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January 28, 2016

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From Arse To Elbow

The media don't discipline the electorate; they discipline political parties. The attitude of Progress is simply evidence of that.

One reason why people are turned off politics is because the agenda (of media-owners) bears increasingly little relation to their lives. For example, reporting economics largely through the lens of the City is a turnoff because most people simply do not relate to the economy in that way, regardless of where their pension pot may be invested.

Equating cognitive bias with ideology is misleading. The former is universal (it's the human condition), while the latter is tailored to a society. We also need to recognise that the ideology of the media has an industry-specific dimension. For example, the focus on national identity and ethical conformity has a lot to do with the creation of a market.

WHS

This is a piece with lots of polysyllables and is rather more nuanced than the myths peddled by the Beckett Report and on the left, on the lines of (I paraphrase) "The sheeple all were hoodwinked by the wicked Murdoch media, and THE DAILY MAIL (cue Hammer music, crucifixes and garlic)"

But ultimately doesn't it boil down to a rather similar argument, viz. people should have voted Labour, but were conned into voting Tory by false consciousness? That, really, 'austerity' is terrible and the working class should know they can never really escape their class, and they should accept their position and vote Labour with it, and that by not doing so they failed some sort of IQ test, or showed how selfish they are, or were victims of a 'world illusion', or whatever.

How about considering if the Tories win it might be because they're best for the country, would not screw up the economy whereas Labour would (being far more hurtful for the poor/disabled than any Tory policy) and the public sees that? Or is that too impossible to perceive?

chris

@ WHS - biases aren't a matter of IQ: very intelligent people are prone to them (see the world, passim). Nor is it a left-right issue: several of the biases I've listed might explain why the public are hostile to free market policies - esp the Leiser & Kril paper.
Even if the Tories are best for the country, that wouldn't explain why they got elected. And it wouldn't explain why over 60% of voters voted against them.

Igor Belanov

@ WHS

"How about considering if the Tories win it might be because they're best for the country, would not screw up the economy whereas Labour would (being far more hurtful for the poor/disabled than any Tory policy) and the public sees that?"

It's the same with ISIS. Nobody considers their benefits for women. No need for them to make difficult decisions about who to marry, what career to take or what lipstick to wear. Same with the poor and disabled under the Tories. The bedroom tax stops you from having to fork out for more wallpaper and paint to decorate your palatial council flat, and food banks take impossible choices like what brand of baked beans to buy away from you, leaving more time to plan holidays in the Maldives.

Bob

"How about considering if the Tories win it might be because they're best for the country, would not screw up the economy whereas Labour would (being far more hurtful for the poor/disabled than any Tory policy)"

Possibly. But both Labour and the Tories have it wrong on the economy. Government needs to engage all idle resources and people need to recognise that as the currency issuer it cannot run out of money, only stuff:

http://www.3spoken.co.uk/2011/01/how-governments-super-platinum-credit.html

dilberto

The fact that relatively popular politicians of both the left and right attract such uniform outrage from the media illustrates how narrow, prescriptive and exclusive the western media has become and how unrepresentative of the broad range of opinion among wider society which it is supposed to serve it is and now increasingly acts to restrict debate on issues which it finds controversial which do not conform to its narrow middle class politically correct outlook rather than to facilitate it.

Blissex

«It’s that voters can have mistaken ideas for reasons other than media influence. We know, thanks to the work inspired by Daniel Kahneman, that we are prone to many cognitive biases»

I seem to remember a very similarly worded previous post, and my comment is the same:

* I agree that propaganda only goes so far by itself, and that cognitive biases matter a great deal.

* But voters preferences can be very rational: for most voters things like austerity don't matter, but big tax-free effort-free property capital gains can matter a lot for the voters who return parliamentary majorities.

When people see for over thirty years a £10,000 a year net effortless profit for every £10,000 "invested" in a deposit their "aspirational" voting for those promising more of that need not suffer from any «mistaken ideas».

rogerh

Thinking about the political landscape, is there some some kind of hill-climbing optimisation to be found such that some way distant from our present Tory(ish) system there is a much better system available. If there were then why has no one else taken up that system and thrived, after all over history many ways of running a country and an economy have been tried. Just possibly better systems exist but neither political science not economics has found it yet.

