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The negative, depressing mainstream press

Sunday’s Falcon 9 failure has given us a great opportunity to learn something about the mainstream press and the elite culture that dominates it. As expected, while the space-oriented press focused on what happened and what will be done to fix the problem, almost every mainstream press outlet immediately concluded that the failure was a disaster that could and (with some outlets) should ring the death knell for private space. Here are just a few examples:

I could go on. Notice that these are almost all mainstream news sources. The few that specialize in science reporting, such as Scientific American, New Scientist, and National Geographic, also tend to push the left wing science agenda.

If you can force yourself to read these articles, as I have, you will find yourself inundated with negativity, pessimism, and a can’t-do attitude. Moreover, many of these articles seem expressly designed to encourage the public and politicians to withdraw their support for space exploration. For example, the Scientific American article, in outlining the history of recent ISS cargo failures, includes this quote:

Public support for the private space industry also took a blow last October (just three days after the Orbital Sciences ATK mishap) when Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space plane SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight, killing one of its pilots. [emphasis mine]

Does Scientific American provide us any evidence that public support had dropped after these failures? No. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence that support dropped, and if anything, based on the budget increases over the years for commercial space (despite Congressional efforts to trim that budget), support has continued to grow through thick and thin.

No, Scientific American inserted this statement because they want support to drop, and have tailored their article to help make that a self-fulfilling prophecy. The negativity of all these other articles suggest that their writers and outlets feel the same. Life is hard! Bad things can happen! Better that we stick our head in the sand and hide from the evil thunder gods rather than look up to try to figure out what thunder is!

For myself, I do not find the Falcon 9 failure this past weekend depressing in the slightest. This is a company and a rocket that hadn’t even existed a little more than decade ago, and in that short time they have revolutionized the rocket industry. Rockets fail. This is no surprise. Their track record, however, tells us that they will figure out what went wrong and start flying again, as soon as they can.

What I do find depressing is the failure culture of today’s modern intellectual society. It is one reason I do not depend on them for news, and in general try to depend on them for as little as possible for anything else.

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  • David M. Cook

    Here’s a perfect example of the blatant lying that these democrat-socialists practice:

    In a Washington Post article by Michael E. Miller, he states: “And, although less frequent than bullets to the head, suicide shots to the chest are not uncommon.”. He then provides a link to a research paper to “prove” his point. However, the abstract of the paper CLEARLY states: “ABSTRACT: This study presents a case series (sic) of suicides carried out by self-inflicted gunshot wounds to the chest-a relatively uncommon means of suicide.”

    I suppose Miller assumes few people will read the linked paper, and I was unable to comment because the WP only allows Facebook users to post. Nice way of preventing the truth from coming out!

    Here’s the title to the WP article: “Anti-vaccine doctor behind ‘dangerous’ autism therapy found dead. Family cries foul.”

    Regardless of where you stand on the vaccine issue, Mike Miller and the Washington Post are not to be trusted with telling the truth.

  • Edward

    Robert wrote: “Better that we stick our head in the sand and hide from the evil thunder gods rather than look up to try to figure out what thunder is!”

    But Robert, it is so much easier to stick our head in the sand and so much harder and scarier to face the thunder and figure out what it really is. Something might go wrong; a rocket might blow up; cargo might be lost; a crew might die. Oh my!

    After all, America was hardly based upon bravery or the can-do spirit; we founded the space race on doing what is easy, not what is hard: (1/2 minute)

    It isn’t as though we have well thought out goals, such as a mission for the SLS, or are even willing to take on the challenge of setting a mission for the SLS. Those are just too hard, take some thought, and require political fortitude. Not only will it not return us to the moon, but it will take longer than a decade for it to not do so.

    Somehow, the press of the 1960s, which was so proud of America’s can-do attitude, has become pessimistic about everything, including America’s technical prowess. Somehow, being the best and being a winner have become a loser’s game, in America. Winners never win but remain mediocre.

    We are no longer suffering from a case of “Johnny Can’t read,” as we were told was the problem in the 1960s (funny how such incapable Americans were able to land a man on the moon and return him home safely), but we now suffer from a case of no-can-do-itis. (11 seconds)

    This country, the news media, and our latest generation are suffering from a spirit that has left them in a Jimmy Carter type of malaise.

