Saturday, May 02, 2015

Paul Krugman and Strategic Forgettery

Longtime readers of this blog know that one of the themes I have returned to year after year is that a conspiracy of ongoing and radical denial of the recent past has become the central pillar of Conservatism in America.  And that Conservatism's program of mass "Strategic Forgettery" continues to succeed because it is actively aided and abetted by the mainstream media.

So imagine my delight when I found the awesome Paul Krugman taking that theme and running with it in the New York Times, reaching more readers in an afternoon that I could reach in a year of  daily blogging and weekly podcasting combined.  
Ideology and Integrity

Times like these call for a combination of open-mindedness — willingness to entertain different ideas — and determination to do the best you can. As Franklin Roosevelt put it in a celebrated speech, “The country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”

What we see instead in many public figures is, however, the behavior George Orwell described in one of his essays: “Believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.” Did I predict runaway inflation that never arrived? Well, the government is cooking the books, and besides, I never said what I said.

Just to be clear, I’m not calling for an end to ideology in politics, because that’s impossible. Everyone has an ideology, a view about how the world does and should work. Indeed, the most reckless and dangerous ideologues are often those who imagine themselves ideology-free — for example, self-proclaimed centrists — and are, therefore, unaware of their own biases. What you should seek, in yourself and others, is not an absence of ideology but an open mind, willing to consider the possibility that parts of the ideology may be wrong.
... far as I can tell no important Republican figure has admitted that none of the terrible consequences that were supposed to follow health reform — mass cancellation of existing policies, soaring premiums, job destruction — has actually happened.

The point is that we’re not just talking about being wrong on specific policy questions. We’re talking about never admitting error, and never revising one’s views. Never being able to say that you were wrong is a serious character flaw even if the consequences of that refusal to admit error fall only on a few people. But moral cowardice should be outright disqualifying in anyone seeking high office.

I still think this election should turn almost entirely on the issues. But if we must talk about character, let’s talk about what matters, namely intellectual integrity.

It is heartening to see public thinkers and writers I admire eventually arriving at the same place and describing the topography of the most important ideological battlefield of our times in the same terms we on the Left have been using for decades.

We on the Left remain a ragged and mostly ignored or despised few.  We are perpetually outspent and outnumbered by the Crazy Right and the Enabling Center by many, many orders of magnitude, and we're also kinda tired of punching away at the same fucking brick wall with our bare fists year after year and having little more than chipped paint and sore hands to show for it.


But at least we know we are punching away at the right wall.

And, more importantly, we know exactly why the wall is there in the first place and why it is so heavily defended.


dinthebeast said...

I loved that column, but I had one quibble with it: The self-proclaimed centrists are NOT unaware of their own biases, they use their supposed centrism as an excuse to evade responsibility for said biases.

-Doug in Oakland

Rodger Stevens said...

Thank you for your long and sterling service punching at that wall.