Why do people hate the media so much?

by on September 19, 2016 at 2:55 am in Philosophy, Political Science, Television, Uncategorized, Weblogs | Permalink

Haven’t you noticed this?

I have a simple hypothesis.  No matter what the media tells you their job is, the feature of media that actually draws viewer interest is how media stories either raise or lower particular individuals in status.  (It’s a bit like “politics isn’t about policy.”)  That’s even true for this blog, though of course that is never my direct intention.

But now you can see why people get so teed off at the media.  The status ranking of individuals implied by a particular media source is never the same as yours, and often not even close.  You hold more of a grudge from the status slights than you get a positive and memorable charge from the status agreements.

In essence, (some) media is insulting your own personal status rankings all the time.  You might even say the media is insulting you.  Indeed that is why other people enjoy those media sources, because they take pleasure in your status, and the status of your allies, being lowered.  It’s like they get to throw a media pie in your face.

In return you resent the media.

A good rule of thumb is that if you resent the media “lots,” you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought.

1 Ryan Reynolds September 19, 2016 at 3:01 am

Or alternatively, you find it difficult to separate the substance of an argument from the political appetite for it. You may not value politics at all.

2 Heorogar September 19, 2016 at 8:06 am

Orwell: wrote something to the effect that politics are essentially coercion and deceit.

For the media the “news” is not truth. It’s that which advances the progressive agenda. That is any distortion, exaggeration, fabrication, false equivalency, misdirection, omission, . . . they can put out on the air or in print.

Twain: “If you don’t read the papers you are uninformed. If you read the papers you are misinformed.”

The media is politicized and wholly-owned by Democrats and liberals. Latest case in point: Hillary campaign steals “donations” from people’s credit cards: the Democrat media provides cover: Omission – the silent treatment. If it had been Trump it would be exaggerated and repeated 24/7. They’d air 16, hour-long documentaries presenting weeping, old women lamenting their stolen rent money.

People (68% polled) distrust the media. The question is the 32% – how did they become brainwashed?

3 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 9:53 am

“For the media the “news” is not truth. It’s that which advances the progressive agenda.”

There is also the (smaller) counter-media which advances the conservative agenda, but there’s an obvious agenda on both sides and the truth and facts are just lip service. There is no source in the middle.

4 Floccina September 19, 2016 at 11:22 am

The media is focused primarily on selling ads.

5 giantslor September 20, 2016 at 11:46 am

“For the media the “news” is not truth. It’s that which advances the progressive agenda.”

Actually: “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.”

6 Colin mclean September 19, 2016 at 4:14 pm

I hope this vague quasi intellectual Ryan Reynolds response isnt Deadpool. If so…,,

7 Kristian Koerselman September 19, 2016 at 3:04 am

To which degree is the premise a US phenomenon?

8 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 4:17 am

Just about all of it, actually (including my referencing Facebook in the comment below). But most Americans have little idea just how unusual their society has become. This recent Washington Post article is essentially reporting from an alien planet when read through European eyes – https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/guns-and-sodas/2016/09/17/805e0db4-79e9-11e6-bd86-b7bbd53d2b5d_story.html?tid=pm_pop_b

9 Doug September 19, 2016 at 4:42 am

Whenever I see some pathetic European weenie comment about how he feels sorry for the US, it makes me think about the exchange in Mad Men. Ginsberg tells Don Draper that he doesn’t think very highly of him. Don responds back “I don’t think about you at all”.

Again, notice how the cultural substrate of our communication is through English referencing American television. There’s a reason we’re not speaking German and talking about Deutschland 83.

10 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 5:20 am

‘Whenever I see some pathetic European weenie comment about how he feels sorry for the US’

Well, considering that I am American, and I do not feel sorry for the greatest nation ever in the history of the entire human race, I see you are off to a wonderful start to demonstrating certain common American traits, such as actually believing that no Americans live anywhere but in the U.S.

‘Again, notice how the cultural substrate of our communication is through English referencing American television. ‘

You are right, that is pretty typical for two Americans.

‘There’s a reason we’re not speaking German and talking about Deutschland 83.’

You’re right again. Even if you spoke/read German, being American myself, it just makes sense to use English here. I’ll admit I have no idea what ‘Deutschland 83’ means, though.

11 CorvusB September 19, 2016 at 8:10 am

No idea what Deutschland 83 is? We can fix that.

12 liam September 19, 2016 at 9:53 am

“Deutschland 83 [ˈdɔʏtʃlant dʁaɪ.ʊnt.ˈʔaxtsɪç] is an eight-episode German television series starring Jonas Nay as a 24-year-old native of East Germany who in 1983 is sent to the West as an undercover spy for the HVA, the foreign intelligence agency of the Stasi. It is a co-production of AMC Networks’ SundanceTV and RTL Television by the production company, UFA Fiction,[1] with international distribution by RTL Group’s FremantleMedia International[2][3] and North American distribution by Kino Lorber.[4] The series premiered on 17 June 2015 on the SundanceTV channel in the United States, becoming the first German-language series to air on a US network.[5][6] The broadcast was in the original German, with English subtitles.[7] It subsequently aired in Germany beginning in November 2015, and in the UK on Channel 4 beginning in January 2016.”


13 Peter Akuleyev September 19, 2016 at 2:29 pm

Almost no-one in the German speaking world has heard of ‘Deutschland 83’, for some reason RTL (the German broadcaster) didn’t promote it, it was shown over a few nights in November and disappeared without a cultural ripple. The German networks seem uncomfortable with quality, easier to give people watching formulaic crime shows and reality shows with lots of nudity. The German networks have essentially ceded the “quality” television audience to Netflix, Amazon and bootlegs.

14 msgkings September 19, 2016 at 3:14 pm

prior, just because you are not European doesn’t preclude you from making a boatload of pathetic European weenie comments here every day.

15 Tuvea September 19, 2016 at 10:04 pm

If you prefer reality to fiction you may not enjoy the current set of “journalistic” fictional offerings masquerading as ‘news’. Or even an obscure reference to a fictional German TV show.

If you wish for a look at reality from the DDR:


When the media gets around to reporting about everyday life in the Socialist Paradise of Venezuela I might start paying attention to their squawks.

16 Peter Akuleyev September 19, 2016 at 6:36 am

That Washington Post article is talking about a world just as alien to any upper class urban American in the Bay Area, New York or Boston as it would be to an architect in Munich or Barcelona. On the other hand, I bet I could find plenty of gun-toting rural French, Austrians and Brits who would probably at least sympathize with the idea that the world is becoming a scary crime-ridden place thanks to foreigners and that protecting yourself is the only option. The real divide in attitude is not between Europe and America, it is a class divide between globalization’s winners and losers.

17 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 9:55 am

“The real divide in attitude is not between Europe and America, it is a class divide between globalization’s winners and losers.”


18 AlexanderRM September 22, 2016 at 12:22 am

That article reads like reporting from an alien planet to me (an American in Massachusetts), and most likely to almost all of the Washington Posts’ readers as well- they’re not writing it as an example of a completely typical American; nobody writes articles like that*.
I must say I’m disappointed; I was assuming the article was about something meta-level relating to political polarization, implying some of these things are different in Europe. Personally I don’t get the sense “the media” was so hated in the U.S. in the 1950s or so, so I’m skeptical of Maginal Revolutions’ explanation covering it fully- I’m guessing a vital aspect is that people think of media sources other than the ones they watch when they say “the media”, or something like that.

*Now that I think about it, there would be a lot of benefits to reporting like that, esp. for historical records but also for contemporary audiences- just select 5-10 random people from a country and report on their lives.

19 Peter Akuleyev September 19, 2016 at 6:26 am

To which degree is the premise a US phenomenon?

Not at all, the same premise applies very well to the German speaking world, where there is certainly quite a lot of hatred towards the media amongst conservatives. The mainstream German media dismisses a lot of political discourse as simply beyond the pale of any right-thinking person, and that creates a lot of frustration. In the UK on the other hand there is an expectation that the media is biased, a wider range of viewpoints can be found in the “prestige” press and newspapers are fairly clear about their political allegiances so there is less anger at the media as a monolithic institution.

20 dearieme September 19, 2016 at 6:33 am

But there is a lot of animus against the BBC, which conspicuously has its own policies on virtually every political issue, and advances them unscrupulously while making fatuous claims to be disinterested. I dislike it intensely, even when its policies happen to agree with mine.

21 Kevin F September 19, 2016 at 7:56 am

I tried to explain to a German friend that the mass murder of blacks by the police is largely a media fabrication, and he asked why the media would do that. I was stumped on how to explain. I said well it’s not a conspiracy, the media is just… biased. It felt lost in translation.

22 The Other Jim September 19, 2016 at 8:11 am

>mass murder of blacks by the police is largely a media fabrication

Mass murder by police is “largely” a fabrication????

