Recession is over? They must be blind.

Marketplace Staff Dec 21, 2009

Recession is over? They must be blind.

Marketplace Staff Dec 21, 2009


BOB MOON: Just in case you spent the past 12 months at the North Pole and hadn’t noticed, there was some pretty big economic news this year. Starting and ending, of course, with the Great Recession. And who could miss the health care and climate debates?

But those stories seemed so overshadowing that you have to wonder: There must have been other important economic stories. We’ve asked a few of our commentators to look for the economic news that didn’t make headlines.

And commentator K.C. Cole starts off our series, with a look at why it is we miss big stories in the first place.

K.C. COLE: Distraction is a serious hazard.

Drivers chatting on cell phones cause thousands of deaths each year, while those who text might as well be drunk, leading to laws against what is now known as “driving while intexticated.”

Hands-on or hands-free doesn’t make a difference because it’s the brain that gets hijacked.

Psychologists call this “inattentional blindness,” and by now, thousands have seen that video showing a group of students passing a ball back and forth. Viewers are asked to count the number of tosses. While they do, a guy in a gorilla suit walks by, thumping his hairy chest.

Most viewers don’t even see him. With their eyes on the balls, they become blind to the biggest thing in the picture.

I thought about this recently walking by a row of shuttered stores in a nearby pricey neighborhood, thinking of my laid-off friends while “experts” were saying the recession was over.

Do they ever look outside, I wondered? Or were they simply so blindsided by sunny stocks and profits that they weren’t seeing the obvious?

Noticing what’s obvious isn’t easy, which is why Obama got that peace prize.

He focused attention on a multibillion-dollar gorilla no one seems to see anymore — one that eats up so much dough it makes bank bailouts seem like bird feed.

That would be the tens of thousands of nuclear weapons out there, thousands of them on “hair trigger” alert. Each one capable of vaporizing a city in seconds. Talk about overkill.

Of course, politicos, like magicians, know how to use inattentional blindness to make things disappear. Let them eat cake.

So never mind the nukes, the unemployed, the tornados of trash in our oceans.

Let’s hear about the daily blips of the Dow, the “war on Christmas”, Tiger Woods.

Just remember: It’s the tigers we don’t see that bite us in the tail.

MOON: K.C. Cole is a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She’s also the author of “Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up.”

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