Friday, November 13, 2015

The politics of manipulation and deception

In the excellent last book by Akerloff and Fisher on the economics of manipulation and deception, there is a chapter on how the political arena is also full of incentives for manipulation and deception. However, after reading that chapter, one is left with the impression that they could have done a better job. A comprehensive treatment of the issue is yet to be done, but it is getting urgent. When I woke up this morning and watched the news on the Spanish public broadcaster while I was having breakfast, I was amazed to see that the 5 first headlines were devoted to the conflict between the central government authorities and the pro-secession Catalan regional government. My views on this particular topic are clear enough from previous posts in this blog. But it is quite clear that the central government (who has a tight grip on the public broadcaster, as the Catalan government has a tight grip on its own regional broadcaster) is manipulating media attention because it knows that a patriotic controversy has the potential of leaving corruption and austerity in the dark. A recent article by the New York Times on increasing censorship in Spanish media can only increase any democrat's concerns. This is part of what the NYT has to say:
"Newspapers almost everywhere have struggled to adjust to digital technology and declining advertising revenues.
But in Spain, the rapid restructuring of a shrinking industry — more than 11,000 journalists have lost their jobs here in seven years — has also prompted mounting concerns over whether Spain’s most established papers have lost their editorial independence amid the financial squeeze.
The industry here has faced a perfect storm that has included huge debts and the assertiveness of a conservative government under Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and his Popular Party that has aggressively countered public criticism.
Mr. Rajoy’s government has been assailed by opponents for its passage this year of what has become known as “the gag law,” which imposes steep penalties for unauthorized political protests or the publishing of amateur video footage of police officers. On Thursday, a group of international media watchdogs published a joint report expressing concerns over media freedom in Spain and calling for repeal of the law and a loosening of the government’s control over the national broadcaster."

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