Ethics Note To Paul Krugman: The News Media Isn’t Your Toy

Not bankrupt, at least, not financially...

Not bankrupt, at least, not financially…

The crippling lack of respect and contempt our warring ideological factions have for those on the other side is never better illustrated that when one partisan believes a satirical negative story about an adversary stalwart that any unbiased observer whose brain wasn’t partially melted by hatred would have flagged as false in a heartbeat. Thus do our biases make us stupid. The phenomenon was the basis of some well-derived mockery  last month, when Washington Post blogger Suzy Parker fell for the silly published on the parody website The Daily Currant that Sarah Palin had joined Al-Jazeera, and used the obviously phony tale to hammer Palin for hypocrisy.  I suggested that a journalist this gullible and biased wasn’t qualified to practice her craft, as she was obviously incapable of overcoming her prejudices and personal dislikes so that she could distinguish truth from comforting fiction.

The Right mocked Parker and the Post hardest of all—suuure there’s no liberal bias in the media!—- especially the Bad Boy of rightward blogs, Breitbart. Then along comes another gag story from the same source, The Daily Currant, announcing that New York Times tax-and-spend advocate, progressive cheerleader and Pulitzer prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has declared for bankruptcy, and Brietbart, for exactly the same reasons Parker believed that Palin would go to work for the Arabs,  couldn’t figure out that it wasn’t  true. Breitbart published this:

“Paul Krugman, the economic darling of the left, has filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, according to Krugman has been the leading advocate for increased deficit spending as the only solution to turn the US economy around. He believes that President Obama needs to be even bolder with continued trillion dollar stimulus programs driving our nation deeper and deeper into debt. Apparently this Keynesian thing doesn’t really work on the micro level.”

‘See? SEE? See what an idiot this Obama-loving economist is?’  No, the real idiot is anyone who would take this, from the Current story, as anything but a joke:

“…Krugman got into credit card trouble in 2004 after racking up $84,000 in a single month on his American Express black card in pursuit of rare Portuguese wines and 19th century English cloth. Rather than tighten his belt and pay the sums back, the pseudo-Keynesian economist decided to “stimulate” his way to a personal recovery by investing in expenses he hoped would one day boost his income.”

When it comes to letting partisan hatred eat your ability to function, Right and Left are equally adept. I do expect better from the Washington Post, however. (The Post did retract its goof with an explanation. So far, has just removed the post without an apology or a correction, which is bush league journalism. But we knew that…)

That’s not the end of the story. It seems that the city news site first picked up the Current gag and ran it as fact, and this is where Breitbart got it, Before that happened, however, Paul Krugman saw the mistaken report about his fictional financial woes on…and decided to leave it there, as a trap:

“OK, I’m an evil person — and my scheming has paid off. On Friday I started hearing from friends about a fake story making the rounds about my allegedly filing for personal bankruptcy; I even got asked about the story by a reporter from Russian television, who was very embarrassed when I told him it was fake. But I decided not to post anything about it; instead, I wanted to wait and see which right-wing media outlets would fall for the hoax. And came through!”

No, Krugman’s not evil—irresponsible, arrogant, unfair and a jerk, but not evil. I’m glad he thinks spreading false information online is funny; those of us who have to rely on our hopelessly untrustworthy news media think that the unreliability of reporters and news sources is tragic and destructive. And I know this seems quaint to someone like Krugman, but most Americans tend to believe what they are told by reporters is true, and form their opinions accordingly while passing along what they now believe to others, so they can be misinformed as well. Because Paul Krugman thought it might lead to an embarrassing mistake by one of the news organizations that he wants harmed, he decided to leave false information uncorrected, and to misinform a substantial number of Americans for his own pleasure.

Knowing that a live news report is false and intentionally failing to correct it is indistinguishable from intentionally planting false news in the first place. The arrogance of Krugman, which is on display on his blog daily, is staggering. He really believes getting a nasty chuckle at some foolish reporter’s expense is justification for letting a misleading news story get wider circulation. It’s not filing for bankruptcy, but it’s enough for me to question his motives, integrity and judgment, and not just about the economy.

Source: Slate

Graphic: Fox News


There was only one problem: The story of Palin joining Al-Jazeera is, duh, 100% false. Parker fell for an “Onion”-style satire


Filed under Character, Finance, Government & Politics, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Professions, The Internet

11 responses to “Ethics Note To Paul Krugman: The News Media Isn’t Your Toy

  1. Let me take the other side on this one. If Krugman wasted his column time on even one percent of the false claims about him, his column would resemble the troll-infested commentary that his rabid haters persist in writing. (Maybe Obama gets more ridiculous claims made about him; but once you start denying everything, you start to sound like Nixon in his classic, “I am not a crook” moment).

    And he did deny it, to a Russian reporter who asked the question – where were the US reporters? (The Rooski’s are doing better reporting than we are? hoo boy).

    And to your likely retort that a lie of omission is as bad as a lie of commission, I completely agree with you on that point – but you’ve got to take into account the sheer volume of nonsensical invective that people aim at Krugman. See my main point above.

    Is Krugman a partisan? Absolutely he is, but unlike nearly every other partisan, he can articulate a thoughtful reason for his being so. Furthermore, in nearly every case, his criticism is data-based and fact-based; I have yet to see a critic prove him wrong, while the reverse is a near-daily occurrence. The man is, simply put, way more right than wrong.

    And as they say, it ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.

    • There is a difference, in a story intentionally fabricated that reports false information about an individual and story written that does not necessarily report lies or errors, but makes an evaluation that might or might not be wrong (but wrong in your eyes).

      This situation is exacerbated by the individual in question choosing not to dispel what is an intentionally fabricated story, but to actually use it.

      • charlesgreen

        Here’s how.

        You say, “Knowing that a live news report is false and intentionally failing to correct it is indistinguishable from intentionally planting false news in the first place.”

        That’s great if the Times reports a false story. But what if the Times had gotten it from Breitbart? And Breitbart had gotten it from And had gotten it from an Austrian right-wing blog called The Prudent Investor? And what if The Prudent Investor had gotten it from the Austrian magazine Format?

        All of that (except the Times) appears to be true, by the way:

        So my question is: where do you suggest the ethical line falls between responding to a falsehood and throwing up your hands in despair because you don’t speak Austrian and have only 24 hours in a day?

    • I don’t claim he had any obligation to do anything but contact Boston.Com and tell them that he is Paul Krugman, and the story they are running is false. That would have taken about 10 minutes, and it is not as if there are news items about Krugman every week. And he’s condemned by his own words: he admits he left a false story out there intentionally to fool people, hoping it would fool someone he wanted to see humiliated.

      How can anyone defend that?

      • And he’s condemned by his own words: he admits he left a false story out there intentionally to fool people, hoping it would fool someone he wanted to see humiliated.

        How can anyone defend that?

        There is no defense considering is the web site of the Boston Globe, a major regional newspaper.

  2. charlesgreen

    (Sorry Jack, that last was meant to be positioned as a reply to yours of 2:03PM; maybe you can re-arrange?)

  3. Before I look at the byline of the Breitbart piece, I’m going to predict…

    Written by Ben Shapiro…

    • No, it was O’Connor… Huh. Well, not shocked even then. Several people there are horrible researchers and fact-checkers. This is just the SECOND story this month where they saw/heard something they liked and ran with the story before actually seeing if it was true.

      Someone go corner Ben Shapiro and ask him if he’s managed to tract down “Friends of Hamas” yet. Make sure you send me video…

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