All too often the mainstream media, whether out of cowardice or lack of curiosity, defaults to a reflexive replication of the meme of the day. They’re apparently oblivious to the maxim — apologies to Socrates — that a meme (a cultural practice or idea) unexamined is a meme not worth repeating. In the process, they pass along assumptions as outrageous as they are dangerous to said culture.
Two such examples of conventional wisdom that are almost universally unquestioned by corporate news recently came to our attention. Bear with us as we stray into domestic policy before returning to foreign affairs.
At Tax.com, David Cay Johnston, one-time The New York Times Pulitzer Prize winner, writes:
Among the reports that failed to scrutinize [Wisconsin Gov. Scott] Walker’s assertions about state workers’ contributions and thus got it wrong is one by A.G. Sulzberger, the presumed future publisher of The New York Times, who is now a national correspondent. He wrote that the Governor “would raise the amount government workers pay into their pension to 5.8 percent of their pay, from less than 1 percent now.”
Wrong. The workers currently pay 100 percent from their compensation package, but a portion of it is deducted from their paychecks and a portion of it goes directly to the pension plan. [In other words] Out of every dollar that funds Wisconsin’s pension and health insurance plans for state workers, 100 cents comes from the state workers.
Meanwhile, at Salon, Michael Lind, Policy Director of the Economic Growth Program at the New America Foundation and as valuable a commentator as Johnston on affairs of the wallet, debunks a myth about China. (My initial impulse was to italicize some of his statements to emphasize them. But the extent to which it’s all surprising is added testimony to the slovenly — or deceitful — job that the MSM is doing.)
We’ve heard it a thousand times, from American CEOs, pundits and politicians. . . . The U.S., we are told, is losing its manufacturing industries to competitors like China because America is falling behind in innovation and education.
It’s not true. . . . Innovation and education are red herrings, tossed out to distract the American public from the real problem. . . .
American multinationals are not shutting factories in the U.S. and transferring production to China because of China’s superior innovation culture or superior educational achievements. Nor are low Chinese wages the major factor. For the most part, multinationals are pressured or bribed by the Chinese dictatorship into producing in China. In some cases, U.S. multinationals are told they must produce inside China in order to have access to China’s large and growing consumer market. In other cases, multinationals are bribed to relocate production to China by enormous subsidies from the Chinese government. . . .
How many American CEOs boast about how their companies have been bribed or pressured by the Chinese government into producing inside China’s borders, hiring Chinese workers and transferring American intellectual property to Chinese corporations?
Probably about the same number as have any shame about it. Alas, another story the mainstream media sidesteps.