Over the past couple of days, I’ve been getting mail accusing me of consorting with Nazis. My immediate reaction was: What the heck? Then it clicked: the right wing is mounting a full-court press to portray Occupy Wall Street as an anti-Semitic movement, based, as far as I can tell, on one guy with a sign.
At the same time, the claque is claiming that Occupy Wall Street is responsible for a crime wave.
According to an article in The New York Post published on Oct. 22, “recent gunplay has now pushed the number of shooting victims this year slightly above last year’s tragic tally — to 1,484 from 1,451 — through Oct. 16. Four high-ranking cops point the finger at Occupy Wall Street protesters, saying their rallies pull special crime-fighting units away from the hot zones where they’re needed.”
To believe this, you have to believe not only that a few thousand nonviolent protesters are deeply straining a police force with 35,000 officers, but that all the rapists and murderers in the outer boroughs are saying, “Hey, the police are busy chasing hippies! Let’s party!” Oh, well.
My first thought was that Occupy Wall Street must have the right really rattled. And there’s probably something to that. But actually, this is the way the right goes after everyone who stands in their way: Accuse them of everything, no matter how implausible or contradictory the accusations are. Progressives are atheistic socialists who want to impose Shariah law. Class warfare is evil; also, John Kerry is too rich. And so on.
The key to understanding this, I’d suggest, is to consider that as a movement, conservatism has become a closed, inward-looking universe in which you get points not by sounding reasonable to uncommitted outsiders — although there are a few designated pundits who play that role professionally — but by outdoing your fellow movement members in zeal.
It’s sort of reminiscent of Stalinists going after Trotskyites in the old days: the Trotskyites were left deviationists, and also saboteurs working for the Nazis. Didn’t propagandists feel silly saying all that? Not at all: in their universe, extremism in defense of the larger truth was no vice, and you literally couldn’t go too far.
Many members of the commentariat don’t want to face up to the fact that this is what American politics has become; they cling to the notion that there are gentlemanly elder statesmen on the right who would come to the fore if only Obama said the right words. But the fact is that nobody on that side of the political spectrum wants to or can make deals with the Islamic atheist anti-military warmonger in the White House.
Strap yourself in; this is not going to be fun.
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Paul Krugman joined The New York Times in 1999 as a columnist on the Op-Ed page and continues as a professor of economics and international affairs at Princeton University. He was awarded the Nobel in economic science in 2008.
Mr Krugman is the author or editor of 20 books and more than 200 papers in professional journals and edited volumes, including "The Return of Depression Economics" (2008) and "The Conscience of a Liberal" (2007). Copyright 2011 The New York Times.