Read Krugman this morning

The Republican party is appallingly misinformed: there is a Wonk Gap .

But that was then. Modern conservatism has become a sort of cult, very much given to conspiracy theorizing when confronted with inconvenient facts. Liberal policies were supposed to cause hyperinflation, so low measured inflation must reflect statistical fraud; the threat of climate change implies the need for public action, so global warming must be a gigantic scientific hoax. Oh, and Mitt Romney would have won if only he had been a real conservative.

It’s all kind of funny, in a way. Unfortunately, however, this runaway cult controls the House, which gives it immense destructive power — the power, for example, to wreak havoc on the economy by refusing to raise the debt ceiling. And it’s disturbing to realize that this power rests in the hands of men who, thanks to the wonk gap, quite literally have no idea what they’re doing.

There’s another place with a major wonk gap: the media. Television news is unwatchable, and even the major newspapers, like the one that publishes Krugman, are loaded with delusional timewasters and glib liars for conservative policies. How do those clowns get in control of government? Well, one way is that the media are indiscriminate and set up superficial apparatchiks like Friedman and Brooks and Will and whoever as arbiters of rational policy.

Comments

  1. unbound says

    How do those clowns get in control of government? Well, one way is that the media are indiscriminate and set up superficial apparatchiks like Friedman and Brooks and Will and whoever as arbiters of rational policy.

    It’s about the money. When the large corporations figured out that with Uncle Ronnie coming to office, that blasting money into campaigns and lobbying actually paid off great dividends…in fact, spending money on candidates that will help out the corporation and spending money on lobbying is the highest paying investment large corporations make.

    Newspapers weren’t far behind. The large corporations started calling the editors when negative articles came out, they found that the editors started complying with the demands for fear of losing advertising money. Heck, to take this out of a political arena, look at Apple. Anyone that writes a negative article about an Apple product will not get the next new version of an Apple product until well after everyone else (who only write positive articles about Apple) gets the product…which is death to a tech writer. How’s that for controlling the media?

  2. says

    unbound @ 1:

    Money is merely the method. Or, if you will, a vector for the toxic plague of economic conservatism. I’m of the opinion that conservatism, in all its counterfactual idiocy, is a lot like religion. To paraphrase PZ (from The Happy Atheist):

    People aren’t religious conservative because they are stupid; rather, religion conservatism is a parasite of the mind that makes people do stupid things and think stupid thoughts and, worst of all, believe that freeing themselves of superstition the constant quest for domination in a social hierarchy in favor of a liberal egalitarian worldview would make them less human and less able to cope with reality, when the exact opposite is true.

  3. says

    My guess, in other words, was that Mr. Barrasso was inadvertently illustrating the widening “wonk gap” — the G.O.P.’s near-complete lack of expertise on anything substantive. Health care is the most prominent example, but the dumbing down extends across the spectrum, from budget issues to national security to poll analysis. Remember, Mitt Romney and much of his party went into Election Day expecting victory.

    OH SNAP, PAUL KRUGMAN

    You could’ve saved yourself a lot of time by simply calling the entire Republican party a bunch of dumbasses. tho.

  4. moarscienceplz says

    One of the big reasons this is allowed to exist is that the off-year elections are dominated by voters who are very old, very conservative, and very resistant to info that doesn’t match their worldview. We can sit around and bemoan this state of affairs, or each of us could find a young person, or a single mom whose government aid has been cut, or someone who has lost their job in this Great Recession, and help them get registered to vote, invite them for coffee and a bit of political discussion, and then drive them to the polls next year. THAT is the only solution to Republican willful ignorance.

  5. petemoulton says

    I’m afraid I’ll have to disagree with both you and Krugzilla on this, PZ. The GOPers in charge (well, OK, sort of in charge), like Barrasso, know perfectly well what the facts are. They’re lying outright, secure in the knowledge that the corporate “news” media will never call them out on it. It’s the American public that’s so poorly informed because neither the GOPers nor the supine “news” media will tell them the actual truth.

  6. Bicarbonate says

    I’m unconvinced being old has as much to do with it as some would like to think. Since I was in my teens, I’ve been waiting for those stupid older generations, the ones who came before, to die off, something they’ve been progressively doing. But now that I’m older myself, I look behind and see legions of perfect idiots, just as bad as the old ones.

