The conspiracy theorists' conspiracy theorist's conspiracy theorist?

I hate this.

But I guess I was asking for it when in a comment I facetiously referred to "line by line fisking of long passages by the likes of Paul Krugman," because a friend has sent me his latest piece, titled "Who's Crazy Now?" I can't take on the whole Krugman piece, because my blogger burnout is bad enough already. And I don't want to commit copyright violations. So, I'll just stick with the two final paragraphs -- lifted not greedily from the Times, but gratefully from my friend's email:

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 for warning that invading Iraq was a mistake, 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.

It has a nice sort of flow, doesn't it? A sing-songy quality which I'd really like if only I could agreed with what Krugman says. Perhaps most Krugman readers do, but I don't. I guess I should explain why.

...[N]ow those harsh [Bush] critics have been vindicated.
The harsh ones have? Who? Cindy Sheehan? Michael Moore? Ward Churchill? Ed Asner? Why isn't Krugman more specific? Who has been vindicated, and how? Why so open-ended? Without examples, I don't know where to start.

Does Krugman like it like that?

And it turns out that many of the administration supporters can't handle the truth.
Which truth? The truth of 9/11? The truth that WMDs weren't found?
They won't admit that they built a personality cult around a man who has proved almost pathetically unequal to the job.
(Well, at least he was generous enough to say "almost.") But personality cult? I held my nose and voted for the man, and I have always had my disagreements. That Bush has been the butt of so many jokes tended to make me feel sorry for him, but I don't think Bush deprecation is what Krugman meant. The personality cult is a well-recognized phenomenon of totalitarian societies, in which the great leader becomes a substitute for God:
Personality cults usually characterize totalitarian, authoritarian, or one-party states, especially those with a strong revolutionary consciousness. The reputation of a single leader, often characterized as the "liberator" or "savior" of the people, elevates that leader to a near-divine level.

A personality cult is also characterized with many images and representations of a leader in public places, including statues, billboards, posters, signs, paintings, and vast murals. In many cases the leader is portrayed in various types of garb (indicating many roles) and in heroic positions. This is meant to emphasize the greatness and wisdom of the leader. The leader's slogans and other quotes cover massive spaces, and books containing the leader's speeches and writings fill up bookstores, libraries, and schools. The level of flattery can reach heights which may appear absurd to outsiders.

A typical example:
"Stalin is our Leader and Teacher, the Greatest Genius of All Times and All Nations, the Sun of Our Planet."
While it is possible that someone may have written something like that about Bush somewhere, it would more likely be satire, and accompanied by one of the usual cartoons showing Bush as a chimpanzee, or with a Hitler moustache.

To be fair to Krugman, he has complained about the "personality cult" before, and says it involves politically staged pictures of Bush -- something Krugman called "deeply un-American." (At least Krugman dislikes "un-Americanism.")

Nor will they admit that opponents of the Iraq war, whom they called traitors for warning that invading Iraq was a mistake, have been proved right.
Who are "they"? Who was called a traitor? Who issued the warnings? Certainly not the vast majority of Democrats in Congress. Can't Krugman supply a few examples? And what constitutes the proof that the invasion was a mistake? His assertion? As to the characterization of people as "traitors," while it's not a habit of mine, Krugman certainly feels free to call people "deeply un-American" so I'm wondering about the sincerity of his outrage.
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.
That depends on the definition of "good news," doesn't it? How would something like the battle of Fallujah be reported? 92 Americans killed, and 1000 "insurgents" killed. What would Krugman have seen as the "good news" and what would he have seen as the "bad news"? Is any war news good news? This failure to define terms makes me suspect that Krugman is a bit of a sneak -- one of those guys who will always be right (and whose opponents are always wrong).
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.
Oh come on! There are crazy conspiracy theories of the left -- Bush rigging the Twin Towers with explosives being a good example -- just as there are crazy conspiracy theories of the right. And there are always important people (like Ed Asner) to support them. But Krugman is not talking about allegations that Senator Dodd was Stalin's grandson; he means skepticism about Global warming, and allegations that "the liberal media are suppressing the good news from Iraq." Expressing Global Warming skepticism -- even indignantly as Senator Inhofe did -- does not meet the "wikipedia definition" cited by Krugman
A conspiracy theory attempts to explain the cause of an event as a secret, and often deceptive, plot by a covert alliance rather than as an overt activity or as natural occurrence.
There's nothing covert about a large number of scientists sharing the same view. Saying that they are wrong -- even that they are perpetrating a hoax -- is not conspiracy theorizing without an allegation of a secret motive. Nor is it enough to say that they are "environmentalists." Now, had Inhofe said that they were all secretly in the employ of a tiny clique of OPEC insiders who wanted to make a fortune by undermining their own industry and selling short, that would be a conspiracy theory. But disagreement -- no matter how unreasonable it might appear -- does not a conspiracy theory make.

