In 1960, DC Comics and Superman creator Jerry Siegal introduced the character of Bizarro, a fumbling, comedic antagonist and sometimes anti-hero counterpart to Superman, and he was so popular, he spawned an entire planet of alternate DC heroes. They all lived on a square version of Earth where everything was counter to our reality, so, for example, Bizarro Bernie Sanders would actually have a clue about ethics and economics, and Bizarro Barbara Streisand might make listenable music.
And on Bizarro World, pop news media might report with a sense of decency and integral truth.
But that’s not the situation here in the real world. Case in point, the desperately cockeyed misreporting about this year’s tax refunds.
On February 11, New York City ABC Affiliate WABC’s Dave Evans served up a story that was predictably worded and myopically focused to give readers the impression that the government was keeping more of their tax cash than in previous years. The station headlined it:
Average Tax Refund Down 8.4 Percent So Far in 2019, According to IRS Data
The soundbite-style article pushed the narrative, and never went deeper, and it got carried by a bunch of ABC stations around the country, verbatim.
Hot on his heels, NBC issued its first anger-mongering story, the headline of which is clearly designed to generate opprobrium through misdirection.
Under New Trump Tax Code, Average Refund is 8.4 Percent Smaller
Well, duh. And that was sub-headed with, “Frustrated taxpayers are using the hashtag #GOPTaxScam to vent about their smaller than expected tax refunds.”
Nothing synthetic-sounding about that. We all know hundreds of friends who painted the internet blue with that hashtag…
On February 14, our tax-supported pals at NPR took their elitist monotone to the internet with this valentine:
Anger, Confusion Over Dwindling Refunds. Is Trump’s Tax Plan to Blame?
Well, NPR, if anything is to blame for people being upset about the federal government keeping huge chunks of their earnings, your propaganda machine is one of them. But, regardless, Daniella Cheslow proceeded to open the piece by writing:
President Trump promised that his tax changes, passed in 2017, would give most Americans a tax cut… However, as the first federal returns for 2018 come in, some taxpayers are discovering an unpleasant surprise: Their refunds are smaller than expected. In fact, as of Feb. 1, the average refund is down by about 8 percent from the same time last year, according to the IRS.
And ABC’s heroic spinmeister Tom Llamas made sure to toss some chum as well, introducing a segment from Kenneth Muller, saying:
The tax filings due April fifteenth will be the full first year of the Republicans’ sweeping tax overhaul. But the first numbers from the IRS show that refunds are smaller this year – down eight percent. The promise was that nearly everyone would do better, so, what’s going on?
And Kenneth proceeded to use gut-wrenching, explosive rhetoric to imply that people are being ripped off even more by Trump:
Tonight, shock and anger from early tax-filers. Those refunds, not as big as they had thought, or not coming at all.
Next, the obligatory cut to the interviewee they selected to support the misleading-by-omission narrative with her sad tale of tax refund woe.
Which, for any thinking reporter, anyone who might bother using his or her brain and wanted to report honestly without trying to manipulate viewers, equates to: “Woe is me! The government didn’t take as much from each of my paychecks over the past year! I was left with more in each check, and got to use that on bills, or to invest it, or keep it in the bank to gain interest for a year! Oh, what shall I do?!”
The fact that the vast majority of Americans will get lower refunds means that the government hasn’t been sitting on their dang money all year.
At least NPR’s Cheslow bothered to offer the reality in her piece. After her enflaming opening paragraphs, she did step away from Bizarro World long enough note:
The reasons for these smaller refunds vary. For most people, it's because each paycheck has grown slightly, thanks to reduced withholding. On balance, they are likely to come out ahead.
Yet a breathless stream of collectivist pop media hand-servants like Llamas have portrayed this as a bad thing, have selectively reported the facts to mislead and misdirect, or, as Carl Kolchak once famously said: to falsify.
This is the equivalent of reporters telling you about two thieves. The Blue Thief will steal $2,000 from you, then hand back $100 and demand that you thank him, while the Red Thief will steal $1,000 and hand you back $50. Llamas and his collectivist Bizarro pals want you to focus on the hand-backs, and overlook what was taken or left in your own pocket to utilize as you wished.
And hidden behind this are two deeper, more insidious implications.
First, there’s the never-ending push to make people think that by not taking people’s money, the government is giving them something. This often happens when reporters write or speak about businesses getting “tax breaks”, which many reporters will call “handouts”, even though, if they were faced with a robber who decided not to rob them, those reporters wouldn’t say the thieves “gave” them something. There’s a certain perverse Stockholm Syndrome in that kind of self-loathing, so, hopefully, we can implore the reporters to get some help.
And the second sly message the pop media pushes with massaged stories like this tax tale could be seen on February 20, when NBC followed their first proud peacock display of idiocy with this headline:
Smaller Tax Refunds Compound Financial Worries for The 30 Percent of Americans With More Debt Than Savings
…which not only reinforces the mythological narrative NBC and its bizarre pals in the dinosaur media are pushing – that Trump is ripping off “middle class Americans”, it’s subtitled with this gem of lyrical drivel:
Experts say evidence that so many Americans are in such a precarious financial state underscores the critical role that tax refunds play in household finances.
In other words, Tump’s economy is really bad for earners (which is false -- wages have risen, as has employment) and you people are so dumb and such profligate spenders you have to have politicians take your money and hand it back later so you don’t waste it.
We all must love Big Brother and down our “Victory Gin” as the boots stomp on our faces and the acolytes in the Ministries of Truth cheer them on – forever.
That’s not to say there aren’t some changes in the code that could slam some folks. The removal of deductions for property taxes is causing vexation for people who live in high property tax regions even as it exposes the heavy burdens of those taxes. But this effort to manipulate people on such a clear issue as the tax refund is insulting.
And it’s something to remember as you see how much less the politicians have taken from you and how those “trustworthy” reporters have portrayed it.
People in Bizarro World lived according to the “Bizarro Code”, “Us do opposite of all Earthly things! Us hate beauty! Us love ugliness!”
Our earthly pop media seems to adhere strictly to that code.