More than a decade ago Ben Wattenberg wrote a book with the marvelous title, The Good News Is The Bad News Is Wrong. If that book were republished today I would change the title to The Bad News Is The Good News Is Ignored.
It isn’t surprising that in the world of media reportage only bad news counts. The problem with this condition is that it feeds a generally one dimensional view of politics, a misperception of the world that promotes weltschmerz and despair.
Most of the reports about Iraq, for example, emphasize sectarian violence, failed policy and tactical errors. Overlooked, with rare exceptions, is that the “surge” and an emphasis on counterinsurgency have had a profound effect on the war effort. Civilian deaths have fallen 77 percent year over year, while military fatalities have declined by 64 percent.
Needless to say, nirvana has not been achieved, nor is it appropriate to declare victory, but the trend line is clear. Al Qaeda is in retreat. Even many Sunni leaders who had provided sanctuary for Al Qaeda terrorists have turned against them. Recently the Washington Post and the BBC finally admitted that violence in Iraq is abating, but these stories appeared well into the third stage of the campaign and remain aberrational in media coverage of the war.
Second, it is noteworthy that Democratic candidates for president have placed a great emphasis on income disparity in the nation. The quasi Marxist contention is that the rich grow richer and the poor, poorer. Yet the evidence provides a somewhat different picture.
The middle class has more disposable wealth than ever before and the lowest quintile has actually improved its annual income. Moreover, the numbers overlook the extraordinary mobility of one group rising and some falling back. But perhaps the most significant finding is that the percentage of those who are poor had declined slightly and the percentage of those who earn above $150,000 per annum has increased (controlling for inflation).
Needless to say, this condition may not attract the attention of “two Americas” speech-makers since the reality is much less provocative than assertions of economic exploitation. But surely there should be space somewhere in television land where the nuanced story of class income can be described.
Last, it is often said by the panjandrums of television news that most Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. Presumably workers are distressed by dreary dead-end positions. Yet recent polls tell a different story with more than two thirds arguing that they are satisfied or very satisfied with their present positions.
It should also be noted that most Americans between the ages of 25 and 45 change jobs multiple times indicating that there are several opportunities to find employment satisfaction. In a society that has made the transition from an industrial base to an information structured economy, those who obtain skills can dictate to the employment market. This may be the first time in history that labor influences management more than the reverse.
These largely undisclosed, or should I say non-publicized, accounts are part of a consistent media view. In the 1960’s it was argued, due in part to Paul Erhich’s book The Population Bomb, that the world’s population would double in every subsequent decade. Of course, that hasn’t happened, but the recantation hasn’t either. It was argued four years ago that several islands in the Pacific would have to be evacuated because the ocean would rise due to global warming. But the devastation of these atolls has not occurred and the media organs responsible for the initial accounts are silent.
The drum of beat of negativism is unrelenting. There may be some good news stories on t.v. and in newspapers, but it is simply hard to find them. I wonder what kind of effect s steady diet of negative news has on the public. No, I need not wonder; I see it in the mind set of nihilists who preach despair and the end of the American experiment.
Herbert London is president of Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of New York University. He is the author of Decade of Denial (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2001).
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