The Fall of the Fourth Estate

Have you noticed? The ‘news’ no longer even pretends to be newsworthy.

And surveys show that ‘journalism’ is the college major most likely to be regretted.

For years we’ve wondered: what’s going on? The headlines are often preposterous. The political accounts are absurdly partisan. And the ‘news’ stories have no news in them.


It’s the logic of the electronic media. It tempts…lures…distracts, always trying to capture a person’s attention so it can sell some detergent. When we click on ‘She was a beauty in the ‘70s…but look at her now’ or ‘fans were shocked when they saw her bank balance’ — we know what we’re getting. But much of what passes for serious ‘news’ reporting is just as insipid.


There’s no guarantee of quality in a headline. Readers have no way of knowing whether it is serious or silly.

Let’s look. Here’s a whopper from AlterNet: ‘The shocking Republican plan to dismantle the American government’.

Whoa…hit the pause button for just a moment. Is there a ‘Republican plan to dismantle the government’? Of course not. But the headline entices Liberals — eager for more dirt on evil Republicans — and Republicans too, eager to see what jackassery the liberal press is getting up to. As AlterNet develops the idea, we see that it is complete claptrap:

The modern administrative state, sometimes called the “welfare state” by Republicans, was largely created by President Franklin D Roosevelt in response to the Republican Great Depression of the early 1930s. And every day since FDR was sworn into office on 4 March 1933, the GOP has worked feverishly to dismantle his legacy.

Really? Did the US Government only appear with Franklin Roosevelt? Would removing his add-ons ‘dismantle’ the entire government? And then, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes, Trump…did these Republicans work ‘feverishly’ to undo Roosevelt’s legacy? Well…they certainly weren’t very successful at it! The record shows that the government grew under Republicans as well as Democrats…with its biggest growth spurts under Reagan and Trump.

The narrative — Democrats as world improvers…Republicans as knuckle-dragging neanderthals — is false and stupid. Both parties have worked to strengthen the power and wealth of the ruling elites.

Damned lies…

And here’s Newsweek, which has lost all pretence of journalistic integrity: ‘Sudden Shifts From Drought to Floods Are Getting More Common in the US’.

The findings also found that so-called feedback loops — a process that can either increase or decrease the effects of greenhouse gases — are likely contributing.

Whoa…whoa…whoa…there are ‘feedback loops’ that can either ‘increase or decrease’ the effects of ‘greenhouse gases’. Well, that pretty well nails it down, doesn’t it?

But wait…what is the evidence for these startling finds?

Over time, from 1980–2020, researchers found that such whiplash trends in the weather increased approximately A QUARTER OF A PERCENT [you can guess where that emphasis comes from]…

“Climate change is fuelling back-to-back droughts and floods which have caused widespread devastation, resulting in loss of life and damage to property, infrastructure, and the environment,” said co-author Shuo Wang, an associate professor at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. “Our findings provide insights into the development of early warning systems for mitigating the impacts of rapid dry-wet transitions.”

Really? How? Perhaps the researchers will give out a warning…something like this:

‘Hey ho…you’re having a dry spell. Watch out…you could have a wet spell soon.

‘What are the odds?

‘I don’t know…but a flood could be 0.25% more likely.

‘You’re saying the odds of a flood are up by one-quarter of 1%…that’s all?

‘Well, they’re not really odds. We were just measuring recent past activity…past results may or may not be predictive.

‘Oh…What should we do?

‘Buy a boat? Or sun-screen.


And the mainstream news…

And here’s another shocker: ‘Scientists discover continent that had been missing for 375 years’.

The article refers to a vast continent — connecting Australia, Antarctica and NZ — most of which sank under the ocean 500 million years ago. Supposedly, Abel Tasman should have recognised its remnants when he explored the South Seas in the 18th century. But the whole idea — that it has been ‘missing for 375 years’ is just nonsense.

Wait. Here’s a timewaster posing as financial analysis, from Fortune: ‘Morgan Stanley analyst predicts S&P 500 could leap another 11% this year, boosted by gains to ‘Magnificent Seven’ stocks’:

Despite a nightmarish cocktail of economic headwinds, the S&P 500 has enjoyed a surprisingly strong 2023 — up 18% for the year to date.

And according to one expert that tally could go even higher, spiking again by as much as 11% as the summer season comes to a close.

Morgan Stanley analyst Andrew Slimmon believes there’s more growth to be had in the S&P 500, boosted largely by “Magnificent Seven” stocks.’

What is especially idiotic about this is the misleading precision. 11%. Not 12%. Not 10%.

The phrasing of it, too, — ‘could go [up]…as much as 11%’ — is the kind of absurdity you find in advertising, not in honest reporting. Of course, it could go up by 11%…or 150%. Or down by 11%. Or not move at all. That’s the nice thing about ‘could’ — it doesn’t leave much out.

Oh, and a hairdresser from Brooklyn

And here’s an example of a new clickbait genre — ‘I moved to Alabama, but I can’t stand rednecks’.

Business Insider: ‘I regretted moving to France. The cost of living was too high for my low salary and I experienced xenophobia — so I moved back to the US’.

Don’t expect the insights and amusements you find in ‘Innocents Abroad’. These writers are not Mark Twain. They are morons. But this one is particularly dim. She, working as a hairdresser, noted that the French were not very forthcoming with compliments; ‘receiving only critical comments (and never anything positive) didn’t make me feel good at all’.

It is a cultural difference. The French believe good work should be taken for granted. They reserve their comments for disappointments.

But then, she applies an American fantasy: ‘I experienced xenophobic comments made against me.

Do the French like Americans? Not particularly. Why should they?

We were at a dinner party on Saturday. A companion made this remark:

Here in Europe, we are obsessed by climate change. It is our great bugaboo…our bete noire.

But you Americans have your own délires; you think we should all like each other — gays, trans, blacks, Arabs, masons…Jews. It’s not going to happen.

But the American can’t imagine that her ‘values’ are neither universal nor eternal. When asked why she decided to leave:

It was a hard decision: a part of me wanted to stay and be a part of some kind of change in Paris. But the truth is, I didn’t love France enough to stay and try to change it.

She probably made the right decision. The last group to make a serious effort to change the city were the Germans, 1940–44. They had thousands of troops…and machine guns. Still, Paris remained Paris. The French remained French. Brotchen did not replace croissants. The hairstylist from Brooklyn was not likely to succeed where the Wehrmacht failed.

One of our favourite recollections from the two decades we spent in France was when we visited an island off the coast of Brittany. Our car was registered in Paris…and each ‘department’ is indicated on the license plate. Paris is ‘75’. In small-town traffic, a man on the sidewalk yelled at us: ‘Dirty Parisians; go back where you came from.

It was then, after many years, that we finally felt accepted; we were treated just like the French treat each other.


Dan Denning Signature

Bill Bonner,
For The Daily Reckoning Australia

All advice is general advice and has not taken into account your personal circumstances. Please seek independent financial advice regarding your own situation, or if in doubt about the suitability of an investment.

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