    I meant this to be sarcastic, but somewhere it changed to a more serious comment.

  • Hale Adams


    Rand Simberg sent me here, so to speak — he linked here from his website.

    One possible reason for the pooh-poohing of “private space” by the MSM is that it threatens their narrative. (I’m assuming you’re familiar with the infamous “Club of Rome” study of 1972 and the dooms predicted in it, and Jerry Pournelle’s refutation of the study’s conclusions in his book, “A Step Farther Out”.) Long story short: Private space is swinging open a door that the MSM and its fellow-travelers would prefer to remain shut. Opening up space for exploration and exploitation by the great unwashed masses would quite plainly make the “limits to growth” folks look very foolish, and that simply must not be allowed to happen (as the MSM, etc., would have it).

    Wide open frontiers would put a stake through the heart of the collectivist elites’ dreams of world domination, plain and simple.

    My paranoid two cents’ worth.

    Hale Adams
    Pikesville, People’s still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

  • Hi Hale,

    I spent the first 45 years of my life living in New York, working in the film business and teaching film part time at SVA and NYU. Then I spent 13 years in the DC area as a science journalist. In that last period I wrote four books on space history that illustrated clearly the foibles of government space.

    Believe me, I am very familiar with the modern mainstream media “narrative” and the depressing, defeatist, Club of Rome attitude of the modern intellectual community. I moved out of Maryland to Arizona four years ago partly to get away from it. (You have my sympathy still trapped as you are in Pikesville.)

    The Falcon 9 failure this past weekend just provided a very good window to illustrate it for those who aren’t yet convinced.

  • PeterF

    “If it bleeds it leads”

    Who’s going to know if they spiced it up a bit?

    Unless it looks like an insult to a “protected” group i.e. – “man-caused disaster”

    One of the stupidest things I have ever heard is “Why are we spending money in space when there is so much poverty here on earth?” I always feel that I must point out that all the money spent on space exploration is spent on earth in the form of salaries for skilled employees while the trillions of dollars we have wasted on the “war on poverty” has had absolutely no effect other than to grow government bureaucracy.

    But then I get treated as if I have committed heresy

  • CVA

    The wreckless “ends justify the means” modus operandi of modern progressives has forged a disperate voter base through political aggregation of single issue zealots.
    So too, the “press” has evolved to reflect its majority “progressive” constituent parts.
    Unless and until space exploration can change its trajectory and successfully re-position itself as being, for instance, a “victim”, “conflicted”, “addicted”
    or capable of providing “money for nothing and chics for free” the human race and the U.S. in particular risks jettisoning a vital activity of human existence; one hugely responsible for our future progress and advancement.
    Journalists need to stop attempting to look through the trees exclusively and cast their seemingly dulled gazes’ upwards to the stars….wherein our future lies.

  • Maurice

    The press is there to sell the ads that keeps their network/rag/etc afloat. What passes for news is nothing more than the verbal equivalent of burning your finger on a hot stove – there to scare. Then there’s this wonderful site called that chronicles how many of these outfits are expiring due to insufficient readers, and I feel much better.

    Personally I’d like there to be one Space community web site with enough gravitas to actually become the primary source of news and insight if not wisdom for all Space-bound science and etc. Between,, this site, a dozen more mission sites, and 30 twitter feeds, my “me” time is taken. Finding it in one place would encourage some new blood to come into science reporting – if you paid attention to any of the news conferences on New Horizons you’ll have noticed that the average age of the reporter hovers around 60.

    A more disquieting part of the new commercial space biz are the characters that seem to be their leaders – Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson see space exploration as a hobby, and either boast about it as if they are selling a pump-n-dump stock scheme, or keep it a total secret (blue origin) unless it suits their needs to aggrandize.

    Anyway, today’s newspaper is tomorrow’s cage liner, and what happened yesterday on TV might as well be a year ago. 1 out of 19 is not a bad score (Anyone remember Ariane’s launch failure rate?)

  • Cotour

    Unrelated but related:

    Someone please reconcile these two articles that are posted one on top of the other at Drudge. If the population of America is aprox. 320 million and there are 93 million people who can or want to work in the country, how can the unemployment rate be 5.2% ?



