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Lights! Camera! Misinformation!


"It is in the interest of tyrants to reduce the people to ignorance and vice.  For they cannot live in any country where virtue and knowledge prevail." - Samuel Adams

One of the least appreciated aspects of the enormous concentration of political and economic power is how today's media - either wittingly or unwittingly - supports and defends this concentration of power.  For example, the mistakes made by the financial elite on Wall Street and at the Federal Reserve have been enormous.  The most obvious manifestation of these mistakes is the crisis of 2008.  Yet, all the talk about an amorphous 'Wall Street greed' notwithstanding, Wall Street's power is more entrenched now than it was in 2008!  The same is true of the Federal Reserve.  It is a simple matter to compare what the Fed said would happen and compare it to what actually happened.  Any effort at doing so quickly shows the Fed has made one colossal blunder after another, with the most obvious manifestation of these blunders being the three enormous asset bubbles that have blown up in the past 25-years.  

While the media has shown little interest in exposing Wall Street or Fed malfeasance, it has regularly seized on another target - industry.  In fact as the three examples described below demonstrate, not only has the media zealously attacked industry, their zeal has been so great that they manufactured enormous problems out of thin air!  The three examples to be discussed here are;

  • Audi 5000 Unintended Acceleration (60-Minutes)
  • Pan Am 103 - Structural Failure (CNN)
  • GM Pick-up Trucks (NBC)

Audi 5000 - Unintended Acceleration
In 1986 60-Minutes - one of the most highly regarded news programs in the US - ran a report that described "unintended acceleration" of Audi's flagship luxury sedan, the Audi 5000.  The car simply didn't accelerate on its own, even full application of the brake pedal wouldn't keep the car from surging forward.  One person even claimed they injured their leg pressing on the brake pedal so hard - all to no avail!  Finally, 60 Minutes showed an Audi 5000, seemingly with a mind of its own, leaping forward and accelerating without anyone pressing on the gas pedal.  Case closed!

Not quite.  First, anyone with even basic knowledge of how an automobile works would dismiss the notion that a car could surge forward from a stopped position with the brake pedal being depressed.  The brakes on an automobile are much more powerful than the engine.  Even on a 1000-horsepower Formula 1 car, if the brake and accelerator are simultaneously depressed with the car at rest, then the brakes will keep the car from moving.  (The engine on the Audi 5000 generated about 135-horsepower).  Later, it was revealed that the 'smoking gun' provided by the video of an Audi moving forward without anyone pressing on the gas pedal wasn't all that it seemed.  Instead, a pump had been connected to the transmission, and this was used to pressurize the automatic transmission fluid.  Upon application of sufficient pressure, the car should shift into gear.  When confronted about this, the 'expert' who set the demonstration up said all the necessary hardware was in the front seat, clearly visible to 60 Minutes reporters and film crew.  If they chose not to report it, that was 60 Minutes' problem, not his.

The fallout from this criminally irresponsible report had a disastrous impact on Audi. The Audi 5000 had played a large part of their enormous grown in the US auto market, and served as a 'halo product' to demonstrate everything Audi could do.  In the immediate aftermath of the 60 Minutes report sales plummeted.  Audi virtually abandoned the US market.  Audi wouldn't return in force for another ten years

Pan Am 103 - Structural Failure
On December 21, 1988 Pan Am 103 - Clipper Maid of the Seas - broke up over Lockerbie, Scotland killing all 259-people on board the aircraft as well as 11-people on the ground.  Rather than waiting for information to be developed or the facts to come out, the media decided to create a story of its own vivid imagination.    Nowhere was this reporting more irresponsible than CNN. (1) CNN reporters breathlessly claimed that Clipper Maid of the Seas was just the fifteenth 747 to come off the Boeing assembly lines, and one of the oldest 747s flying.  (Pan Am was the charter customer for the 747 and flew it before any other airline.)  The plane already had 72,000 service hours and had a history of 'cracks' and other repairs.  What more proof could be needed?  Isn't it obvious?  The plane broke apart in mid-air because of structural deficiencies. 

