It’s been a decent chunk of time since I last posted, but I have things to say again. (And Google removed shared items from Google Reader.) We’ll see how long it lasts.
What better (i.e. easier) way to jump back in than to comment on Paul Krugman saying something stupid and lacking in self-awareness. As always it’s “you shouldn’t do that, but ignore that I’m doing it.” Consider this, from last week:
Over the last couple of days, I’ve been getting mail accusing me of consorting with Nazis. My immediate reaction was, what the heck? Then it clicked: the right wing is mounting a full-court press to portray Occupy Wall Street as an anti-Semitic movement, based, as far as I can tell, on one guy with a sign.
I have a lot of sympathy for this complaint, given one of my major interests. It’s a pathetic generalization and an embarrassing reflection on the person willing to dabble in stereotypes without individual evidence. It’s a dishonest tactic, which suggests fear dominates rather than confidence. Any large-ish movement is going to attract its share of crazies who value conspiracy theories over logic. Unless the movement is based on the conspiracy theory itself or a plainly evil belief, the extreme views are probably not widely held within the group and many group members are likely fighting the nonsense out of public view. Generalizing in this way is flawed and stupid, as any case of being uninterested or unwilling to think is.
So, one paragraph in, Krugman has my sympathy. If this had been the issue Krugman intended to pursue, fine. He didn’t.
My first thought was that OWS must have the right really rattled. And there’s probably something to that. But actually, this is the way the right goes after everyone who stands in their way: accuse them of everything, no matter how implausible or contradictory the accusations are. Progressives are atheistic socialists who want to impose Sharia law. Class warfare is evil; also, John Kerry is too rich. And so on.
Krugman makes no distinction between those making accusations and those who share (some) similar, conservative views. It’s “the right”, without specificity. That stroke is too broad.
The key to understanding this, I’d suggest, is that movement conservatism has become a closed, inward-looking universe in which you get points not by sounding reasonable to uncommitted outsiders — although there are a few designated pundits who play that role professionally — but by outdoing your fellow movement members in zeal.
He’s closer here, since it’s clear that “movement conservatism” implies “professional”. But his aside is not enough to excuse what he’s doing. Most people see the distinction between Rush Limbaugh and a neighbor, perhaps even when the neighbor praises Limbaugh. I hope the same is true of anyone tempted to make a professional pundit like Bill Maher the spokesperson for every
liberal progressive everywhere. It’s a silly, immature way to view the world (and a key reason I hate partisanship).
It’s sort of reminiscent of Stalinists going after Trotskyites in the old days: the Trotskyites were left deviationists, and also saboteurs working for the Nazis. Didn’t propagandists feel silly saying all that? Not at all: in their universe, extremism in defense of the larger truth was no vice, and you literally couldn’t go too far.
Many members of the commentariat don’t want to face up to the fact that this is what American politics has become; they cling to the notion that there are gentlemanly elder statesmen on the right who would come to the fore if only Obama said the right words. But the fact is that nobody on that side of the political spectrum wants to or can make deals with the Islamic atheist anti-military warmonger in the White House.
The last line says it all. (It’s not the last line in the post; just the last important line.) Is it only “that side” engaging in heated, sweeping accusations? “That side.” Krugman is in pot-meet-kettle territory. Everyone who believes anything and shares that belief is a propagandist, literally. In the pejorative, as Krugman implies here, he’s claiming that only the right propagandizes. It wouldn’t take long to find instances of the left engaging in the same tactics against the right, considering I read Krugman’s post.