The fact that you are afraid to put the word “entirely” into that sentence, either to a foreign national or in an anonymous comment on a blog that no one reads, says volumes about how effective the media is about creating reality.

23 derek September 19, 2016 at 8:11 am

Why would they do it? Because they can. Because they can be the center of attention for a while, get viewers. What isn’t to like about fomenting a riot and then doing 24 hour media coverage?

1991. CNN, with the Gulf war coverage. It was very interesting coverage, real on the ground news, backed by the 24 hour wall to wall CNN on every screen tv. Does anyone remember when Saddam started shooting missiles into Israel, and how the world collectively held it’s breath waiting for the reaction, whether the whole US alliance would fall apart? This was probably one of the first moments when a very large portion of the world was thinking in unison.

Anyone able to pull that off would not be human if they didn’t feel the frisson of unlimited power. It was a remarkable event. Governments in the US have been trying to recreate the every eyes on us moment of the Apollo missions when they landed on the moon. Media will forever be trying to recreate that CNN moment.

So what if some people get shot. There are lots of angry blacks out there, lots more. Lets get everyone looking.

Trump is doing everyone a favor by playing these bastards like a fiddle.

24 Gabe September 19, 2016 at 11:45 pm

Oh ya who could forget the amazing television journalism done in the first gulf war. It is truly astounding how dumb and naive the american public was…ME INCLUDED!


25 Massimo Heitor September 19, 2016 at 2:52 pm

Is it a “media fabrication”? It’s a political fabrication. The media is involved, but there are media outlets on all sides of that issue trying to shape narrative in different directions. And the actors involved in perpetuating that narrative aren’t strictly media actors.

26 AlexanderRM September 22, 2016 at 12:27 am

If you’re referring to the uncontrolled tendency of the media to overly focus on the murder of blacks the same way they focus on violent crimes over cancer (i.e. weird quirks of human psychology and sociology where people pay attention to things other people are talking about, rather than “the media wants to push a message about the mass murder of blacks”), I can’t imagine there isn’t a similar effect in Germany- on the other hand, the vast majority of Americans aren’t aware of the effect, so I’d assume most Germans wouldn’t be either.

27 derek September 19, 2016 at 7:16 am

It is as bad in Canada. There is something to what Tyler says; the media here represents a group of people and pushes it’s stories. It isn’t that I hate the media, they are simply worth ignoring. With exceptions, usually hard news about events, I come out of listening to a media story knowing less than I went in.

28 Lee A. Arnold September 19, 2016 at 8:58 am

Kristian Koerselman: “To which degree is the premise a US phenomenon?”

The answer to this is very interesting (to me at least) but a bit lengthy. There are three things going on here, 1. status, 2. mass-media technological evolution, 3. the confederacy of reportorial dunces.

1. First we need to broaden the word “status” because for most people it refers to “social class” (in traditional societies) or “income level” (in democratic societies). This definition is predominant among social scientists. But status also has the component of you being a “center of attention” (so entertainment performers have “status”, for example) and/or you pertaining to a group that has an agreed-upon center-of-attention. This part appears to be difficult for many people to comprehend.

This part of status is not directly related to displays of wealth but it has an “economic function”, and it is very strongly related to the two “motivated social cognitions” or “social cognitive biases” of the left/right political split that emerged into full public consciousness in the middle of the 18th Century. This social form of cognitive bias is group-based (therefore “social’), for a very good reason: largely, you do NOT think; instead you refer automatically to the priors of your own in-group, for risk assessment and planning. (And the possession of wealth was a very good way to avoid certain kinds of risk.) Rational cognition is an add-on to this; it comes after the group emotion is expressed. So for example, currently on the left we see distrust of genetic foods, and on the right we see dismissal of the dangers of increasing global warming. Then afterward, the scientific explanations which are brought forward by both left and right to justify their positions are chosen and construed by the social emotions, not by logic. Indeed the fact that many scientific topics deal with n-body complex systems (i.e. biosphere & climate, ecology & health) which can never be deterministically predicted, and so the risk is a statistic, gives everybody the freedom to avoid coming to any conclusion that is opposite to their in-group bias. Instead, you go and find more information from the attention-center to which your in-group pertains. This is economic: it is more efficient, more conservative of both your personal time and your brain energy. Status is not only your station, it is identification with those whom you pertain to — and it has a brain-economic function.

In modern technological society (from the explosion of newspapers in the 19th Century, through to the 20th-century broadcast media), those necessary attention-centers have grown into large industrial complexes of information-gathering and dissemination. If you find one that goes against your in-group bias, you don’t like it, you ignore it. It threatens you and your group at a basic, existential level: it threatens your assessment of risk and future response to risk.

2. This attention-center function was largely stabilized socially throughout the 20th Century. Why? Because A) the technology of broadcast media was large and expensive (therefore there were few outlets or networks) and because B) the media was one-way: it was difficult to talk back. This condition was partly alleviated by “letters to the editor” in a newspaper, and by the public commitment of the broadcast networks to be honest and fair-minded (however far they strayed from those commitments). USians in their 20’s may find it difficult to understand the more unified expectations of society 30 years ago, before personal computers, internet & smartphone, much less the expectations of society 25 years before that, when Walter Cronkite was the “most trusted man in America”. Now the restrictions by “few” and “one-way” are disappearing fast, and with them, any expectation of trust. What we have instead are networks and web pages that express bias for the in-group attention centers.

It strikes me that this is not unlike the condition of information in the 19th Century and the days of “yellow journalism”, and if anyone knows of a good book or study which overviews the conditions of political partisanship that were enabled by newspapers, particularly starting earlier from the U.S. War of Independence and the French Revolution, I would like to know about it.

There is another reason that US social risk felt more stabilized in the 20th Century and that is, C) because the US grew into a superpower, and it felt good to be an American. This has various psychological ramifications obviously but I would mention two very different ones here: The reduction of risk at the end of the Cold War (1991) transferred the US public emotions of fear onto domestic problems such as crime and there appeared a rather immediate, significant uptick of such frontpage reportage in the media — despite the fact that the domestic violent crime statistics started going downward. On a very different path, the US currently is coming to grips with its slow loss of superpower status in a multipolar world, and so, personal risk assessment has started turning more negative. (E.g., Donald Trump is attempting to capitalize upon it.) Remember: for almost all people this is emotion first; then entrained intellectual cognitions coming afterward.

3. It is enough to add that most reporters are not very good at what they do (to be charitable about it!) and moreover they are mostly swayed by their own social cognitive bias on the left or right. (This shouldn’t be surprising, even when they are educated: just look at the spin that many economists put on things!) In turn, this has revealed the public’s condition, all along the history: stupidity and bias. This revelation has been secured by the end of mass-media monopoly in market economics: the explosion of media outlets, the implosion of corporate spending on serious news and analysis, and the market dominance of infotainment news, in the US both emotional (Limbaugh, O’Reilly) and comedic (Stewart, Colbert). The only way out of the coming disaster may be the invention of smart pills to get everybody’s IQ, and attention spans, out of the ditch.

29 Lee A. Arnold September 19, 2016 at 9:16 am

I should add one thing there at the very end. The loss of corporate spending on serious news and analysis, is at the same time a loss of corporate spending on the training of serious reporters.

It doesn’t matter how much school education you get. To be a good reporter you have to work for a stable corporation that defends your news collection and analysis from the vicissitudes of the marketplace, and offers you a stable job position and a future with a retirement. The unprotected news marketplace is not honesty’s friend. Indeed current lack of media stability and secure audience is likely to make reporters more susceptible to falling back into their own in-group bias, in order to stabilize contacts and audience-following, to attempt to reduce risk in a career path (i.e. to have “status”).

30 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 11:43 am

“If you find one that goes against your in-group bias, you don’t like it, you ignore it. It threatens you and your group at a basic, existential level: it threatens your assessment of risk and future response to risk.”

This part seems to be wrong or at least not very right.

Most people don’t ignore it because, “It threatens you and your group at a basic, existential level”. They tend to be hostile towards it because they notice the “wrong” things the Other media says and the “wrong” things said are highly annoying.

If it’s your side saying it and you realize they are wrong it’s first downplayed and second, probably a topic that you don’t care much if they got it wrong. There’s an inherent selection bias going which presorts for both the Source and the Audience. If someone has a high intolerance for misleading statements, they probably tune out completely.

31 Lee A. Arnold September 19, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Sure, it is not their stated reason for saying something is “wrong”. They believe that it is about objective fact. But this is about the real cause, not the personal justifications. The experimental literature on motivated social cognition shows that the reason why in-group members feel things are “wrong” is ultimately because the things violate the status quo of the group’s own ideas of the assessment of the risks of existential danger (which perhaps unjustly abbreviates a political science literature that was started at least a few decades before Kahneman and Tversky worked on cognitive bias.) It is a “selection bias” but not originating at the individual level: it is informed by the in-group, and adopted by the individual. Perhaps it is a herd instinct caused by habituation in mirror neurons? We may one day find out, but for now, who knows?

