10 November, 2007

Media Management

Last Friday I was listening to the radio, when I heard an almost Euclidean proof of how the news is managed. On the NPR science show, they had a researcher on, Harold Salzman, Senior Research Associate at the Urban Institute. His basic thesis was that science education in the US was actually pretty good. Specifically, he made three points worth noting:

• For every three bachelor’s degrees awarded in science, there was only one job available. So there was, in fact no shortage of skilled technologists in America, and we did not need to issue work visas to foreign technical workers.

• Factoring out African-American students, American secondary students scored just as well on science tests as their peers in Europe and Asia.

• The failure of African-American students to do as well as others was not due to the schools, but due to other factors, like poverty, poor home life, and lack of ambition.

So far, so good. But then, to give “balance” to the show, two political partisans were brought in:

• Craig R. Barrett, Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation, argued that these figures must be wrong “… since the State Department would not be issuing those visas if those workers were not necessary!”

• Shirley M. Malcom from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, who was all upset about how the schools were “failing” African-Americans.

So here we have the perfect management of news. A scientist, with no agenda, backed with significant research, is up against two interested parties, a corporate executive who profits personally from the low cost of foreign technicians being imported, and a race hustler, who will do anything to divert the blame for the academic failure of African-Americans from the ghetto culture that plainly does not value education. It was a marvelous discussion, full of nit-picking and second guessing at the data, hoary truisms and generalizations trotted out as if they needed no proving, and fear-mongering about the “state of our schools.” Not once did anyone point up the fact that the scientist was the only one not personally invested in the outcome and thus the only one with even a chance of being unbiased.

Of course, the National Bolshevik take on this is clear: we need autarky!

• Foreign workers are brought in to undercut the wages of Americans: this is anti-working class!

• It is yet another form of imperialism to skim off the best minds from developing nations for our own benefit.

• The only way that the owing classes will ever be forced to bring African-Americans into full participation in the life of this country, is if they become economically necessary. By closing out borders to foreign workers, we are one step closer to realizing this goal.

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