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Monday, December 10, 2012

The War on Facts, Televised

A week long illness is now receding and I can wear my glasses again without wanting to hurl. Sinus pressure must realign your eyeballs or something, I don't know. But it sucked.

Another thing that sucks and makes me want to hurl is a video up at Politico, which I'll spare you. You don't have to actually watch it to get my point. And since the attached article is titled, "Paul Krugman riles fellow pundits," Politico owes the man an apology. Krugman is a Nobel Prize-winning economist and a professor at Princeton University, in addition to his column and blog in the New York Times, while "pundit" has become mostly synonymous with "hack." The days of a punditry populated largely with people who actually know what the hell they're talking about have long since passed -- if they ever existed at all. Today, the vast majority of pundits are partisan propagandists. And their hackery is insufferable.

After all, in what world would Mary Matalin -- a professional Republican operative -- be considered a "pundit?" Unfortunately, the answer to that is "the one we live in." She was one of the "fellow pundits" Krugman riled on ABC's This Week. The other was this tool:

After Krugman called House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's budget a "fake document" and the columnist said he was "amazed that people haven't gotten that," [George] Will unsheathed his verbal sword and went at Krugman.


"I have yet to encounter someone who disagrees with you who you don't think is a knave, or corrupt, or a corrupt knave," Will said, borrowing a phrase founding father Alexander Hamilton used to rail against those unwilling to respect the good faith of their political opponents.

"No, I've got some people," Krugman said, suggesting that some conservatives are indeed intellectually honest.

Yup, good old George "Landslide" Will. And is he right about the Ryan budget, while Paul Krugman is wrong? Not even close. The Ryan plan is a joke. In fact, it's a cruel practical joke, since it exists only as an excuse to slash entitlements and privatize Medicare. In Will's words borrowed from Hamilton, Paul Ryan is "a knave, or corrupt, or a corrupt knave." His entire budget plan is just cover for a lie. When Krugman says it's a "fake document," this is literally true. It's fake in the same way that camouflage is fake.

Again, this is Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate and Princeton professor, saying this. And for some reason, George Will gets to disagree with him -- vehemently -- and his disagreement is supposed to carry equal weight. Nowhere in that Politico piece will you find any fact-checking. It merely presents the TV argument between Krugman, Will, and Matalin and that's that. It might as well be a report about a celebrity dust-up on a game show.

Which, sadly, is about the level of importance of these Sunday talk shows. You can't put together a round table of hacks and partisans and expect anything useful to come of it. And when they bother to get someone who actually knows what he's talking about to chime in, these hacks and partisans attack him for presenting the unvarnished truth. In other words, on the rare occasion that some factual reporting actually happens, it's immediately undermined by spinmeisters and trolls. And those spinmeisters and trolls are presented as being as expert on the subject as the actual expert they invited on their show. It's ludicrous. George Will has to prove nothing. He can just throw out declarations and those count as logical arguments. Truth and fact are mere matters of opinion. Who's right? Who knows?

That's the state of our media. And a sorry state it is, too.


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