Basic morals Dep’t

Man steals Paul Krugman’s identity to try to make Krugman’s ideas seem stupid. No right-of-center blogger or pundit is willing to say out loud that is just plain wrong.

So some wingnut decides to steal Paul Krugman’s identity by creating a Google+ account in his name and posting something stupid on it. The wingnut has now boasted of, rather than confessed to, what was quite probably a crime and quite certainly an appallingly unethical action. Nasty, but not surprising.

(The “controversy,” if you’ll allow me to stretch the language, is over Krugman’s perfectly obvious observation that defense spending due to WWII ended the Great Depression, and that even expenditure not immediately productive is better than idle capacity. Not that it really matters, as there’s lots of quite productive expenditure we could now be doing.)

What ought to be surprising is the response from Red Blogistan and the official “conservative” commentariat. So far as I can see, all the commentary says “Well, if Krugman didn’t actually say that, he said something we’ll pretend was just like it, so ha ha!” Not a single voice on the Right is raised in favor of basic human decency.

To call the fake post “parody” is obscene. It was an act of deception, and an especially vicious one.

If someone had done this to, let’s say, Sarah Palin, some people on our side of the aisle would be denouncing it furiously (and, to be fair, would be themselves denounced just as furiously for “hippie-punching”). $5 reward for spotting any right-of-center pundit or blogger who offers a frank, unhedged denunciation of this stunt. Of course, no individual who merely ignores the foofaraw can reasonably be criticized; there are lots of things to talk about. But those still gleefully piling on after the deception was revealed show a certain lack of character. And the absence of any “conservative” prepared to assert the simple difference between right and wrong says everything you need to know about the current state of the movement.

Really, folks, there isn’t a moral equivalency between the mainstream supporters of mainstream Democratic candidates and the insane rump that now calls itself the Republican Party.

Update Megan McArdle wins the $5; apparently Jon Podhoretz tweeted the term “identity theft” as applied to the hoaxer. Good for him!

Footnote I can’t agree with Megan in equating the theft of Krugman’s identity with the prank “Charles Koch” phone call to Gov. Walker, which deceived only its target in what seemed to me like legitimate journalistic subterfuge. The contrast with the Breitbart/O’Keefe hoaxes is that the latter intended to deceive, and did deceive, the audience, by dishonestly selective editing.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

31 thoughts on “Basic morals Dep’t”

  1. I think you understate the case somewhat. Anyone who impersonated Sarah Palin–or any other of the right’s luminaries–would be subject to stalking, death threats, vandalism, and quite possibly worse.

    It is difficult to see the residents of Red Blogistan as anything more than rabid dogs.

  2. It’s also worth pointing out that this wasn’t some satirical impersonation, with over-the-top statements from the get-go. Instead, they used a headshot of Krugman (likely stolen from the Times) and the feed consisted mostly of links to posts by Krugman on his Times blog, with no content other than the post title, for weeks, presumably to build the impression that it was really Krugman.

  3. “If someone had done this to, let’s say, Sarah Palin, some people on our side of the aisle would be denouncing it furiously (and, to be fair, would be themselves denounced just as furiously for “hippie-punching”).”

    The phrase “hippie-punching” is typically used to criticize the Obama administration for dumping on its liberal critics for their policy differences, not for their unethical acts. (In brackets below is an example of the use of the term from Greg Sargent of the Washington Post on 8/17/11.) I would like Mark to come up with one example of a liberal “hippie punching” another liberal for criticizing a third liberal’s unethical act. If he can’t, then he ought to acknowledge the unfairness of his parenthetical comment quoted above. If he can’t come up with an example, then his parenthetical comment amounts to another of his frequent attacks (although indirect this time) on liberals who criticizes Obama.

    [The story exploding on the left right now is that the Obama campaign’s state director in New Mexico sent out an email containing a blog post mocking Paul Krugman and the “firebagger liberal blogosphere” for criticizing the debt ceiling deal negotiated by the White House. Liberal bloggers are asking whether this is the latest sign that the Obama team sees percentage in dumping on the left — or “hippie punching,” as the blogospheric parlance has it.