Thus if you ask readers of Socialist Worker why Breitbart is wrong, or ask readers of Breitbart why Socialist Worker is wrong, you will receive an individual response that the facts are wrong (when very few objective facts appear at either website!). It is their first reported reason. But it is often possible to get them to express the real reason: if you question your interlocutor further, the individual response might be heard that these websites, if those ideas were followed, would destroy society etc. In other words, what they think is “wrong” boils down to what emotionally threatens them at the level of their in-group perception of existential risk.

32 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 5:04 pm

“Thus if you ask readers of Socialist Worker why Breitbart is wrong, or ask readers of Breitbart why Socialist Worker is wrong,”

Sure, but that’s not “most people”. Oh, I suspect most people fit that description with regards to some topic. Certainly there are plenty of people who care very little about politics but are passionate about sports. However, speaking about American politics, it’s far more likely to be a level of sensitivity versus some kind of existential threat.

Certainly someone who found a source to be an existential threat would advocate for some kind of suppression. And yet, how many American’s think the news should be censored and advocate for that censorship? I think that number is pretty low.

33 Lee A. Arnold September 19, 2016 at 10:11 pm

“Most people” aren’t following the details about climatology, but there is a group that accepts the scientific consensus, and a group which does not. What is the cause of the “sensitivity” of the second group?

34 Major September 19, 2016 at 3:06 am

This is because journalism majors are at the bottom rungs of graduates (measured by GRE and SAT test scores). They’re the lowest IQs on college campuses, and it’s not a surprise that their views are quite different from those of higher IQs.

35 Pizza Man September 19, 2016 at 4:36 am

I can’t tell if the irony in this comment is intentional or not.

36 tjamesjones September 19, 2016 at 5:04 am

yeah & same for your comment

37 Major September 19, 2016 at 7:35 am

Let me guess. You majored in communications. Not a shock that people like you are quite unintelligent.


38 mavery September 19, 2016 at 8:51 am

If you want to say journalism majors are dumb, therefore their reporting tends to lack logical construction, that’s a reasonable argument. But when you say, “their views are quite different from those with higher IQs”, it’s really not clear at all what you mean. Their views on the best Golden Age of TV show? Their views on the correct pronunciation of “bagel”? The views from their porch?

If you’re talking about political views, I’m not sure what the correlation is between IQ and the left/right spectrum, but I’m certain its nonlinear.

39 msgkings September 19, 2016 at 3:21 pm

There’s more than one way to pronounce ‘bagel’?

40 VJV September 19, 2016 at 11:40 am

This is a silly comment for any number of reasons, but there are lots of journalists who did not major in journalism and/or communications. It’s not really a field that can be adequately captured by looking at college majors.

41 Tank September 19, 2016 at 4:09 am

Republicans should heed this message. qz.com/783240/americas-trust-in-the-media-has-sunk-to-a-new-low-and-donald-trump-is-proudly-taking-credit/

42 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 4:13 am

‘No matter what the media tells you their job is’

Not many people seem to hate the world’s largest Internet media provider, though admittedly, Facebook is not interested in doing anything but making money off everyone else’s efforts.

‘the feature of media that actually draws viewer interest is how media stories either raise or lower particular individuals in status’

Mood affiliation, Prof. Cowen, mood affiliation.

‘The status ranking of individuals implied by a particular media source is never the same as yours, and often not even close.’

Facebook and its feed selection backend eviscerates this argument.

‘You might even say the media is insulting you.’

Why would anyone would think that, particularly in an age where finding media outlets that will completely pander to any audience involves a click or two?

‘In return you resent the media.’

That ‘you’ seems oddly misplaced.

‘you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought’

Mood affiliation, Prof. Cowen, mood affiliation.

43 msl September 19, 2016 at 4:20 am

Kind of a strange theory in that in that, if status is zero-sum, and media content is unbiased, it predicts no variation in hatred for the media. I actually agree with prior_test2 here (mood affiliation).

44 msl September 19, 2016 at 4:24 am

*variation in hatred for the media over time.

45 Josh September 19, 2016 at 6:41 am

They could increasingly lower the status of a large number of people while raising the status of a small number. This could even make sense given the shift from advertising driven revenue to securing frequent billionaire bailouts.

46 msl September 19, 2016 at 7:04 am

OK, but in this case media content is biased, which would be a more straightforward reason for disliking them what TC puts forth.

47 Edenist Whackjob September 19, 2016 at 4:21 am

They lower your status, yes. But a policeman who arrests you for murder is also lowering your status, rightly so.

The difference is the media pretends to have moral and intellectual authority, which they don’t have. Anyone with an ounce of pattern-recognition will recognize the vast amount of reality-editing the media does every day.

What’s worse, the media is not allowing the target to retort. And if you can’t argue with someone, all you have is hate. Anger is the emotion of action and wanting to fix things, after all.

Tldr: media are bullies who lower status without having the right to do so and won’t allow free debate to right one’s honor. This leads to either submission (and massive amounts of cognitive dissonance because the mind always knows when it’s going along with bullshit) or massive amounts of anger, because, well, that’s the only you can respond to a bully.

48 Edenist Whackjob September 19, 2016 at 4:24 am

To be told what to think, to have reality edited to a much narrower slice than what you’d prefer, to be allowed to counter-argument, to be bullied without cause… is a very childish situation to be put in. Children might need that, but for adults it’s infuriating.

My hypothesis: the media treats us as dumb children, and anger ensues. Their insults would be fine if they assumed I was an adult. Trump is an adult insulter – he’s not nearly as infuriating because he allows the victim “to come right back at him” in a sense. It’s more of a meta-insult thing – it’s the way they do it. Territorial infringement via insult -> no way to rationally respond -> massive anger to eject invaders.

In essense, anger at media is a way of saying “stop messing with my head!”

49 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 5:25 am

‘To be told what to think’ juxtaposes nicely with the concluding line of Prof. Cowen’s post – ‘A good rule of thumb is that if you resent the media “lots,” you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought.’

Though trying to figure out whose status is being raised or lowered in that juxtaposition would likely require an almost herculean Straussian attempt at interpretation. After all, is the enjoyment of simple amusement at words on a screen status lowering or status increasing?

50 Boonton September 19, 2016 at 7:11 am

One type of media I see every day are the endless Facebook articles your right wing friends will share or comment on all the time. If ‘reality editing’ annoys people what can explain those? They all share the same type of cheesy reality editing clips. A provocative headline, an outrageous assertion (like “Obama plans to ban Christian Church services so refugees aren’t offended!”). The sites are clearly click bait, always purporting to be some ‘news service’ no one has ever heard of.

So if reality editing annoys people, why when given the chance to choose themselves do they opt for it?

51 Real September 19, 2016 at 7:40 am

I just googled for you example link and couldn’t find it. Care to send me the link?

Funny how people like you are so intellectually dishonest that you fabricate propaganda to push your agenda.

52 Niroscience September 19, 2016 at 12:51 pm

A lot of them tend to be infographics on facebook groups/pages that get tons of shares – oddly a lot of radio stations…

There are certainly left-wing/”SJW” analogues that my activist friends share but “infographics” are particualrly potent among conservative retired women with short hair.

53 Art Deco September 19, 2016 at 9:10 am

One type of media I see every day are the endless Facebook articles your right wing friends will share or comment on all the time.

No, you don’t, because your right-wing friends use Facebook to post pictures of the grand-children. It’s your left-wing friends who have to send you John Oliver clips every day.

54 Ricardo September 19, 2016 at 10:08 am

The idea that right-wingers don’t share or comment on right-wing content on Facebook is laughably inaccurate and out of touch. It was slightly true five years ago because lots of older right-wingers didn’t know how to use Facebook and so would share and forward articles through email. Now, it’s definitely not true except perhaps in your specific social circle.

55 DF September 19, 2016 at 10:42 am

Seriously, the right-wingers I know are some if the most prolific sharers of political articles.

56 ThomasL September 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm

“But a policeman who arrests you for murder is also lowering your status, rightly so. ”

It is a small point, but properly speaking you lowered you own status when you committed the murder. The police simply make it manifest. A person that “got away with murder” would also have their status lowered.

The argument regarding the media as a bully (which is fair) is that the raising and lower of status is based on something more like bigotry (ie, who you are, or at least what group they lump you in, and whatever advantage they’d like to have over the group) than some specific thing that you have done.

Like Trump? CNN or NRO alike say you are an uneducated racist hick.
Like Hillary? Reason.com says you are an authoritarian thug.

Is it true? Who cares.

Of course, there really *is* something to be said about you from what and whom you choose to support. To support Stalin was not a morally neutral thing.

