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General News    H3'ed 10/11/13

How Niall Ferguson Invented False Quotes By Paul Krugman

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Message David Fiderer

(Article changed on October 14, 2013 at 16:27)

What did Paul Krugman do? What exactly, are the offenses committed by the Nobel Prize winning economist, which Niall Ferguson purports to set forth in his the three-part 8200-word indictment published by Huffington Post?  To get to the specifics and the substance, one must clear away a lot of rhetorical flourish and ad hominem digressions.  Clarity and concision seem to be missing from Ferguson's writing.

But in his appearance on Morning Joe, Ferguson distilled everything down:

Paul Krugman is somebody who plays very hardball with his blog and with his column. He uses some very harsh language, "dope," "mendacious," "idiot," ...I've been "a poseur," I've been, "inane." He throws these words about on the basis of what? A claim that he's been "always right", called "everything right" about the financial upheavals of the past five years.
In other words, you can read the first paragraph of Krugtron the Invincible, Part 1 and learn everything you need to know, because Ferguson practically invites you to click on the hyperlinks, which reveal that Ferguson is lying. (Or, at the very least, he has problems with reading comprehension.) He accuses Krugman of saying things that he never said. See for yourself:  

It's an ill wind that blows no one any good. The financial crisis that came to a head five years ago with the failure of Lehman Brothers has been especially beneficial to the economist Paul Krugman. In his widely read New York Times column and blog, Krugman regularly boasts that he has been "right" about the crisis and its consequences. "I (and those of like mind)," he wrote in June last year, "have been right about everything." Those who dare to disagree with him -- myself included -- he denounces as members of the "Always-Wrong Club." Readers of his blog have just been treated to another such sneer.
Krugman never said that he was right, "about the crisis and its consequences." He said he was right about policies enacted in response to the crisis.

More specifically, he said, "I (and those of like mind), have been right about everything," regarding the austerity measures taken in Europe. Those policies failed to jumpstart Europe's economy, and the well-known "study" touted by many in support of austerity proved to be a running joke. The "Always-Wrong Club," predicted "currency debasement and inflation" would come about as a result of Bernanke's quantitative easing, and those predictions proved to be wrong. The so-called "sneer," pointed out that Ferguson did not know how to read a CBO report.

The distinction between the financial crisis, and policy responses to the crisis, is not subtle. But then again, that distinction is no less obvious than the distinction between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, or the distinction between the Affordable Care Act and the Fugitive Slave Act. False equivalency is the mother's milk of swindlers and crackpots. And it seems to be pervasive in modern discourse.

The attacks on Krugman seem to echo his attacks on Barack Obama, lobbed in the now-infamous 2012 Newsweek cover story, which was roundly ridiculed for its multi-faceted dishonesty. As Steve Benen  wrote: 

The problem, however, is that in the course of launching his lengthy, 3,300-word attack [on Obama], Ferguson publishes a series of claims with no foundation in reality. I'm not talking about errors of judgment, I'm referring to transparent errors of fact -- Ferguson wrote easily-checkable claims about health care, the stimulus, China, job creation, Paul Ryan, and taxes, all of which completely fall apart after minimal scrutiny.

How did Ferguson respond to all those attacks? He doubled down, by--what else?--falsifying a quote by truncating it. As Politico pointed out:

Ferguson cut the CBO excerpt off mid-sentence and changed the meaning entirely...

So contrary to what Ferguson leads readers to believe, the CBO report does not state that the reduction is "unclear."

We live in the age of The Big Lie, because dishonest people with broad media platforms pay no price for their mendacity. 

[All changes subsequent to the original post are corrections of typos, not substance.]

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    For over 20 years, David has been a banker covering the energy industry for several global banks in New York. Currently, he is working on several journalism projects dealing with corporate and political corruption that, so far, have escaped serious (more...)
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