  4. Oh, and just because the fraudster deserves to live with the reputational consequences: this acknowledged fraudster, a dishonest hack both politically and in his failed understanding of economics, is a 2010 Florida State graduate (in politics and economics, naturally), currently unemployed (and, thanks to this stunt, possibly unemployable), named Carlos R. Graterol

  5. “Hippie-punching” is a term that I find really loathsome, since it seems concocted specifically as a way to foster partisanship/tribalism. Anyone on the left who criticizes anyone else on his side of the spectrum is guilty of the sin of hippie-punching. Reminds me a bit of the term “concern troll,” a term designed specifically as a weapon against anyone who would try to inject a bit of sanity an perspective into a (usually partisan/tribal) feeding frenzy.

  6. I checked I don’t get my $5 (yet), but they’re definitely right-of-center and definitely capable of denouncing this stunt. Same with Conor Friedersdorf.

    But I agree with Mark’s larger point. If you are seeking equivalence with today’s Republican Party, better look to the Comintern than the Democratic Party.

  7. Outside the Beltway condemned it: I believe I’ve seen others, but can’t remember who.

    AFAICT people just haven’t blogged it because it didn’t go very far; the action was mostly on Twitter, where Jon Podhoretz said that if he were Krugman he’d sue for identity theft, and the point was echoed by others. If I blog it later, as I intend to (in a post about the broken windows fallacy and the labor market), I’ll naturally point out that this guy is a twerp, but I’ve seen zero support for him on the right. Tim Carney, who I believe broke the tweet, then tweeted Weigel’s column on fact checking and the hoax by way of apology. That’s not to say that no one did try to excuse it–I don’t read large swathes of the right blogosphere–but it certainly got nothing like the near-universally enthusiastic reception that the left gave to the Buffalo News journalist who impersonated Charles Koch. Of course, to be fair, THAT probable crime and appallingly unethical action got us two major scoops: that Governor Walker had never spoken to Koch, and that big conservative donors can get conservative politicians on the phone.

  8. As far as wingnut hoaxes go, this one was pretty mellow, and the low-key response on the Right doesn’t seem inappropriate. The perp’s economics are primitive, but not unusually so given his political leanings, and he attributed a position to Krugman that others attribute to Krugman all the time. Yes, it’s marginally more dishonest to have done so under Krugman’s name, but this isn’t James O’Keefe or Breitbart, whose reputations on the Right and in the mainstream media remain intact. It’s just some random goof.

    And I, for one, am grateful for the terms “hippie-punching” and “concern troll.” They identify real phenomena.

  9. Well, Megan, Murphy’s false-flag call to Walker also revealed that Walker was willing to lay off thousands of state employees as a pressure tactic on the state senators; that Walker wanted to offer a false truce to the Democrats so that they would negotiate with him, and then use that truce to declare a quorum and force through the legislation; that he thought the Democrats were so dumb that they would fall for that; that Walker was himself dumb enough to fall for the fraudulent NY Times union-bashing article about the “former GM employee”; and that Walker’s only objection to hiring thugs to fake riots was that it might prove unpopular. Other than that, yeah, nothing of interest.

    Also, the fact that Walker’s office would pass through the call from “Koch” with no attempt to verify his identity is interesting, if not actually important.

    That said, it was still morally questionable of Murphy to falsely assume the identity of a specific person in his reportage, even if only for an hour and only to one person. (I did like the shoutout that “Koch” gave to Andrew Breidbart in the process.)

  10. Many vices are perverted versions of virtues–that’s how they persist and succeed. “Concern trolling” and “hippie punching” both dress themselves in the disguise of “advocating reason” and “pursuing moderation”, but that doesn’t mean that they are they are actually “reasonable” or “moderate”.

    (Trolls very often cloak themselves in false robes of reasonability; if they don’t, they don’t get responses.)

