The Effectiveness of Media

Not to bring up politics, however it is important to understand the effect that media can have on an entire nation. The “Spin”–which exists for both Right and Left politics–exists and has an overwhelming effect on all those who listen, read, or see. It is important for all people, all over the world, to question everything, research everything, and understand the true message that is sent to them. Although there are millions of examples, I am inclined to point to Michael Graham’s reference of Gregg Easterbrook’s Wall Street Journal article, “Life Is Good, So Why Do We Feel So Bad?“.

Campaigning in Pennsylvania in April, Hillary Clinton said “We need to go back to the prosperity of the 1990s,” a comment that drew loud, enthusiastic applause. Converted to today’s dollars, per-capita income in the Keystone State is 23% higher than in 1990. People may think Pennsylvania was more prosperous in the past, but the state is better off today. The same can be said for most (needless to say, not all) parts of the country and most demographics. Most are, right now, the best-off they have ever been.

The AVERAGE unemployment rate from January 1990 through December 1999 was 5.7625, the AVERAGE unemployment rate from January 2000 through May 2008 is 5.042. The media should have a foot note to Hillary’s speech with these figures. Facts.

How about inflation? In 1990 inflation was at 5.39%, 1995 it hovered around 2.81%, 2000 started at 3.38% before falling to 1.59% in 2002 where in 2007 it ended the year with an average of 2.85%. Facts.

Healthcare? The CDC reported in 2007 that the nation’s childhood cancer deather rate–kids and adolescents–decreased by 1.7% per year from 1990 (2,457 deaths) to 2004 (2,223 deaths).

The Iraq war? Many used to use the argument “We lost.” Today, the same people use the argument “It’s not worth it, anyway” simply because statistics show that the war in Iraq is working.

A recent CBS News/New York Times poll showed “Americans’ views on the economy and the general state of the country have hit an all-time low,” with 81% saying the nation is on the “wrong track” – the worst-ever number for this barometer. Some 78% told pollsters the U.S. is worse off today than five years ago, the highest percentage to say this since the CBS News/New York Times survey began tracking the question in 1986. Watch any news channel, listen to any political debate, read any pundit. The consensus is we’re headed to hell in a handbasket.

Some of the current gloom-and-doom may be explained by the human propensity to romanticize the past. Just what past would we return to, anyway? The 1950s, when there was systemic prejudice against African-Americans, women and gays? The 1960s, when inflation-adjusted per capita income was far lower than today? The 1970s, when high inflation rates wiped out paychecks and high interest rates made home buying difficult? The 1980s, when investors and people with pension funds were rooting for the Dow Jones to break 2000?

Of course a long, bloody and costly war being fought for no clear purpose depresses the national mood – as it should. The rest of the negativity is hard to fathom. Economic growth is slow, but even if a recession has begun, occasional cycles of slow or no growth are the price we pay for the much longer cycles of boom. Since 1992, the percentage of Americans who tell pollsters of the Pew Research Center they “can afford what they want” has risen steadily – from 39% in 1992 to 52% today, the highest ever. So why do we think the economy is failing?

All in all, these examples show that advertising and media are effective in persuading the viewer that refuses to look at all angles. Why does the media report only the negative stories, negative facts, and the negative spin of any issue? Do humans simply get more pleasure worrying and have something to “try to make better” rather than seeing that progress has been made in just about all areas of life–if you look at the whole picture?

A prime example are the “You May Already Be A Winner” sweepstakes. The average person sees them and throws them away knowing that there is some catch or scam involved. But a recent discussion at VeeDeePee comments on there being over 100 “versions” of these packages created, and over 750 million pieces are sent each year with dramatic results. Are people naive or just plain hopeful?

Life is about ups and downs, look at averages and medians, not snapshots fed by the media. Do yourself a favor and do some research before beliving what you see in the news or advertisements.