But the media criticism here is where Frankfurt’s idea of bull**** comes in to play. If you are merely trying to smear the person you don’t like, you say anything and everything with no regard whatsoever if it is true and hope something sticks. If their status is lowered, that is a win, you don’t care how.

To take your analogy, it would be like the police arresting you for murder–not even to cover up for the real criminal, which might make a kind of perverted sense–but without even caring if you were the real criminal or not, just so long as they think it makes them look good.

57 Les Cargill September 19, 2016 at 4:21 am

Which “the media”? How can people possibly use media sources as a status-game? How could that even work? Is this like the drinking game “Hi, Bob”?

You can play “Spot the Fallacy” against talk radio. Its advised you don’t take a shot after each because the game won’t last very long.

This is media for you: It’s there to sell you to advertisers. This part doesn’t actually bother me. I’ve found useful things through advertising. So that part is a “marriage broker”.

The rest of the material is designed, consciously or not, to lead *up* to the ads. “We’ll be right back with images of ground up puppies after these commercial messages” – they know you will sit for the train wreck. Meanwhile, the ad modulates your stress level down ( while at the same time is incredibly loud and annoying but in a VERY POSITIVE OR ENTERTAINING WAY).

Seriously – read the ( slightly paranoid ) “The Hidden Persuaders”. It’s all right there; the OSS propagandists were let go after the swing to SIGINT at the advent of the Cold War and they infested Madison Avenue. Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays was their lizard-king ( in advance by a few years, and ignoring his real accomplishment, the invention of PR ).

But it’s all cognitive dissonance all the time. Whether it’s willing suspension of disbelief or the sleight of hand of commercials, the coin of the realm is *your* cognitive dissonance..

No, I think people hate the media because they eventually get saturated by cognitive dissonance. Enough of that and the general free-floating anxiety so readily available these days and…

I don’t “hate the media” because I simply don’t participate any more, except for specific things that I DVR and then skip the commercials.

58 Tyler September 19, 2016 at 4:35 am

People mistrust the media because they define the media as “the media I don’t agree with”. They don’t distrust the media they agree with, not by a long shot. E.g conservatives bitching about the media while placing a lot of trust in Fox – they are not including Fox in their definition of “the media”.

59 Les Cargill September 19, 2016 at 5:16 am

So it’s just more narcissism then.

60 msgkings September 19, 2016 at 3:25 pm

Indeed, narcissism and partisanship (which is itself a form of narcissism….MY team is always right, etc)

61 Bob from Ohio September 19, 2016 at 9:13 am

“they are not including Fox in their definition of “the media””

True* but Fox came into existence as a specific reaction to the remainder of the media. A lone conservative voice in a left wing wilderness. So there is truth to the belief it is not “the media”. I also note that liberals do not consider “FauxNews” to be “the media”.

*Its not nearly as true anymore. Shepard and Wallace are widely considred to be little different than anyone on CBS or NBC.

62 Cpt Obvious September 19, 2016 at 4:42 am

They are totally right by distrusting media. US media is not much more reliable than Putin’s RT…

63 Bob from Ohio September 19, 2016 at 9:14 am

At least RT is openly biased.

64 Andrew Swift September 19, 2016 at 5:35 am

I’m not sure if hate is the right word, but… let’s take the New York Times:

Last week they published a long article entitled “Nigeria Facing ‘a Famine Unlike Any We Have Ever Seen”, and neglected to mention that the average fertility rate is about 7 children per woman.

They published an article about violence at the Chicago Donald Trump rally, implying that Donald Trump was to blame when virtually all the violence was caused by extreme left-wing activists that went there explicitly to prevent the rally from unfolding as planned.

They reported that 2015 was the hottest year ever, neglecting to mention that it was by .01 degrees. I don’t think anyone could measure the annual temperature of my house that accurately, and to imply that we have that kind of accuracy in measuring the temperature of the planet is beyond absurd.

They reported on the events in Ferguson and consistently characterized Michael Brown as “an unarmed black teenager”, instead of a 6’4″ 300-lb person who had just robbed a convenience store.

It does become hard to take the media seriously when you see this kind of reporting.

I’m not asking for reporting I agree with, I am just asking for reporting that doesn’t leave out big chunks of relevant information because they’re inconvenient.

65 Albert September 19, 2016 at 5:43 am


66 asd September 19, 2016 at 5:46 am

“Last week they published a long article entitled “Nigeria Facing ‘a Famine Unlike Any We Have Ever Seen”, and neglected to mention that the average fertility rate is about 7 children per woman.”

Had they mentioned that, they’d have been wrong. Fertility rate in Nigeria is at about 5, and has been plummeting for years now. Not that this would affect the reasoning behind your comment, but anyway.

“They reported that 2015 was the hottest year ever, neglecting to mention that it was by .01 degrees. I don’t think anyone could measure the annual temperature of my house that accurately, and to imply that we have that kind of accuracy in measuring the temperature of the planet is beyond absurd.”

You’re not arguing against the media here, you’re arguing against climate scientists. What are your qualifications with regards to climate science? Let me guess: you’re just an engineer in a completely unrelated field.

Yes, you’re literally asking for reporting you can agree with.

67 Andrew Swift September 19, 2016 at 5:54 am

A Google search for nigeria fertility rate shows 6 births per year, reasonably stable since 1960 with a peak of almost 7 in 1982. In my opinion that is relevant to an article about famine.

It is true that I have a bone to pick with climate scientists, but I still think that when you say 2015 is the hottest year on record, the “by how much” is very relevant.

If the story is not that the whole planet is hotter, but that certain areas are much hotter or much cooler than usual, then they should report that. For the record, I do believe that global warming is real. Here in France the grape harvest is earlier every year.

I’m not an engineer or a scientist. I have no expertise in any of these fields. But I do try to follow up and see what the actual information is in areas that interest me.

68 Scott H. September 19, 2016 at 7:02 am

If we accept the AGW hypothesis and predictions then we should be celebrating the .01 increase for how low it is. The rate of the warming matters. Thank goodness the rate is matching historical trend and not IPCC models.

69 msl September 19, 2016 at 7:05 am

@Andrew Swift

Pretty silly to argue that the fertility rate is independent of famine in an African country.

70 Horhe September 19, 2016 at 8:16 am

I think Niger is at TFR 7.

Niger being the dry place place where the wet regions segue geographically into what Nigeria calls dry regions. And where the population grew from 3 million to 18 million in a few decades.

71 Chip September 19, 2016 at 9:18 am

That small difference in temperature was also small than the range of error. The scientists chose an increase when they could just as easily have chosen a decrease.

They chose it to push an agenda.

So unfortunately many climate scientists behave like journalists, and the public’s trust has declined in both .

72 BFB September 19, 2016 at 8:57 am

“Economics is primarily useful, both to the student and to the political leader, as a prophylactic against popular fallacies.”
-Henry Calvert Simons

There are few things in life that perpetuate those fallacies more than the media.

73 Dude September 19, 2016 at 9:50 am

This is the best comment of the thread in that it supports Tyler’s proposition almost perfectly. Well done.

74 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 12:06 pm

I think you missed entirely with this remark.

Andrew Swift’s complaint was based upon the media propensity to leave out significant details that don’t jar against their chosen narrative. Whereas, Tyler was referring to things that affect status.

75 mr mcknuckles September 19, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Famine is mostly a political event, whether it’s because of wars or crazy economic policies, with birth rates having very little to do with it.

The last big famine in India, for example, was in 1943 (when there was a war on, and few imports). Total fertility rate was around 5 in the 1950s, and didn’t get below 4 until the 1990s. Yet no widespread famine in later years, because the democratic government was at least functional (green revolution played a part too).

North Korea’s fertility rate has been close to the typical developed country for decades, yet they had a crippling famine in the 90s because they are run by sociopaths. Similarly, last big Chinese famine occurred during the cultural revolution.

I think, at least in this case, you are displaying your biases, rather than the media’s.

76 Ricardo September 19, 2016 at 1:30 pm

“Last week they published a long article entitled “Nigeria Facing ‘a Famine Unlike Any We Have Ever Seen”, and neglected to mention that the average fertility rate is about 7 children per woman.”

The article was written by Associated Press and here are the first two sentences: “The whimpers from skeletally thin babies too weak to cry are a harbinger of worse things to come: A quarter of the children lucky enough to make it to this emergency feeding center are dying. They are the latest victims of Boko Haram’s Islamic insurgency.” [emphasis added]

What is your basis for claiming high fertility is the cause of the famine rather than Boko Haram?

77 Andrew Swift September 20, 2016 at 10:40 am

I assumed that since Nigeria is facing many difficulties because of their population growth, the causes and or effects of famine would certainly be tied to birth rate.

However, I’m not knowledgeable on Nigeria and don’t want to stake out a position on it. I find it hard to imagine but I admit that there is conceivably no relation between population growth and famine in Nigeria.

