15 January 2009

Has talking the economy down become a dangerous self-fulfilling prophesy?


In previous blog entries, I’ve noted how depressingly keen the UK media is on talking the economy down (23 October 2008, 23 November 2008).

It now seems to have reached a point where any hint of talking it up will get you into trouble, even when the ‘offending’ words were prompted by a leading question from an interiewer.

Baroness Vadera was asked on the ITV Lunchtime News when she believed that the UK could expect to see “green shoots” and replied: “I am seeing a few green shoots, but it’s a little bit too early to say exactly how they’d grow.”

CUE - headlines:

MINISTER'S 'GREEN SHOOTS' GAFFE

GREEN SHOOTS: SHRITI VADERA'S ECONOMIC OPTIMISM SPARKS OUTRAGE

BARONESS VADERA UNDER FIRE FOR 'SEEING GREEN SHOOTS OF RECOVERY'

CUE - retraction/confession:

BARONESS VADERA REGRETS 'GREEN SHOOTS' OPTIMISM IN ECONOMY

Hardly surprising when opposition parties had been so quick to join the media in making such a meal of it:

"The Conservatives said Lady Vadera's comments showed ministers were 'insensitive and out of touch' with the reality facing millions of families. Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, said that they showed she was 'living in a parallel universe'".

But are we really doomed to stand by and submit to one gloomy self-fulfilling prophesy after another from everyone on the public stage (with the possible exception of Baroness Vadera)?

And does all this prove that American sociologist W.I. Thomas got it right in 1928 when he said:

'If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences.'

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