The advantage of social stigma
Posted by aogThursday, 18 October 2007 at 21:48 TrackBack Ping URL

The Wall Street Journal had an article today about the problem of bundled contributions to political campaigns. That made me ponder the problem for a bit. In my system, there would be no limits on such contributations, which leads to the question of how to avoid the problem. The expectation would be that public knowledge of tainted contributions would serve as sufficient disincentives. One might well think that if the amount of corruption isn’t enough of itself, without the contributions, to bounce a politician out of office then it can’t be all that bad.

Naturally, the reaction of the chattering classes in Old Media is to suggest that new laws should be passed about such activity, just like the previous laws which have proven so effective. In my view, this is simply another form of welfare, of a set of people trying to chunk their own responsibilities off on to the shoulders of Uncle Sam. Old Media has had decades in which to notice and publicize this problem but has brought it up in primarily a partisan way, a means of showing what evil people the GOP is composed of. The problem is that if the public perception is that it’s a partisan issue, it’s mostly happenstance rather than a structural or general flaw. The result are things like the fund raising trail of the Clintons, the exposure of which means that Old Media has to describe it as a “crisis” that is “surprising” rather than something they have actively ignored for so long.

No small part of the reason for the silence is the political bias of Old Media, but I think it goes deeper than that. My view is that this is yet another pernicious effect of the professionalization of journalism. In days of yore, when journalists were ill respected, there wasn’t much to lose from digging up dirt on some A-list politician / socialite. You weren’t going to get invited to any of their parties anyway, so why not? Now, however, the journalists themselves ar professionals, members of the chattering classes, and deeply tied in to that social network. Honest reporting could get you bumped from the good party circuit, socially ostracized, destroy friendships. That creates no small incentive to let things slide. One might be left wondering how much of the political bias in Old Medai, rather than being primary, is a consequence of this, as GOP stalwarts are much less likely to mix in those sorts of social crowds. Perhaps the key advantage of the blogosphere is simply that it has a very fragmented set of social spaces so there’s always some weblogger willing to go public because it’s not his friends who are the guilty.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
erp Friday, 19 October 2007 at 07:10

You’re right that media stars want to be invited to A list parties and are terrified of being shunned should they tell what they know about corruption on the left.

GOP legislators are often dazzled by the celebrity media when they get to Washington and want to be on the A list too. The corruption of power and money isn’t easy to resist. The difference is wrong doing on the right is pounced upon while that of the left is ignored or spun into the dust.

When the Republicans took over the house in 1995, Limbaugh addressed the freshmen congressmen and warned them of the pitfalls ahead. Not surprisingly, they didn’t all heed his advice.

I wonder if Imus is brave/angry enough to tell what he knows, which I’d bet is a lot about the comings and goings of the democrats in power.

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