A new column by Paul Krugman in the New York Times crystallized for me a problem with the American media in these pseudocractic times.
Krugman argues that the intellectual integrity of American “conservatives” has been degraded so much and eschews evidence to such a degree that conservatives who have influence on the media and policy are “cranks and charlatans,” whereas the few conservatives who retain some principles and integrity (if such people exist) have no influence on media and politics.
The occasion for the column is the Atlantic‘s firing of the newly hired Kevin Williamson, whom the editors were “shocked, shocked” (Krugman) to find out was a crank who wanted to hang women who have abortions. (And note how pervasive the lynching mentality is among Right Wingers.)
A broader issue Krugman’s point raises is the bizarre addiction to “both siderism” to be found in media and academia. At colleges and universities, there is much angst about taking pains to represent “conservative” views on campus. Right wing faculty often play the victim, and centrist or left wing faculty get taken in by it. Faculty like me wonder why we need to take pains to represent homophobia, trickle-down economics, creationsim, climate-change denial, and White Supremacy. Just to show we are, like Fox News, “fair and balanced”? Why the compulsion to entertain abjectly stupid and, in the cases of White Supremacy and homophobia, verifiably lethal ideas? Why not stick with ideas that are at least contestable in the realm of evidence? Opposing views are the stuff of academia, for sure, but not all opposing views are legitimate–measured by the broadest of academic standards.
Krugman uses Larry Kudlow as a supreme example of “cranks and charlatans” who have influence but no integrity and no connection to evidence, and Kudlow is a perfect example. But for me, the greater problem is exemplified by MSNBC’s hiring on George Will and other right-wingers who are “shocked, shocked” to find out that a White Supremacist misogynistic loon is the leader of the GOP, not to mention the nation. Will and others like him paved the way for Trump by supporting the race-baiting Southern Strategy, the “war on drugs,” Reagan’s “trickle-down” scam, the belittling of President Obama’s interest in ideas (recall the “faculty lounge” meme, in which Will and others tried to reduce Obama to a mere “academic,” depending upon the anti-intellectual meanness of the right wing. To pander to “both siderism” (I guess), MSNBC, CNN, and all sorts of online periodicals indulge right-wingers who, because of Trump, pretend not to have been on the side Trump represents all along. For me, this practice is as potentially destructive as the presence of Fox News because it, too, legitimizes cranks and charlatans, even if they are less grotesque than Trump.