When good equals bad

This is apropos of nothing.

Coming from a background of both journalism and political science, I am still completely bewildered by how there is so much misinformation out there concerning our political (i.e., social) affairs. I rant a lot about how the Chinese government and media are so adept at muddling facts that it’s almost second nature not to know anything concrete here in the land of cha bu duo and where everything can be right at the same time.

But this, from the New Yorker, reminds me of the U.S.’s own muddy information battleground:

Paradoxically, the very things that made the stimulus more effective economically may have made it less popular politically. For instance, because research has shown that lump-sum tax refunds get hoarded rather than spent, the government decided not to give individuals their tax cuts all at once, instead refunding a little on each paycheck. The tactic was successful at increasing consumer demand, but it had a big political cost: many voters never noticed that they were getting a tax cut.

My problem isn’t with the stimulus, which I know little about (though from what I’ve read about it, it’s been neutral at worst.) My problem is this: In a country that prides itself as being one of the most educated and most inclined toward rationality in the world, how the hell can something proven effective and to be working NOT be politically popular? Or, why are most people so hostile toward something that, at the very least, was more good than bad?

I know, I know: It’s spin. Politicians (on both sides, but especially sinister GOPers) love to jump on half-truths and misconceptions, twisting facts around until nothing constructive can come of them — all to gain cheap political points from a public that believes it has never been more informed, which actually has never been more misled. People are spinning spin and spin that’s already been spun. Meanwhile, everyone’s complaining about the media, how it’s so biased and uninformative. If people would just read articles written by real journalists and experts and not just listen to pundits, maybe they would get a picture of a more nuanced reality.

Journalism schools are (rightly) focusing on training students to find new, better ways to package information in today’s faster, more technologically driven, cluttered world. What they should also teach (and, more importantly, figure out) is how to compete with all the punditry and misinformation being spewed.

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