Mediacheck

If Global Economy Crumbles, Blame Murdoch

His greed driven agenda to misinform the US public has led to political meltdown and debt disaster.

By Mitchell Anderson, 18 Jul 2011, TheTyee.ca

Rupert Murdoch caricature

Rupert Murdoch: Created a monster that may devour him, and us. Image: DonKeyHotey/Creative Commons.

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As the United States lurches towards bankruptcy, Republican lawmakers seem almost quaintly divorced from frightening reality unfolding beyond the Beltway. The world's largest economy will default on their $14 trillion debt on August 2nd sending global markets into another tailspin -- unless a deal can be brokered to balance the books. The repercussions for Americans could be even more dire with increasingly alarmed creditors already considering raising interest rates on the beleaguered U.S. treasury.

Sounds serious. Yet Republicans -- who cast themselves as sound fiscal managers -- have snubbed an offer by President Obama to slash $4 trillion in spending because it would also include modest tax increases on some of the wealthiest people on the planet. In fact all but 13 of the 288 GOP members of Congress have signed a pledge to oppose any tax increases regardless of the consequences.

Obama has as much as fallen on his sword to seek a deal, enraging his base by offering Republicans cuts to such iconic Democratic programs as Medicare and pensions. Yet rank and file Republicans in the U.S. Congress seem perfectly prepared to drive their economy off a cliff rather than risk the wrath of their Tea Party constituents by parting with rigid ideology. The Economist described the position of the GOP on the debt ceiling as "economically illiterate and disgracefully cynical." So what's going on?

Ungovernable ignorance

Perhaps large segments of the American population have become so astoundingly ignorant of basic principles of economics, science and politics that the most powerful nation on Earth has become virtually ungovernable. Consider this:

- Eighty per cent of Tea Party supporters oppose raising taxes on households with more than $250,000 in income.

- Only 14 per cent of Tea Party supporters believe climate change is happening now.

- A mere 8 per cent of Republicans believe that humans evolved without the intervention of God.

- Sixty-six per cent of Republicans are more concerned with raising the national debt ceiling than the U.S. going into credit default. Among Tea Party supporters, that number rises to 75 per cent.

It could be that democracy in America is working just fine. The problem is that the electorate has become so badly misinformed that GOP lawmakers trying to save their nation (and the world) from bankruptcy are hamstrung by the collective ignorance of their constituents they pledged to represent.

Murdoch's boomerang

Loopy conspiracy theories have become so mainstream in America that at times the U.S. electorate seems to resemble Lord of the Flies more than the bastion of rational thought envisioned by the founding fathers. While this used to be merely a tragedy of American politics, it has now become a real threat to the global economy.

Perhaps no one media outlet has contributed more to misinforming Americans than Fox News, owned by now disgraced media tycoon Rupert Murdoch. Recent studies have shown that Fox viewers were significantly more misinformed on healthcare reform, the proposed mosque in N.Y.C., and climate change. The consequences of this intellectual pollution are now playing out in corridors of Washington, and may have grave repercussions throughout the world if a debt deal cannot be reached.

Meanwhile Murdoch's media empire is rapidly unraveling in the U.K. and is facing similar scandals on this side of the Atlantic. The FBI has recently launched an investigation into allegations that Murdoch's News Corporation may have hacked into the phones of 9-11 victims -- presumably to help sell newspapers and ad space as is alleged in the U.K.

The optics of these allegations might begin to shake the faith of Tea Party followers but it is too late to affect the outcome in on-going debt negotiations in D.C. The one take away is that the media should not be treated as a typical business sector. It has the power to shape the character of a nation. Long after the dust has settles on whatever outcome prevails regarding the U.S. finances, there remains a much larger task of rebuilding political and intellectual literacy in America.  [Tyee]

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