A front page headline in today's print edition of the FT reads: "Malone close to victory in Charter's $55bn battle for Time Warner Cable."
Why use military terms to describe an everyday commercial transaction? When I bought a pint of milk this morning, I didn't consider it a victory. Why, then, should a takeover be any different - especially as many of them fail badly?
The answer lies in a paper by Olivier Fournot. He shows that one of the tricks bosses use to glamourize and legitimate themselves is to present themselves as Hollywood-type heroes: charismatic, often unorthodox, leaders. The FT's language of "victory" and "battle" fits this template more than would the more quotidian language of accountancy.
Bosses' legitimation methods don't stop here though. The media commonly pretend that bosses have objective expertise on economics - although they often don't - whereas trades union leaders are merely vested interests: compare, for example, the BBC's treatment of, say, Martin Sorrell and Len McCluskey.
It's not just words that help legitimate and glamourize bosses. So too do silences. The media rarely pose the knowledge problem: what can bosses know? And yet the answer might be: less than you think. And they rarely ask: could it be that bosses' success is due in part at least to luck? This is despite the fact that Alex Coad's work, showing that corporate growth is largely random, is consistent with this possibility.
For these reasons, what looks like neutral business reporting is in fact heavy with ideological bias. This is often inadvertent: I doubt FT subs last night thought "how can we help to glamourize bosses?" Media bias is not merely a matter of deliberate partisanship; it is often unconscious.
But it matters. The steady drip, drip process of legitimating top-down conscious control serves to take competing ideas of the agenda. Such ideas include market-based-management; the value of trial and error; the idea that economic processes are complex and emergent; and, of course, worker democracy. In these ways, boss ideology has contributed to what David Marquand rightly calls a "comatose intellectual conservatism."