  7. says

    Bicarbonate:
    The numbers back up the claim that Republicans/conservatives skew older than average:

    Large majorities of the regular viewers of Sean Hannity (66%) and The O’ Reilly Factor (64%) are 50 and older. Just 43% of all Americans are 50 and older. And while just 17% of the public is 65 and older, 42% of regular Hannity viewers and 40% of regular O’Reilly viewers are in that age category.

    Pew Research Center for the People and the Press

    Demographically, Republicans remain overwhelmingly white and their average age now approaches 50. Fully 87% of Republicans are non-Hispanic whites, a figure which has changed little since 2000.

    In contrast to Republicans, Democrats have grown increasingly diverse. A narrow majority of Democrats (55%) are non-Hispanic whites, down from 64% in 2000. As in recent years, most Democrats are women (59%). And while the average age of self-described Democrats has risen since 2008 – from 46.9 to 47.7 – Democrats continue to be younger than Republicans on average (47.7 vs. 49.7).

    More Pew Pew Pew.

  8. Randomfactor says

    I don’t see how or why power would be any more attractive to anyone than money.

    It’s nontaxable and reusable. Enough power concentrated in one place is a catalyst…makes things happen without being itself degraded.

  9. robro says

    There’s another place with a major wonk gap: the media.

    I can make no distinction between the media, at least the major outlets, and the cooperations and governments they are presumably covering. Many of them (e.g. Fox/News Corp) are large cooperations and publishers such as the Murdochs are serving their own interests as much as those of the ilk of the Koch brothers.

  10. atheist says

    @Bicarbonate – 9 September 2013 at 11:01 am (UTC -5)

    I don’t see how or why power would be any more attractive to anyone than money.

    I feel there is no way to explain taste. Some people have a taste for power, others for money, others for something else.

  11. ludicrous says

    Alexandra, It appears you are comparing apples and oranges. I believe you would need to compare Hannity/Oreilly viewers with other TV news watchers not other americans.

  12. atheist says

    @Bicarbonate – 9 September 2013 at 11:49 am (UTC -5)

    I’m unconvinced being old has as much to do with it as some would like to think. Since I was in my teens, I’ve been waiting for those stupid older generations, the ones who came before, to die off, something they’ve been progressively doing. But now that I’m older myself, I look behind and see legions of perfect idiots, just as bad as the old ones.

    My friend’s a communist. He’s a grandfather, and he & his wife have been pushing for civil liberties, for economic reform, and for peace, since before I was born. He’s been so progressive for so long and has gone through so much that talking to the guy is like a history lesson & pep talk rolled into one. I agree that age, while important, isn’t always what it seems. In particular, I feel that “generational conflict” is the wrong frame to use in understanding politics.

  13. Akira MacKenzie says

    But now that I’m older myself, I look behind and see legions of perfect idiots, just as bad as the old ones.

    Indeed, just about everyone I knew in high school and college with any sort of liberal beliefs eventually grew up to be stupidly Republican as soon as they got a well-paying job, bought a house, or popped out the requisite two-point-five kids.

    Despite all this talk of “demographic change,” I don’t hold out a lot of hope for the future.

  14. says

    … know perfectly well what the facts are. They’re lying outright, secure in the knowledge that the corporate “news” media will never call them out on it.

    I live in one of the most conservative-leaning states in the USA. The Republicans I know are not lying outright. They actually believe that stuff. Which is an even scarier situation.

    Remember the “legitimate rape” comments made during the last election? It’s like that. Doofus-brained, ill informed and uninformed conservatives repeat shit that causes head-desking all over the USA. Doofus-brain has company, as his cohorts tell different versions of the same off-the-rails thinking. All of them have “doctors” or “scientists” to whom they refer.

    Economic policy doofus-brains have “economists” to whom they refer. I repeat, they believe this shit

    They have, through repetition, built super highways of neural connections along which such anti-information flows. They get a case of happy-brain when more bogus info travels their super highways. They get a case of anxiety-brain when info comes in on a backroad and refuses to join the traffic flow. They arrest that info and throw it out. Fox news makes them happy. Pseudo wonks who really don’t know what they are talking about make them happy.

    Republican politicians have made being ignorant and remaining ignorant into a conservative art form. And a religious virtue.

    Let’s look at the recent conservative case against President Obama’s feet:

    After cracking the case of President Obama’s secret Muslim ring, WorldNetDaily’s latest scoop exposes Obama’s secret Muslim foot signals.

    In her column, “Obama Sending Muslim Subtle Message?,” Andrea Shea King claims that a photo of Obama with his foot on the Resolute desk of the Oval Office is actually “a wordless message of support to the Muslim Brotherhood, Arab street and Islamic community in general.”