In their article about the strains of population growth in Nigeria, the NYT does not mention hunger: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/world/africa/in-nigeria-a-preview-of-an-overcrowded-planet.html

To come back to Tyler’s original article: my emotional reaction to the NYT’s omissions is a sort of positive emotional charge: “here they go again, leaving out important information”. It validates my feelings of superiority, and at the same time creates a sense of loneliness. If one sees that the emperor is wearing no clothes, it’s hard to feel welcome in public discourse.

Separately, I get a good positive charge from reading an article that gives me information I didn’t have and helps me change my opinion and become a more accurate thinker.

For example, the idea that famine and population are not necessarily tied together is interesting. I’m happy to have this idea introduced into my universe and I’ll pay attention in my future reading to see if this can be confirmed or not.

Put simply: I enjoy a good argument. A good argument depends on people arguing in good faith. I too often feel that the mainstream media is not writing in good faith.

78 albert magnus September 19, 2016 at 5:43 am

This is a pretty good description of GamerGate.

79 Person September 19, 2016 at 5:49 am

Not just your blog–blogs in general present various individuals and information about how they should be ranked. Same for books and movies. And yet blog/book/movie hate is not a meme the way media hate is.

Another way to test this hypothesis is to look at the way the national media is perceived in different countries:

>Americans stand out from citizens of the other countries surveyed on a number of dimensions. They are the most critical of the news media’s reporting of all sides of a story; fully 69 percent disagree that the media does this. They are also significantly more inclined to disagree (46%) that the media reports news accurately; and more likely to agree (68%) that the media covers too many ‘bad news’ stories.


A simpler explanation for why the media is hated is that it genuinely sucks. I know of several inaccuracies in the New York Times that the paper refuses to print corrections for. Studies show that up to 50% of newspaper articles have at least one error in them. (Not surprising given that they are basically paid to crank out articles (a) as quickly as possible that will (b) drive traffic, often by being controversial. Check out the book *Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions Of A Media Manipulator*) The average journalist is more liberal than the average resident of Berkeley, California. And then there’s stuff like this: http://www.unz.com/article/an-obituary-of-the-new-york-times/

80 charlie September 19, 2016 at 6:44 am

Well as far as I know nobody hates Facebook, which is the media today, and is the ultimate status elevator.

81 derek September 19, 2016 at 8:13 am

My name is Nobody.

Oops, someone used that one already.

82 Sam the Sham September 19, 2016 at 8:40 am

Good movie! *whistles* He’s the guy who’s the talk of the town, with the restless gun…Don’t you let him fool you around, he keeps the varmints on the run!

83 josh September 19, 2016 at 8:24 am

I hate facebook.

84 entirelyuseless September 19, 2016 at 10:46 am

I hate both Facebook and the media, and Facebook far more, which is evidence in favor of Tyler’s hypothesis.

85 Stubbs September 19, 2016 at 11:10 am

No, MY name is nobody.

86 Nobody September 19, 2016 at 10:37 pm

Excuse me?

87 Somebody September 20, 2016 at 6:24 am

Nobody, Nobody.

88 William Sjostrom September 19, 2016 at 5:49 am

Sorry, but this may be the dumbest thing Tyler has written. When NBC doctored the tape of George Zimmerman’s 911 tape, they lied. When CBS presented an obvious forgery as real in an attempt to smear George Bush, they lied. When the New York Times continues to claim credit for Walter Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize instead of returning it in shame, they lie, in the service of genocide no less. If these don’t lower your estimate of the media, there is surely more than a little wrong with your thinking, political or otherwise.

89 Philip Crawford September 19, 2016 at 10:49 am

Your list is interestingly chosen. Are there ever lies that go against your tribe or is it always the other guys?

90 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 12:09 pm

It wouldn’t make any difference to his point. You can’t trust a source that lies, especially if it lies to everybody.

91 Thomas September 19, 2016 at 1:03 pm

I’m sorry, maybe I’m confused–which “other tribe” is there on the Duranty-lying-in-service-of-genocide question?

92 Pearl Y September 19, 2016 at 6:00 am

I completely agree, and I agree it applies to this blog too. It’s why the “underrated or overrated” part of your interviews is such a guilty pleasure.

93 Steve Sailer September 19, 2016 at 6:09 am

“You might even say the media is insulting you.”


Of course, isn’t that a major incentive for making a career in the media: to gain the power to more effectively insult people you don’t like?

94 Steve Sailer September 19, 2016 at 7:20 am

Seriously, why not assume a model in which people feel that (parts of) the media are trying to lower their relative status because (parts of) the media really are trying to lower their relative status?

For example, Malcolm Gladwell and I have tried to lower each other’s status.

95 Steve Sailer September 19, 2016 at 7:34 am

I imagine Malcolm feels that The Media is out to get him.

I would hardly be surprised if George Soros feels that The Media is conspiring to not pay adequate attention to his ideas.

96 The Other Jim September 19, 2016 at 8:01 am

>…the power to more effectively insult people you don’t like?

This is brilliantly put.

Although the Columbia School of Journalism doesn’t put it quite that way in their marketing materials. I believe they call it “changing the world!”

97 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 5:39 pm

In a very related vein:

(and yes this is the actual title do the article)

“‘Is the UVA Rape Story a Gigantic Hoax?’ Asks Idiot – Anna Merlan

But Robby Soave at the libertarian magazine Reason thinks we’re talking about the wrong questions entirely. Shouldn’t we be asking, he wonders, if Jackie just, like, made the whole story up?

Hi Robby! Thanks for stopping by! One small correction: I don’t think you’ve ever “reported” a goddamn thing in your life. … I have a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia and I write investigative stories.


This is going to shock you (/sarcasm), but it turns out that the Journalist with a Masters Degree from the Columbia School of Journalism was completely wrong and apparently incompetent.

98 Steve Sailer September 19, 2016 at 8:50 pm

Sabrina Rubin Erdely’s gang-rape-on-broken-glass hoax in Rolling Stone very much reflects her hatred for (and sexual attraction to) Haven Monahan-types.

Similarly, real life Haven Monahan-type swimmers like Brock Turner and Ryan Lochte have subsequently come in for immense criticism.

99 Josh September 19, 2016 at 6:16 am

Also they are liars, bullies, and prostitutes for the ruling class.

100 rayward September 19, 2016 at 6:20 am

Media is very broad. After all, Google, Facebook, and all the rest that we call “tech” are mostly media companies. The founders of Yahoo described their company as a “media company”, a gaffe they no doubt regret. Anyone who hates the “media” must hate the world, media being such a large part of modern existence. News media, on the other hand, is much smaller. I agree with Bruce Bartlett in his assessment of Fox News (a “sealed universe” that normalizes “crazy ideas and conspiracy theories”) and other news media (“it hews pretty much to the objective center”). http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/19/opinion/its-not-too-late-to-fix-fox-news.html?ref=opinion. But I don’t hate Fox News. Unlike those who get their news from Fox News, who hate all other news media and have a highly distorted and pessimistic view of life. If I wasn’t a long-time reader of this blog I might suspect that Cowen’s observation that people hate the media may have something to do with him living in a sealed universe. I don’t doubt that people who watch Fox News hate the media, but not all “people” watch Fox News.

101 rayward September 19, 2016 at 6:37 am
102 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 7:01 am

‘After all, Google, Facebook, and all the rest that we call “tech” are mostly media companies.’


103 Bob from Ohio September 19, 2016 at 9:18 am

You gotta admire Bruce Bartlett. A minor unknown GOP official gets semi-famous quoted because he betrays everyone on his nominal side. You gotta eat after all.

Every liberal’s favorite republican.

104 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 9:25 am

‘A minor unknown GOP official’

So minor that wikipedia lists the following concerning his past – ‘In 1976, Bartlett changed careers, going to work for U.S. Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas). Bartlett spent much of his time working with the House Banking Committee, of which Paul was a member. This involved Bartlett in economic issues. Paul was defeated when he ran for re-election in November 1976.

In January 1977, Bartlett went to work for U.S. Congressman Jack Kemp (R-New York) as a staff economist. Bartlett spent much of his time on tax issues, helping to draft the Kemp-Roth tax bill, which ultimately formed the basis of Ronald Reagan’s 1981 tax cut. Bartlett’s book, “Reaganomics: Supply-Side Economics in Action” appeared in 1981 (New Rochelle, NY: Arlington House Publishers). He also co-edited the book The Supply-Side Solution (Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers, 1983).

In 1978, Bartlett went to work for Perry Duryea, who was the Republican candidate for governor of New York. Duryea was defeated in November and Bartlett returned to Washington, where he joined the staff of newly elected Senator Roger Jepsen (R-Iowa).

