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Judging the Media with Bryan Caplan

Judging the Media with Bryan Caplan

The answer you get depends on the question you ask

Bryan Caplan joins me to play a very special game. Building off my “Why the Media Is Honest and Good,” and Bryan’s response, “Mainstream Media Is Worse Than Silence,” we decided to browse some major news sites and analyze the headlines in order to explore our differences. We cover the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Economist, and the Wall Street Journal.

You can listen to the audio here, but to get the full benefit you should watch the video to follow along as we go through the major news sites and react in real time to what we see. We previously agreed not to read the news today until our conversation, which would allow us to spontaneously react to the articles.

I realized here that the question of whether the media is good or not depends on one’s framing. In my original article, I assumed the perspective of someone who wanted to be informed about the world, and was comparing the press to twitter and right-wing alternatives. Bryan is more arguing that it’s better not to pay attention to the news at all, which I think is probably the right choice for most people.

He moved me a bit towards his position. Very few of the “problems” that the media focuses on are actually problems in my view, and the ones that do exist are often made worse by coverage. I had a realization that I really couldn’t think of many instances where the media warned people about something and government went and made things better, although that probably reflects my libertarian bias, which Bryan isn’t the best person to check. Perhaps I was too quick to dismiss other potential ways of making important information available to the public, like the torts system.

I’ve always assumed in these arguments that the press would be replaced by some other source of information, not that the people would do what’s most healthy and just focus on their own lives. Our MSM is good relative to most institutions that have controlled the marketplace of ideas throughout history, and also, as mentioned, its right-wing antagonists who have built alternatives that are rife with sensationalism and misinformation.

We digress into a few other areas, like Prigozhin’s attempted coup, coverage of Bukele and what’s happening in El Salvador (see here and here), how awful conservative media is, and what we know about Balochistan. Enjoy.

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Richard Hanania's Newsletter
Clown Car
Discussion of politics and current events, with a special focus on the 2024 election.
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Bryan Caplan