Jerry Sandusky, meet Thomas L. Friedman!


Offenders mustn't be named: We’re often surprised by the work of the youngsters. So it was when Steve Benen and Alex “Kid” Pareene wrote about Krugman’s new column.

It does seem that Krugman was criticizing Thomas L. Friedman in today’s piece. But he doesn’t do so by name. Benen, a reliable sycophant, compliments Krugman for the good solid fun to be had from this no-name technique:
BENEN (11/18/11): There’s a great deal to enjoy in Paul Krugman’s work, but one of the lesser-appreciated aspects of his pieces is his willingness to take not-so-subtle shots at his own colleagues.

A few weeks ago, it was sly mockery of David Brooks. In Krugman’s print column today, it was someone else. See if you can read between the lines.
Benen goes on to help us see that Krugman must be discussing Friedman. He prasies Krugman's "willingness" to engage in this sort of tthing. In Benen’s view, Krugman is taking a “not-so-subtle shot” at the pompous pundit.

Maybe it all depends on what the meaning of “not-so-subtle” is! Let’s put it this way: Krugman’s shot is subtle enough so that most readers today had no idea who the heck he was talking about. It’s subtle enough so that he didn’t name his target by name!

In context, this failure-to-name was slightly odd, since Krugman had just finished criticizing other journalists for being less than forthright: htt
KRUGMAN (11/18/11): So the supercommittee brought together legislators who disagree completely both about how the world works and about the proper role of government. Why did anyone think this would work?

Well, maybe the idea was that the parties would compromise out of fear that there would be a political price for seeming intransigent. But this could only happen if the news media were willing to point out who is really refusing to compromise. And they aren’t. If and when the supercommittee fails, virtually all news reports will be he-said, she-said, quoting Democrats who blame Republicans and vice versa without ever explaining the truth.
Granted, it isn't quite the same thing. But in that passage, Krugman criticizes “the news media” for failing “to point out who is really refusing to compromise.” But dag! In the very next paragraph, he criticizes a bunch of pundits—while failing to point out who he's talking about!

Pareene says Krugman is following a protocol according to which you aren’t allowed to criticize colleagues by name. We agree that this may be the case. That said, neither Benen nor Pareene says how peculiar this practice is. In point of fact, this is a very strange way to conduct a national discourse. We’re talking about important journalistic errors—and Krugman isn’t allowed to name the folk who create this dreck!

Funny, ain’t it? At Penn State, you couldn’t tattle on Jerry Sandusky. Within our press corps, Thomas L. Friedman gets treated the same darn way!


  1. I think the idea is you don't criticize others in "The Family"/"The Club" in public. It makes cocktail parties and elevator rides at the office too awkward. Besides, it's so uncouth to criticize your colleagues even when they're wrong! People might get the idea that things printed in the NY Times might not be true! Perish the thought...

  2. When did it become a truism that to criticize ideas is to attack the person? To say you think "David Brooks" is wrong, and here's why, should not be a forbidden practice, even if he is a colleague. OK, you don't have to say he's an idiot even though you know he is. That much civility we can handle.

  3. The politicians honor the same silly protocol, or at least Senators do ("my esteemed colleague on the other side of the aisle, etc.").

    Maybe the Times simply considers themselves to be an adjunct of government so they adopt the same protocols.

    Whatever, on to Krugman:

    He's completely wrong on the very premise which he builds his entire column. Here's the premise:

    "So the supercommittee brought together legislators who disagree completely both about how the world works and about the proper role of government."

    WTF Krugman? Have you been sleeping? This is simply covering up for a complicit Democratic party. The Democratic party and the Republican party are in almost total agreement on what to do. They want to slash Social Security! They know what the end game is. Obama has said as much. But Krugman pretends that the platitudes the Democrats mouth are sincere . . . when they're lying through their scumbag teeth.

    Krugman is a party hack. There is no ideological difference between the parties, let alone the members of the super committee. The only differences they pretend to have are merely to give the illusion of controversy.

  4. Krugman simply wants to string "progressives" along a bit more by dangling the hope that they can "fight" to fix Social Security when this very process was concocted to hide the complicity of the Democratic party.

    The Democratic party adopted a new policy (not officially but in reality), no longer defends Social Security as untouchable, but is instead offering it up as ransom. According to Krugman, we should put our hope in these confirmed scumbags.

    What crooks. Pelosi and Reid and Obama all paved the way for these cuts and behind the scenes made sure they are happening but in public are pretending that they want to save it. Krugman is their accomplice, albeit harder to detect because he does a better job of pretending that he objects.

    If one truly objected to the theft of our Social Security one would indict both the Republicans and Democrats, and especially Obama. Krugman only indicts the Republicans--showing us he's complicit in these crimes.

  5. Krugman is also wrong when he says it's a good thing if the Super Committee fails.

    The damage is already done, you partisan nitwit. The very act of creating the Catfood Commission, and then the super committee, were failures in themselves.

    There will be looming automatic 10% cuts so this will be used as a whip to go on to the next round of negotiations. There is no good way out of this trap OTHER THAN DESTROYING THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY.

    The Democratic party is fully committed to this process of austerity. All these maneuvers are simply political acts to try to trick their supporters into accepting it (the readers of this blog, for e.g.). Krugman's role is to trick you into thinking that there are at least a few people in the Dem party trying to do the right thing. There aren't.

    The entire Democratic party is corrupt. Krugman sounds like a party tool when he pretends the Democrats are offering an alternative. Actually, he sounds like a naive teenager writing about politics.

