Nine years, 23 hours, and 55 minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 flew into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, economist Paul Krugman published a peculiar post to his New York Times blog. He titled it, “The Years of Shame,” and it briskly bemoans the fact that 9/11 has become a wedge issue. He says, “The memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned; it has become an occasion for shame. And in its heart, the nation knows it.” There is a complex and highly difficult series of points he wants to make, but Krugman makes almost no effort to elaborate; the post is merely 181 words, including the final sentence: “I’m not going to allow comments on this post, for obvious reasons.”
Krugman is a Nobel Prize winner who is celebrated for his acute foresight. That’s what makes this article so odd; it reads like an angst-riddled teenager’s Facebook status update, not a New York Times Op-Ed columnist reflecting on the most devastating terrorist attacks ever perpetrated on American soil.
“Is it just me,” he starts off like someone about to make note of a light grievance, “or are the 9/11 commemorations oddly subdued? Actually, I don’t think it’s me, and it’s not really that odd.”
Keep in mind he posts this 6 minutes after this year’s commemorations began in lower Manhattan. It was subdued, as the reading of thousands of victims’ names tends to be.
Krugman continues to name the “fake heroes” of ten years ago in what I guess can be called the “meat” of his post:
What happened after 9/11 — and I think even people on the right know this, whether they admit it or not — was deeply shameful. The atrocity should have been a unifying event, but instead it became a wedge issue. Fake heroes like Bernie Kerik, Rudy Giuliani, and, yes, George W. Bush raced to cash in on the horror. And then the attack was used to justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.
A lot of other people behaved badly. How many of our professional pundits — people who should have understood very well what was happening — took the easy way out, turning a blind eye to the corruption and lending their support to the hijacking of the atrocity?
That’s it. Those two paragraphs, as well as the four other sentences featured in this post, make up the entirety of Krugman’s piece. It can’t even be called an argument, as he doesn’t take the time or care to construct one.
The opinions he quickly formulates may very well be valid ones, but everyone will be too baffled by his inappropriate brevity and callous timing to carefully weigh them. He knows this, as signaled by his refusal to allow comments.
I need to get something off my chest today, but you can’t. I turned the comments off.
The newspaper that pays him is filled with touching tributes and keen retrospectives in today’s Sunday issue. He merely needs to pick a copy up to see that for all the carefully constructed prose and scrupulous reporting, it still doesn’t appropriately convey what happened ten years ago, nor can it fully explain the ramifications of those attacks.
What makes him think he can do so in 181 words?
The Years of Shame [NYT]