    “It is, after all, common knowledge that the Arab world considers the bottom of one’s shoes the ultimate sign of disrespect,” she writes.

    WorldNetDaily published an articled including this question: “Is it possible President Obama had a White House photographer release this official image to the world to send a wordless message of support to the Muslim Brotherhood, Arab street and Islamic community in general? To convey his disdain and disregard for all things traditionally American?”

    http://www.rightwingwatch.org/content/wnd-obama-sending-secret-muslim-foot-signals

    Senator Rand Paul and many other conservative politicians think that WorldNetDaily is a legitimate news source. Example: Maddow Blog link to an article detailing Rand Paul’s reference to WorldNetDaily sources.

  15. says

    Bicarbonate:

    I don’t see how or why power would be any more attractive to anyone than money.

    Money is power. The more money you have, the more privilege you have. The more privilege you have, the more power you have.

  16. Bicarbonate says

    Alexandra #12

    Great Pew Pew Pew! *thank you*

    Ludicrous #16
    Not apples and oranges. If you click the link you’ll see –at least from what you can see at a glance– they did compare news audiences by age, across print and the televisual, from the Colbert Report (youngest demographic) down through CNN, USA Today, Daily Newspaper, The New Yorker, etc. to Hannity (oldest demographic).

    Atheist#17
    Your communist grandfather friend. Yeah, I know, me too. I suppose the way you see it depends on who you know and that that, in turn, depends on accident of birth and trajectory as well as what you have sought out. But the view from here, from this here here or anywhere, is necessarily partial in several senses of the word and often belied by the stats. Though the stats, like the Pew Pew Pew ones, are general views that don’t necessarily bring out the most important aspects of the story.

  17. says

    Bicarbonate:

    I’m unconvinced being old has as much to do with it as some would like to think. Since I was in my teens, I’ve been waiting for those stupid older generations, the ones who came before, to die off, something they’ve been progressively doing. But now that I’m older myself, I look behind and see legions of perfect idiots, just as bad as the old ones.

    The thing about age is that it gets all of us. I’ve been liberal and progressive all my life, and as a soon to be 56 year old, I work to continue learning and stay progressive. I do think all of us, or most of us, do have to make an effort to stay open minded as we grow older. There is a tendency toward conservatism as you age. That, or sinking into a cynical ‘oh fuck them’ mindset. I’ve been seeing the same tired old crap for decades, and it’s difficult to keep your spirits up and keep fighting sometimes. I think another factor of aging is fear, and fear can easily twist your attitudes if you aren’t careful.

  18. Bicarbonate says

    Randomfactor #13 and Caine #20

    As to why people would want money and power or one more than the other. I would tend to discount psychological motivation and go for a structural(ist?) or marxian view that your place in society is what makes you want x things. I have seen that over and over and over, hundreds of times in people I’ve known, over the years.

    I used to be a member of the Green Party in France, was pretty close to the center of power in that teeny party, close enough to see in real time and great detail over the course of two years a new guy come in and through lying, manipulation and fraud, obtain power with which he obtained money which he used to buy more power and so on. He is now a senator. I left the party. I know enough of the man’s personal history to explain his motivation in broadly psychological terms, crossed with social factors. But it still miffs me.

  19. David Marjanović says

    Example: Maddow Blog link to an article detailing Rand Paul’s reference to WorldNetDaily sources.

    I want to laugh.

    I can’t.

  20. Bicarbonate says

    Caine #23

    I’m a couple months older than you are. What you say is particularly true about fear.

    Akir #18
    I didn’t keep up with high school friends but what you say does correspond to your place in society generating your beliefs, behavior. And it would explain why the “Woodstock generation” or a part of it has turned coat. And it also puts limits on what we can extrapolate and predict about the future from the Pew statistics cited above, are the 17% of elderly Americans conservative because they are elderly or is their conservatism a left-over from days gone by? Things to tease out of the data?

  21. alwayscurious says

    @12
    http://www.people-press.org/2012/11/26/young-voters-supported-obama-less-but-may-have-mattered-more/
    http://www.people-press.org/2012/08/23/a-closer-look-at-the-parties-in-2012/

    Age & advertising happily haven’t changed much recently in the last 4 years. While many older people are watching reactionary TV and shifted much further to the right in 2012, the actual voting habits didn’t shift nearly as much. On the other hand, as young people swept left heavily in 2008, they have started to ebb back in 2012. And their voting patterns HAVE shifted to match. This could indicate that the older generations hold more complex views that lead them to support the Republicans in general, but to fear their policies enough to vote Democratic. Or it could be that the groupings of “leaning left” or “leaning right” are working improperly for older demographics.

