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Paul Krugman Zombies part 2: No sleep ’til fight club

July 11, 2012

Back in April, ZombieLaw mentioned use of the word “zombie” by Paul Krugman in his NYTimes column, quote:

we’re now living in a world of zombie economic policies — policies that should have been killed by the evidence that all of their premises are wrong, but which keep shambling along nonetheless

Today, Krugman posted “Zombies on CNBC“:

one zombie idea after another — Europe is collapsing because of big government, health care is terribly rationed in France, we can save lots of money by denying Medicare to billionaires, on and on.

Among other things, people getting their news from sources like that are probably getting terrible advice

zombie paul krugman

This usage is not particularly surprising given upsurge in American zombie economy rhetoric started this week in CNBC (and reaching to US Senator Jon Kyl). Also because Krugman runs in European economist circles, where the word is also popular – See Debate between Albrecht Ritschl and Hans-Werner Sinn

But Krugman’s use is also similar to issues of zombie lies, and the difficulty in getting real facts in the current media world. For example, note this Time magazine article posted yesterday (“Obama Signs Federal Ban on ‘Bath Salt’ Drugs”) still refers to a “Zombie Bath Salt Apocalypse” even though the medical examiners found no connection of bath salts to the Miami zombie attack, and if anything it was marijuana psychosis. But don’t expect that message to resonate the same, bath salts is totally different politics than marijuana. There should be more investigation on how the media was able to stir up this bath salts craze and how it impacted the legislation criminalizing ordinary chemicals. But instead the media just keeps running the zombie bath salt idea. Stephen Colbert might call this truthiness but I think it’s just straight-up propaganda.

Meanwhile, Time also has an article today entitled “Zombies are Costing Your Business” about small businesses and the costs of a poor hiring decision. The article refers to a marketing campaign by a staffing firm and has a picture of an employee falling asleep on the job.

This notion of sleeping employees is similar to an article about insomnia appearing in the Atlantic, The Average Office Zombie’s Quest for Sleep Has Lasted 12 Depressing Years by Brian Fung – the word “zombie” is only in the headline so it’s questionable if Fung or an editor actually wrote it. This article is prefaced with a picture of Ed Norton in Fight Club and links to a youtube clip from that movie, “Fight Club Insomnia”; Fung’s article opens with a paraphrase of the movie:

If you constantly feel as though nothing’s real and everything is a copy of a copy of a copy, you’re not alone. An astonishing share of Americans are struggling with insomnia,

The natural solution? Don’t hire more people, get machines to replace them. And as machines become more competent at every human job (including invention of new machines), the exhausted humans look more like zombies everyday. In this context, it is not coincidental that “zombie economy” arose in connection with the poor jobs report.

Like the characters in Fight Club, miserable in their corporate jobs and consumer identities, we are psychoanalytically castrated by overwhelming amounts of electronic data processing and becoming numb to more animal-like human experiences. We have all become social media talking heads, living in intellectual filters, our minds disconnected from our bodies. Perhaps we might need a good punch in the face to start waking up.

In a sense, Fight Club foretold the destruction of the World Trade Center. And when 9/11 happened a frequent media refrain was Isoruku Yamamoto’s quote about Pearl Harbor: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve”. But how do you wake a giant and fill him with progressive resolve? How can we agree on progress when we can’t agree on the facts?

—UPDATE—
HuffPo has video of the interview that Krugman did on CNBC that prompted Krugman to post

From → economics, politics

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