Michael Kinsley: Troll

Well, we now know why Michael Kinsley wrote those pieces he did last week: he was trolling. He reveals himself rather quickly:

One [article I wrote last week] was a defense of people’s right to oppose gay marriage. It charged that dissident voices on this subject were being suppressed (although I myself am very much in favor). I was expecting a hailstorm, but the reaction was almost disappointingly calm and reasonable.

There was actually quite a bit of criticism. Given he goes on to cite Scott Lemieux of Lawyers, Guns and Money later in the article, I have a hard time believing he didn’t read this. Or he didn’t see this article that is prominently displayed on Gawker right now. However, what is clear is he this month’s troll of Paul Krugman.

None of the arguments he makes are new. We have a “where is your plan,” “I’m the real liberal trying to save social programs,” “look, he contradicts himself,” and all the logical fallacies we are accustomed to. Joe Scarborough was beating this drum last month and Mary Matalin and George Will have made it their mission in life to stump Krugman on This Week, so no treading on new ground here. We do get a photo of Krugman in a white tie at some fancy setting with what I assume is a European monarch just to prove Krugman is an out of touch elitist (unlike man of the people Michael Kinsley).

I never understand this fascination people have with trying to prove Krugman wrong. Yes, he can be a bit prickly (I had some hard feelings towards him during the 2008 Democratic Primary) but he is sincere and makes sure all his facts are straight before talking. The fact this is an exception and not a rule tells less about Krugman and more about other pundits.

Krugman trolling isn’t anything new and after Kinsley is done, there will be someone else to do it next month. Why Chris Hughes fired Timothy Noah (who wrote a book on income inequality, one of the biggest issues of our time) and keeps giving space to some 90s wash-out doesn’t reflect well on the New Republic.

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The Great Denial

Michael Kinsley has two pieces out defending conservatives. The first attacks Paul Krugman and his columns against austerity and the second goes after those who got Ben Carson removed from speaking at Johns Hopkins Medical School because of homophobic remarks he made. In both columns he defends conservatives from what he considers unfair attacks. Putting aside how wrong he is, Kinsley is just another symptom of what is the greatest problem with journalism-The Great Denial.

The Great Denial is the refusal to accept the Republican Party and the conservative movement are as radical as they really are. If you believe this, as Kinsley does, then guys like Krugman and those Hopkins activists are just as much a problem as the Tea Party. Problem is, they’re not.

Do austerity supporters just disagree on what is “premature” austerity? Nope. Ever since The Great Depression, conservative economists have argued for using bad economic times to push their tough policies on the general public. Is Ben Carson calling for raising taxes on the rich, increasing support for the poor, nurturing the planet, and repealing Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act? Nope. Carson first got noticed for calling for a flat tax at the National Prayer Breakfast and believes evolution is a hoax. These are not reasonable people trying to have a serious discussion only to be insulted by mean liberals. These are radicals who want to undue the economic and social gains of the 20th Century.

Because of The Great Denial, you cannot say these this. If you do, you’re out of the club and just another mean-spirited liberal (look at the careers of Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein). So you make up liberal straw men to burn.

What’s amazing with Kinsley’s second column is gay rights are on the ascendent. Most Americans support gay marriage and that number keeps going up. Maybe in 2006 or 2008 you had to hide your support for gay marriage to be elected in Ohio or Florida but in the last election we had statewide candidates in both states win on a pro-marriage platform. There is little need to compromise with anyone who doesn’t support full marriage equality.

Also, Kinsley doesn’t address how marriage equally has gotten more powerful-by calling conservatives out. After all the attention the Mormon Church got from backing Prop 8 in California, they have pulled out of funding anti-gay marriage campaigns, virtually insuring victory for equality backers. Image matters, and by calling prominent marriage opponents bigots, gay rights activists have seen major victories.

If we could get full employment in a year by shaving off Paul Krugman’s beard with broken glass to appease the austerity freaks, I’d break a few bottles myself. However, if the Obama Administration has proved anything, it’s those chanting for more austerity don’t care about the economy or jobs-they are just rich folks trying to horde money. If their vision of how America should be is unappealing to most Americans, that’s their problem. Denying this wouldn’t make them any nicer.