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Monday, October 31, 2005

Krugman: Ending the Fraudulence

Paul Krugman isn't as mellow today, and journalists, among others, are squarely in his sights:

Ending the Fraudulence, by Paul Krugman, NY Times: Let me be frank: it has been a long political nightmare. ... So is the nightmare finally coming to an end? Yes, I think so. ... I don't share fantasies that Dick Cheney will be forced to resign; even Karl Rove may keep his post. One way or another, the Bush administration will stagger on... But its essential fraudulence stands exposed... What do I mean by essential fraudulence? Basically, I mean the way an administration with an almost unbroken record of policy failure has nonetheless achieved political dominance through a carefully cultivated set of myths. The record of policy failure is truly remarkable. It sometimes seems as if President Bush and Mr. Cheney are Midases in reverse: everything they touch ... turns to crud. Even the few apparent successes turn out to contain failures at their core: for example, real G.D.P. may be up, but real wages are down. ... The administration has ... built its power on myths ... Take away those myths, and the administration has nothing left. Well, Katrina ended the leadership myth... Pundits may try to resurrect Mr. Bush's reputation, but his cult of personality is dead - and the inscription on the tombstone reads, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." Meanwhile, the Plame inquiry ... has ended the myth of the administration's monopoly on patriotism... Apologists can shout all they like that no laws were broken, ...or whatever. The fact remains that officials close to both Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush leaked the identity of an undercover operative for political reasons. Whether or not that act was illegal, it was clearly unpatriotic. And the Plame affair has also solidified the public's growing doubts about the administration's morals. ...

But the nightmare won't be fully over until two things happen. First, politicians will have to admit that they were misled. Second, the news media will have to face up to their role in allowing incompetents to pose as leaders and political apparatchiks to pose as patriots. It's a sad commentary on the timidity of most Democrats that even now, ... it's hard to get leading figures to admit that they were misled into supporting the Iraq war. Kudos to John Kerry for finally saying just that last week. And as for the media: these days, there is much harsh, justified criticism of the failure of major news organizations ... to exert due diligence on rationales for the war. But the failures that made the long nightmare possible began much earlier, during the weeks after 9/11, when the media eagerly helped our political leaders build up a completely false picture of who they were. So the long nightmare won't really be over until journalists ask themselves: what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?

I was motivated to post this shortened version of Krugman’s comments because what he says about the media applies equally well to reporting on economics. The press is no less guilty here of the lapses Krugman identifies and economic myths have been among those that have flourished (link to “Better Press Corps” from Brad Delong). Journalists need to go beyond Krugman’s three questions, “what did we know, when did we know it, and why didn't we tell the public?” and ask themselves how to do a better job of presenting objective analysis on economic matters rather than the opinions of pundits from both sides. That’s a lot harder than grabbing the usual talking heads who say the usual things, it will require digging in and doing research, seeking out and talking to the real experts in the field, and understanding the issues before reporting on them. But unless things change, the public will continue to be ill-served by the press.

    Posted by on Monday, October 31, 2005 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Politics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (18)

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