Also dismissed as a conspiracy theory is the idea that "the liberal media are suppressing the good news from Iraq." Without getting into the merits, the charge involves a very commonplace allegation of media bias. Functionally, it's no different than my complaints that the Philadelphia Inquirer is biased against guns, or that WorldNetDaily is biased against gays. Am I alleging secret conspiracies? Hardly.

But if we assume Krugman is right, then he's uncovered a new conspiracy to see conspiracy theories, and by the standard he applies to others, then he too must be a conspiracy theorist. But I won't make such an allegation, for that would make me part of a conspiracy to spot a conspiracy theorist theorist, and I'm uncomfortable with such a role. I'd hate to be wrong, and I wouldn't want to be right!

And we can safely predict that these people will never concede that they were wrong.
Yes, we can. Especially if we don't define them. That's because there are always plenty of people who can be depended on never, ever, to admit "they" are wrong. I'm not a regular Krugman reader, but if my memory serves me well I don't think he makes it a habit to admit errors himself. (Not even when the Times' public editor calls him on it!)
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.
By using the word "when," Krugman would seem to allow as a theoretical possibility that the Iraq venture hasn't yet come to a bad end.

What would be a good end, though?

If the people behind the war are "deeply un-American," I can only wonder.

(As to Krugman's threshold question -- "Who's crazy now?" -- I think I am. Either that or this whole thing has given me a headache. But either way, it's nothing new.)

UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Captain Ed:

. . .the Americans are winning the media war in Iraq. That's something that the American media has yet to report in any substantive way.
Americans? Winning?

That's obviously another conspiracy theory.

posted by Eric on 05.09.06 at 10:16 AM







TrackBack




Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The conspiracy theorists' conspiracy theorist's conspiracy theorist?:

» Athena’s Wisdom on Presidential Criticism from Gay Patriot
Finally getting caught up on my reading after the craziness of these past few weeks and discovered this gem in Peggy’s column last week: To criticize the White House–if the criticism is serious, well-grounded and well-meant–is helpful... [Read More]
Tracked on May 10, 2006 5:52 AM



Comments

I wish I could tie Krugman to a chair and force him to answer these questions, really answer them, rather than be allowed to answer evasively.

Same goes for Dan Rather and the fake documents. Same goes for... I could go on forever.

Anyway, great if limited fisking!

Harkonnendog   ·  May 9, 2006 5:28 PM

Why is it that so many Bush-haters seems to think there is some personality cult around the president. Nearly every conservative blog I have read has criticized the president at one time or another. And I can't think of a single serious conservative who esteems the current president more than his last two-term Republican predecessor.

Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest)   ·  May 10, 2006 5:38 AM

The harsh ones have? Who? Cindy Sheehan? Michael Moore? Ward Churchill? Ed Asner? Why isn't Krugman more specific? Who has been vindicated, and how?

Um...how about all those generals who were forced out after saying we'd need more troops to restore order in Iraq than Rummy wanted to send? How about all those Americans who weren't too keen on invading Iraq in the first place? The list you demand would number in the tens of millions.

Pretending that only the loony-left criticize Bush, only proves Krugman right: you can't handle the truth.

Raging Bee   ·  May 10, 2006 3:19 PM

Bee you completely miss the point. Without EXAMPLES of harsh criticism it is impossible to refute Krugman.

Er, wait, Eric said it better:
Why isn't Krugman more specific? Who has been vindicated, and how? Why so open-ended? Without examples, I don't know where to start.

Harkonnendog   ·  May 10, 2006 4:20 PM

April 2011
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30

ANCIENT (AND MODERN)
WORLD-WIDE CALENDAR


Search the Site


E-mail



Classics To Go

Classical Values PDA Link



Archives



Recent Entries



Links



Site Credits