When you write a song everyday, and you aren’t terrible, some of them are going to be good. This is actually his theory – given any stable proportion of good songs to crap, the greater the total number, the greater the total number of songs – the greater the number of good songs. One of his good songs, “Hey Paul Krugman, where the hell are you man?” has over 240 thousand hits, and has been featured on Network television (see Krugman’s response).
The song portrays Krugman in a positive light, ridicules current treasury secretary Timothy Geithner for using TurboTax, and asks why Krugman isn’t in the administration, and out “on the front lines” making decisions, instead of “writing a blog” and for the New York Times.
It’s a fair point – Krugman could probably make a significant contribution to US policy if given a change, but it would likely be at the expense of strategic elite interests. But this song is mostly not about the message, but the medium. The fact that public intellectuals become something like pop idols tells us something about the way democracy functions today. As soon as Krugman is a romanticized hero of the liberal “left” (centre), and I think that’s what goes on through this youtube-ization of assent, readers will encounter his work through a confirmation bias.This doesn’t make Krugman wrong, but it does make his advocates less believable.
Milan has written about confirmation bias on his blog, as well as on his climate blog, burycoal.com. When I brought up his dislike of Chomsky as a form of confirmation bias, he specifically asserted that confirmation bias is less of a problem when directed towards individuals than towards ideas. And, he might be right – but I still think it’s a problem. When people become fans of an academic to the point of idolization, they don’t treat that thinker’s work critically enough – at least not from the perspective of that figure’s detractors. On the other hand, people resolutely opposed to figures to the point of hatred also fail to say anything intelligent, i.e. Faye’s recent book on Heidegger’s Naziism (see also recent NY Times articles on Heidegger).
Maybe the most pernicious characteristic of confirmation-biased arguments is that bad arguments get repeated. This seems true in the case of climate denial, and among defenders of racist political ideologies. However, it very well might be true of myself, and my support for Chomsky, Anarcho-Communism, and a resolution of the Israel/Palestine conflict along the Green Line and for the fulfillment of UN resolution 194.
However, I don’t think it does any good to bring an ad-hominum argument against someone, i.e. “the problem with your political position is the confirmation bias which follows from supporting your politics”. All one can do is be open to honest critique of actual positions, i.e. “what is wrong with what this person says”, and produce the source. Anyone unwilling to debate political, philosophical and economic issues based on decidable facts and observations about positions is not willing to debate them at all.