  6. Anyone who reads Thomas Friedman or anyone who stopped reading Thomas Friedman out of disgust would know Krugman was referring to Friedman among others. Those two categories would include most of the people who read Krugman's post.

    I knew Bob would be bothered by the lack of naming, but in this particular case I like the lack of names, because Friedman isn't the only one with this centrist fetish. It's a very common sort of cliche, to claim that the Democrats and Republicans are both extremists, when in reality the Republicans are far-right and the Democrats (on average) are center or center-right.

  7. Though that said (I'm the one who posted at 7:41), yeah, it is peculiar, the way the pundit class protects its own. Well, not peculiar--disgusting might be the word I'm looking for.

  8. Two questions:

    1. Why is foreign affairs expert Thomas Friedman expected to explain negotiations on taxes and spending?

    2. Why is economics super-expert Paul Krugman playing the role of media critic?

    Answer: If you're ordained to the exalted position of New York Times columnist, you're an infallible expert in everything. At least you think you are.

  9. "At Penn State, you couldn’t tattle on Jerry Sandusky. Within our press corps, Thomas L. Friedman gets treated the same darn way! f"

    *groan* You're equating sexual assaults on minors with biased journalism? Reporting a crime is not tattling. Depending on who you are and where you live or work, it's mandated by law. I don't have a big problem with Krugman not naming the journalists whose ideas he criticizes since the names Paul Krugman, David Brooks, and Thomas Friedman don't ring a bell with most Americans, anyway.

  10. Criticizing ideas without naming their originators is taking the rhetorical high road. It's taking the moral high road, too. Don't we believe it's right to love the sinner while hating the sin?

    I have to say that I admire Krugman, because he makes so very clear why bad ideas are bad. I also agree with "Anonymous" that there's a certain utility when a writer attacks bad ideas rather than bad people. This is because there are actually only a few bad ideas, whereas the pundits who repeat them are many. Some of these pundits are really bad people and others are merely not very bright people, but really no pundit is as important as the bad idea itself. So why not save yourself the trouble of compiling a list of bad pundits, when you can summarize their bad ideas, demonstrate how wrong they are, and be done with it? That is what Krugman does, God bless him, again and again.

    On the other hand, there is a price to pay for taking this "high road," which I believe the Left takes more than the Right does. Most people don't care about arguments; they care only that there are good guys and bad guys, and they want the good guys to win. The Right understands this, which is why the Right prefers to take the low road of ad-hominem attacks and character assassination, and the Right never, ever forgets to name names, over and over again. Is this why the Right so often wins?

  11. Krugman's wrong here. Sorry, I was in the punditing business for 4 years, and there is a sort of code of silence since you never know who's going to be able to give you a break of some sort or which editor really loves the idiot your criticizing, etc. Then you get their fans all mad at you and everyone you know who likes you both is mad at you for "in-fighting" and it's just easier to just not call people out by name. Don't rock the boat or you might fall out.

    The only way that changes is if some people are brave and change it themselves. Thomas Friedman is one of the biggest doofuses in American media and has been for decades. Try looking up this foreign affairs "expert"'s justification of the war in Iraq... Friedman learned all he knows about international relations from a box of Cheeri-O's, the Miss Cleo hotline, and the fear that drove him to wet the bed until he was in his early 20's.

    But people who don't have more time to look his stuff up might just read his column and believe what's in it since, I dunno, it's printed in the NY Times. It'd be nice if someone else in the Times informed its readers that there's a languorous mountebank's column several inches away.

    Because columnists and journalists and writers are either in the truth-telling business or they're in the PR business. The latter is definitely more lucrative....

  12. Has anyone ever seen Krugman and Dowd in the same place at the same time?

    Just asking.

    The Friedman piece is about a world wide leadership vacuum, with the super committee hash as but one example of a leader voting "present". Krugman (if one believes those who worry about these things) ignores the leadership aspect and twists the passage to make it seem that "Friedman" asked for mush, received mush, and then asked for mush again. It's really a stretch. Friedman's point is that Obama does not push specifics, while Krugman's counter seems to be that non-specifics are as specific as anyone could want.

    Another example of Krugman's inherent perversity comes just five sentences after his "centrist" pundit remarks...

    "Remember, the U.S. fiscal outlook was pretty good in 2000, but, as soon as Republicans gained control of the White House, they squandered the surplus on tax cuts and unfunded wars."

    The U.S. fiscal outlook in 2001, when Bush took office wasn't quite so swell. And then there was that not insignificant *jolt* to the economy that Krugman doesn't like to mention. You know, that little September 11th thing. Which resulted in a lot of "squander[ing]".

    Not to excuse Bush's idiocy in several regards, but his economic policy was largely Keynesian (ie. not particularly conservative.) He opened the government spigots.

    Did he ever manage to veto a spending bill? I dunno. Ask Krugsie.

  13. Pareene says Krugman is following a protocol according to which you aren’t allowed to criticize colleagues by name. We agree that this may be the case. That said, neither Benen nor Pareene says how peculiar this practice is.

    What part of "this rule is silly and anachronistic and enforces a strained phony cordiality at the expense of honesty" is giving you trouble?

  14. MikeSoja, 9/11 forced Bush to slash taxes on the rich?

    MikeSoja, 9/11 forced the US to go to war in Iraq?

    No, of course not. Bush, his party and, sadly, much of the nation chose those courses. They weren't forced on us by events.

  15. NYT doesn't allow op ed columnists to directly refer to each other in their columns -- or in any other media, even their blogs.