Krugman: Right on the economy, clueless on classic TV

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You do not want this man on your bar-trivia team.
  • You do not want this man on your bar-trivia team.

While every other pundit gets busy analyzing John Roberts’ vindication of the Affordable Care Act, I feel it’s my duty to focus on another public-policy proposal that’s drowning in misinterpretation: economist Paul Krugman’s plan for a faked alien invasion.

Important forums like PBS News Hour and The Daily Show have recently revisited Krugman’s suggestion that the appearance of an enemy from outer space could trick Congress into working together to provide the jump-start our economy needs. Quote:

“There was a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode like this in which scientists fake an alien threat in order to achieve world peace. Well, this time, we don't need it. We need it in order to get some fiscal stimulus.

“And then after we're fully recovered, we can say, whoops, sorry, not actually coming.”

This, of course, is patently ridiculous, and simply unworthy of a thinker of Krugman’s stature. As any serious student of history knows, the storyline he alludes to played out not on The Twilight Zone, but on The Outer Limits.

In the 1963 Outer Limits episode “The Architects of Fear,” scientists pick one of their own (Robert Culp) to pose as an extraterrestrial and mount a simulated attack on the United Nations. It’s their hope that this perceived menace will inspire the superpowers to put aside their differences and work together against a common foe, thus averting a global thermonuclear war.

The Twilight Zone, meanwhile, never aired anything remotely similar.

So I think I speak for all of us who once looked up to Krugman when I say: Nice going, egghead. What in the heck were you doing in 1963, anyway? Watching Ben Casey?

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Further, as many observers have noted, the plot of “The Architects of Fear” turned up two decades later as the climax of Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel Watchmen. This time, the alien impostor was a genetically engineered giant squid. The comic even pays tribute to the knockoff by showing a character watching “The Architects of Fear” on TV.

Ol’ Squiddly Diddly, and the Big Lie he represented, constituted one of the only major story elements missing from the otherwise faithful 2009 film adaptation of Watchmen. Which raises the disquieting notion that our best and brightest only know what Zack Snyder deigns to show them.

Next thing you know, we’ll be learning that Warren Buffett has never even heard of One Step Beyond. Lightweights.

 

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