More on Sullivan and Krugman

Sullivan has now gone

mad. Just after 7:00 this evening, he posted no fewer than four new

pieces on l’affair Krugman – an affair, I hasten to add,

which he single-handedly created.

He seems to be an expert at following up a valid point with something

completely barmy. Here’s an example: "Your average New York Times

reader [would] be shocked, I think, to find a New York Times columnist

who, before he joined the Times, was a $50,000 paid crony for a major

corporation that was in the process of fleecing its shareholders –

especially since he is now one of that company’s fiercest

critics." (my italics). Never mind the "paid crony"

hyperbole, why does the fact that Krugman is criticising Enron make

his former membership of its advisory panel more shocking?

Sullivan is certainly a stickler for journalistic ethics: here he

is a little bit further down.

Josh Marshall writes the following amazing sentences:

“If there’s an embarrassment here, it’s that Krugman participated

in the common business of taking a pretty large sum of money from

corporate bigwigs for a pretty small level of exertion. (Note to corporate

bigwigs: this is a common business in which Talking Points Memo is

eager to become involved — though he’ll keep criticizing until the

offers start coming in.)” Am I hallucinating or is Marshall semi-jokingly

saying that he is a columnist for hire? And people wonder why the

general public are suspicious of the ethics of journalists?

No, you’re not hallucinating, Andrew. But I would say that your monomania

on the subject of Krugman contributes much more to the general public’s

suspicion of journalists than does a joky aside by Josh Marshall.

Besides, in a very real sense all columnists/pundits are columnists

for hire. There really isn’t a lot of difference between being paid

to opine on an advisory board and being paid to opine in the pages

of the New Republic or the New York Times. Krugman isn’t

a journalist, he’s an economist. People read him because he’s

an economist. I’m reminded of how James Cramer used to respond to

people who attacked him on similar grounds: if I didn’t do this for

a living, my column would be significantly worse.

Sullivan also seems to have a huge chip on his shoulder that Romenesko

doesn’t link to him, seeing the mediagossip supremo as a prime mover

in the Liberal Media Conspiracy. Bollocks, Andrew: Romenesko doesn’t

link to you because you don’t provide fixed links! You’re such a profligate

poster (thank you) that a link to http:///

is often out of date within an hour. You want Romenesko to link to

you? Follow Josh Marshall’s lead and provide unique links for each


A lot of the rest of Sullivan’s post simply reheats old criticisms.

Come on, Andrew, if you’re going to wheel out that thing about how

"many public figures who were once, like Krugman, beneficiaries

of Enron’s largess, have now given the money to charity"

then do you think you could name them? Or can you not do that

because the only money which has been donated thusly to charity was

donations to political campaigns?

One word about Krugman, though, because I don’t want this simply

to be an exercise in Sullivan-bashing. On his

website he writes

this: "The Argentine situation demands comment. My New York Times

readers are, I hate to admit, not as interested in Argentina as they

should be, so I am placing it here."

This is all wrong. The weakness of Krugman’s column has been the

way in which it has been used overwhelmingly to give high-rent economic

credence to Democratic party-political GOP-bashing. Most people I

meet these days are both interested in and ignorant of what’s going

on in Argentina: they would love Krugman to help explain it to them

(although his previous columns on the subject have not been particularly

good). Krugman is an excellent international economist: he should

allow himself (and Gail Collins should allow him) to write about international

economics. If you only give the people what they think they want,

they’ll never learn anything.

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