By Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog
The Chicago Tribune – seemingly the only major newspaper which did not endorse Hillary Clinton in 2016 (they endorsed Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson) – has reported that price gouging in Chicago has skyrocketed a spectacular 9,000% since March 1.
What’s worse, that figure only includes complaints to the city’s Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department from March 1, excluding the first two months of 2020.
From some it’s a dagger in the heart of perceptions of superior codes of polite conduct in the Midwest. For others it’s verification of all the worst accusations of moral, and especially financial, corruption in the city forever linked in the global imagination with gangster Al Capone.
Now… this is all entirely accurate. I have even presented it with hallowed (and phony/naive) “objectivity”. Nobody can sue me for anything.
But it’s terrible journalism.
It’s eye-catching, newspaper-selling, ratings-grabbing, if-it-bleeds-it-leads journalism. It’s journalism designed to grab eyeballs by inciting panic… and panic is what the West is doing very, very well during the Corona crisis.
The City of Chicago received 175 price gouging complaints so far this month – there were only 2 such complaints all of last year, per The Chicago Tribune. The newspaper’s journalists handled the story ok: only got quotes from the government – nothing from victims, grassroots groups or even vox pops – but it’s not terrible.
Now my headline was rather click bait-y and terrible – irresponsible/negligent use of a colon, certainly. See what I can do if I decide to use my powers for evil rather than good?
Was there an 8,650% increase? Yes. I can say I was, “Just reporting the facts,” which is the ultimate journalistic cop-out. This was exactly the defense used by the reporter in Clint Eastwood’s fine new movie on Atlanta Olympics non-bomber Richard Jewell when confronted by Jewell and his lawyer. MSMers would do the same if you questioned their constant, provoking “Corona death toll reaches ___” headlines.
But even The Chicago Tribune knew better than to phrase this trend that way. Is price gouging a real concern? Yes, and more to me than The Chicago Tribune, judging by the space they gave the story.
But it probably won’t be a concern at all to MSNBC because Illinois is a solidly Democratic state which has no chance of flipping to Trump, and Illinois also has a (billionaire, aristocratic) Democratic governor. The hyper-partisan channel is happy to excuse in Democrats what they shame Republicans for; their editorial line is – ignore blue state malfeasances, attack red states.
(FYI, my headline’s colon is negligent because MSNBC has not reported on this story, and the colon implies that. Should have been a comma.)
I like to read the business sections of the world’s top papers and media when I can – you often find the most serious hard news there – and certainly we all have time off now. I figure it’s either do that or panic. That’s how I found this price gouging story.
I also had time to check out fake-leftist darling/rightly-guided prophet Rachel Maddow’s latest show: she opened with the Spanish ice rink converted to a morgue story, which was the most eye-catching, panic-inducing, if-it-bleeds-it-leads choice possible to start her show.
That was terrible journalism.
In my first article on the corona crisis I quickly got to the point: “The problem in the West is that those in power during the corona crisis should not be in power.”
Maddow, incredibly, has become the Walter Cronkite of seemingly one-third of the US despite constantly evincing atrocious and sensationalistic journalism standards.
In 2018, for fun while on vacation, I wrote a minute-by-minute analysis of one of her shows, which just happened to be about (of course) her one-woman Russophobia campaign: “This was supposed to be a funny article, but when you diagram it out…I rather feel like I just watched Joseph McCarthy at work.”
Why would we assume that instead of McCarthyist red-baiting (and I have more red in my pinky toenail clippings than Maddow has in her whole body) or Russophobia-baiting or Trump-baiting, Maddow isn’t now fine with corona-baiting? Her viewers do not seem to ever ask themselves this fundamental question.
Of course, as many foreigners know: in the US there is no such thing as “propaganda” – that only exists in other countries.
Kudos to Maddow for being a Rhodes Scholar, but that does not make her qualified to be a journalist, and certainly not one holding such a vital position.
Journalists, of course, need no official qualifications. It’s a craft and not a profession – there is no single code of conduct, nor any board to revoke your license as no such license exists. A journalism degree is a nice way to start learning the craft but not necessary (Maddow does not have one), and who on earth would waste their time getting a Master’s in Journalism (except journalism professors)? The US public airwaves are not nationalised, and nearly all privately-owned, so forget about governmental review boards for civil servant journalists.
My irresponsible/negligent use of colons is thus no problem: my colon, my business. And that’s no matter how much confusion I sow. And maybe this is all a problem? But in the “free speech” loving West such ideas are verboten.
