Some promising straws in the wind

There’s a bit of a thread running through three articles I’ve read recently. These two articles from the NYRB on Gordon Brown and Paul Krugman respectively both paint emerging responses to the excesses of yet another low dishonest decade. Brown is studied in his apparent desire to move away from presidential politics and clearly less enthusiastic about the endless spin cycle than his predecessor (though from this distance I concede that that may be a naive observation).

The review of Krugman is well worth reading. And in another interview Krugman continues to anatomise the pathologies of the situation that the revolutionary partisanship of the Republicans and their fellow travellers such as Fox News have given rise to.

I sometimes talk about what I call “asymmetrical intimidation.” If you say a true but unflattering thing about Bush or in fact about any other prominent conservative, oh boy! People are going to go after you. I mean, I’ve got people working fulltime going after me, right? But if you say a false, unflattering thing about a Democrat or a progressive, no risk? And that shapes coverage, no question about it. It’s better now, but it’s still very asymmetric.

And here is George Soros pointing to similar phenomena and calling for a ‘naming and shaming’ of those who practice Orwellian Newspeak. No silver bullets I’m afraid, but perhaps a changing sensibility?

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14 years ago

Re the Soros post, I haven’t read the Krugman, I think the problem (IMO anyway) is that people have lost faith in the truth as something which is extant, definitive, ever present and the greatest power available to them. Many choose to put much greater store in the (imagined) alleviation of their fear or fears. Fears which are often irrational and usually a product of a neurotic imagination.

Fear is the main thing that motivates people towards deception. Greed is another motivator, but I think greed can trace its roots back to fear. Fear of poverty, fear of destitution, fear of ridicule.

A widespread and generalised fear of terrorists, a fear promulgated by Western governments, and one which has necessitated a War, (something to really be fearful of) a ‘War’ that has resulted in many, many, evils (that which opposes a truth) is a prime example of a fear that has been blown out of all proportion in relation to the truth of the threat. The plot thickens to include greed as a motivator and a whole host of fears now in the mix. If the War on Terror was declared solely to avenge the deaths of 3000 odd people killed in 9/11, one only has to count the 4000 odd dead US soldiers who have been ‘used’ for this purpose to see that this makes no sense as a rationale. Indeed as everybody knows, the War on Terror has been successful only in creating more terror and certainly much more fear, because (as everyone knows) it is based on bullshit and fear and has sought to keep ‘truths’ deeply buried.

Most people are rational enough not to get around in a constant state of fear of terrorists–most people, but I guess that depends on where exactly you live. Fear is a natural response to some situations but examining small, everyday fears can result in many of them dropping away when it is realised the role imagination plays in inspiring these fears. What exactly we are fearful of and how silly many of these fears are and just how much fear effectively blocks any admission of faith.

I like what Soros had to say –very much, but the core problem with why there is so much . . . bullshit abounding needs to be examined and I’d say it is an overwhelming and irrational sense of fear.

14 years ago

“another interview” link is broken. But thanks for the links that do work!

14 years ago

I agree with your broader point. But I think Krugman’s point is absolute nonsense, or did I miss when the Clintons became prominent conservatives, to name one example?

And, at the most basic level of idiot-testing an idea, how do you reconcile Krugman’s picture with the press coverage of President Bush, or of V-P Cheney? Even John Roberts got negative press coverage from some papers!

How do they muster the bravery to keep writing day in day out under this constant onslaught?

14 years ago

As I read him Krugman is not saying it is as simple as clear straight out bias (though if you dont agree that Fox is biased and deliberately so then wed better just disagree). He is saying that the Republicans have used (and abused) certain (he said she said) conventions to debase debate. The most egregious example is Swift Boating John Kerry.

I disagree. I think both parties have, largely equally.

He is saying that the media do not report on lies and near lies as they should.

That is your broader point with which I agree. I agree when he says it too.

As for Bush and Cheney – do you think theyve performed impressively? Alberto Gonzales? If they perform as badly as theyve performed, whats wrong with the media reporting it?

I don’t think they’ve been great or as bad as often reported. But their bad performance is being reported, often and loudly. Which seems to me reasonably strong evidence that there is no vicious conservative defence lobby along the lines Krugman seems to paint.