Friday, August 06, 2004

Krugman: Both Barrels 

Not one but TWO (2 count 'em 2) new interviews with Paul Krugman, whose The Great Unraveling has just come out in an expanded paperback edition. First up, from Rory O'Connor's blog Media Is a Plural:
Does Krugman perceive a crisis in American media? Yes . . . and no. “My impression is that the pressure has always been there – so why is the situation so much worse now? Are the people in power more apt to abuse their position now? What happened to the days of Edward R. Murrow?”

Krugman believes part of the answer is to be found in the extreme polarization of our political discourse “There is no longer any middle to appeal to, no moderates left to speak to,” he avers. “Instead we get this false objectivity, a sort of ‘On the one hand this, and on the other hand that’ style of reporting. Or we get extreme partisanship, where the ‘facts’ are treated as part of a movement . . . or a large part of the media is anxious to be perceived as ‘objective,’ while at the same time being consistently mau-maued, and much more by an aggressive right than by the left.”

In any event, Krugman says his bosses at The New York Times “are pretty happy with me at this point, [Small wonder, in light of their recent ‘clarification’ of other Times reportage from that period!] after having been ‘rattled’ in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq War.

“Their belief at the time was that the left wasn’t a commercially viable force, and that liberals, for example, wouldn’t buy books!” he says with a best-seller’s smile.

That canard put to bed, Krugman says it’s time for a showdown. “Can we break the machine that is imposing right-wing radicalism on the United States?” he asks. “The scariest part is that the media is part of that machine. There will have to be some kind of reckoning soon, a possible Watergate moment to come . . . Things aren’t all the way unraveled yet . . . and alternative scenarios still exist.

“We need above all sunlight! We need to see what is actually going on,” he concludes. “When are people going to wake up?”
(Tip: think of it as a deregulation issue, starting with the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine under Reagan and continuing through the consolidation of big media under Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II. The deregulated Fourth Estate exercises an ideological "market power" just as Enron, etc., wielded economic "market power" in California. And needless to say, the consumer is not well-served in either case. Once the barriers to abuse are removed, abuse becomes SOP.)

Interview #2, from BuzzFlash (via Zemblan patriots J.M. and J.D.):
Paul Krugman: Well, you know, just about a year ago, in one of the new columns in my book, I said that the stakes are very high for the Bushies, because we all know that there are terrible suppressed scandals. And that was before we even had any hint about Abu Ghraib. They will do anything to win. You have to expect that it’s going to be the dirtiest campaign in American history, and so it’s proving. We probably ain’t seen nothing yet. Over and over again, the people who made a judgment about the motives of the Administration, and assessed the facts on the basis of that judgment, have proved again and again to be getting it right in interpreting the latest story. People who keep on clinging to the belief that these are reasonable people who behave like a conventional government have been snookered . . . .

[T]here’s a bias in the sloppiness [of television reportage]. Reporters and producers know very well that if they do anything that can be construed as an unfavorable misrepresentation of Republican positions, there will be hell to pay, while misrepresenting what Democrats say is cost-free. Historically, there has been no punishment. Specific examples are not all necessarily cases of deliberate slanting of the news, but they sometimes are. For the most part, it’s simply asymmetric threats -- it’s safe to be snarky about Democrats, but to play it safe, you have to be extremely respectful towards Republicans . . . .

The fundamental fact of American politics -- and I’ve sharpened my view on this since last year and the hardcover edition of the book -- is that we’ve got an alliance between the religious right and the accumulators of great wealth. Those are the people who are running things. And then the question would be, how is it that these things go together so well? What happened to the streak in Christianity that is reveling and populist? Why has that been completely eliminated? George Lakoff has written about a conservative world view that you can kind of make sense of. It doesn’t work by the numbers, but it does work, sort of, emotionally. There's a focus on self-reliance, and therefore letting the wealthy get wealthier, with this world view.

But I think a lot of it is a marriage of convenience. The corporate insiders and the figures of the religious right have found each other mutually useful. The thing about the religious right is that it’s actually relatively centralized. There are people who can take their flock where they want to go. And they have, in effect, made a deal with the people with multi-million-dollar incomes. "I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine." If this coalition gets the kind of lock on power that it wants, the next phase is the struggle between those two sides. As for Tom DeLay, he is a fanatically religious person because that’s who he is, and he’s a fanatical supporter of the interests of the money, because that’s where the money is -- the money and the political support.
UPDATE (via Zemblan patriot J.D.): Gentlemen, set your TiVos. Scheduled for this weekend's CNBC broadcast of Beyond Thunderdome with Tim Russert is the long-awaited Krugman-O'Reilly grudge match:
Fox News Channel's chief talking head was invited to "chat" with Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist and author of "The Great Unraveling," after one of the "Tim Russert Show" producers learned that O'Reilly had issued a challenge to any New York Times reporter or columnist to engage in a debate with him . . . .

[According to a transcript,] O'Reilly called Krugman a "quasi-socialist"; Krugman called that "slander" and said if he is a quasi-socialist then O'Reilly is a "quasi-murderer"; O'Reilly pronounced Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" a bit of "Nazi propaganda" that reinforced all of Krugman's "paranoid delusions"; Krugman insisted Moore's flick was "flawed" but was made by "a guy who really does love this country"; Russert hardly got a word in edgewise; and a good time was had by all.

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