It can be amusing to read the business section of newspapers, because corporate coverage tends to be carefully couched in phrases that either obfuscate what's really going on, or are outright Orwellian.
It can be amusing to read the business section of newspapers, because corporate coverage tends to be carefully couched in phrases that either obfuscate what’s really going on, or are outright Orwellian.
For example, a recent New York Times article on rising airline fares and fees did a rhetorical tiptoe around the core issue. The fact is that practically all airlines have jacked up the price of flying – and in unison! In the real world, there’s a word for this: collusion. But the Times put a positive glow on the phenomenon, attributing the industry-wide increases to “a remarkable discipline shown by the airlines.”
Enjoying Hightower? How about a weekly email that gives you the full scoop?
Remarkable indeed! And how have the high-flying giants been able to achieve such discipline? By deliberately shrinking competition – both through mergers that establish fewer and bigger giants and by agreeing to cut the number of flights that each one offers. No competition, no choice. Take it or leave it.
This is monopolization in action. But that’s such an unpleasant word (not to mention an illegal act), so the Times chose to go with a benign, industry-approved euphemism: consolidation. You might expect journalists to question what clearly appears to be rank profiteering through the deliberate shrinkage of consumer choice. Instead, the article approvingly quotes a Wall Street analyst praising the airlines for showing “voluntary capacity discipline.” How Orwellian!
And what about that blitzkrieg of fees currently pelting consumers and artificially goosing airline profits? Dare it be called what it is: gouging? Not by the Times, which gently notes that the monopolists are being “increasingly creative” in assessing fees, though it does conceed that the benefit for passengers is “opaque.”
What’s really opaque is the journalistic value of such corporate-friendly obfuscation.
“After Bargains of Recession, Air Fares Soar,” www.nytimes.com, September 4, 2010.
“Shareholders approve United, Continental Deal, The Gazette, September 18, 2010.