Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tracking the ongoing media mania over alleged parallels to The Great Depression

I am endeavoring to track the current media mania of attempting to draw parallels between the current economic situation and The Great Depression. I am doing this by using Google News to count the total number of "news" references to the phrase "The Great Depression" in the previous 24 hours.

  • 1/10/2009: 411 hits
  • 1/30/2009: 319 hits
  • 2/6/2009: 308 hits
  • 2/25/2009: 389 hits
  • 3/10/2009: 306 hits
  • 3/24/2009: 285 hits
  • 4/9/2009: 93 hits
  • 4/28/2009: 184 hits
  • 4/30/2009: 195 hits
  • 5/7/2009: 184 hits
  • 5/21/2009: 167 hits
  • 6/5/2009: 99 hits
  • 7/8/2009: 170 hits
  • 7/22/2009: 177 hits
  • 7/29/2009: 189 hits
  • 8/14/2009: 169 hits
  • 8/20/2009: 168 hits
  • 8/26/2009: 168 hits
  • 9/2/2009: 147 hits
  • 10/13/2009: 158 hits
  • 10/22/2009: 208 hits
  • 10/29/2009: 246 hits
  • 11/3/2009: 176 hits

Although the usage seemed to have stabilized, neither trending up dramatically nor trending down dramatically, the recent rise is probably very likely due to anxiety about the prospect for a double dip.

The "anniversary" of the October 29, 1929 stock market crash probably also inspired some additional nostalgia for "The Great Depression."

One possibility for the stabilization is that the term "resonates" and that the media is more than happy to cling to a term that almost assures that readers will pay attention. How long will it continue to "resonate"? Maybe until the overall economy and employment are reliably rising month after month for at least six months.

We just got our first positive quarterly GDP report today of this business cycle. By itself it is not putting any real dent in all of this depression mania, but give people a week or two to see a settling of sentiment as the notion of having our feet firmly back on dry land only gradually sinks in.

A fair amount of the usage at this stage is not comparison directly to The Great Depression, but simply using The Great Depression as a sort of bookend an in "since the Great Depression." Still, the media is clearly getting a lot of mileage out of the term even if they are not adding much in the way of useful information or enlightenment.

-- Jack Krupansky


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