Monday, January 10, 2011

I Call Bullshit on Paul Krugman (In a Strictly Academic Sense)

The crisis isn’t the only scary thing going on. Something very ugly is taking shape on the political scene: as McCain’s chances fade, the crowds at his rallies are, by all accounts, increasingly gripped by insane rage. It’s not just a mob phenomenon — it’s visible in the right-wing media, and to some extent in the speeches of McCain and Palin.
What happens when Obama is elected? It will be even worse than it was in the Clinton years. For sure there will be crazy accusations, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some violence.
When you heard the terrible news from Arizona, were you completely surprised? Or were you, at some level, expecting something like this atrocity to happen?
Put me in the latter category. I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again.


One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.
The only problem is, of course, that the murderer of six people, Jared Lee Loughner, is, by all accounts now available, no fan of John McCain, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly or anyone else implicated by name by Krugman for inciting Loughner to violence.  Nick Baumann at Mother Jones reports that Loughner has has a history of increasingly bizarre behavior.  He had become obsessed with the idea that words have no meaning, that the physicial world is some sort of dream-state illusions, and that those who could see their way through the illusion could control reality Matrix-style. During the last year, Loughner's behavior became so erratic that he was removed from classes and eventually expelled from Pima Community College in Arizona.  One of Loughner's classmates, documented some of her impressions of him in e-mails from the time, including this eerily prescient remark:
We have a mentally unstable person in the class that scares the living cr** out of me. He is one of those whose picture you see on the news, after he has come into class with an automatic weapon. Everyone interviewed would say, Yeah, he was in my math class and he was really weird.
Baumann also reports that Loughner fixed his anger on Giffords as early as 2007 (before anyone south of Vancouver had heard of Sarah Palin), when she couldn't provide a satisfactory answer to his question, "What is government if words have no meaning?"  Whether or not Loughner is legally insane in the sense of being culpable for his actions, we don't yet know.  It is reasonably clear, though, he is crazy.  Bat-shit crazy.  

It is also reasonably clear that he is not a Republican, a conservative, a libertarian, a Tea Partier, a militia member, or whatever bogeymen Krugman tries to conjure.  Loughner was not sitting at home reading the collected works of Ayn Rand between Tea Party rallies and Fox News's primetime lineup.  He was not under a spell cast by the Palin-O'Donnell-Angle coven.  He was not moved to act by the rhetorical excesses of John McCain. 

The implication that a reasonable political movement, supported by something like half of the country, is behind this shooting is bullshit, in the academic sense of the word---a statement made without regard for the truth of the matter.  Whatever emotions Paul Krugman detected at political rallies that he very likely never attended appear to have no connection to this case.  Krugman has just thrown out an assertion based on little more than his literary fancy and personal predisposition to see the worst possible motives in those with whom he disagrees. 

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