As usual with this stuff, I only blog about Krugman and his inner Kontradictions because no one else will have such insight as I…
Now before we jump into Krugman’s latest post, you need some background. Daniel Okrent was the New York Times ombudsman, or what the Times calls the “public editor.” Here is how the NYT currently describes this role:
Margaret Sullivan is the fifth public editor appointed by The New York Times. She writes about the Times and its journalism in a frequent blog – the Public Editor’s Journal — and in a twice-monthly print column in the Sunday Review section. The public editor’s office also handles questions and comments from readers and investigates matters of journalistic integrity. The public editor works independently, outside of the reporting and editing structure of the newspaper; her opinions are her own.
OK, so when Daniel Okrent left this position, he wrote a farewell article in 2005 that contained the following:
Op-Ed columnist Paul Krugman has the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assaults. Maureen Dowd was still writing that Alberto R. Gonzales “called the Geneva Conventions ‘quaint’ ” nearly two months after a correction in the news pages noted that Gonzales had specifically applied the term to Geneva provisions about commissary privileges, athletic uniforms and scientific instruments. Before his retirement in January, William Safire vexed me with his chronic assertion of clear links between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, based on evidence only he seemed to possess.
No one deserves the personal vituperation that regularly comes Dowd’s way, and some of Krugman’s enemies are every bit as ideological (and consequently unfair) as he is. But that doesn’t mean that their boss, publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., shouldn’t hold his columnists to higher standards.
I didn’t give Krugman, Dowd or Safire the chance to respond before writing the last two paragraphs. I decided to impersonate an opinion columnist.
Everyone got that? The guy had been hired by the NYT to stand up for the readers, to make sure nobody giving them news via the NYT was misleading them. In his opinion, he thought Krugman (and others) weren’t living up to the standards of the NYT, he said so publicly (as he was allowed to do, in his capacity as NYT Public Editor), and he didn’t give Krugman the chance to respond.
Now keep in mind, the NYT itself did give Krugman the chance to respond; here is a catalog of the back-and-forth.
OK, now with that context, check out Krugman’s latest post today, titled “Sliming Rick Perlstein”:
Can I say, I’m familiar with this process? There was a time when various of the usual suspects went around claiming that I was doing illegitimate things with jobs data; what I was doing was in fact perfectly normal — but that didn’t stop Daniel Okrent, the outgoing public editor, from firing a parting shot (with no chance for me to reply) accusing me of fiddling with the numbers. I also heard internally that there were claims of plagiarism directed at me, too, but evidently they couldn’t cook up enough stuff to even pretend to make that stick.
The thing to understand is that fake accusations of professional malpractice are a familiar tactic for these people. And this tactic should be punctured by the press, not given momentum with “opinions differ on shape of the planet” reporting.
Does everyone see the irony here? Krugman wants the press to take sides in these debates, and to not simply give a microphone to “both sides” and let the reader judge who’s right or wrong. He says this, right after complaining about the time the NYT ombudsman declared that Krugman should be held to a higher standard as a NYT columnist, and didn’t let readers hear Krugman’s side of the controversy.