  11. The problem with concern trolling and hippie punching is that they both involve states of mind. A concern troll is not somebody who is trying to inject sanity into a feeding frenzy; it is a person who is pretending to inject sanity into a feeding frenzy. Hippy-punching is not just any internecine disagreement of a center-leftist with a lefter-leftist; it is a pose by the center-leftist to appear more centrist.

    It’s hard to infer state of mind from words. I’ve been called a “concern troll” myself–I believe unjustly. But this doesn’t mean that the concepts are mere rhetorical weapons. Concern trolls and hippie punchers definitely exist, and bad-faith discourse is a bad thing. But we should be very careful of when we use these terms. Most people who disagree with the left from the center are not acting in bad faith.

  12. Megan,

    Murphy misrepresented himself, yes. But nothing he reported misrepresented anything Walker said, much of which, contra your shrug, was quite newsworthy, as Kevin points out.

    Graterol completely and viciously misreprented Krugman. Big difference. And it makes Graterol more than just a “twerp.”

  13. Mark’s claim that the charge of “hippie punching” would be applied to anyone who deplored such canards against right wingers seems utterly baseless, and weirdly hypersensitve. I really don’t see that charge being made excessively. Where does he?

    In fact, Mark’s hyperbole here almost smacks of preemptive hippie punching itself. ‘Those damn dirty firebaggers would definitely say mean things about any well-credentialed centrist (like myself) who voiced a very-principled defense of a clearly wronged Sarah Palin. They ‘d call him a hippie puncher.’

    It seems kind of like when a Red Stater beigins, ‘I’m no racist but….’

  14. Kalkaino, thanks for illustrating my point. I am not, nor do I desire to be or to be seen as, a centrist. As the late, great Jim Hightower said, “They ain’t nuthin’ in the middle of the road but yella lines and dead armadillas.” I’m an unreconstructed liberal, and when I complain about unethical behavior by people on my side of the Great Divide it’s in the name of liberal values, which are supposed to include fair-mindedness.

  15. I agree with “student” that hacking Palin’s email account was wrong. Has anyone denied that? Did large pieces of Left Blogistan go into a frenzy of high-fiving over it?

  16. It would be amusing to see McMegan’s Google Alerts list.

    I love how something that could detract from her in-progress work on the broken windows silliness running around the blogs has to be massaged with a spurious, and not even sensical, both sides do it defense.

    All in a day’s work, I guess.

  17. ES,
    Well, my point is that both ‘concern troll’ and ‘hippie-punching’ are terms that are unclear in a certain way. They have narrower, technical meanings that build in bad motives… But in actual fact, the terms are most often used against (a) anyone who tries to put the brakes on a feeding frenzy, and (b) more centrist liberals who disagree with/criticize leftier liberals. In fact, though the latter term is reasonably new, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual concern troll in the narrower, actually-has-bad-motives sense. Rather, every time I’ve seen the term used,it’s been in the dude-is-killing-our-blood-buzz sense. YMMV, of course.

  18. Jamie,
    It’s certainly interesting to see her responding to this post – which doesn’t invoke her – and not to, say, this post, which is all about her.

  19. Mark,

    I’d be happier if you illustrated your point. Where do you see all this frivolous application of the ‘hippie puncher’ stigma? And what on earth makes you think that it would be the inevitable consequence of a “liberal” defense of of some hypthetically maligned right-winger?

    I basically agree with your post, but that parenthetical seems to come weirdly out of…nowhere.

  20. Winston, you and kalkaino accept the framing that concern about misconduct from one’s own side reflects “centrism.” I don’t see that.

  21. Since our supply of polite and intelligent right-of-center commenters is finite and suboptimal, might I ask the RBC community to treat my friend Megan McArdle politely? I know that in some quarters making fun of her is considered high art, but doing so to her (virtual) face isn’t either nice or constructive.

  22. This all reminds me of why I stopped reading Daily Kos. I never knew who the people posting were, or why I should listen to them.

