As the world grapples with the biggest financial crisis post the Great Depression of 1929, a certain kind of paranoia has set in. Comparisons with the Asian stock market crash that took place in 1997 have already begun. Conspiracy theorists have alleged that the current situation is a result of sheer laxity –and manipulation- on the part of the credit rating agencies in the industry. As every newspaper debates and discusses the global meltdown, the manner in which people have reacted to the situation reflects a certain amount of desperation. It is true that this feeling is, to a certain extent, justified. When the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, spoke about the age of turbulence, no one would have thought that his words would turn out to be prophetic.
Such has been the effect of this crisis that this year’s Nobel Prize was awarded to one of the few men who foresaw this crisis: New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Apart from a few odd investing geniuses like Warren Buffet (founder of Berkshire Hathaway Co.), who refused to participate in the sub-prime bubble even when the market looked bullish, most people have been tangibly affected by the meltdown- whether due to inflation or lay-offs or due to the stock market crashes. It is hard for even a layman to stay out of the meltdown frenzy, courtesy the hype and hoopla generated by the media.
In recent times, the media itself has played a major role in encouraging speculation and uncertainty. Recently, a leading newspaper daily carried a report regarding the impact of financial turbulence on the common man. It discussed how people prefer to listen to long and sad songs during times of crisis. A survey on behavioral psychology mentioned in the article discussed how people resort to cost-cutting measures like keeping short hair and eating non-perishable food items during these times. Another newspaper carried a report about an ice sculpture in the United States that spelt out the word, “Economy”. As the ice sculpture melted, people gathered around to watch the sight. It was almost as if the melting of the ice sculpture was symbolic of the current global scenario.
It is rather obvious that these are troubled times and that the financial crisis is here to stay. Although no one can deny that the crisis has had an impact on the classes as well as the masses, the media coverage of the entire chain of events has been nothing short of melodramatic. The media can, in its own small way, prevent the crisis from escalating if it plays the role of a responsible watchdog. It is the responsibility of the fourth estate to see to it that it does not encourage further paranoia and plays the role of a responsible messenger.