Reagan Administration

In 1981, Jepsen became Vice chairman of the Joint Economic Committee of Congress and Bartlett became deputy director of the committee’s staff. Jepsen became chairman in 1983 and Bartlett became executive director of the JEC. During this period, the committee was very active in promoting Ronald Reagan’s economic policies.

In late 1984, Bartlett became vice president of Polyconomics, a New Jersey-based consulting company founded by Jude Wanniski, a former Wall Street Journal editorial writer, that advised Wall Street clients on economic and investment policy. Bartlett left in 1985 to become a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, where he specialized in tax policy and was particularly involved in the debate around the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

George H. W. Bush administration

In 1987, Bartlett became a senior policy analyst in the White House Office of Policy Development, then headed by Gary Bauer. He left in 1988 to become the deputy assistant secretary for economic policy at the Treasury Department, where he served until the end of the George H. W. Bush administration.

Afterwards, Bartlett worked briefly at the Cato Institute in 1993. From 1993 to 2005, Bartlett was affiliated with the National Center for Policy Analysis, a free-market think tank based in Dallas, Texas.’

You would have done better by calling him a minor out of date tax cutting paleo-libertarian/free market figure, or some such other nonsensical formulation, to be honest.

105 Bob from Ohio September 19, 2016 at 10:13 am

Yes, minor and unknown.

He held a series of low/mid level staff positions. His last political position was “deputy assistant secretary”

There are literally hundreds of deputy assistant secretaries in Washington. They can’t even get good reservations at hot restaurants.

106 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 12:14 pm

Typical prior_approval to post a bunch of text that makes the point he’s trying to contradict.

107 Art Deco September 19, 2016 at 3:45 pm

He’s a lapsed history teacher turned congressional aide who landed patronage positions in the Reagan-era Treasury department. He is notable for having been dismissed from the National Center for Policy Analysis for writing a polemical book attacking George W. Bush. The National Center for Policy Analysis, like other think tanks, employs publicists as well as professionals. Bartlett has no academic background in economics nor had he worked in finance. He was hired to produce copy. It was the Center’s position that they do not produce polemical work attacking the motives of politicians. They were also (by their account) irritated that he’d asked his work assignments be re-arranged to finish his book but was deceptive with his supervisors re what kind of book it was. His brand since has been ‘Republican truth teller’, which sells well to partisan Democrats.

Please note, he is Tyler Cowen’s favorite Republican. He’s been referenced scores of times on this site since 2005. You’d have a hard time finding a critical mention of him (but an easy time finding them regarding Thomas Sowell, who is referred to much less often – and – unlike Bartlett – actually is an economist).

108 Art Deco September 19, 2016 at 3:49 pm

Just to clarify matters. About 2/3 of the National Center’s fellows were working faculty members, emeritus faculty, or consultants with a signed dissertation. Most had independent sources of income. They lent their prestige to the Center. The Center needed them. They did not need Bartlett, who was just about the smallest guppy in the pond there.

109 Paul September 19, 2016 at 6:52 am

Engineers have been measuring and comparing factual reality to supposed models long before climate advocates ever existed.

By the way, who do you think invented and built every piece of of equipment used? Climate “Scientists”?

110 Brad September 19, 2016 at 6:54 am

I was actually thinking about this in relation to Tyler’s “If Trump wins” post a few days ago. I used to have something of a ‘rational voter’ bias in relation to the news media – I.e. People vote based on ideology rather than anything the media does – but this election has made me strongly question that.

An editor of a national publication once told me “Writing a news article isn’t about finding the truth, it’s about finding the narrative and then backing it up with facts.” I wouldn’t say I hate the media, but that conversation really drove home to me how little the media cares about providing good information, and this election has driven home for me how harmful it can be.

111 Chip September 19, 2016 at 9:27 am

When I started work for Bloomberg in London years ago I thought, as a primarily business news service, it would be a dry and objective as they come.

That impression didn’t last long. And when the chairman Peter Grauer arrived and started mocking Bush in the newsroom to gales of laughter from the reporters, I realised there wasn’t even an official pretense of objectivity.

Glenn Reynolds is mostly right when he says if you think of journalists as Democrats with bylines you won’t be wrong. It’s certainly been my experience over 15 years of reporting and the years of watching them spray their politics across my FB feed.

112 jim jones September 19, 2016 at 6:55 am
113 derek September 19, 2016 at 7:23 am

The Media has taken on the mantle of the modern Priesthood. They will tell you who you should have sex with, who you should like, who you shouldn’t. They hector and preach. They are self righteous and self dealing, and never responsible for anything they do.

If I get information from them about an event, it is purely coincidental.

The only TV newscast I have listened to was 2012 election coverage. The web sites are getting better now, so I haven’t watched election coverage.

I think the Afghans in 2001-2 had it right. They shot journalists just as they shot uniformed soldiers.

114 mr mcknuckles September 19, 2016 at 1:27 pm

Glad to know you think it’s a good idea to shoot me without trial. I’m assuming you’re joking, but uh, kind of a weird comment.

115 Jerry September 19, 2016 at 7:25 am

The media are too remote to cause a status effect for the news consumer. A better explanation for dislike of the media is that they are perceived not to be entitled to their own status. They are poseurs who seem to be completely uninformed and aren’t even journalists, or at least they aren’t journalists anymore.

116 middyfeek September 19, 2016 at 7:25 am

I think Tyler is being deliberately disingenuous here. Anyone who’s paying attention would have to have disdain for the media. Not just for their bias but also their incompetence. Occasionally something happens where you have first hand knowledge of the event. Does the media ever get it right?

117 The Other Jim September 19, 2016 at 7:59 am

>I think Tyler is being deliberately disingenuous here.


118 Dan in Euroland September 19, 2016 at 8:33 am

Technically he is a member of the MSM. He writes for such publications as NYTimes, Grantland, and Bloomberg. So obviously he deosn’t want to bite the hand that feeds him, despite the MSM having values and views that are radically different than TC’s academic work.

Remember he is more than a little obsessed with Straussians, and he repeatedly points to the work of Timur Kuran who writes a lot about preference falsification.

TC is very aware of his own preference falsification: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preference_falsification

119 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 8:55 am

‘So obviously he deosn’t want to bite the hand that feeds him’

More than one hand is feeding Prof. Cowen, including the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia, who are obligated to pay him as long as he remains a tenured faculty member in good standing at George Mason University, until retirement.

You can actually see what public employees are paid in Virginia. This is just a general link, by the way, simply listing anyone employed by the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia while working at GMU using the sort of information that anyone in the media (which these days includes pretty much anyone with Internet access and a bit of time and interest) can access – http://data.richmond.com/salaries/2014/state/george-mason-university

120 BFB September 19, 2016 at 9:06 am

“…the taxpayers of the Commonwealth of Virginia, who are obligated to pay him as long as he remains a tenured faculty member in good standing at George Mason University, until retirement.”

You think the payments stop at retirement?

121 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 9:19 am

Actually, yes, at least from my experience being employed by the PR dept. at GMU back in the 80s and 90s – TIAA-CREF is what you might want to look into, though there were other possibilities back then, and likely even more today.

Here is a quick summary – ‘TIAA, formerly TIAA—CREF (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association—College Retirement Equities Fund), is a Fortune 100 financial services organization that is the leading retirement provider for people who work in the academic, research, medical and cultural fields. TIAA serves over 5 million active and retired employees participating at more than 16,000 institutions and has $889 billion in combined assets under management (as of June 30, 2016).’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TIAA

122 Steve Sailer September 19, 2016 at 7:28 am

One lesson of history is that you really need your own media outlets on your side. You can’t expect fair play from the other side’s networks, you need your own networks. Ideally, as Berlusconi demonstrated, you need your political message pumped out on the same network that features the best football games.

123 Sam the Sham September 19, 2016 at 7:45 am

A while back, Tyler linked to a win-your-own-newspaper contest for the Hardwick Gazette. I entered. The final day for them to receive entries is tomorrow – the winner is announced no later than Nov 1 (if enough entries make it in).

There’s a slim chance you’re talking to a media mogul now 🙂

I would like to put my neighborhood first, as my first line of consumers, with advertisers as a bonus source of revenue. I’ve got a couple of ideas, but would love to hear more about how to reform news. Example idea – I gave exactly 0 craps about the Bathroom Bill, but I hear about it on the radio and in newspapers. I actually wonder if it’s that the Radio or the Newspaper is interested in it, therefore I have to hear about it as well. I would have something like Subscription Points, where subscribers guide the coverage.

124 The Other Jim September 19, 2016 at 7:57 am

In which Tyler informs us that the media is blantantly uninterested in doing the job of providing factual information, and wonders why anyone would have a problem with that, and states that anyone who does strongly believe that the USA could benefit from someone doing such a job is guilty of poor emotional thinking.

Great stuff.