From what I can gather Maddow’s only serious daily journalism job was as a local morning radio talk show host. FYI – US morning talk radio is about as serious as the regular flu (although that may now be upgraded to semi-pandemic status). Then she was tapped for hosting a show with a US rapper. I simply don’t observe in her work any solid grounding in the craft of journalism and the importance of its social responsibilities. As I wrote in that article: “As a journalist you can’t make an unproven claim just because you hope the future proves you right.”
CNN’s Anderson Cooper may be a scion of the oligarch Vanderbilt family, and while he did admit to working for the CIA for two summers he has way, way more serious journalistic experience than Maddow: He waited 10-15 minutes before running the Spanish ice morgue story on his show last night.
Not such good politicians, not such good governors, not such good journalists = a really good response to the Corona crisis? That’s pretty funny math.
What’s stunning as well is to see how – even amid what they are telling us is a huge global pandemic which rivals the Spanish Flu of 1918 (even though it clearly does not) – the Western MSM continues to obsess with degrading Donald Trump: in their broadcast media it’s still taking up a huge proportion of their coverage. But how can a daily habit dating from November 2016 be shut off so easily?
Well, journalist, it’s your job to roll with the punches, eh? You should be able to easily transition from a pandemic story to a cat-in-the-tree-rescue story to covering the local high school football game. This is what good journalists can do.
But the MSM doesn’t want good journalists, especially in front of the camera or at the editor’s desk; you do get good journalists writing columns. Newspapers, after all, are a whole different kettle of fish than TV, radio and internet journalism.
There has been a long-running trend in Western journalism: I call it the “sports-journalization of news journalism”. Everything is presented as a dramatic game, or a “war”; statistics (minus analysis and discernment) are paramount; incredibly juvenile attitudes and behaviors are not just considered normal, but expected.
Have you ever dealt with any sports journalists? I have: they are by far the most juvenile, emotionally-stunted people in any newsroom.
They often are gamblers and drunks – how else can you possibly get excited about covering a local high school football game time after time? Of course they are emotionally-stunted: they are covering something which can be fairly called more juvenile than the fashion or (what they used to call the) society pages, and how juvenile are those sections? These guys hope to make it to the big time one day: to stand next to the used jock strap laundry basket while naked men answer questions about why the ball bounced funny that one time.
Don’t give me anecdotal evidence – I know sports journalists who are intelligent, artistic, suave, upstanding people, sure. But if I had a daughter who said she was marrying a sports journalist I’d think: “Well, I should get some free tickets, which are so expensive now due to inflation… but I can’t talk about inflation with this guy: This guy probably only wants to talk about stuff 8-year olds excitedly discuss.”
My point is: in broadcast journalism the journalists who get promoted in the West best apply the absurd, childish dramatics of sports journalism into hard news issues, and especially in the US. France’s media isn’t nearly as bad: they have far more newspapers; they actually have normal-looking people as anchors on the top channels; they have far more state-run channels; they have state subsidies for media to provide some stable revenue. The UK is, of course, terrible and tabloid, but at least they are hilarious.
So of course the US is hyper-partisan, hyper-panicked, hyper-dramatic and hyper-susceptible to things which adults should not be. A sign of adulthood is putting away childish things and acting responsibly on serious issues.
Sports is the ultimate reality TV – yes, we men grasped that first! – but who doesn’t know it’s only an empty-calorie diversion? The sports-journalization of US media, contrarily, has made their hard news an empty-calorie diversion, and this trend diverts the public’s attention into the worst, bloodiest, scariest aspects of the Corona virus situation.
This article from the great website CounterPunch is an extension of my first article on Corona: Starvation, bad water, urban violence, imperialist war – these, and others, kill far, far more innocents annually than Corona: Where has been the panic for those?
Such things often don’t come near to touching the White fake-leftist class in America, which slavishly follows MSNBC. However, Corona might touch them – thus the panic and, above all with them: outrage, outrage, outrage.
If we judge by the Western MSM sports scoreboard (and what’s more capitalist-imperialist than competition?): Western good sense is getting its butt kicked during the Corona crisis.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.
I am telling you man, it’s that digital broadcast signal. They made everyone in America buy a ‘mandatory metallica’ digital broadcast signal reciever for their televisions (switchover from ‘analogue signal’). Since then, they have been swinging for the fences with every dumba$$ thing that their execs tell them to say. On every channel, at the same time, the same way, with the exact same catch phrases and words, on every channel, every time, ever since the ‘changeover’.
