Friday, June 22, 2012

Media And Migration

As I have amply documented, journalists help to propagate the brain drain myth. The fallout from such sloppy reporting can be disastrous. Economist Michael Clemens back in February about a UK Minister's misreading of research into possible links between unemployment and immigration:

But the minister’s myth propagates anyway, with help from a docile press. The BBC article on the minister’s speech, for example, simply quotes the minister’s false interpretation of the MAC report, without qualification. The article does not bother to interview any of the MAC report’s authors, who could clarify what they did or did not say. The BBC article does bother to interview anti-immigration activist Sir Andrew Green, who (shocker!) shares the minister’s sadly fictional interpretation of the MAC report.

The posting date for the BBC article is February 2nd. Fast forward to today. The leader of the Labor Party, Ed Miliband, talking about the damage immigrants had done:

“It was a mistake not to impose transitional controls on accession from eastern European countries,” he said. “We severely underestimated the number of people who would come here. We were dazzled by globalisation and too sanguine about its price.”

What is the "price"?  More from the same article:

Referring to the former Labour prime minister’s slogan, he said he would not promise “British jobs for British workers” but warned that the country needed to be mindful of regions and sectors where local talent had been locked out of job opportunities.

Emphasis added. Perception is now reality. A false interpretation drives policy. Politicians will pander. I understand the efficacy of banging the drums of xenophobia. But that doesn't absolve complicit members of the media.

Pointing the finger at the media is easy enough. Lack of due diligence isn't the crux of the problem. The issue is territoriality, place-centric thinking. Brain drain anxiety and anti-immigration are two sides of the same coin. Home, Heimat, is threatened. Migration restructures our spatial relationships. That assault is much bigger than good social science research.

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