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December 02, 2009


Liam Murray

I suspect the public are "stupid, bigoted and illiberal" for a variety of reasons - few of which (if any) politicians have it in their gift to change.

Which is why - despite finding most of his news output deeply offensive - I tend to side with Murdoch & NewsCorp everytime the left try to give him a kicking over his alleged pernicious influence on our political life. As the man himself pointed out yesterday (http://www.newscorp.com/news/news_435.html), give punters what they want and you'll make money.


Makes me think of the elasticity rule of thumb you quoted a while back. I suspect influence of newspapers is much smaller than expected in the short run (as suggested by this study), but I wonder whether there isn't a quite large cumulative effect over the long run. Most people change their core political beliefs and voting intentions glacially slowly, but I suspect a drip, drip, drip of daily information does lead to change in time.


@Liam: "give punters what they want and you'll make money". This always makes me wonder why such allegedly ruthless businessmen cut themselves off from ~half their audience. Why not take advantage of the economies of scale and publish a lefty Sun with a different front page and editorial? Or is it important that "your side"'s political opponents dislike "your side"'s proprietor, as a sign of "your paper"'s authenticity?

Liam Murray

It's partly positioning yes - but arguably Murdoch does this already. OK, there's no lefty Sun but the idea that Times is politically in the same place a Fox News is clearly a nonsense so Murdoch does calibrate message to support better audience share already.

Innocent Abroad

Chris, leftism is based on the moral principle that we should at least want to care for other people's children as much as we do for our own.

Bare that maxim to the average woman or man, however, and they will fear you to the point of wishing you dead.

Charles Wheeler

I've long thought there are two possibilities: either 'the masses' are manipulated by a plutocratic media machine, pushing crass consumerism and a celebrity-driven culture in the interest of an ideology that masks the true nature of the neoliberal project, aimed at dismantling post-war social democracy and the ameliorating effects of the welfare state in favour of the controlling minority - or... the people actually do get what the people want, and media preoccupations really do reflect the concerns and prejudices of the populace.

I'm not sure which scenario is more depressing.


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I suspect that the public as a body is the wisest judge in the country. Those individuals who are idiotic in one direction are canceled out by others idiotic in another. It is commonplace for proponents of one cause to point out the idiots opposing them- and universal for them to ignore the idiots supporting them.
Of course that does depend on the aggregator working properly- which is why we need to tighten up on electoral fraud.
Incidentally the market price for anything is simply the aggregate of the views of all the people- including the ones who wouldn't take a gold ingot as a gift, and those who would pay a thousand pounds for a grain of the stuff. The market of course has the benefit that people's decisions have an immediate effect on their lives, so people really try to get the price right.
Anyone who thinks the public (as a body) is a fool is a fool himself.
BTW ref. an earlier post, where you advocated developing a system of selecting representatives by the revealed choice of the electorate (rather than merely what they say)- I couldn't agree more, and feel some form of market mechanism might provide a means.


Generally people read the newspapers that fit with their long-term political viewpoint. So lefties read The Guardian, and fascists read The Mail.

However, I think the Sun is unique, in that its readership are the working classes that you would expect to vote Labour. So I think the Sun moving to the right can influence its readership, in a way that no other newspaper probably can.


A very silly paper. Yes a newspaper explicitly declaring its support for a particular party is unlikely to directly affect the readers' voting choice. No serious advocate of the idea that the media are influential would suggest such a thing. Rather, the media, over time, highlight certain issues, privelege certain viewpoints, which certainly do shape what people think about issues. If the Sun, for example, bangs on about immigration and evil Muslims for years, then voters will be more inclined to vote for the party that addresses those 'problems'. Whether, after years of such racism, the Sun then backs Labour, which may take a more liberal line on immigration than the Tories and BNP, is irrelevant; its years of support playing to the BNP agenda will help boost their vote.

As for Liam's suggestion that Murdoch and the commercial media 'give people what they want', I can only recommend: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=10152.


Link without the period that messes it up:


Thomas Byrne

I don't really think you're getting the point (Although I may be missing it too).

The impression I get is that the tabloids like the Mail set the opinions, and then the parties move to adopt policies to match it, like the correction when the BNP nabbed two seats within the Labour party.

It's not surprising it doesnt impact elections.

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