I know, I know, I’ve been blogging too much about Krugman lately, but this is too delicious to pass up, and I am pretty sure only I have the ability and desire to pinpoint such hilarity. Let’s get this over with as quickly as possible:
==> Ezra Klein has his inaugural post for his new site Vox, and it’s superficially a “hey-both-sides-are-terrible-let’s-all-be-more-tolerant” kind of thing. Klein cites some research showing that when it comes to political issues, more research actually leads to more polarization, because each side just parses the additional information to cherry-pick the arguments and facts that bolster the original position.
==> In order to illustrate the problem, Klein picks an example of a right-winger refusing to learn. (I’m sure this was the result of a coin toss, and not because Klein had a predisposition to bash right-wingers.) Here’s the narrative:
Imagine what would happen to, say, Sean Hannity if he decided tomorrow that climate change was the central threat facing the planet. Initially, his viewers would think he was joking. But soon, they’d begin calling in furiously. Some would organize boycotts of his program. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of professional climate skeptics would begin angrily refuting Hannity’s new crusade. Many of Hannity’s friends in the conservative media world would back away from him, and some would seek advantage by denouncing him. Some of the politicians he respects would be furious at his betrayal of the cause. He would lose friendships, viewers, and money. He could ultimately lose his job. And along the way he would cause himself immense personal pain as he systematically alienated his closest political and professional allies. The world would have to update its understanding of who Sean Hannity is and what he believes, and so too would Sean Hannity. And changing your identity is a psychologically brutal process.
==> Now here’s the wonderful thing that almost makes me burst with joy. We don’t have to speculate about an alternative universe in which a previous hero to progressives does something heretical on climate change, and then receives pushback from former colleagues for it. No, we’ve got Paul Krugman doing it for us, for real, when he writes: “Ezra Klein’s new venture Vox is up, and so far, so OK — some fairly interesting pieces, and nothing like Nate Silver’s lamentable decision to make a professional concern troll his chief writer on climate.”
==> Now you might be saying, “Bob, you’re too clever, as usual. What’s so ironic or funny about this?” OK I’ll spell it out for you: If you click Krugman’s post, his purpose is to mildly chastise Ezra Klein for making it sound as if both sides are capable of this kind of tribalism that reinforces prejudices about ideological positions; according to Krugman, nope, his side is just fine, thank-you-very-much, it’s only those stupid (his term) right-wingers that actually in practice behave this way. Remember, Klein (as we have seen) used a hypothetical example of Sean Hannity going off the reservation about climate change and being punished for it. In commenting on this post, Krugman first starts off by punishing Nate Silver (and he has been doing it for a while now) for going off the reservation about climate change.
==> Last thing: It’s also supremely ironic that Krugman (as well as Klein) pick climate change as the epitome of an issue in which the “other side” refuses to learn from the incoming data. You could write a fairly extensive analogy between the debate over global temperature and CPI. (E.g.: “CPI is the highest it’s been since they started recording it!!”) It would be difficult to describe Krugman’s reactions to both topics in a consistent way.