    I read another report recently put out by the College Republicans pointing out that it wasn’t so much over a decade ago that Republicans had the youth vote. And they estimated that it could be rapidly reclaimed or neutralized with “less stupid” behavior and more emphasis on mundane things like funding education better.

  22. says

    Heck, to take this out of a political arena, look at Apple. Anyone that writes a negative article about an Apple product will not get the next new version of an Apple product until well after everyone else (who only write positive articles about Apple) gets the product…which is death to a tech writer. How’s that for controlling the media?

    Funny, I haven’t heard this particular conspiracy theory before — and it sounds a little silly, given that Apple is pretty well-known for their secrecy about new products, meaning everyone starts access no sooner than the release date anyway.

    What I have heard, repeatedly, even from people who worked there and were privy to this policy, is that Microsoft did something far more insidious than this for years: they subsidized the advertising of anyone writing products for Windows, and refused to pay for advertising in any publication which had said anything bad about Microsoft’s own products. Since most developers were counting on those subsidies and had no extra budget to cover shortfalls, a bad review for any Microsoft product would mean an end to most of the software advertising in any magazine about PCs.

  23. says

    @moarscienceplz, #8:

    One of the big reasons this is allowed to exist is that the off-year elections are dominated by voters who are very old, very conservative, and very resistant to info that doesn’t match their worldview. We can sit around and bemoan this state of affairs, or each of us could find a young person, or a single mom whose government aid has been cut, or someone who has lost their job in this Great Recession, and help them get registered to vote, invite them for coffee and a bit of political discussion, and then drive them to the polls next year. THAT is the only solution to Republican willful ignorance.

    …and, if you’re being honest and they aren’t completely idiotic, they’ll notice that the Democrats have been complicit in every single thing which has harmed them. The banks lost their regulation under Clinton. Obama personally killed off all discussion of universal coverage and the public option in the runup to health care “reform”, and the Democrats became shills for a plan invented by Mitt Romney and praised (at the time) by the likes of Karl Rove. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi have all hopped on the austerity bandwagon (and Obama was actually planning all along to cut Social Security and Medicare, and met with Republican leaders to discuss strategy), Obama invaded Libya against a vote by Congress (so much for that whole “Constitutional Scholar” thing), and has said he’s going to do the same if necessary with Syria. And, as far as can be told this far in advance, Hillary Clinton has a lock on the 2016 nomination, and she has agreed with Obama more or less every step of the way since losing the 2012 nomination.

    Face it: the Democrats are not, by any stretch of the imagination, a solution to our problems. At best — and not always then; see: Obama and Libya/Syria — they represent an end to immediately self-destructive policies in favor of long-term destructive policies. That’s not really very helpful.

  24. Bicarbonate says

    Just professing some ignorance here. How do you vote for no-one in a U.S. presidential election? I mean, a vote for no-one that would be tabulated. Don’t know what Q to google. “Write-in vote” didn’t work.

  25. says

    People are discussing How Nonsense Enters the Bloodstream on The Maddow Blog.
    Excerpt below:

    … the guy eventually told McCain, “I believe wholeheartedly you do not care about the will and well-being of America or its people. You lied to the American people about the chemical attacks in Syria. The American people know that it was our government that is most likely responsible.”

    Got that? This Arizonan believes the U.S. government was “most likely responsible” for a chemical weapons attack in Syria, which targeted the side we want to prevail in the Syrian civil war.

    And where in the world would this guy get that idea? Because Rush Limbaugh told them to take the idea seriously.

    There have long been mutterings that the chemical attack in Ghouta was a false-flag operation. That is, the Syrian opposition actually carried out the attack, hoping that Bashar al-Assad would get blamed and President Obama would retaliate with a huge bombing campaign. But it’s just been mutterings. [Tuesday], though, Rush Limbaugh upped the ante, jabbering on air about an article by Yossef Bodansky titled “Did the White House Help Plan the Syrian Chemical Attack?”

    Got that? Not just a false flag operation that snookered the idiot-in-chief, but an operation actually put in motion by the White House. Bodansky, an Assad sympathizer who has previously suggested that the 1995 Oklahoma bombing was orchestrated by Iran and that Saddam’s WMDs all ended up in Syria, tells a simple story….

