How mainstream media deal about public debt issues

3 April 2018 by Eric Toussaint

Éric Toussaint, spokesperson for the CADTM, refers here to the partial approach to the public debt issue developed by mainstream media at an international level: they never include the deleterious consequences of repaying public debt on people’s lives and on human rights in heavily indebted countries.

As they often depend on advertising from private corporations or major banks, mainstream media are reluctant to question the legitimacy of some debts or to envisage their cancellation. Indeed they are in cahoots with creditors such as banks and large financial groups. Public mainstream media are also deeply influenced by the discourse of current leaders, who use public debt as a pretext to justify the austerity measures they implement.

Media thus support and promote the repayment of public debt and the implementation of austerity measures. Notions such as odious or illegitimate debt or debt auditing are never mentioned.

What negative impact did the media have in the case of Greece?

At an international level, when the media discussed the issue of the Greek debt, they offered a caricature of the Greek people supposed to be lazy, spendthrift and irresponsible, with big retirement pensions and no taxes to pay.[1] So while the Greek people are depicted as guilty and Greece as making the euro teeter, we good Europeans, in our infinite generosity, help them out so that their pensions can be paid and their hospitals run.

The media claim that Greece not repaying its debt would result in drastic losses for tax-payers in other European countries; this is meant to frighten the audience, for in fact it would hardly have any adverse consequences on tax-payers’ pockets in other countries. Mainstream media never mention feasible solutions to cancel public debt.

Translation from French by Christine Pagnoulle and Vicky Briault

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France.
He is the author of Greece 2015: there was an alternative. London: Resistance Books / IIRE / CADTM, 2020 , Debt System (Haymarket books, Chicago, 2019), Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012, etc.
See his bibliography:
He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He was the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt from April 2015 to November 2015.

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