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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Paul Krugman's Money Talks: Abramoff and the Media

Paul Krugman responds to comments on his column on the Abramoff scandal:

Abramoff and the Media , Paul Krugman's Money Talks, Commentary, NY Times: Readers respond to Paul Krugman's Jan. 30 column, "A False Balance"

Steven Schafersman, Midland, Tex.: I am a scientist. I have long been frustrated and angry about the way the press treats cultural controversies as science controversies and gives equal time to non-scientists, psuedo-scientists and anti-science activists, who are usually pro-business... or pro-Bush administration. This happens with the evolution-creationism controversy, the global warming controversy, the environmental destruction controversy, the humans vs. robots in space controversy, the stem cell controversy and many others. The controversy about tobacco being harmful to human health has finally been resolved, but for decades tobacco companies had scientific reports that tobacco wasn't dangerous. In each case, there is an overwhelming scientific consensus about the correct scientific position in each controversy, but a few individuals -- some of whom have scientific credentials but who mainly have a political, economic or ideological agenda -- take the opposite position but get half the press attention.

Reporters are trained to present both sides equally, when in fact -- from a knowledgeable scientific perspective -- only one side is actually valid. Thus, most news reports about cultural controversies involving science are biased, giving the false or inferior side much greater legitimacy than it deserves. The result is that the public is often poorly informed about the correct scientific understanding of many important topics, some of which are or will be vital to human health and survival. The press needs to do a better job of reporting on these cultural and political controversies which involve scientific understanding.

Jacob Kornbluth, New York: This “wimpy” media movement is an amazingly important problem. The only time the reporting of the news hasn't felt “scared” to me since 9/11 was during Hurricane Katrina. What happened to make the reporting of that disaster so much different than that of the Abramoff scandal? How did they fight through the partisan accusations, blogosphere noise and everything else, and just report the actual situation on the ground?

I have a feeling it's because the consequences of the wrong weren't an abstraction, that the pictures of real people experiencing real loss were unspinnable. During that tragedy, however, the reporting left me feeling more hopeful than I was before or have been since. ...

Gary Pace, St. Louis: ...I am struck by one consistent theme of today's administration practiced by the Republican Congress: abuse of power. Questionable actions are dismissed with backhanded comments, such as “We must stop terror”, or “We're at war!” Of course, President Bush has already announced victory in the Iraq war, so I'm not sure what war he refers to as he tries to justify his actions. Once a long-time Republican myself, I am appalled by what has taken place within the G.O.P. Moreoever, it's mind-boggling how many fellow conservatives rationalize the current misbehavior within the Republican party...

Bill Moore, Norwalk, Conn.: ...Many journalists ... apparently misunderstand what the words “balanced reporting” mean.

Paul Krugman: Let me expand a bit on what I said in the column. ... thinking of Jack Abramoff as a lobbyist in the conventional sense misses the whole point ... Mr. Abramoff didn't approach potential clients saying, “I know my way around Washington, and I can tell you who to support.” He came and said, in effect, “I've got powerful friends in Congress and the White House” - Republican friends, of course – “and, if you pay me, I can arrange for them to look kindly on your interests.” And there was, in the case of the Indian tribes, more than a bit of implied threat: "Nice gambling business you've got here. It would be a shame if anything happened to it."

And what did Mr. Abramoff do with the money he extracted? He took a big chunk for himself, of course. But he also used it to enrich and reward Republican loyalists. And money from his clients went to a variety of Republican causes, often with no relevance to the clients' interests. In effect, he was running a slush fund for the Republican machine.

That's why calling this a bipartisan scandal is such an outrage.

    Posted by on Saturday, February 4, 2006 at 01:23 AM in Economics, Politics, Press | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (0)


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