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Monday, May 08, 2006

Paul Krugman: Who's Crazy Now?

Are critics who say we were misled into war part of a conspiracy to undermine the administration?:

Who's Crazy Now?, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Some people say that bizarre conspiracy theories play a disturbingly large role in current American political discourse. And they're right. For example, many conservative politicians and pundits seem to agree with James Inhofe, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, who has declared that "man-made global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated..."

Of more immediate political relevance is the claim that the reason we hear mainly bad news from Iraq is that the media, for political reasons, are conspiring to suppress the good news. As Bill O'Reilly put it ..., "a good part of the American media wants to undermine the Bush administration."

But these examples, of course, aren't what people are usually referring to when they denounce crazy conspiracy theories. For the last few years, the term "conspiracy theory" has been used primarily to belittle ... anyone suggesting that the Bush administration used 9/11 as an excuse to fight an unrelated war in Iraq.

Now here's the thing: suppose that we didn't have abundant evidence that ... the Bush administration ... cherry-picked intelligence ... Even so, it would be an abuse of the English language to call the claim that the administration misled us into war a conspiracy theory.

A conspiracy theory, says Wikipedia, "attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance." ... But ... administration officials ... weren't part of a covert alliance; they all worked for President Bush. The claim that these officials hyped the case for war isn't a conspiracy theory; it's simply an assertion that people in ... power abused that position. And that assertion only seems wildly implausible if you take it as axiomatic that Mr. Bush and those around him wouldn't do such a thing.

The truth is that many of the people who throw around terms like "loopy conspiracy theories" are lazy bullies..., they try to suggest that anyone who asks those questions is crazy. ... "It looks as if Al Gore has gone off his lithium again," said Charles Krauthammer ... after Mr. Gore gave a perfectly sensible if hard-hitting speech. Even moderates have tended to dismiss ... harsh critics as victims of irrational Bush hatred.

But now those harsh critics have been vindicated. And it turns out that many of the administration supporters can't handle the truth. They won't admit that they built a personality cult around a man who has proved almost pathetically unequal to the job. Nor will they admit that opponents of the Iraq war, whom they called traitors ..., have been proved right. So they have taken refuge in the belief that a vast conspiracy of America-haters in the media is hiding the good news from the public.

Unlike the crazy conspiracy theories of the left — which do exist, but are supported only by a tiny fringe — the crazy conspiracy theories of the right are supported by important people: powerful politicians, television personalities with large audiences. And we can safely predict that these people will never concede that they were wrong. When the Iraq venture comes to a bad end, they won't blame those who led us into the quagmire; they'll claim that it was all the fault of the liberal media, which stabbed our troops in the back.

Previous (5/5) column: Paul Krugman: Our Sick Society
Next (5/15) column: Paul Krugman: D is for Debacle

    Posted by on Monday, May 8, 2006 at 12:15 AM in Economics, Iraq and Afghanistan, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (5)

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