissions. First, there was Professor Phil Jones’s February concession that there has been no global warming since 1995. Then there was IPCC economist Ottmar Edenhofer’s frank November assertion that climate policy “is redistributing the world’s wealth.” Apparently only English newspapers and editorial writers at Investor’s Business Daily care about these things. Meanwhile, journalists moaned about how people were no longer buying into the supposedly “settled science.”
5. Multiple falsehoods packed into one report. For sheer volume and chutzpah, it’s hard to beat the falsehoods the Associated Press’s Martin Crutsinger churned out in one September dispatch. First, he informed readers that trillion-dollar deficits didn’t happen until two years ago (wrong; the 2008 deficit was “only” $455 billion). Then he claimed that tax collections through eleven months of fiscal 2010 were up from the same period in fiscal 2009 (wrong again; they were down). Finally, he wrote that government spending was down compared to the previous year (three times wrong; true spending, as opposed to “outlays” as defined by Uncle Sam, was up by over 4% at the time). I asked the AP to retract Crutsinger’s false claims. To my knowledge, the wire service never has, and the falsehoods are still out there.
6. The State in the boardroom. The “Small Business Lending Act” passed in the fall contains a little-known provision requiring banks wishing to participate to accept federal “capital investment” in their institutions. It’s little-known because the press has shown little interest in reporting it.
7. Flubbed scrub at the New York Times. The scrub goes back to a December 2009 article (the link is to the post-scrub version), but relates to the Ground Zero mosque, one of the most misreported stories of 2010. In August, as the controversy heated up, a few bloggers who had excerpted that December story noted that several passages were missing from the original, including this quote from GZM spokesperson Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf:
New York is the capital of the world, and this location close to 9/11 is iconic.
The article’s co-author, Sharaf Mowjood, is a “Former Government Relations Coordinator for the Council on American Islamic Relations.” It is reasonable to believe that Mowjood recognized the odious religious triumphalism in Rauf’s statement, and had it and other questionable items expunged shortly after they appeared online and before they went to print.
8. Skimmers, what skimmers? The press said virtually nothing about the EPA’s utter lack of preparedness for the BP oil spill. Journalists also took very little interest in the fact that several nations offered many forms of tangible aid to help the federal government contain and clean up the spill, and were either turned down flat or severely delayed. One Associated Press item whined that many nations wishing to provide help expected to be (gasp!) reimbursed for their costs.
9. He didn’t read it; what’s your point? Except for the uniqueness of the final item, this example would be firmly in the running for 2010’s worst media muff. In May, regarding Arizona’s commonsense immigration enforcement measure, long after irresponsible charges of nativism and racism had been hurled by many administration members, President Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder told Congress: “I have not had a chance to — I’ve glanced at it. I have not read it.” The press virtually ignored this shocking dereliction of duty.
10. Shirley Sherrod. No review of 2010 media “Smithing” can be complete without mentioning Sherrod, the USDA employee who was fired after Andrew Breitbart showed a video of a speech she made to an NAACP chapter. Sherrod and her husband Charles received the free press ride of the year. The $13 million the pair received in a farming racial discrimination lawsuit settlement just before she took her USDA job in July 2009 was almost never reported. The documented proof from a longtime leftist that the pair’s New Communities “cooperative” exploited child labor, paid less than minimum wage, illegally resisted union organizing efforts, and employed scab labor never made it into the mainstream media.
Finally, the press has fiercely resisted reporting the pervasive fraud in a related legal action meant to compensate black farmers who truly suffered discrimination in past decades. It is an operation that Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com recently exposed as a false claims gravy train. CNN actually covered for the government by relaying without question its contention that only three claims were fraudulent.
Will the press’s Winston Smiths be more or less aggressive in 2011? As New Media gets stronger, the establishment will likely get more desperate. So the answer is probably “Yes.”