New York Times Propaganda and Fallacies (James E. Miller)
Tuesday September 25th, 2012
Perusing the New York Times editorial page on any given day should give any reader of average intelligence the indication that only zombies of men aimlessly barking one liners of "tax the rich" and "support the middle class" actually take the writing seriously. Certainly some of the paper's frequent writers add a bit of wit between their leftist rant. Yet the overall message remains the same: the state knows best. From welfare to warfare, the propaganda machine is in full effect seven days a week. Even much of the Grey Lady's reporting was revealed to be done only with the permission of the White House last July. Apparently the "newspaper of record" is only allowed to recite what is deemed acceptable for the much-too-impressionable public.
Judging from the recent slew of exclusive reporting on President Obama’s vile and dictatorial counter-terrorism strategies, the New York Times looks to be the administration’s preferred mouthpiece when it can’t legally speak on its own. Information is far too vital to the political class’s well-being for it not to be filtered before public consumption. The various injustices carried out by the state and its uniformed minions wouldn’t continue if they were widely known so consent, to borrow a phrase from Noam Chomsky’s and Edward Herman’s famous book, must be manufactured. Chomsky aptly puts it:
The bewildered herd is a problem we’ve got to prevent their roar and trampling. We’ve got to distract them. They should be watching the Superbowl or sitcoms or violent movies. Every once in a while you call on them to chant meaningless slogans like “Support our troops.” You’ve got to keep them pretty scared, because unless they’re properly scared and frightened of all kinds of devils that are going to destroy them from outside or inside or somewhere, they may start to think, which is very dangerous, because they’re not competent to think. Therefore it’s important to distract them and marginalize them.
The goal of state-friendly media is to preach the civic religion of the holiness of government officials and their actions. It is to instill passive complacency in public policy no matter the critical objections. Two demonstrative examples in the New York Times last week stand out like a sore thumb.
Columnist and Princeton economist Paul Krugman is no stranger to economic fallacies. In his unwavering effort to champion price inflation as a means to snap the economy out of its funk, Krugman penned an editorial recently defending Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's decision to engage in another round of security purchasing. This effort, popularly known as Quantitative Easing 3, is considered "a welcome move" by Krugman as it would do a number of things including "making U.S. exports more competitive" and "encourage more private-sector spending right away." To the layperson unable to think past the immediate effects of any given event, this policy might seem wonderful. But of course printing money is never a panacea. The various hyperinflations of the twentieth century are a testament to that.
Still, Krugman continues with a surprisingly candid point on how Keynesians view the creation of currency out of thin air. Often times, defenders of the Keynesian doctrine will give different reasons on why inflation is economically beneficial. Most will never equate money printing with actual wealth creation however. But Krugman does take that step as he writes that inflationary policies ensure "stocks will rise, increasing wealth."
Did you catch that? Here, a man awarded with the most prestigious honor an academic economist can receive is quite literally asserting that printing money creates wealth. This is no out-of-context fishing attempt. Clear as a cloudless day, Krugman writes that the existence of more dollars is the same as more capital and consumer goods. The most misunderstood economic lesson in all of history is that money is only ever used to facilitate transactions. In a fiat economy, there is no other function for it. Fiat dollars are not the same as factories, machinery, or raw materials. They are not smartphones, televisions, or refrigerators. An increase in the supply of money only devalues the value of already existing dollars. It often translates into higher stock prices because financial institutions are first in line for new money within an economy regulated through central banking. It must be remembered that as hyperinflation raged through Zimbabwe, the country's stock market was the best performing the entire world. It isn't hard to imagine that if the U.S. were experiencing the same kind of massive inflation which plagued Zimbabwe and drove the country's residents into abject poverty, Krugman would be cheering on the stock market's performance as parents paid for a loaf of bread for their children with a wheelbarrow of money.
The real purpose behind inflation is to give the impression of feeling wealthier. This is just a psychological mind game combined that lasts only as long as money continues to spew forth from the printing press. Like his posturing over fairness by increased taxation, Krugman relies on sparking emotion to back his recommendations rather than reason. The New York Times editors themselves attempted the same trick in a recent editorial slamming the U.S. tax code for taxing capital gains at a lesser percent than income and wages. Because of the differential between the rates, many private equity firms use loopholes to declare management fees as investments rather than income; thereby avoiding the higher tax rate. This egregious action of avoiding filling the coffers of the state should be made "illegal" immediately according to the editors.
What isn't proposed is bringing the rate of taxation on income and wages down to a level close to capital gains. Though such a lowering of rates would make the tax code more "fair" in a sense the option is neglected. Higher taxes are necessary for continual government expenditures. The appeal is for state dominance above all things. The fact that capital investment is the only source of long term economic growth matters not to the government’s appetite for revenue.
In her book The Discovery of Freedom, Rose Wilder Lane spoke of an unquestioned allegiance to Authority as a driving factor throughout human history. She saw mankind in a constant struggle between freedom and power with the ruling class trying to maintain legitimacy in the eyes of those who they lord over. As long as their rule was seen as overly justified, it would continue. The New York Times still uses its revered position to carry water for the regime; no matter the party in office. That way it remains within the good graces of the ruling class and still stays relevant.
George Orwell made the rulebook on press propaganda when he wrote "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." It is through mere pieces of paper called Constitutions that small bands of men have bestowed upon their successors the authority to rule. As far as human achievement goes, none have topped the feat of supposedly vigilant media that institutionalizes a pitiful lack of protest by the masses toward state power. On a daily basis drivel which would make an unkempt vagrant on the street seem semi-intelligent is spewed forth from newspapers and television in an attempt to fortify government with a believable justification to govern. The man with a gun to his belly and a hand in his back pocket is spun tales as to why the thief in front of him is doing it for his own good. He pays tribute not just through his wallet but by his convincing himself that it is for the greater good; a good that has been decided for him by others.
And just as rigorous thinking is frowned upon in the sphere of public education, so too is it kept away from the pages of the mainstream press. When the news editors, statist commentators, and academics speak, all should listen and accede. Thankfully, with the rise of the decentralized internet, the New York Times is losing its profit stream. For those tired of the spin, its final demise can't come soon enough.
James E. Miller holds a BS in public administration with a minor in business from Shippensburg University, PA. He is the Editor in Chief at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada and a current contributor to his hometown newspaper, the Middletown Press and Journal.