    Old Media is where it’s (still) at. Sorry but it’s true. And btw, I never play any of those videos people post here. I refuse to get my news from Youtube. It is not going to happen. It’s too easy to manipulate.

  23. @Mark- The Google shows that although Jim Hightower may be great he doesn’t seem to be late as of yet. I thought maybe the man passed while I was out of town. No doubt there is a joke in there that went over my head. It happens.
    Dead armadillos indeed.

  24. Mark,
    I don’t think I’ve been presupposing that concern about misconduct from one’s own side is a sign of centrism. In fact, criticism of the more centrist by the less centrist is probably more common than the other way ’round. E.g. Glenn Greedwald is extremely concerned with misconduct (both real and imagined) by centrist liberals, and he is, so far as I can tell, of the leftier variety. It’s just that the specific term ‘hippie-punching’ is used to frown on criticism of leftier liberals by more centrist liberals. There’s no term that goes the other direction.

  25. Mark Kleiman says:

    “Since our supply of polite and intelligent right-of-center commenters is finite and suboptimal, might I ask the RBC community to treat my friend Megan McArdle politely? I know that in some quarters making fun of her is considered high art, but doing so to her (virtual) face isn’t either nice or constructive.”

    Mark, Megan has been proven to be a dishonest hack, and her politeness leaves when she’s losing an argument, where she gets snarky. Her schtick is that of a Chicago analyst; her real role is the accountant who lets you know that 2+2=whatever you want it to be.


  26. I thought a “concern troll” was a Republican/conservative posting one of those “as a lifelong Democrat, I’m concerned that Democratic politicians are adopting traditional Democratic policy position” comments. The equivalent of Dick Armey pretending to be Joe Lieberman. Which is not to say that there are times and forums when any dissent gets labelled concern trollery, but that’s where the term started.

  27. The perpetrator, hereby known as wingnut, has most likely watched too much Dukes of Hazard and A Team. A daring fighter against all he disagrees with…the end always justifying the means. There are plenty of ’em out there so smack them hard whenever the opportunity arises.

  28. Megan,

    I think you and others are missing something. We’ve been talking about the morality of the impostor, and the willingness, or lack thereof, of conservatives to condemn Graterol.

    But what’s also interesting to me is how willing conservatives were to accept that the phony tweets came from Krugman, and how they have demonized him for, essentially, calling BS on their lies fro a decade or more. Look at what Kevin Williamson says at NRO:

    I honestly cannot tell if I am being had here. I hope I am.

    After acknowledging being fooled he says:

    Why is it hard to tell Paul Krugman from “Paul Krugman”? Well . . .

    And Tim Carney, whom you praise, also admits he took the tweets as legitimate initially.

    Mark complains that we have too few intelligent center-right commenters here. Maybe that’s because we have too few intelligent center-right people in the country.

  29. Bernard, as it happens, I’ve emailed with many of the conservatives in question. The reason most of them accepted it at face value was that 1) the account was the most popular economist on Google+ and 2) they originally got the link to the account from economist Justin Wolfers, whose partner works for the Obama administration, and who is definitely a) intelligent and b) not right wing. The account built up a lot of quiet credibility because for months it was mostly just posting stuff Krugman had actually said. The person I believe first noticed the quote had been following the account nearly since its inception, simply because he thought it was Paul Krugman.

    There’s also the fact that while the language was over the top, the intellectual content of the post was not actually that crazy. How do I know this? Because a couple of conservatives, who wanted to make sure that they were on solid economic ground before they attacked it, actually emailed me, and I mounted the case for the defense. (I’m planning to blog it either this weekend or Monday.) It wasn’t that hard to do, if you believe we’re in a liquidity trap.

    The left has fallen for plenty of things like this–the fake Bush AWOL documents come instantly to mind, but there have been others. Was that because we have too few intelligent center-left people in the country? Or because there’s a natural human tendency to find it more credible when people you dislike do bad things, then when you’re told that those you find more simpatico are in the wrong?

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