‘First published in September 1843 to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and our unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress’ so claims The Economist.

Before we take a look how and where it rather represented ‘unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress’; we also accept that it’s still reckoned to be one of the most insightful publications. And we have our due respect for the publication.

However with the onslaught of Web 2.0; it’s also facing multiple challenges. And getting things wrong more often than what’s expected from it.

The first debate was on globalization and its impact on poverty, starting early in this decade when Economist claimed globalization do help poverty reduction whereas many felt it otherwise, more from the logic that Economist gave (remember for last many years, globalization has increased and poverty has again decreased. However how much of the decrease in poverty level is due to positive contribution of present form of globalization is debatable).

Much of that debate followed in James in Salon.com (‘Debunking the Economist – again’); and by Galbraith in Opendemocracy ‘Globalization and inequality: ‘The Economist’ gets it wrong’’  where it accused the magazine of using the work of economist Stanley Fischer in a misleading way, to promote the idea that “more globalization” will decrease poverty in the world.

On Globalization, an Oxfam briefing paper titled ‘Boxing match in agricultural trade: will WTO knock out the world’s poorest farmers’ cited critical insights in its very 1st page: 96% of world’s farmers live in developing nations, and a whopping 2.5 billion people of the world earn their main income from agriculture. It goes on to state that ‘Haiti, for example, is now one of the most open economies of the world. Under pressure from the IMF and the US, it cut its tariff on rice to a mere 3%. As a result, rice imports – mostly subsidized rice from the US – increased thirty fold’. Thirty-fold…I try to digest that figure…as the paper went on to add price of rice in Haiti however did hardly fall, malnutrition now affects 62% of the population (up from 48% in early 80s), and Oxfam identified big rice traders and American rice farmers to be the winners of that process. Call it the by-product of capitalism, globalization, free trade or whatever else, 54 countries today are poorer than they were in 1990s (ITU, 2005); and compared to 1960, when per capita income in richest 20 countries was 18 times of the poorest 20, in 1995 that almost doubled to 37 times (WDR 2000/01). And then digest how strong the global institution called WTO is in bringing out fair and free trade practices as Doha rounds of talks failed amongst its member states, prompting Peter Mandelson, the European Trade Commissioner to state ‘The alternative to what’s on the table is not the perfect deal, but no deal at all’. There’s no denying that globalization is needed, but in its present form, it has only succeeded in producing a very few filthy rich people at the cost of billions of filthy (extreme) poor people.

Then in its issue (May 4th –May 11th 2006) on Axis of Feeble, on The end of Bush-Blair era, it stated ‘In a world of one superpower, some say, people are safer when its president is too weak for foreign adventures. They are wrong. That Mr. Bush has made big mistakes in foreign policy is not in doubt…But America can-not fix any of these mistakes by folding its tents and slinking home to a grumpy isolation. On the contrary… America needed to respond resolutely to the dangers of terrorism, tyranny and proliferation, Mr. Bush was mainly right. His chief failures stem from incompetent execution.’

Terrorism has increased in response to that resolute respond, at least majority says so now. Probably a team from The Economist could have executed Iraq-invasion better than the US ground troops in Iraq, and there was nothing wrong in the very decision (to invade Iraq for regime change) itself!

True, both of above are their opinion and analysis. And most of the mainstream media have proven to be no exception – we all make mistakes.

We can have our own opinion and analysis; however when it comes to facts; none would agree that we have the privilege to have our own facts.

While browsing through The Economist (June 30th – July 6th’2007) issue (article ‘The hobbled hegemon‘ on America being “Still No. 1), I was surprised to see following:
‘China is pushing America aside as the world’s biggest exporter, and last year it produced more cars than the United States’.
Now many of us don’t do research on country-wise car productions; however following global economy has given many of us a sense to gauge what can be right, what can be potentially right; and what’s unlikely to be right.
A quick fact check revealed Template:World motor vehicle production by country (Reference: World Motor Vehicle Production by Country: 2005 – 2006) that showed China at 7.18 million against 11.26 million of the US, clearly indicating factual misrepresentation here by The Economist in their pursuit of moving forward.

A letter to the editor on this factual misrepresentation was sent on 27th July (asking for their source of their information that says China produced more car than the US last year); however till date there’s no acknowledgement, neither there’s any mention of that in their site.

We love The Economist, however we would love it even more if they stop sloganeering and acknowledge their mistakes ‘while pressing forward’.

We, media consumers, so long felt that bloggers normally do get away by fabricating their own facts; however increasingly we see mainstream media does it even more often (plenty of other examples exist, and we all do come across many of those articles often).

Ranjit Goswami is a research scholar with the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kharagpur, India; and is the author of the book “Wondering Man, Money & Go(l)d’“.

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