Sorry, but saying “Don’t hate the media for scamming you; our politicians are scamming you, too!” is a very poor excuse for the existence of people like Paul Krugman and Rush Limbaugh.

125 josh September 19, 2016 at 8:30 am

“A good rule of thumb is that if you resent the media “lots,” you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought.”


“Shut up, losers.”

In all seriousness, how are we supposed to feel about people who, aside from anything else, are accessories to God knows how many war crimes.

126 Dan in Euroland September 19, 2016 at 8:25 am


1. In general I think Streetwise Professor is has a very accurate take: http://streetwiseprofessor.com/?p=10176

2. Status is certainly important, but usually its more about values. The media projects a specific set of values that others find abhorrent. E.g. your friend Ezra Klein promotes views that directly conflict with the best evidence we have from fields like economics and clinical (not social) psychology.

127 Edgar September 19, 2016 at 8:37 am

“A good rule of thumb is that if you resent the media “lots,” you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought.” If you are actually giving clicks to US media, there is your first mistake. There are countless foreign media outlets that cover the US better than the US media and your click is not a de facto contribution to the Democratic Party. France 24, Der Spiegel, The Guardian, The Spectator, and on and on, are all vastly superior news sources than anything on offer from US purveyors and offer a wide range of political perspectives. It took a while, but I’ve trained myself to not bother clicking on the NYT links (the warning labels are much appreciated) and avoid the WAPO, Vox, etc as much as possible and harbor no resentments against the media at all. Learn from Cheech and Chong: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eY7ZX6ngOSs

128 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 8:47 am

‘and your click is not a de facto contribution to the Democratic Party’

So, time to stop clicking on Drudge, Fox, and Breitbart, apparently. Thanks for the tip.

129 Edgar September 19, 2016 at 9:30 am

Exactly. A pox on both their houses.

130 patrick k September 19, 2016 at 8:41 am

“A good rule of thumb is that if you resent the media “lots,” you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought.”

Really? So there’s no truth to Orwell? Castro tells it like it is? Pravda in it’s day was factual?

131 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 8:45 am

But were any of them tenured faculty members of the GMU econ dept.? No? Prof. Cowen rests his case.

132 Tyler Cowen September 19, 2016 at 9:07 am

The biggest critics of this post are in fact providing the most support for it. And I’m not claiming that various media in fact get the status relationships “right.”

133 prior_test2 September 19, 2016 at 9:14 am

See? Prof. Cowern rests his case, though without actually making a point supported by citations.

134 josh September 19, 2016 at 9:28 am

Your point about the media as status engineer is fine. But then you go on to say that those who resent this are making some kind of emotional “mistake” while ignoring the fact that Who’s manipulation of Whom’s status is not just annoying but actually gets millions (!) of people killed.

135 ladderff September 19, 2016 at 9:49 am

Or, your post sucks and is getting some small part of the rebuke it deserves.

Tyler Cowen: firmly part of the problem.

136 8 September 19, 2016 at 10:49 am

People are emotional. This is why we can’t have democracy.

137 me September 19, 2016 at 11:48 am

No surprise, most people are loath to admit they do a lot of things for status reasons.

138 rossle September 19, 2016 at 11:53 am

People dislike “the media” far more than they used to. Americans’ trust in “the media” has declined 21 points over the last 15 years. http://www.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx

Your post is an evergreen observation about the implicit status behavior of media production, curation, and consumption. (One with which I basically agree.). However, your argument does not explain the last 15 years.

A compelling argument flowing from the observation of “the media’s” present unpopularity would be one which identified the relevant change(s) in media or the population.

139 phil September 19, 2016 at 3:40 pm

“A good rule of thumb is that if you resent the media “lots,” you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought.”

why don’t you tease that out and be explicit about what emotional mistakes you think those people are making

comment 120 seems on point, do you disagree with it?

I think its pretty are to follow the media and not think “Geez, this isn’t very good” even the sources that are held up and supposed to be very good

I’d say comments 134 and 136 capture my feelings pretty well

‘resent’ conveys an emotion that I’m not sure I feel, (‘generally unimpressed’ might be a better description)

140 Dan September 19, 2016 at 9:25 am

This seems obviously correct yet entirely unremarkable in the sense that “the media” can properly be understood to mean “other people.”

141 chuck martel September 19, 2016 at 9:31 am

“Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.”

― Michael Crichton

142 ladderff September 19, 2016 at 9:54 am

Just explained this to my cousin, who had segued from a tirade on Michael Brown to a tirade on the supposed belligerence of Russia.

143 patrick k September 20, 2016 at 7:49 am

Wet streets have been causing a lot of rain since the late 80’s with intermittent downpours.

144 albatross September 19, 2016 at 9:52 am

Distinguish between hate and disdain. When I see media reports, I have a lot of skepticism about whether they’re telling the whole story, how much theyre hammering the facts into a desired narrative, and how well they understood the facts in the first place. This doesn’t make me hate them, but it does prevent me from trusting them very much. The internet has often (but not always) made it possible for me to cut out the middleman, and go read the actual raw data myself and draw my own conclusions, or to find actual experts discussing the thing the journalists are fumbling around trying to understand. As best I can tell, I get a much more accurate picture of the world this way.

145 Tom Hynes September 19, 2016 at 10:19 am

Completely off topic, but I would like to remind everyone that I have been called “the always excellent T Hynes” on this very blog.

146 Urso September 19, 2016 at 10:24 am

It’s amazing that Prof. Cowen is still thinking to himself “hm, these people don’t agree with me. How to convince them? I know – I’ll condescend at them some more.” What’s even more amazing is that this strategy is widely shared.

147 RPLong September 19, 2016 at 10:32 am

Gosh, TC, you’re really hitting that “it’s all about status” button pretty hard these days.

148 Brian Donohue September 19, 2016 at 10:32 am

The media’s historical role, that of mediation, is in the process of being massively disrupted.

As part of this process, the status of the media has been massively lowered.

So be it.

149 JWatts September 19, 2016 at 12:22 pm

+1, this short reply is probably better than TC’s original comment.

150 Anonymous September 19, 2016 at 3:41 pm

Right. They are trading status for clicks. Their pretense of objectivity enrages people even more and further lowers their status.

151 George Dawson September 19, 2016 at 10:49 am

I think that it has less to do with status than oversimplification.

In my own field of medicine and biology it happens all of the time. I have been interviewed by reporters who I advised ahead of time that I would not say what they wanted me to say like: “Isn’t it true that Christmas is the peak time for suicide?” They asked me the question anyway. To me at least the media seems to come with their own prepackaged story and they want to talk to you not so much for expertise but additional color to make their point.

The end result is the public reacting to endless stories without nuance. Nothing is a real life probability. Either everything causes cancer or nothing does.

152 Jimmy September 19, 2016 at 11:05 am

There are two things coming up over and over in these comments – the information presented by the media is frequently false/incorrect/incomplete and the media uses its power unjustly. Cowen’s in thread comment seems to be saying that both of these reduce to being angry about “my status.” Really? Isn’t it possible that the concern for knowledge and the concern for justice exist independently of self-interested status seeking?

To take another line, what sort of comment would Cowen regard as falsifying/refuting/contradicting his theory? The “status” abstraction is so broad that any disagreement with the media can be presented as a response to personal slight. But is that what is really happening in any given case? That just sounds like age-old cynicism to me…

153 josh September 19, 2016 at 11:13 am

I believe Cowen’s counter argument would be that your just a whiney loser.

154 Jimmy September 19, 2016 at 11:42 am

the logic is compelling

155 Abelard Lindsey September 19, 2016 at 11:54 am

People despise the media because of its left-wing bias. It really is that simple.

156 albatross September 19, 2016 at 1:50 pm

Yeah, but leftists often dislike the media just as much as rightists do, often accusing it of a right-wing or corporatist or neoliberal bias.

157 VJV September 19, 2016 at 12:05 pm

“The media” is not monolithic entity. Blaming “the media” for society’s problems is literally the easiest thing you can do, because everyone will agree with you and project their own politics onto it. You’ll get huzzahs from the left and the right. Instant online status! Go you!

Here’s the fact: the media can be good, it can be bad, it can be both. It’s mostly neither.

Here’s another fact: you can learn to distinguish between media that is worth your time and media which is not worth your time. Media which is worth your time should be consumed with a high degree of skepticism and an understanding that it will get things wrong and/or paint an incomplete picture in many cases. Media which is not worth your time should be ignored completely.

Here’s yet another fact: Cable news is not worth your time. 95% of the articles in your Facebook news feed, be they from the left or the right, are not worth your time.

158 albatross September 19, 2016 at 1:56 pm

Amen. 24 hour cable news channels are, as best I can tell, a net loss to mankind.

