The Right Sends In the Quacks
Covid-19 highlights the conservative reliance on fake experts.
By Paul Krugman/ New York Times / April 20, 2020
Over the past few days there have been noisy, threatening demonstrations at various statehouses demanding an end to Covid-19 lockdowns.
The demonstrations haven’t been very big, with at most a few thousand people, and involve a strong element of astroturfing — that is, while they supposedly represent a surge of grass-roots anger, some of them have been organized by institutions with links to Republican politicians, including the family of Betsy DeVos, the secretary of education.
And polls show that an overwhelming majority of Americans — including half of Republicans — are more worried that restrictions will be lifted too soon than that they will be kept in place too long.
But the demonstrators have received huge favorable coverage from right-wing media; Donald Trump called them “very responsible people”; and they were praised by White House economic adviser Stephen Moore, who compared them to Rosa Parks.
That last bit caught my eye, and not just because some of the demonstrators were waving Confederate flags. The grotesqueness of the comparison aside, why are we still hearing from Stephen Moore?
After all, Moore — whom Trump tried but failed to install as a member of the Federal Reserve Board — isn’t just a bad economist with a history of misogynistic outbursts. More to the point, he’s a quack, with a long history of misrepresenting or inventing facts to support his ideological agenda.
Among his greatest hits was a number-filled screed about the relationship between tax cuts and jobs — framed, as it happens, as an attack on yours truly — in which not a single number was remotely close to the truth.
On second thought, however, Moore fits right in. One thing the coronavirus has thrown into sharp relief is the centrality of quackery — confident pronouncements on technical subjects by people who have no idea what they’re talking about — to the whole enterprise of modern conservatism.