Politico re-puts Mary Matalin's question (asked on Sunday's "This Week") to Paul Krugman: "Are you an economist or a polemicist?" Krugman responds:
The answer is both: I'm an economist, and when the economics justifies it, I don't mind delivering a polemic. Notice when she started yelling at me -- it was when I was trying to correct her claim about $1.7 trillion in revenues from capping deductions....
So I guess trying to get the facts straight makes me a polemicist.
Notice Krugman's almost imperceptible admission that he still recoils at the label: "I don't mind delivering a polemic"; yet, rather defensively, "I guess...." But no need to fudge, Prof. Krugman. Embrace your bad polemicist self. Relish it. Celebrate it. For it has become a badge of intellectual honor.
I too resisted the label (note the past tense). Its connotative reputation is pejorative--and once, rightly so. Journalistic voices of cool objectivity and intellectual virtue applied the description to those who would diminish civil debate by hurling gratuitous verbal violence. Well, we can't, or rather shouldn't, have that. I agreed. Yet these persistent voices of cool objectivity and intellectual virtue have failed to keep up with the times. They themselves now hurl gratuitous verbal violence--mostly insufferable smugness--at polemical voices which merely recognize an increasingly contemptible world to which the first voices seem inexcusably tolerant.
"An aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another." That's how Webster's defines "polemic." And I cannot think of a better, cooler, more virtuous tactic against cryptofascistic Republican pols and psychotically nihilistic GOPers than an aggressive attack on their fatuous opinions and viciously antidemocratic "principles."
Indeed, those who smugly denounce the Krugman School of Polemics are only providing aid and comfort to the very enemy whom they themselves essentially denounce as detestable wretches. In short, everybody has their style, and Krugman's is as intellectually valid as any--or at least these days it sure as hell is. No need to fudge, Professor. I no longer do.