On Groupthink and ‘Financial Infotainment’

Editorializing in the Wall Street Journal (3/18/09) on how “Financial Journalists Fail Upward,” Wrecking Crew author Thomas Frank sees the “world of financial infotainment” as its own “market where accountability does not seem to exist” and in which “the old order discredits itself, but the old order persists nevertheless”:

This needs to be repeated every time someone pleads, “Who could have known?” Plenty of people did see the disaster coming. Most of them were marginalized, however, laboring at out-of-the-way econ departments, blogs and B-list think tanks. They were excluded and even ridiculed because their larger understanding of the economy was not one that fit well with the sort of Wall Street worship preached by the likes of CNBC….

The reasons the financial-entertainment biz failed us are many and complex, but they ultimately come down to this: In the marketplace to describe the marketplace itself, there is precious little competition. There is a single, standard product that comes in packaging that is alternately sultry, energetic or fun–bitter, brainy or Cramer “crazy“–but which rarely strays beyond certain ideological boundaries.

At such outlets, “Adversarial voices are few. Criticism is sacrificed for access. Advice sometimes shades over into simple propaganda.” For some analysis of the current flavor of just such propaganda, listen to the new edition of FAIR’s radio show CounterSpin: “Melissa Harris-Lacewell on Earmarks” (3/13/09).