Monday, November 21, 2011


Early last week I posted on the GOP presidential field and their penchant for blaming the housing mess - and subsequent 2008 market collapse - on government policies. Long story short? Calling on my inner Paul O'Neil, I commented that the candidates in the GOP field are acting like blind men in a room full of deaf people. I posted links to earlier posts and op-eds I've written on the topic to provide substance and background.

Today I ran into this Washington Post discussion on the market collapse by Barry Ritholtz. It's titled "What caused the financial crisis? The Big Lie goes viral."

In a few words, Ritholtz makes the same points that I do, and argues persuasively that - rather than admit error - there is an emerging industry out there bent on creating a new narrative. Not only is this new narrative full of lies but, unfortunately, it's also winning the day.

Challenged on his op-ed points, Ritholtz responded with this piece in the Washington Post. It's excellent. I encourage you to read both his Nov. 5 and Nov. 19th columns. Both have inspired a great deal of ill-informed push back.

According to Ritholtz, the "push back continues from the usual sources." He lumps the Know Nothing sources into "3 distinct categories" that tell us much about a larger "disturbing trend" in America:

1) The Cognitive Dissidents (my term for a those politically dissenting from reality); their brains simply will not allow them to see what disagrees with their ideology. This is a very real and unfortunate part of human nature;

2) The Political Manipulators, who cynically know what they peddle is nonsense, but nonetheless push the stuff because it is effective. These folks are more committed to their ideology than the good of the nation, and as such earn my disdain.

3) The Innumerates, the people who truly disrespect a legitimate process of looking at the data and making intelligent assessments. These innumerates — mathematical illiterates — seem to revel in their own ignorance; it is embarrassing.

Ritholtz adds, "denying of reality has been an issue, from Galileo to Columbus to modern times. Reality always triumphs eventually, but there are very real costs to it occurring later versus sooner . . ."

I couldn't agree more.

- Mark


Bram said...

I think the people that have led the latest 30 year experiment in free-market capitalism clearly belong to the second category. It is their ability to convince those in the 1st category of their righteousness that gives them power.

It hit me while reading Naomi Klein's latest piece on Capitalism vs. the environment: these guys understand exactly what's going on and know precisely what is at stake. They don't oppose reform because they disagree with the reason for it but because they dislike the consequences. That is strong motivation indeed. We have a long, hard fight ahead of us.

R. M. said...

How interesting that you mention "lies." A study just came out saying that FOX News viewers were the least informed (shocker). Also, I was reading some comments to an MSNBC poll asking, "Who do you blame for the failure of the super committee?" I can't believe this one: "Next thing you know, liberals are going to blame the tax cuts for the rich and the Iraq war on the Republicans." I hope someone was being sarcastic. FYI: The poll shows most people blaming the GOP while "everyone shares the blame" in diiiiistant second.