Bait-and-Switch Boosterism on Trade Pacts

Corporate media’s incredibly uncritical boosterism of so-called “free trade” deals has been remarked on many times, and continues to be remarkable.

What else but blind faith would allow a story to carry a line like one in the October 12 New York Times, about textile industry opposition to the new deal with South Korea: “The production of shirts and sheets has shifted steadily from the United States to countries with lower-cost labor. Economists argue that this process strengthens the economy as companies and workers shift to more productive and lucrative kinds of work.” Of course, if the Times has evidence of laid off textile workers’ mass movement to more lucrative work, they’re sitting on the scoop of the century.

Elite media’s presentation of deals like those just passed with South Korea, Colombia and Panama consists of a barrage of unchecked claims: This time around, those featured funny numbers from proponents, who spoke of increased export growth without talking about imports–kind of like giving half a baseball score–and misleading context, like setting the deals within a storyline about jobs when there’s no evidence such deals promote them.

Then you get a line, like that in the October 13 New York Times, once the deals have passed and been heralded as a “rare moment of bipartisan accord,” that “the passage of the trade deals is important primarily as a political achievement, and for its foreign policy value in solidifying relationships with strategic allies. The economic benefits are projected to be small.”

Some would call that bait and switch. For the corporate press on trade deals, it’s standard operating procedure.

About Janine Jackson

Program Director and Co-producer of CounterSpin
Janine Jackson is FAIR's program director and and producer/co-host of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. She contributes frequently to FAIR's magazine, Extra! and co-edited The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s (Westview Press). She has appeared on ABC's Nightline and CNN Headline News, among other outlets, and has testified to the Senate Communications Subcommittee on budget reauthorization for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Her articles have appeared in various publications, including In These Times and the UAW’s Solidarity, and in books including Civil Rights Since 1787 (New York University Press) and Stop the Next War Now: Effective Responses to Violence and Terrorism (New World Library). Jackson is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and has an M.A. in sociology from the New School for Social Research.