The cover story of Newsweek on April 19th, 2010, titled “America’s Back! The Remarkable Tale of Our Economic Turnaround” caught me offguard. This five page story indirectly states that we as Americans have largely been overreacting to this economic downturn since the 2008 financial meltdown and subsquent recession. While acknowledging the housing deficit and the current underemployment level of 16.9% with a small nod, the remainder of the article reads more like a public relations brochure aimed to improve U.S. self-esteem. Citing recent increases in auto sales and manufacturing jobs as a demonstration of this turnaround, the article goes as far as to suggest that this recession may have been in our best interest in terms of our position in the global market place since it has encouraged new innovations and forced Americans to be creative with limited resources. Clearly the author of this article isn’t one of the millions who have suffered drastically from this economic crisis during the past few years. I don’t think potential innovations in new communication industries is going to excite people who have been laid off and cannot locate new jobs because their previous employers now outsource to India. Yet, the main problem I have with this article is more subtle than the actual content to which I have just referred. While I have no complaints with a positive spin once in a while, I do take issue with such claims in a popular national magazine that the recession is behind us. This type of position by the mainstream media makes those individuals who are still struggling to cope with economic hardships feel as though they are alone and maybe even at fault. By positioning such financial problems as the problems of individual people rather than structural, societal problems, a cycle of self-doubt and blame can ensue. People begin to question themselves in regard to why they are still laboring every day to make ends meet if the media puts forth the perception that everyone else has been able to move beyond the crisis. Blaming individuals for failing to get ahead without acknowledging the structural inqualities that hold certain groups down while privileging others is a common theme in American history that continues to be perpetuated today. (And who says the I&C core isn’t relevant?!). This is just another example. The difference this time around is that many of those who are struggling currently are individuals who have typically occupied priviledged positions up until this point. Let’s see if this changes the rhetoric.
Andrea Bergstrom, Department of Mass Communication
Pierce Arrow Blogger
Pierce Arrow Blogger