    If we estimate that about two thirds of the 320 million people are of working age that would be about 213 million people are capable of working. If these estimations are close than what is the real unemployment number?

    By these estimations that real unemployment number would actually be about 40 percent. Lets even discount that by 50 percent to account for the disabled and those who have been displaced at work just to give the government some room and you still come up with an unemployment number in the 20 percent range.

    There have to be some real flexible criteria used by the government to get that number down to 5.2 percent. Im insane?

  • “Personally I’d like there to be one Space community web site with enough gravitas to actually become the primary source of news and insight if not wisdom for all Space-bound science and etc.”

    Why is there this imperative in modern Americans to hate competition and variety? You might say you love both, but your statement above suggests otherwise., for at least a short while at its beginning, might have fit this description, but the glory of freedom and competition has allowed many others to join the game. I say, all power to them! Better to get many different perspectives. To have everything dominated by one source would resemble the very unhealthy tv news situation that existed while I was growing up post World War II: three networks, all liberal, and nothing else. Let’s please try to avoid this.

  • mike shupp

    Cotour —

    Short answer, you’re overlooking housewives.

    Long answer, there are about 60 million people retired or on some long term disability that essentially is a waystation to retirement. Then there are about sixty million children. Leaving about 200 million people in the “prime age” employment region.

    Over the years in the USA, about 2/3 of the population in this category work for a living. The “labor force participation ratio” is currently about 65%, climbing slowly from about 63% in 2008; it peaked, back in the 1990’s if my memory is correct, at about 68%. This isn’t a number which changes quickly, in other words. For what it’s worth, the ratio has climbed since the 1950’s in this country as more and more women enter the workforce. and the ratio here is relatively high when compared with most other countries.

    For a variety of reasons, the ratio isn’t likely to ever get near 100%. The “labor force” is a count of people who are (a) full time workers, or (b) actively looking for full time work. It excludes most college students, for example — maybe that’s 10 million people. It excludes people locked up in prison — another 2 or 3 million. It excludes people getting by on part time jobs, or people routinely unemployed for seasonal reasons (farm workers twiddling their thumbs during winter, for example). It excludes a number of hard-to-categorize and harder-to-count-accurately occupations, such as people selling odds and ends at yard sales, and young ladies “modeling” in front of video cams at porn sites, and people selling crafts goods at etsy, and hookers and drug dealers and burglars and illegal immigrants on street corners waiting for day-to-day construction jobs. And people who volunteer some time at the library, and mothers who home school their kids, and aging baby boomers tending to their even older parents in their homes, or Mormon missionaries, and so on. And it excludes people who have used up their unemployment and who are mooching off their friends and relatives, and who might or might not someday find work again.

    You get the idea. It’s not that 80 million people are sitting around America refusing to work and being supported by the long suffering tax-payer; the labor participation ratio looks low because 80 million people aren’t getting steady wages from a regular employer. It’s not all for bad reasons, I’m trying to suggest. And we don’t know how to change things in any big way, which is why governments fiddle around the edges with taxes and training schemes and redevelopment agencies and the like, which never seem to accomplish much.

    But that leaves about 150 million who do have regular jobs, or realistic prospects of finding such jobs. And currently, about 5% of those people are looking for work — which is the figure you pointed to. The unemployment rate is not a perfect number for describing the workforce in a changing economy, but it’s good enough in some ways. We’re familiar with the term, we know how it’s measured, we know how it’s risen and fallen over the decades, we get gut feelings of badness or goodness when we contemplate its changes, and so on.

    Make sense?

  • Cotour

    The way you lay it out makes some kind of sense. As far as how the government generates and represents those numbers after plainly creating disincentives to work, along with making it harder and more expensive for a company to employ a person and the fact that many people are forced to have two and three jobs all under 30 hours due to Obamacare etc, etc. are all of the reasons that I am highly skeptical of the unemployment numbers that they promote.

    In other words IMO they generate numbers for their own political purposes first.

  • Edward

    Maurice wrote: “The press is there to sell the ads that keeps their network/rag/etc afloat.”

