Saturday, October 21, 2006

"The Economist" syndrome

This post over at Crooked Timbers pretty much sums up why The Economist always bugs me when they report on American politics. After pulling a quote from a recent Economist article which called Hillary Clinton "the darling of the party's liberal activists" and John Edwards "Southerner, Westerner and moderate" Henry writes:
These claims don't seem biased to me so much as clueless. The bit about Clinton in particular strikes me as the sort of thing one might believe if one listened more to Republicans talking about Democrats than to Democrats themselves. I don't get the impression that the article's author actually knows very much about what's happening within the Democratic party. Not what you expect from a serious magazine.
This is what bugs me about The Economist. For a magazine that supposedly reports from the neo-liberal center they certainly seem to get their information from right-wing sources only. It's a failure I've seen in a lot of "center-left" individuals. Evidently, someone decided that only right-wing news sources are credible and that no self-respecting moderate publication could stoop so low as to learn about liberals from liberals themselves.

Update: Brad Delong (who I should have credited in the first place) has some more thoughts. After rounding up some thought from the blog-o-sphere he concludes like so:

In my view, it's not spores from Fox News infecting an unsuspecting population of Economist writers. In my view, it's a deliberate attempt by Economist management to shape its American political coverage by hiring people who will ape the political coverage provided by the Wall Street Journal editorial page--but, of course, without the coke, the meth, and the acid the Journal's writers consume daily. The assumption appears to be that pleasing the American circulation base and thus keeping the magazine going requires that its American political coverage start with the assumption that various Republican talking points and shibboleths are true, and then heads off into the Gamma Quadrant from there.

This does have costs: it makes me, for one, much less likely to trust or quote what the Economist writes about the rest of the world and about economics and finance than I was two decades ago.


brad said...

It's the disjunction--the apparent disjunction, I should say--between the Economist's coverage of American politics and the rest of the magazine that is the most interesting, and disturbing.

Bret said...

I once knew someone well-read and well-traveled who claimed that the Economist actually ships different versions of its content to different first-world nations, to better conform to the prejudices of different reader bases. He also said that if you want to know what the Economist really thinks, you have to read the British version.

Is it true? I have no idea.