So sadly for Mr Corbyn he is pretty much stuck. For it is not obvious (and would need remarkable proof) that some kind of left wing idealism would be better - and the burden of proof is on him, not the media nor anyone else.

Realistically I think we are stuck with shuffling our politics a few centimeters this way or that around the 'optimal' hill we have. Not very exciting but every alternative leads downhill with no prospect of a better hill anywhere.

gastro george

"The media don't discipline the electorate; they discipline political parties. The attitude of Progress is simply evidence of that."

@FATE Very good.

40-50 years ago, they were obsessed with the balance of payments, largely as a stick to hit Labour with. Nowadays it's never talked about. Instead we have the obsession with the deficit, largely as a stick to hit Labour with. Plus ca change.

Guano

This article by Brian Gould is relevant to this topic.

http://www.leftfutures.org/2016/01/is-labour-a-campaigning-party-or-one-that-follows-public-opinion/

Churm Rincewind

"I suspect the BBC should be scrutinized more closely" with regard to "mediamacro and bubblethink".

As far as I can establish, "bubblethink" and "mediamacro" are terms coined by CW and Simon Wren-Lewis respectively, and used exclusively by your good selves.

So it's hard to imagine why the BBC should be held accountable against loosely defined and unevidenced criteria just because it suits both your purposes.

gastro george

@Churm Language is always created dynamically to define things and convey information. In that sense, using "medimacro" is no different from "economic credibility". No point carping about it. Or maybe that's your point.

Keith

Off course it is very hard to objectively disentangle bias which is deliberate from bias which is mere social prejudice. J S Mill famously dismissed hostility to Female emancipation by saying it was mere prejudice repeated frequently enough to be accepted without thinking. Are we assuming here that media organisations have some duty to try and resist errors by scientific self analysis and how likely is it to happen? Are we assuming the body of citizens is duty bound to think more clearly and are derelict in their duty?

The Blarite right clearly have no solution to Labours problems as they keep failing to provide any. If you actually think society should change you have the same problem as the Labour left. Articulate the change required and provide a realistic path towards it. The last Labour leader failed in that job by being unconvincing about it.

As for Media macro the definition is given by Wren lewis; namely the absence of actual main stream macroeconomics in media discussion of the economy.

Metatone

There seems to be a rash of articles at the moment disclaiming the power of the media. That in itself should make everyone wary.

Of course it has always been the case that the power of the media is more about shaping agendas (what is important?) than directing actions (who to vote for?) - but as gastro george notes, there's a lot of power in shaping the agenda.

One of the big reasons it's stupid for Progress to deny all this is because it flies in the face of the reality that their Blairite heroes prospered in part through cutting a deal with Murdoch. In an era where Murdoch's right hand woman is a close member of the Chipping Norton set, this deal is unlikely to be replicated. So new tactic need discussing and developing.

Guano

"Progress says that Labour should stop blaming the media."

Though on the other hand, I know people in Progress who claim that their comparative advantage is that they are better able to handle the press.

Churm Rincewind

gastrogeorge:

"Language is always created dynamically to define things and convey information". I can't agree with that statement, although to be honest I'm not sure what it means. For example, are you suggesting that CD's and S W-L's coinages of "bubblethink" and "mediamacro" were created "dynamically"? How so?

Keith: I have a similar problem with your reply to my post. You say that "as for Media macro the definition is given by Wren lewis; namely the absence of actual main stream macroeconomics in media discussion of the economy". With respect, that's not his definition. He says: " A formal definition could be a set of ideas about macroeconomics promulgated by the media that seem very different to the macro taught to economic students".

Which is fine but not very useful as an idea, partly because he doesn't trouble himself with evidence outside of a small number of selected examples, and partly because it doesn't get us anywhere. We might as well complain that the set of ideas promulgated by the media about David Bowie's contribution to music seem very different from the musicology taught to music students.

Both complaints arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the interaction between the media and the public actually operates.

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