Hahahaahahah, as if on cue, today The Chicago Tribune’s lead editorialist John Kass confirmed exactly what I am saying about the sports-journalization of top US media. (Many thanks to the friend who sent this to me.)
“Column: Without sports because of coronavirus, can fans live on bread alone?”
“My refuge is sports and sports talk radio, where people bicker and bark and pick at each other over sports, and call each other foolish for uttering an idea that challenges their worldview. Hearing talk show hosts insult their listeners over Michael vs. LeBron is idiotic indeed.
But somehow it soothes me.”
“I just switch and go to political talk, where they’re bickering about coronavirus politics and who’s the GPOAT, Greatest Politician Of All Time. It’s got to be Julius Caesar, but like many politicians, he was betrayed by his friends in the end.
I already get enough of that through work.”
Julius Caesar the GPOAT? For a neo-imperialist, I can see that.
re: price gouging . i just 5 watched a recent 5 days old video made himself & uploaded, of just a guy with a gopro going at random into each supermarket store in turn in his city in az, & the only lineal footage of shelves empty are the very very few that get cleaned out to nothing. you know, survival items like bread (shelf like 3-5 days), chips, cheetos, soda pop,… no mention of price gouging, or if they give out rain checks, or if these were sale items cleaned out by those on limited money.
So unknown what is this gouging, although being chicago, well…
Could somebody explain what “price gauging” is, and what’s the relevance of this?
It seems the article falls into the extremely common trap believing that whatever happens in the USA is of prime importance for the world, and one can just talk about it as if everybody knows all the details.
No background needed, just the usual USA-talking style of fast, meaningless utterances of words.
This is also a major weakness of the “Moon of Alabama” — the endless reporting and discussing of arbitrary details of USA-internal processes (which are all about name calling, hearsay, gossip etc.).
By just making endless noise, the USA shuts down most of the world’s discussion.
Just an example: in a mathematical workshop anywhere in the world, when people sit together, for whatever purpose, and there are US-americans there, they will immediately dominate the discussion by arbitrary details from Washington Post and New York Times about the election (or any other USA-internal discussion which is just en vogue).
Just forget about the USA, and the world would be immediately a better place.
While the article claims to “debunk” the greatness of the USA, in fact it adds to it, since the nature of the USA is perversion.
There is no such thing as “price gauging”.
No wonder you didn’t like the article – you didn’t get it from the jump.
Good to read that Chicago is being Chicagoan. Surprised it’s only up 9000% this month, but the month isn’t over.
You say I “didn’t get it from the jump”. So I assume you “got it”: could you explain to me what that article is about?
You missed the point of the article.
The “price gouging story” was just an example to prove the overall thesis.
You say I “missed the point of the article”.
Namely, what is the point of the article? What is the overall thesis?
I have no clue what that article is about.
LOL, firstly Oliver: I’m sorry if you weren’t sufficiently forewarned that this was a US-focused article – my headline only included “MSNBC”, “Chicago” and “US media”.
1 – The article is about how journalists can take a trend, statistic or story and distort it. Is price gouging up in Chicago during the Corona virus? Yes, it is up 9,000%. However, this is because only 2 cases were reported all of last year.
2 – To me, Western journalists have reported on the Corona crisis in a similarly shoddy manner – they are inflaming with misleading statistics (as I did with the price gouging) and they are provoking panic to get ratings/sell papers. This panic they have helped create has overcome all other rational concerns and realities, I think.
3- The reason Western journalists do this is because they are quite shoddy, unserious reporters; to me they have turned every section into the sports section, with their juvenile, hyper-dramatisations. Thus the “sports-journalization” of US media. Perhaps where you live you don’t have sports journalists screaming and ranting for hours on TV and radio about the dumbest minutiae in sports? These know-it-all “wonder boys” – who would have showed Michael Jordan what concentration really meant if they were only a foot taller, and who haven’t even really achieved the stage of adolescence – are a very prominent phenomenon in the US, and slightly less so in France.
But if you aren’t familiar with them, ok, I can explain it from another angle:
Frank Rich was the NY Times top editorialist during the Dubya Bush years. Rich went straight from being their Broadway drama critic to being their top political critic. Have you ever read a theatre review? You can’t find more over-the-top writing in the paper – everything is either the new Shakespeare or dog meat. Rich was known as the “Butcher of Broadway”. Thus, he thus brought a tremendous amount of hyperbole, dramatics and purple prose – at the expense of serious discourse, logic and respect – to serious political issues like Gulf War II. He was quite popular with the fake-leftist anti-Dubya crowd, but I found him unreadable even though I agreed with his anti-Dubya stance.
I hope this clears that up. I don’t ever recall a Saker reader being so earnestly perplexed as to what I meant. I hope this cleared it up and I’ll try to write more clearly next time. I do agree that this article was written for those in the US – I think many of the ideas can be extrapolated to other Western nations with a lesser degree of applicability.
thanks for your answer.
The behaviour you ascribe to Western journalists needs in my understanding a much broader perspective.
1. The “shoddy journalism” I see deeply seated in the current world, likely more so in the “West”, but it is a worldwide movement. Namely the loss of Wirklichkeit (German), which roughly translates into “Reality” (though “Wirklichkeit” relates to truth, while “Reality” mostly only relates to facts, i.e., perception).
When I talk to colleagues at any(!) University (in the realm of mathematics, computer science, physics), then they are 100% on the official line (climate change a big threat, gender equality a great concern, …). The Chinese colleagues are less on the China-hatred-trip, the Russian less (or more(!)) on the Russia-hatred-trip, but they typically accept the general framework.
My guess is that this movement started with the 1970s. Everything seemed to tip over then.
2. When it comes to exaggeration, making as much noise as possible, this is now a completely and outstanding property of the US-american colleagues. Their dominance-behaviour is built in from earliest childhood (of course, at these international conferences and workshops I only see the winners, not the losers). Nowadays this often takes the form of political correctness. They always accuse you of what they are trying to do (really astonishingly, every one of them); you say “touching an issue”, immediately there is “sexism” around (because of “touching”) etc.
On the opposite end of the spectrum the Russian and Chinese scientists: they always vanish as quickly as possible, and stay amongst themselves.
This behaviour of US-americans I guess was always there, built into the state and society from the beginning. An obscene culture, which was still pulled upwards by building things, researching things, but once that was replaced by the feminist-financial complex, only obscenity was left.
This upward-force likely also dramatically diminished in the 1970s (and the feminist-financial complex started fully operating in the 1980s, perhaps).
(Somebody said once (can’t remember who it was), and I believe it to be true, that the USA (I would say the American Empire) reached its highest point with the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecrafts. They operated later, already in the phase of decline, but that seems natural, due to the inertia of the system.)
3. The sports-journalism relates to the above two forces: there is no “Wirklichkeit”, but it’s just a game, and dominance-behaviour in the age of twitter likely naturally takes on the form of shouting.
They have an agenda here, and it begins with the fact that they never mention Israel, the owners of the USA.
At least Chicago is honest enough to not pretend that there are more than one political party.
Western “journalists” are not “shoddy”. They are paid liars serving up the propaganda du jour. The important question is why any particular item is on the menu. I’ll give an example:
In America in the 1990’s there were many stories detailing a shortage of nurses. There was no “shortage” of nurses, just a shortage of trained nurses willing to work for $10/hr. The propaganda worked. Many people trained to be nurses and wages fell.
The paid propagandists masquerading as journalists are anything but “shoddy”.
Jolly good show, old bean.
“Starvation, bad water, urban violence, imperialist war – these, and others, kill far, far more innocents annually than Corona: Where has been the panic for those?”
I was mumbling to coworkers about this the other day. I was using the deaths from the sanctions on Venezuela as the example.
Moral relativism swept the universities in since the 70s. The publisher of the NYT 91-2016 was an ardent believer. since they do not believe in the truth, the corporate CFR media are just propagandists for the AZE.
They are into the groupthink and terrified as being a “tinfoil hat conspiracy believer” or an agent of the villain of the day, Putin, Assad, etc. Maddow is an anti-Russian bigot, so she seems to be a true believer. The propaganda from the MSM is as bad as Nazi propaganda in the 30s.
Well, the word news stood for (North East West South) or information from all over the world. News meant facts, leaving the reader to conclude for themselves. That day is long gone. What we have today is “News Stories”, with
emphasis on “Stories”.
Well, the reporters have acquired immense lattitude to spin news into any kind of story they please.
That’s been happening for the last 20+years and the last honest news channel I watched was “Newsworld Interntional” from CBC. It was bought by who else Uncle Al, sold to Al-Jazeera as A-J America for 400MM USD (which then folded) and came back again as some reality channel.
There’s a good reason for story telling… News is boring and was loosing appeal as everyone had to think to conclude. Story, like hollywood is spicy and captivating.