Wednesday, March 29, 2006

He Said, He Said

Critics, including me, complain that the mass media acts irresponsibly when it reports both sides of every issue as if the Tobacco Institute really has the same credibility as the National Institute of Health. There are exceptions to this rule, however. Where received wisdom coincides with corporate interests, the networks don’t bother with the balance business. In coverage of the current crisis in France over labor practices, for example, it is simply taken for granted that the protestors are obviously wrong and that their point of view need not be aired—that something like two-thirds of the French population agrees with the protestors is seldom mentioned either. That last fact is apparently irrelevant since CNN, like Bush and Brezhnev, believes that the people have no right to be wrong.

My point is not that it is necessarily a good idea for the French to continue current restrictions on the firing of young workers—I have no opinion on that since in the absence of any real understanding of what’s going on, I don’t have a right to an opinion. I do know enough to recognize that more is going on than lazy slackers in berets idiotically resisting the immutable laws of economics. For example, the law that has so outraged the French population was evidently passed by what might be called semi-extra- constitutional maneuvers, which is why the whole affair is going into the courts. After all, the current French government, like our own, has a well-earned reputation for sleazy dealings. A change in the law may or may not benefit the mass of the populations–who knows?—but it is of immediate benefit to the big companies that bankroll the right. Anyhow, although you’d never guess it to hear the anchormen pumping out the party line, it is not a given that the inability to freely fire workers is a major cause of French economic problems. It’s just a commonplace.