    There once was a time when broadcast news was not the network profit center that you noted they are today. The networks considered news programs to be a public service, and they were much more willing to provide real news rather than fluff stories that would draw viewership. For an example of how the news business changed, watch a movie called “Broadcast News.” A contrast of Walter Cronkite’s career to Dan Rather’s may also be educational. The former was called the most trusted man in America, the latter was fired from the news business in shame due to a lying news report to America.

    TV and radio news coverage was not perfect, in those “good old days,” but it was not the entertainment that it is today. We used to learn what was happening in the world. Today we have to go to foreign news, such as The Daily Mail in the UK, in order to find out what is happening outside the country and often in order to find out what is happening *within* the country.

    I became very much disillusioned with US news media due to the Challenger disaster reporting, when they told us that engineers were trying to hide their poor designs from NASA by means of waivers. The truth is that waivers not only provide far more documentation and explain the design rationale better than any other design records, but NASA has to study and approve these design waivers.

    The news media were telling us that waivers did the opposite of what they actually do. They lied to us, for they could hardly have gotten so close to the investigation without learning or being clarified on what a waiver actually does. This proves that the media are not above trying to influence our opinion on a news event. Rather than report and letting us decide, they decide and then report their decision.

    There are far, far too many reporters sent out on assignments they do not understand and do not take the time and effort to research. The importance of a byline is to help we the news-consuming public determine whether the reporter is cognizant of the topic he is reporting on and whether he can be relied upon to report honestly and accurately. Many modern news media organizations do not seem to care about any of these three good journalistic criteria.

    Strangely, the same organizations that are now so negative on the first SpaceX failure did not seem to be this negative when the Russians had their first major failure, half a decade ago. Nor were they this negative after any of the several failures since.

    Oops. Not so strange. They decided, then they reported their decision.

  • Cotour

    And what story is in the NY POST today?

    Unemployment numbers, pure self serving political BS. I expect nothing less.

  • Edward


    Mike has it summed up pretty well. A major difference between the unemployment rates today and those of the Great Depression is in the way people are now counted as unemployed. In the 1930s, they were far more truthful about unemployment, and used factors that the BLS includes in their U6 figure (U3, a lower number, is the one reported in the newspapers).

    Another hidden, inconvenient truth is that the soup kitchen lines of the 1930s are no longer on the streets but at the Wal*Mart checkout lines (and other stores) just after midnight on the first of every month. EBT cards have largely replaced soup kitchens. Other “welfare” handouts have reduced the incentive for people to stand on corners or at Lowe’s (and other stores) looking for day labor jobs. In the 1930s, there were huge crowds looking for a day’s work.

    Thus, the old ways for we civilians to know whether we are in a recession or a depression are gone. Instead of looking at long lines at the soup kitchen or crowds looking for work, now we say it is a recession if our neighbor is out of work, and it is a depression if we are out of work, ourselves.

    Unlike SpaceX news, unemployment is an area that the American news media tend to be upbeat, rather than negative. Strange. When George W. Bush was in office, the media’s unemployment reports tended to be negative. Hmm. This must have been Bush’s fault.

  • Cotour

    Yes, that’s how its counted now and that’s how it is manipulated now. If it wasn’t used almost solely used for the benefit of the Democrats I could almost justify the lie in order to allow people to at least have the perception that things are getting better and have some hope.

    Sometimes the hard cold truth just brings things to a screeching halt, a bit of BS can tend to ease things along until things actually do get better. Its a bit of a paradox.

  • PeterF

    Shush! Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

    They are looking at different numbers. If the unemployment were calculated as it was in the 1930s the rate would be somewhere around 15%. What they call the U-6 number. A higher rate would embarrass the man who said his inauguration day would be said to be the day the sea levels began to fall.

    I suspect that if a republican is elected in 2016 that they will go back to reporting the real numbers after a few months have elapsed.

  • Reality

    Hmmmm, lets look at the rightwing media sites, shall we?

    FoxNews: Glorious ULA, yet again, launches AMERICA’s military payload to orbit, ensuring a crushing defeat to those who would oppose our centuries of Crusades to the Middle East.

  • Can you provide a link to this FoxNews story? I am curious to read what it really says.

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