As Pan Am pilots watched the CNN reporting, they seethed with rage.  There was no chance of this plane breaking apart in mid-flight.  She had just been subject to a complete inspection and overhaul that lasted six months! Like many commercial aircraft, Clipper Maid of the Seas could be pressed into Air Force duty during a national emergency.  as part of the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, (CRAF).  It was her potential service in the CRAF that warranted the recent and detailed inspection.  Her age and flight hours notwithstanding, Clipper Maid of the Seas was as structurally sound as any airplane flying. 

Of course, a few days after the crash, investigators started to obtain clues that indicated the plane had been bombed.  Because the plane broke up over land, debris was scattered over an enormous area that required searching.  Some charred debris including blistered paint was found among other debris that had not be exposed to any high temperatures.  The debris was a portion of a luggage rack from the cargo hold.  Further analysis revealed the presence of a plastic explosive developed in the Czech Republic - Semtex.  It was pretty obvious that someone had smuggled a bomb onto the plane in a piece of checked baggage.  This, not a structural failure, was responsible for the plan falling from the sky.  It was only after investigators stated that the plane had been bombed, did CNN - and others - stop reporting on a structural failure being the cause of the crash. 

Finally, its worth noting, that the bomb was detonated with a timer, and the plane was one-hour late taking off from Heathrow. Had the plane not experienced the ground delay, the bomb would have detonated as the plane was flying over the Atlantic.  Under this scenario it is unlikely that evidence of a bombing ever would have been found.  Had this been the case, CNN would still be reporting Pan Am 103 as a structural failure.

General Motors Pick-up Trucks (side-saddle tanks)
Proving that American media doesn't have it in for only German auto manufacturer's, NBC's 'Dateline' program would produce a segment on GM's 'side-saddle' trucks that was the equal of 60 Minutes' treatment of the Audi 5000.  The November 1992 Dateline report showed crashes involving GM trucks leading to enormous explosions.  The reason for this?  GM had placed the gas tanks on the side of the vehicle, outside the frame rails.  How stupid could an auto company be?  Case closed!

As with the Audi 5000 debacle, not quite.  When the report aired, GM engineers knew something was wrong with the reporting.  They couldn't be sure what.  At the time, GM owned Hughes Aerospace, and a Hughes employee saw the program.  Like the Pan Am pilots seething in anger at CNN's reporting, the Hughes engineer knew NBC was broadcasting a bald-face line as an unvarnished truth.    The employee took a copy of the program and viewed it through a special camera at work.  He saw that before the explosion there was a spark coming from the truck and the spark wasn't a consequence of the impact.  As a result of some additional legwork by others - including talking to the local fire officials who witnessed the demonstration crashes and finding the demonstration vehicles in a junkyard - it was leaned that the spark seen by the Hughes employee was a remote detonation designed to spark a fire!  It was also learned that the gas caps had been tampered with to ensure fuel was spilled after a collision. 

These were not innocent mistakes.  The Dateline crew exactly like their 60 Minutes and CNN predecessors - fashioned themselves as heroic defenders of the public against greedy corporations .  They then took it upon themselves to judge millions of vehicles as unsafe, and the company who produced the vehicles as criminally negligent.  Amazingly, after suing NBC over the report, GM dropped the lawsuit when NBC admitted the report included an 'inappropriate demonstration.'  (2)

The discussion here isn't to demonstrate that industry isn't capable of making mistakes.  Instead, it is designed to show that the media is very selective in its targets.  For reasons that must only make sense to the media elite, concentrated financial power is off-limits while its open season on private industry.  The impact this mindset has on allowing one financial crisis to follow another while financial power is concentrated like never before can't be underestimated.  Old Sam Adams was right!


Peter Schmidt
January 30, 2022
Sugar Land, TX 

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1.  Robert Gandt, Skygods, William Morrow Company, Inc. New York, 1995, pp. 286-288