In case you've missed it, heavyweight Paul Krugman from the NY Times and their flyweight former Ombudsman Daniel Okrent are having a smackdown. Or to put it more accurately, Okrent tried to use his final column to rabbitpunch Krugman, Krugman smacked the living tar out of ol' Dannyboy, and Danny retreated with a few more cheapshots, insisting that he won't continue the debate no matter how Krugman responds. The damn coward.
Not that I blame him. Krugman's a smart guy and Okrent's an idiot, so Okrent put up the only defense he could, short of capitulation. And I know I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of Paul Krugman in an economic debate, which is why I agree with him...because he's right.
If you're looking for some details on this, the ever-brilliant Brad Delong's got them over at his place; though I felt his remarks were too brief. And this debate was too brief for me to bother giving any kind of play-by-play, as I did with the Chait v. Goldberg duel awhile back (you can look through my April archives on that). Maybe if Okrent breaks his promise and responds back, I'll go ahead with a commentary. I love a good debate, but this isn't one. It's just a disagreement over basic facts, and facts are kind of a silly thing to debate. Which is a big indicator of what an idiot Okrent is, because the facts are so easily proven; and he's so obviously wrong.
So I'm not going to comment further on the debate. No, I'm here to talk about just one part of Okrent's retarded rebuttal. Okrent explained why, if he had believed Krugman's column to be so misleading, he hadn't corrected Krugman's statements earlier (which was kind of Okrent's job). Okrent explained:
But I laid off for so long because I also believe that columnists are entitled by their mandate to engage in the unfair use of statistics, the misleading representation of opposing positions, and the conscious withholding of contrary data. But because they're entitled doesn't mean I or you have to like it, or think it's good for the newspaper.
And doesn't that just say it all? Okrent believes that, because columnists are opinion writers, that they're entitled to lie. He didn't use the word "lie". But that's what he's talking about; that columnists of the most respected newspaper in America are entitled to lie as part of their job. That it's ok to use the NY Times as a source of misinformation, because that's what opinion writers are hired for.
And that attitude is what's so fucking wrong with our media and the Republican Party.
And I'm sure that Okrent's not the only one with that point of view. I'm sure that if you probed the elite media circles, almost all of them would state that viewpoint; that having an opinion means you're allowed to alter the facts in a way that makes your point right.
And even further, they believe that opinions naturally distort; always. That, if you have a personal opinion, you can't help but be selective in your use of facts; which is something that the rightwing meat-heads have been screaming about for over a decade. It seems beyond them that someone might have a personal opinion based-on the facts, and not the other way around. So the media is naturalresistantent to facts on either side, and prefer the facts that their specific class of elite media whores claim as being acceptable.
And so that's why they believe that it's wrong to fact-check political statements in supposedly objective articles. Because they've been trained to believe that selecting and judging facts is wrong and subjective. So they present both sides of an argument, and leave it to the reader to decide which set of facts to believe. Because for them, facts aren't objective or provable. To our media elite, facts are just talking points that both sides have. And not only do they not see facts as verifiable, they believe that the very process of verifying them is subjective and wrong.
And the more extreme someone's opinion is, the more manipulated their facts must be; which is why Okrent believes so fervently that Krugman's opinionated viewpoint must be distorted. And the more moderate someone's opinion is, the less manipulated their facts must be. And the idea doesn't occur to them that perhaps someone might have the real facts. Because they don't believe in such a thing. For them, it's all about how distorted your facts are.
And Okrent uses this perverse idea as his defense, as witnessed in the quote above.
And that's exactly why they tolerate the Bush Admin's distortions and manipulations. Because they think that having opinions entitles you to select which facts you want to use, and how to present them. You're not entitled to outright lie (based upon a twistdefinitionion of the word "lie"), but you're allowed to manipulate and distort all you want. Which is what normal people call "lying".
But to our media, lies are something that you bust someone for; whereby the word "lie" means that you later contradict something you had said earlier. Because how else can you know if someone's lying unless they themselves contradict it? Like when Clinton said he hadn't had sex with Monica, and later admitted that he had. The media elite didn't believe him when he made his initial claim, but it wasn't a "lie" until he contradicted it.
Or like when Bush said those sixteen words about Niger in the 2003 State of the Union address, which the Admin later said he shouldn't have included. Only then did the media get on the manhunt for WMD lies; and continued to focus on those sixteen words, rather than focusing on the entire con-game the Republicans had performed. And if you bother reading that link, you'll see Condi Rice defending those sixteen words by pretending that everything else they had said was correct. And she could only do that because the media wasn't focusing on anything else. And they weren't focusing on the other stuff because the Whitehouse hadn't contradicted itself on it.
Which is exactly why the Whitehouse would be stupid to ever allow Bush to contradict a statement he had made, or admit to a mistake. Because doing so would give the media topportunityity to bust him for lying. So while we always refer to Bush's inability to list his mistakes as a character flaw; in actuality, he was forced to do that to avoid falling into the media's trick. As they can't bust him for lying until he gives them something to work with. They don't think they can verify facts, so they're busily searching for a chink in the armor.
To our elite media, that's what it's all about. Spinning facts is just a game and everyone's entitled to play. Danny Okrent used this as his defense for why he didn't address the issues he had regarding Krugman's supposed distortions; believing that Krugman was entitled to those distortions and lies. But this isn't a defense at all. It's the god damn problem.
Good riddance Okrent. Please take the other media whores with you.