Krugman Deconstruction

We can mark the specific time when the political controversy surrounding the “Tragedy in Tucson’’ began. Just a couple of hours after the news broke, Dr. Paul Krugman posted a blog blaming the attack in Tucson on a “climate of hate” presumably perpetrated by the Right.

Krugman’s accusations were soon undermined by the facts, though Krugman’s own grandiosity makes him incapable of conceding an error. The alleged perpetrator, Jared Loughner, apparently suffers from severe mental disturbances. There is no political connection to any group. Loughner is profoundly delusional. The cause of his actions arise entirely from his intensely disturbed mind.

Charles Krauthammer recently wrote the definitive piece describing the Left’s predisposition to leap to accusation with little proof and with less thought, especially when Conservatives are a convenient target. Nonetheless, if only out of intellectual curiosity, it is of some interest to deconstruct further Krugman’s instant analysis.

Krugman concedes that there are extreme and intemperate voices on all sides of the political spectrum, but “Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the [R]ight.’’

From the standpoint of argumentative effectiveness, we would expect the clever Krugman to offer the clearest and most persuasive example of a prominent Conservative or a Republican inciting violence. This is what Krugman managed to conjure up: “It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be `armed and dangerous’ without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.’’

Perhaps, Krugman was ill-informed, but his example is terribly weak. It turns out that if one looks at the entire quote and not the three words carefully excised by Krugman, Bachman wanted her constituents to be armed with information with which to make their cases. —Oops. And this was presumably the sharpest arrow in Krugman’s rhetorical quiver. Is that too martial a metaphor?

Much more subtly, Krugman speaks of those on the Right of using “eliminationist’’ rhetoric to de-legitimize political opposition. The word “eliminationist’’ is not a common term and its use by Krugman is curious and revealing. The term was coined in 1996 by Daniel Goldhagen in his book Hitler’s Willing Executioners, referring to deep-seated anti-Semistism of pre-War Germany and its exploitation by Nazi propaganda to make the German people accomplices to the Holocaust. Later is was used by David Neiwert in his book The Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right to draw a connection between Nazis and the American RIght.

Krugman borrows this association of the Right in the US with Nazi behavior by the deliberate use of the term “eliminationist.’’ It is is a skillful way of demonizing and de-legitimizing his political adversaries, precisely the same acts of bad faith he accuses the Right of. Perhaps this is rank hypocrisy or perhaps something more.

With the tragic events of the last week, we are all becoming more familiar with psychological terminology than we care to be. I am sure that Krugman is a fine fellow who appreciates beauty, basks in the aroma of flowers, and enjoys the sound of children at play and the softness of puppies. However, his impromptu blog last week probably says more about Krugman than it did about the situation in Tucson. When speaking of the Right, Krugman’s political mania is touched, and he reverts to the mechanism of “projection.’’

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