  26. tomh says

    @ #30

    How do you vote for no-one in a U.S. presidential election?

    Nevada is the only state that provides a space on the ballot for “None of the Above.”

  27. laurentweppe says

    And it’s disturbing to realize that this power rests in the hands of men who, thanks to the wonk gap, quite literally have no idea what they’re doing.

    I fear that contrary to Krugman’s claim, they know what they’re doing: they’re using theyir influence and clout to do as much damage as possible until the plebs submit themselves: think about a schoolyard bully becomeing more and more odious as he’s being challenged, but with a lot of money and tiny media empires “Either you do what I want, or I hurt you more”

  28. atheist says

    @laurentweppe – 10 September 2013 at 2:28 am (UTC -5)

    I fear that contrary to Krugman’s claim, they know what they’re doing: they’re using theyir influence and clout to do as much damage as possible until the plebs submit themselves

    Both/and. You’re definitely right, there is much bullying and sadism in the conservative worldview. At the same time, there really is an unhinged aspect to it too, as Krugman is describing.

  29. says

    Republicans Michelle Bachmann, Louie Gohmert, and Steve King went to Egypt and performed what looked like a Saturday Night Live skit.

    Not only did they not know what they were talking about, their flying circus spouted all kinds of pseudo facts that were bad, bad, bad for USA foreign policy.

    These are our elected officials?

    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26315908/#52967739

    http://www.nbcnews.com/id/26315908/#52967739

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/09/07/heres-michele-bachmann-thanking-the-egyptian-military-for-the-coup-and-crackdowns/

  30. David Marjanović says

    and the Democrats became shills for a plan invented by Mitt Romney and praised (at the time) by the likes of Karl Rove.

    Homer Simpson voted for the man who invented Obamacare, remember? :-)

    How do you vote for no-one in a U.S. presidential election? I mean, a vote for no-one that would be tabulated.

    Until Tsar Vladimir abolished it a few years ago, Russian ballots gave the option of voting “against all” (против всех).

  31. says

    Alexandra #32

    It’s done differently in each state, but here in New York, you just don’t tick a box in that section of the paper ballot.

    Unfortunately, that will be tabulated as ‘no vote’ rather than ‘none of the above.’ Other than Nevada, you’re pretty much out of luck, Bicarbonate

  32. says

    More dumbfuckery from right wing conservatives, this time on the subject of Syria:


    the writer and the congressman went back forth on something called the “burden of Damascus,” an Old Testament prophecy that posits that a war in the Middle East will leave Syria’s capital city in ruins—and bring the world one step closer to Armageddon. As Rosenberg put it, “The innocent blood shed by the Assad regime is reprehensible and heart-breaking and is setting the stage for a terrible judgment.”

    But Rosenberg and his anonymous congressman aren’t alone in viewing Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s actions through a biblical lens. With Congress set to vote next week on the authorization to use military force in Syria, the Damascus prophecy has taken on a new significance among the nation’s End Times industry—writers and pastors who believe the world is hurtling toward the return of Christ as forecasted in the Book of Revelation—and its adherents in the pews and in public life. On Saturday, Rosenberg will travel to Topeka, Kansas, at the invitation of Republican Gov. Sam Brownback, to discuss the situation in the Middle East.

    The idea behind the prophecy is a fairly straightforward one. In Isaiah 17, the prophet explains that, in the run-up to Armageddon, “Damascus is about to be removed from being a city, and will become a fallen ruin.” The implication is that it will be leveled by God on behalf of Israel as part of the last great struggle for mankind. …

    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/09/syria-joel-rosenberg-damascus-countdown-magog

  33. says

    In reference to my comment #42: I feel like I should repeat that fanatics like Rosenberg are not viewed as fringe figures, nor as batshit crazy, by most of the conservatives in the USA.

    Rosenberg may seem like a fringe figure, but he has a large base of support and friends in high places. Damascus Countdown was, like the two preceding books in the series, Twelfth Imam and Tehran Initiative, a New York Times bestseller. He has been cited as an expert on nuclear policy by Fox News, where host Shannon Bream noted that he had been referred to as a “modern-day Nostradamus.” Former (and future) Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum wrote a blurb for the hardcover edition of Damascus Countdown and brought the author onto his radio show, Patriot Voices, to discuss the book last spring.

    In March, Rosenberg met privately with Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Louie Gohmert in Austin. …

    So, yeah, conservative foreign policy is partially based on Isaiah 17, and on raving flea-brained interpretations thereof.