Part 1—Land of many outbreaks: In today’s column, Paul Krugman says that one of the fevers has broken.
We’re not sure that Krugman is right, although he certainly may be. To us, his evidence seems a bit thin.
Time will tell! But as he starts, Krugman describes one of the fevered regimes under which this nation has labored. An obvious question comes to mind:
How can this possibly happen?
KRUGMAN (12/30/13): In 2012 President Obama, ever hopeful that reason would prevail, predicted that his re-election would finally break the G.O.P.’s “fever.” It didn’t.Has that fiscal fever really broken? We can’t say that we’re sure. For now, we’ll return to our earlier question:
But the intransigence of the right wasn’t the only disease troubling America’s body politic in 2012. We were also suffering from fiscal fever: the insistence by virtually the entire political and media establishment that budget deficits were our most important and urgent economic problem, even though the federal government could borrow at incredibly low interest rates. Instead of talking about mass unemployment and soaring inequality, Washington was almost exclusively focused on the alleged need to slash spending (which would worsen the jobs crisis) and hack away at the social safety net (which would worsen inequality).
So the good news is that this fever, unlike the fever of the Tea Party, has finally broken.
How can such a fever occur in this country at all?
How could this fever have happened? In a famously free society with a wide range of media sources, how is it possible that “virtually the entire political and media establishment” could ever have insisted on any one thing at all?
How is it possible that “the entire media establishment” could all have advanced the same point of view, especially when substantial evidence tilts against their Standard Group Position? In theory, this can’t happen in our society, yet such fevers have defined our journalistic and intellectual culture for at least four decades.
Nine years ago, Krugman discussed this unholy phenomenon. Citing an incomparable source, he used a helpful term—“script:”
KRUGMAN (8/3/04): Reading the ScriptThe power of script extends well beyond the realm of cable news, of course. In today’s column, Krugman describes an economic script which has guided “virtually the entire political and media establishment” for quite a few years.
A message to my fellow journalists: check out media watch sites like campaigndesk.org, mediamatters.org and dailyhowler.com. It's good to see ourselves as others see us. I've been finding The Daily Howler's concept of a media ''script,'' a story line that shapes coverage, often in the teeth of the evidence, particularly helpful in understanding cable news.
That said, such scripts have ruled other public discussions, erasing presumed distinctions between mainstream, left and right. A few examples:
Campaign 2000: In 1999 and 2000, a set of deeply pernicious scripts about Candidate Gore sent George W. Bush to the White House. Many “liberal” leaders advanced these scripts about Gore. Others agreed not to notice them, or to complain.
Social Security: Before that time, a set of baldly illogical scripts guided public opinion about the future viability of the Social Security program. (“The money isn’t there—we’ve already spent it!”) This potent fever went unaddressed by the liberal world’s public performers. It led to a widespread belief among the public that Social Security “wouldn’t be there” by the time they retired.
(For various reasons, this fever has broken in recent years. For the most part, it was replaced by the economic fever Krugman describes.)
The public schools: Over the past decade, a set of scripts has been widely adopted concerning the public schools. At this site, we have devoted a great deal of time to the various gong-show procedures by which these gloomy scripts have been supported and pushed on the public.
For the most part, the liberal world has ignored this collection of scripts. Example: Even today, the public schools go almost completely undiscussed on The One True Liberal Channel. (The channel’s master, NBC News, has been a prime advocate of these gong-show scripts.)
Our nation has suffered from many such fevers over the past four decades. These outbreaks are marked by the symptoms Krugman describes—“the insistence by virtually the entire political and media establishment” that X, Y or Z is plainly the case, “even though” it isn’t.
These outbreaks are marked by the presence of script. This week, we’re going to look at two different sets of such scripts.
On the one hand, we’ll examine the scripts which emerged in the fall of 2012 concerning the Benghazi disaster.
Yesterday, the New York Times published a major new report about what happened at Benghazi. This new report contradicts major aspects of last year’s standard script about this incident. We’ll look at the way the New York Times, and other establishment orgs, have tried to obscure that fact and soften that blow in the past 36 hours.
We’ll also look at a new set of scripts concerning the public schools. These new scripts have begun to emerge from those on the putative left.
Warnings to liberals! When our side finally gets off its ass and starts fashioning scripts about some matter, these new scripts can be just as bogus as the scripts we’ve left behind.
For many years, the liberal world swallowed “the insistence by virtually the entire political and media establishment” that our public schools are a wreck, as proven by miraculous Finland. Now that our putative “leaders” have finally begun to fight back, they are fashioning alternate scripts which are sometimes just as bogus.
Are we smart enough to function as a society? Again and again, the evidence suggests we are not. As liberals, our historical arc is rather clear:
First, we swallow scripted BS from “virtually the entire political and media establishment.” After decades of such submission, we rush to swallow scripted BS from those who present as Our Own.
Tomorrow: Equal but opposite bullroar