Another Perspective

Notes From an Instalanche

The blogosphere churns and spits up Paul Krugman.

By 10.23.03

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If you pay any attention to the blogosphere, you've noticed that numerous bloggers (see here, here, and here, for example) have called Paul Krugman to task for his Tuesday column in which he excused the anti-Semitism of Mahathir Mohamad, prime minister of Malaysia. I was one of those calling Krugman on this, and Glenn Reynolds, a.k.a. Instapundit, linked to the post on my blog. Thus began the "Instalanche" of hits to my site, and the inevitable discussion of my post, both in my comments section and on other blogs.

Here are some random thoughts on the ensuing fracas:

Missing the Forest for the Trees: Over at the blog The Daily Rant, both Jane Finch and Jay Caruso, whom I respect enormously, took issue with my characterization of Krugman as excusing anti-Semitism. Jane wrote, "I missed the excusing of anti-Semitism. [Krugman] was explaining the domestic politics of Malaysia and why a politician would say what he did. If [Mahathir] has to pander to certain interests in his country that have been inflamed by American actions in Asia (which is what Krugman is saying), how is that excusing anything?" Jay responded, "Well, perhaps 'excusing' is a bad choice." Merriam-Webster defines "excuse" as "to make an apology for, to try to remove blame from." Krugman argued that Mahathir's anti-Semitism was part of a "domestic balancing act" designed to "ward off ethnic tensions" in Malaysia. This diverts hostility from Malaysia's Chinese minority, and "to keep the economy growing, Mr. Mahathir must allow the Chinese minority to prosper." If suggesting that Mahathir's remarks are calculated to keep a good economy going is not excusing anti-Semitism, what is? If savvy critics like Jane and Jay miss this, I have to wonder exactly how effective Krugman is in his deceptions.

Blame Bush No Matter How Stupid the Underlying Argument: Bush hatred among the left, as exemplified by Krugman, has become so pathological that even the most inane arguments are taken seriously. Krugman blames the supposedly "rising tide of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism among Muslims in Southeast Asia" on the Bush Administration's "war in Iraq and its unconditional support for Ariel Sharon." The assumption underlying this argument is that Bush is responsible for the reaction others have to his policy. Does the left really want to tread this ground? Was the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s responsible for rising racism in the South, or was the Allies' decision to go to war with the Axis powers responsible for a rise in anti-Semitism in the Third Reich? Furthermore, the reductio ad absurdum of that argument is that Bush needs to consult every little malcontent in the world before formulating policy. Surely they can't mean that, can they?

Creeping Anti-Semitism Among the Left: Andrew Sullivan, among others, has noted that anti-Semitism has recently found voice on college campuses and among the anti-war protesters. Krugman's column, and the willingness of his defenders to give him a pass, suggests that this disturbing trend is increasing.

Double Standards: Krugman let slide Mahathir's "carefully managed cronyism that holds his system together." Funny, but crony capitalism has been one Krugman's consistent themes in his relentless condemnations of the Bush Administration. In fact, "Crony Capitalism, U.S.A." was the title of one of his columns. So why does Mahathir's cronyism excused? I can only imagine.

More Double Standards: Some lefties in the blogosphere argue that the media is making much of few words in Mahathir's speech and overlooking the remainder which criticizes Islam. Indeed, Krugman states, "It's worth reading the rest of last week's speech, beyond the offensive 28 words. Most of it is criticism directed at other Muslims, clerics in particular." Would that the media had applied the same standard to Bush's State of the Union speech back in June! In that case it was only 16 words.

Even More Double Standards: Rush Limbaugh lost his job at ESPN for arguing that "social concern" in the sports media was responsible for hyping the abilities of a black quarterback. As Don Luskin asks, "Will this finally be the issue that forces the New York Times to rein in America's most dangerous liberal pundit?" I won't hold my breath.

Indeed, other than the criticism from the blogspehere and an open letter from the Anti-Defamation League, Krugman is likely to get away with it. Just another indication of how far the Times has fallen.

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About the Author

David Hogberg is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.  Follow David Hogberg on Twitter.