"Staging" the U.S. Economy (September 2, 2008)
Before we begin. . .
The goal here at OTM.com is make sense of the many forces at work in the U.S. and global economies--and that includes the "soft" cultural forces for which there are few meaningful metrics.
In other words, a chart can illustrate some metric of change, but it does not locate the causal factors, which are often obscure to those of us in "real time"/the present and to those with little grasp of history.
It is extraordinarily easy to fall victim to subtle efforts to "frame the debate" and massage the context of what is presented to us as "information" and "facts." We must constantly recall that "information" is not "knowledge."
Thus the goal here at OTM.com is to probe deeply precisely where the Mainstream Media is silent--large cultural/economic changes which have been obscured by either the stunning superficiality of the MSM and/or the subtle desire to avoid anything which might challenge what I call the The 3P Economy (Propaganda, Pandering, Posturing).
The "con" that is the 3PE requires "marks"--people who willingly fall for the con via greed, a desire to avoid work/sacrifice and a childish preference for denial. So the vast majority of us are complicit in the 3P economy in some way: borrowing more than was sensible, consuming more than we needed, letting the protest fall silently from our lips, voting for the same old representation, demanding little truth, and allowing ourselves to be distracted with iPods, hours of TV, trumped-up ideology wars, etc.
Some of the blogosphere seeks to render us victims of conspiracies over which we have no power. Yes, conspiracies of all sorts do exist--for what is conspiracy but collusion which must remain secret to function--but a complacent mark to go along with the con is still required. The idea here at OTM.com is to refuse the easy mantle of "victim" and stop falling for the con.
I'm making two small changes to the format: I will try to add readers' comments about each
entry the following day, and then respond briefly to your comments. I am also
posting a brief selection from my catalog of novels, so that you can decide for
yourself if it's amateurish plonk or better-than-you-guessed entertainment.
The entire U.S. economy is as "staged" as the phoniest, most wretchedly obvious attempt to mask a home's true problems. Let's refresh our memories of how the informal but nonetheless very real Ministry of Propaganda plies its trade:
Before you scoff too heartily, consider this:
And a wry look at the reality of life for the dwindling number of reporters in MSM newspapers:
Let's run through how the MOP manipulates how we "frame the debate".
1. "The only measure of economic growth is GDP." (Statistical Lies, Government Division) And magically, GDP never goes down--so ergo, all those empty storefronts and that heating oil bill that doubled-- those don't mean squat, Jack, take it from us: the "reality" is the economy is just fine and you're whining because, well, you're a whiner.
For a super-rare flash of truth in an MSM financial magazine, check out this "opinion" piece (note it couldn't be placed in the main news section--that would have been scary): Welcome to the Frozen Economy (BusinessWeek)
2. "Housing has bottomed". (Statistical Lies, Private Division) Do ya reckon some folks are desperate to make you believe that the housing bubble bust is done, and now is the perfect, ideal time to jump in and BUY BUY BUY that first, second or third home/"investment property"? Heh. The first step of skepticism is to ask who benefits and who loses if this is in fact a con.
In the real world, the same old cons are still working: lie on your mortgage app and a sleazy broker will get you the loan (and score the fat commission) so you can stop paying your old $5K/month mortgage and buy a new house for only $2K/month: read on: the Housing Bubble Blog.
3. "I will give you a $1,000 tax break, create 5 million new jobs, stand up to Big Oil, etc." (Big Lie, election-cycle rinse/wash). The high season of pandering has begun. Candidates are proclaiming right and left that they will "stand up to Big Oil". Nice, but since "Big Oil" only controls 13% of global oil supply, then exactly how does standing up to a faltering, marginalized 13% slice of global oil accomplish anything of value?
Pander, Baby--the sky's the limit--they fall for it every time. "Compassionate conservatism"--barf. "Yes we can"--barf. Grab a $5 billion slice of "Big Oil's" obscene profits--great, you've just reduced the Federal Deficit for the year by 1%.
Amidst all these pandering giveaways--where is the money coming from to pay for it all? Hmm, never a mention of that, is there? I know, I know, tax everyone who makes more than $250K/year --and that magically creates $500 Billion? Pandering requires an audience too drugged or complacent to ask the hard questions, and so far the MSM and American public are playing right along. Just pander to me, baby, and I'll vote for you, because I want to believe that simplistic giveaway will really change my life for the better. Heh.
4. "All this innuendo is defamatory and false--our institution is fiscally sound." (Honorary Ken Lay Awards to the Management of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, et al.) Posturing is the new American Perfection of Lying. Accused of taking steroids? Go on the attack, accuse everyone who doubts you of racism, character assassination, and so on, until you're busted, and then "clear the air" with a tearful confession and that good ole American tradition, the Plea for Forgiveness. Uh, right. Are we supposed to forget your wild, flaming accusations and unshakeable statements of your innocence and purity?
Sports can easily be dismissed as circus and bread, but when leaders of global financial institutions stand up and posture, then there are consequences. The poor dumb marks who actually believed the lies held on and were ruined, while the "smart money" recognized a last desperate con and sold sold sold.
The sad truth is that virtually nothing in the U.S. economy or media is believable. It is all spin, con, posturing, pandering, from the phony statistical "proof" that everything is just fine to the "calls for change" (no change in the borrow-and-spend deficit) and the phony electioneering pandering to "bases."
Was it ever any different? Well, the manner in which the government cherrypicks "data" has certainly been massaged over the past decades, and ever since Reagan was declared the "Teflon president" we have seen a public willingness to believe what we want to believe as opposed to a healthy skepticism.
So yes, there are still plenty of marks and ever-more lobbyists and well-paid spinmeisters. But the con seems to have deepened, and now engages virtually all the influential players (see chart above). Is it a conscious economywide con? The collusion needn't be spoken out loud, for the fear doesn't even need to be voiced or addressed: don't rock the boat or you may be out of a job/commission/ contract. Thus it is fear of the inevitable coming collapse which powers the players to maintain the con.
Sure, one reporter's skepticism can be printed on page A-13, but his/her voice is easily drowned out with hundreds of breathless stories on the candidate's piccadillos or pronouncements, sports scores, iPod sales (up, you see, the economy is still booming, and Apple's going to $200/share) and the rest of the purposeful noise which passes for "news."
If we stop buying the con, the con man/woman has to move on or (gasp) try an honest living.
New Book Notes: My new "little book of big ideas," Weblogs & New Media: Marketing in Crisis is now available on amazon.com for $10.99. Here is a review of the book:
Charles Hugh Smith's "Weblogs & New Media: Marketing in Crisis" is one of the most important business analyses I have ever read. It is the first to squarely face converging global crises from a business perspective: peak oil, climate change, resource depletion, and the junction of key social cycles will radically alter the business landscape in coming decades.
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