Stewart, Cramer, Media and Markets
By Michael McGehee at Mar 13, 2009
So here it goes...
I watched the original Daily Show segment about Santelli, CNBC and the financial crisis. It was really funny, interesting and informative. But...
No one seems to have noticed that Comedy Central is owned by Viacom and CNBC is owned by GE (80%).
My thoughts kept lingering around the rhetorical question, "Why is Jon not analyzing Viacom companies too?" The question is rhetorical for obvious reasons that don't need to be spelled out.
Watch the videos if you haven't already. They are good, but keep in mind that the Daily Show attack has an unmentioned competition factor (one media conglomerate versus another).
Cramer has obviously been called out and I am sure folks could easily sift through Viacom media outlets (e.g. FOX News) and do the same thing.
But my last concern about this is arguments I have heard about where to place blame. Should we blame the companies for the bogus loans or the buyers for buying them?
Should we look at this systemically anti-social feature of markets - buyers versus sellers - as a critique that transcends the above question?
I think we could and should answer both.
1) We should blame the buyers. Look at the segments of CNBC shows the Daily Show broadcasted to get a good sense of how buyers were manipulated into thinking their decisions were sound. And it wasn't just these media shows. The banks who approved the loans no doubt have loan officers who were very assuring, and there is also a widely held (faith-based) belief in our economic and political systems. Plus, we should also consider how much buyers simply don't understand the volatility of markets and our economic system in general. Sure, most Americans understand greed is prevalent and CEO's are shaddy characters, but I wager that most of the foreclosed buyers, and most consumers in general, have a very poor understanding of market systems. The sellers, on the other hand, know and understand this all too well, which is why Warren Buffett could openly say his trick to investing is to be greedy when others are fearful and fearful when others are greedy. In other words, two things rule the market: fear and greed. Even Bill Gates has recently chimed in with an analysis in markets by saying they dont drive people to do good things. I simply cant blame people for their ignorance when it is drilled into them with such precision (i.e. manufacturing of consent) from so many facets of social life. Besides, for many critics who blame the buyers hindsight is 20/20.
2) This leads me to what should be one of our main goals: educating people on market systems. For a long time my motto for my interests insocial organizing is: Get Educated, Get Organized, Get Active! When consumers are better educated on the existing economies no doubt they can make better decisions, but that education can and I bet will be a spark that ignites organizing and ultimately action that leads to alternatives. This is what I have found to be so important and inspiring in Participatory Economics/Participatory Society. There is a massive reservoir of information to educate us, to guide us in our efforts to organize.