The cult of Krugman

Nobel Prize winning economist. Influential blogger. Internet folk hero? What is it about Paul Krugman that provokes so much mirth among the internet masses? Is it his penetrating economic insights? His accessible writing style? His take-no-prisoners partisan debating tactics? His well maintained facial hair? Yesterday brought us the Krugman Times — a website which takes ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Nobel Prize winning economist. Influential blogger. Internet folk hero?

What is it about Paul Krugman that provokes so much mirth among the internet masses? Is it his penetrating economic insights? His accessible writing style? His take-no-prisoners partisan debating tactics? His well maintained facial hair?

Yesterday brought us the Krugman Times -- a website which takes the front page of the New York Times but replaces all the bylines with Krugman's, all the photos with various glamour shots of the the Princeton professor, and phrases with more Krugman-esque versions. For instance, Alissa Rubin's story "Karzai Bets on Vilifying U.S. to Shed His Image as a Lackey" becomes "New Keynesianism on Vilifying U.S. to Shed His Financial Crisis as a Liquidity Trap."

Nobel Prize winning economist. Influential blogger. Internet folk hero?

What is it about Paul Krugman that provokes so much mirth among the internet masses? Is it his penetrating economic insights? His accessible writing style? His take-no-prisoners partisan debating tactics? His well maintained facial hair?

Yesterday brought us the Krugman Times — a website which takes the front page of the New York Times but replaces all the bylines with Krugman’s, all the photos with various glamour shots of the the Princeton professor, and phrases with more Krugman-esque versions. For instance, Alissa Rubin’s story "Karzai Bets on Vilifying U.S. to Shed His Image as a Lackey" becomes "New Keynesianism on Vilifying U.S. to Shed His Financial Crisis as a Liquidity Trap."

I asked the site’s creator, San Francisco-based software developer and self-described Krugman fan Vincent Woo what inspired him to create the site. He replied:

I sent a friend of mine a NYT article (this one) and told him I thought it was great article.

He replied, cheekily, "Great? But it’s not by Paul Krugman!"

From there it was a quick jump to "What if Krugman wrote every article on the NYT?" and buying krugmantimes.com

Fair enough. But it’s hardly the first time Krugman has inspired this sort of thing. Singer-songwriter Jonathan Mann, known for posting a song every day to YouTube, penned this ditty in Krugman’s honor back in 2009, including the memorable description of Timothy Geithner as a "little weasel" who "uses TurboTax":

The Onion has naturally gotten into the act, featuring this spooooky Halloween-themed economic forecast from Paul "Bearer" Krugman in 2011:

Sometimes I lie awake in bed having frightful nightmares about the demons and monsters that creep and crawl through Wall Street. Even holy water can’t ward off these depraved madmen, I’m afraid. I ask you, how long must the American people pay for the spooktacular failures of the Bush administration? Until we find a way to wrest power away from the top 1 percent favored by the Bush-era tax cuts, I’m afraid we may be headed for a grave calamity that would make John Maynard Keynes himself spin in his coffin…

Once the witching hour comes for the U.S. economy, beware! Who knows what sort of evil forces might go bump in the night. (And by "night," I am referring to what most economists predict will either be a double-dip recession or what I would characterize as a "lesser depression," defined as a prolonged period of high unemployment and economic stagnation following the initial recession-less dire perhaps than the depression of the 1930s but still, I would argue, bloodcurdlingly frightening!)

American composer Eugene Birman took a more highbrow route, writing a 16-minute opera  using Krugman’s Twitter feud with Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves as the libretto.

Then there’s economist and blogger Brad Delong’s ongoing Krugman-inspired "Order of the Shrill" feature,  which has a connection to H.P. Lovecraft that I don’t fully understand but there you go. 

Sometimes, commentators seem to have a hard time distinguishing the memeified Krugman from the real one. Last week, the Daily Currant posted a satirical item reporting that Krugman had declared bankruptcy. The story was picked up and rereported as fact by a number of outlets including Breitbart and Boston.com.

From his New York Times perch, Krugman wrote that he had waited before correcting the story to see which outlets picked it up. "OK, I’m an evil person — and my scheming has paid off," cackled Lord Cthulhu.

Any other Krugman memes I’ve missed?

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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