Saturday, 14 March 2009

Zombie Snails and the Media

Missmarketcrash is back.  Perusing the missed topics of the week, one that seems to have garnered a great deal of attention from both the popular media and some fairly thoughtful websites is that of CNBC vs The Daily Show.  As a non-television watching person, I dismissed the topic and moved on.  But it keeps popping up.

The Daily Show is the showcase for a relative of Missmarketcrash, the comedian Lewis Black.  Lewis and I shared a Brooklyn apartment for a short while long ago when he was in the infancy of career development.  I know a lot about Lewis but far less about television.  Having shared a living space with Lew, I can say that the person on television is different from the person in person.

That's entertainment.  Most of us know that, but, the power of media personalities in shaping human opinion is not a dismissable force.  If there were to be an equivalent to CNBC broadcast in Britain it would not be the popular entertainment vehicle that it is.  It would likely be dry and erudite and feature mini-documentaries on financial topics rather than real-time live banter about the markets.  I can see a show before my very eyes comparing the parasites which invade the zombie snail to the current crisis.

And it would likely have a very small audience.  Back in America, most serious investors dismiss CNBC thought they might keep it on in the corner, muted and watch the quotes fly by.  It is in most trading rooms and a useful thing for listening to speeches on economic policy or to keep up with quick news bulletins.  There is a reasonably large portion of the American population that does tune in to garner information and make financial decisions based on watching the show.  I've been in a New York City Taxi before when the driver was keeping up to date through CNBC and he discussed his investments with me.  The taxi driver took the television show quite seriously and watched it "to know what is going on".   The point is, most people are passive watchers who take information as fact.  I'd say that viewers have a responsiblity to be intelligent viewers.  To know is not enough.

But that requires a very generous utopian view of human intelligence.  And by the way, that zombie snail link is worth clicking.  The things that can invade a brain and shape destiny can take far more gruesome forms than Jim Cramer.

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