However, the large number of “news” sources that are worthless or nearly-worthless, and the even larger number that are determined to tell the story they want to tell almost regardless of any inconvenient facts, provide a pretty obvious explanation for why so many people hold the press as a whole in low regard. If 90% of practicing doctors had gotten their medical degrees by bribery and routinely prescribed bleeding or aromoatherapy or therapeutic massage for acute appendicitis, people would have a low opinion of the medical profession. That would be true, even if the other 10% were good doctors using the best available technology and knowledge and doing a pretty good job for their patients.

159 Russ September 19, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Media is essentially a filter, on all events, that says these things are important. That’s it’s job. Because the average person doesn’t have time collate and sift through all the information out there, or even have access to as much information as the media has.

The problem, is that statistically, the media is unlikely to consider the same things important that any particular individual considers important. If there were only a handful of potential issues of importance, there would, just by random chance, be better alignment. But, the number of potential issues available for reporting is just too big. Add to that, a gray scale of importance (ie how much individuals care about each individual issue is on a scale of 1-10, etc), and the problem gets even worse.

So the best thing, is to get your information from multiple media sources, and understand the filter/bias that each source is putting on the information.

160 VJV September 19, 2016 at 12:20 pm


161 Enquiring Mind September 19, 2016 at 12:18 pm

Some of us reject the premise because we do like to think for ourselves. We do not need or want media to shape, spin, color or otherwise manipulate what may be simple matters of fact, without identifying their actions. Don’t pee on our leg and tell us that it is raining. Instead, pee on your own leg and admit that you are editorializing.

162 Floccina September 19, 2016 at 12:29 pm

They sell ads, that is their main focus.

So last night a 60 minutes interview of Gary Johnson was on and I would have liked for them to discuss the issues and there was some of that but much of the interview was focused on the horse race and spoiler. What I wanted is not what would sell ads, simple at that.

163 WC Varones September 19, 2016 at 12:32 pm

I hate the media because they are lazy, stupid, partisan hacks.

164 Devin Lavelle September 19, 2016 at 12:53 pm

“A good rule of thumb is that if you resent the media “lots,” you are probably making a number of other emotional mistakes in your political thought.”

I find that rather insulting.

Perhaps I’m being naive, but I resent the media for not being truth’s champion: drawing false equivalencies, failing to ask meaningful followup questions, elevating shallow partisans in the interest of ‘balance’, focusing on the trivial if it sells and consistently failing to provide meaningful context to the big news of the day.

While I certainly feel more emotional about it when they are failing in a way that impacts issues I care about, my critique of the media remains broad. Whether they represent the left wing (MSNBC), right wing (Fox) or banal wing (CNN) of American politics, they are all failing to fulfill the responsibilities of the Fourth Estate.

165 Dave Anthony September 19, 2016 at 1:07 pm

No mention of the DNC leaks that proved that the DNC was coordinating stories with the media? That might have something to do with the lack of trust — a clear violation of ethics.

166 cowboydroid September 19, 2016 at 2:10 pm

Can one resent the media for consistently lying and acting as a propaganda arm for the government? Or would that be an emotional mistake in one’s political thought?

167 Mogden September 19, 2016 at 3:02 pm

I don’t like them because:
– they reflexively boot-lick the elites
– they have a limited perspective and focus (college grad, coastal urban center)
– they don’t understand economics enough to describe tradeoffs of things like the minimum wage

168 Micah September 19, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Although I see insights in the original post, ones perception of ‘media’ is in some a measure how much it validates ones opinions. While true, I think there is more to it.

I personally resent the media because I think it manipulates attention on a mass-scale towards things that actually have a very limited impact. For example, it is indisputable that it is many times more likely that you’ll get killed by someone txting while driving than by a foreign terrorist. But most media outlets cover terrorism so constantly it’s hard to remember that those are tragic stories that affect a tiny fraction of the world population (unless you happen to live in a handful of global trouble spots). If one really cares about saving innocent American lives, we should redirect most of the vitriol directed at middle eastern foreigners to our peers who text and drive.

I use texting while driving as a (hopefully?) nonpartisan issue. But this same reasoning applies to a lot of under-covered things. Crumbling infrastructure? Shrinking lifespans (likely attributable to unhealthy diets)?, Lower interest in STEM in younger generations, … etc. Even if one knows the above are all problems, big problems, it’s hard to weight them higher in ones priorities when it comes time to vote or consume than whatever arbitrary story the media is talking about 24-7.

For the market, or a Democracy, to work the population needs to really ‘know’ reasonably accurate information about the actual risks and benefits. But instead, we fill our attention with celebrity gossip, the most gruesome (but VERY rare) crimes on a planet of 7 Billion+, and the horse race of politics far more so than than the policy implications.

To be fair, I understand that a story about a bomb plot can be way more compelling than one about distracted driving. And, by and large, the media gives us what we ask of it. But I still deeply resent how poorly the current media ecosystem serves humanity.

169 Anon39 September 19, 2016 at 9:24 pm

How about this reason :

When CNN started reporting about the bombing in NYC, they put Brian Williams on the air to wax poetic about how it was probably a simple construction chemicals accident brought to you by icky non EPA regulations following business people.

Vox on the other hand didn’t write an article at all about a terrorist attack in NJ and NYC. They did have an article about the stabbing, but only to say how it’s not really ISIS and thus is irrelevant.

Bad news might hurt Hillary, after all.

170 Doug G September 20, 2016 at 12:40 pm

I like the idea and will think about it a little. If I could propose a modification, I am not really ticked off by the media and choose to really not watch it (Note: I am ultra-conservative). What gets me is what I learned in 7th grade civics class about journalism and the great history it has had in forming our country … all the scandals exposed and so on. I used to get papers and read them through and through to know what was going on in my town, state, etc. Then I found out we had a liberal and conservative paper, which could only be found out on the editorial pages. Then my father got me a subscription to “The New Yorker” calling it “great journalism.” Almost every article was slanted, never gave both sides, and in many cases ignored facts easily uncovered. So here I sit, refusing to watch FOX, MSNBC, etc. or read the NY Times and others … trying to figure out what the truth is. So far, I can still find it, but sometimes it takes time … by then, opinions have been formed and sides have been taken … then I get called names when I try to present the truth. Again, not ticked off, just disappointed.

171 Troll me September 20, 2016 at 1:10 pm

Media is mostly companies, who have shareholders and founders, many of whom have ideological, partisan or outright corrupt interests.

That’s why things like net neutrality is so important. So that people without the backing of the billionaires or whose production does not appeal to sufficiently large markets to make it into more journalistic outlets can also access their audiences without the security state having so many excuses for service interruption in the case that some free thinker deigns to say things other than that which is sanctioned by the state.

Given the amount of information at the disposal of the security state, it is difficult to imagine that the 1st amendment can be upheld for practical purposes, given the highly tailored harassment that might be brought to bear, even while officially protecting free speech on paper.

172 Max Schwing September 20, 2016 at 2:21 pm

For me it was the moment I read an article about a subject I know a lot about, because I work in it.
I then realized that the journalists only reproduced what one interview partner told them and they were not clever enough to understand most of the subject matter.
This is why I have a big problem with most media content. I am very often missing a lot of substance, rigorous thinking and looking at a topic from different perspectives. So in the end I also value it lower and thus dont spend money on it.

It is sadly very rare that a journalist or author of an article takes his time to really investigate one issue from more than one point of view. Gathers the data necessary to argument and then presents it in a way that shows he understands his subject matter. For example, you often see on web-sites click-bait 10 slide topics that would be better served with on diagramm or an excel table comparing them. Instead of one page full of information that is easily comparable and accessible, I have 10 pages that are just plain confusing…

173 Yallop September 22, 2016 at 2:53 am

It doesn’t matter if one hates them or not, but it’s required. We need to make sure we always look at positive side of things. As a Forex trader, I always keep everything in mind in positive way to get me helped big time. I find things so much easier with broker like OctaFX since they are very special with having razor thin spread from 0.1 pips for all major pairs while there is also monstrous rebate scheme that’s up to 50% and helps big time.

174 Hollyluja September 22, 2016 at 7:28 pm

I grew up in the 90s listening to Limbaugh (my mom kept it on in the kitchen) and his successors telling me every day that the “media” was untrustworthy, biased, and “lame”. That’s now extended to Fox News etc creating their own reality bubble and telling people that any other source is untrustworthy.

I don’t follow those sources anymore, but I’d be interested in an analysis of how much media conversation is about how bad the other media outlets are. Subjectively I’d say “a lot”

No surprise here that people don’t trust it any more.

175 Brian October 9, 2016 at 5:22 pm

Certainly it has nothing to do with stuff like this:

As these internal documents demonstrate, a central component of the Clinton campaign strategy is ensuring that journalists they believe favorable to Clinton are tasked to report the stories which the campaign wants circulated.

At times, Clinton’s campaign staff not only internally drafted the stories they wanted published but even specified what should be quoted “on background” and what should be described as “on the record.”


Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: