“The Political Economy of News”

Posted By on Jun 5, 2020 in Events |

Speaker: Martin Fackler 


Wednesday 29, 3pm 

Fee: 2,000 non-Members: 5,000 non-members. 

My generation grew up with a body of received wisdom, which changed slowly. It was a massive wrench when the UK elected Margaret Thatcher in 1979. I can still remember my father’s shock. 40 years of ‘full employment’ ideology was ditched. Still, we grew up in a world where it was accepted that vaccines saved lives, the government was benign, major news organs were reliable, and politicians well-intentioned. 

Today, I get several messages per day from friends around the world suggesting that 1) vaccines are a Big Pharma con 2) Covid 19 is a huge hoax perpetrated by the media and 3) the Deep State and Big Media form a cabal to keep the little people down. 

I initially resisted these claims, but certain doubts were sown (after all, some of my friends are quite smart and successful). I began to keep an eye out for such claims, rather than simply ignoring them, and occasionally came across a well-written piece which chiselled away further at my certainties. 

Our speaker, distinguished author, former New York Times Tokyo bureau chief and senior adviser to Ichigo Asset Management Martin Fackler, will unpick this feeling, which he believes arises from a conflict between expert news management by powerful and sinister forces, and the obsolete state of journalism.  

The media, he believes, is heavily conditioned by its virtues – namely the imperative to be fair and balanced. 

But this means that any nonsense put out by people like President Trump is slavishly picked up and repeated by the media, thus amplifying the story far beyond its original value. That being precisely the objective in the first place.

This is a trifle self-serving. CNN, for example, does not purely act from a surfeit of journalistic virtue. It also seems to have a compulsion to change people’s minds, and spends silly amounts of time covering even sillier stories. The extra traffic doesn’t harm the bottom line, either. 

And much of the population has not forgotten the lion-ization of Wall Street and the neo-liberal narrative which led to the Great Financial Crisis. Or the replacement of class warfare with calls for the social emancipation of ever smaller groups. 

The story is different in Japan. The media is old school. It’s trusted and read in far greater numbers than in Western countries. But also it is seen as having a too-cozy relationship with the state (rather than with the deep state, as in the US!). We could almost be in Eisenhower’s America. 

The systems are thus more similar than they look. Elites always try to set and manage a self-serving consensus.The difference is that the US establishment has lost legitimacy. New and sometimes darker forces are trying to fill the vacuum. In the most powerful and richest country in the world, the stakes are high…

Anybody interested in the making and dissemination of news during Covid 19 and the upcoming US election – its ‘political economy’ – should come and listen to one of the shrewdest observer in Tokyo.