Reviewing the Economist

REVIEWING THE ECONOMIST….John Holbo reviews the Economist:

Every major story has either the ‘there are dark clouds on the horizon but there’s a silver lining’ structure; or ‘it looks like a golden age, but there are dark clouds of the horizon’ structure. It’s comforting to know that, however bad it gets, there will always only be those two major stories….

He’s right, but it’s actually worse than he thinks. Business speakers (and others, I assume) learn early that the proper structure for a presentation is “bad news first, then good.” The idea is that even if there are problems that need to be addressed, you want your audience to leave the room filled with determination and optimism.

The Economist does the same thing. But here’s the catch: how do you decide what counts as good news and what counts as bad? In a business presentation, that’s pretty easy (revenues down = bad, new product launching soon = good). For the Economist, though, good news is whatever ideological position they prefer. So while it may look like they publish two different kinds of stores, they actually publish only one: bad news followed by good. If you want to know the editorial line on any particular issue, just read the second half of a story dedicated to it. That’s where you’ll find it.

And speaking of the Economist, could this week’s lead editorial be any lamer? It’s a paean to the flat tax, and like legions of politicians and bloggers before them, they confuse flat (as in getting rid of deductions) with flat (as in taxing everyone at the same rate). These have exactly nothing to do with each other. It’s one thing for people who don’t know better (or who are trying to get elected) to say stuff like this, but the Economist certainly can’t plead ignorance. So why the egregious dishonesty about it?