The Krugman Google+ Saga: Or, Why Fact-Checking is Important

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Aug. 24 2011 9:43 AM

The Krugman Google+ Saga: Or, Why Fact-Checking is Important

Yesterday, a Google+ account belonging to "Paul Krugman" posted this thought experiment about the earthquake.

People on twitter might be joking, but in all seriousness, we would see a bigger boost in spending and hence economic growth if the earthquake had done more damage.

The reactions were swift after Tim Carney -- who'd just joked that Krugman might think this -- spread the message around on Twitter.

Screen shot 2011-08-24 at 9.35.30 AM

Rick Moran:

Yeah, just think of all the life insurance payouts to the families of those dead victims if the quake had been really serious. That's a Keyenesian way to stimulate the economy if I ever heard one.

Kevin Williamson:

I honestly cannot tell if I am being had here. I hope I am.

Weasel Zippers:

Because Japan is booming right now?

Allahpundit:

All day long I’ve felt relieved that the quake caused only very minor damage, but now suddenly I’m bummed that the Brooklyn Bridge didn’t fall into the river. Maybe we can get DHS or the NYPD to blow it up? That’s a few thousand jobs right there.

Williamson got closest to the truth: It was a joke. The Google+ account was a hoax created by 2010 college grad Carlos Graterol, to make fun of the "many misguided beliefs that Paul Krugman holds, defends, and espouses on a daily basis."

I asked Krugman if anyone who analyzed "his" profile actually contacted him to verify it. "Nope," he said, pointing me to this response.

This is the third incident I’m aware of — there may well be more — in which people are claiming to be me. There was also my nonexistent connection with academia.edu, and at least one web opinion piece by someone claiming to be me (and sounding not at all like me).
This is really cute, not. Apparently some people can’t find enough things to attack in what I actually say, so they’re busy creating fake quotes. And I have enough on my plate without trying to chase all this stuff down.

There's a lesson about the Dangers of New Media here, maybe, but the more basic lesson: If a quote appears with someone's name attached to it, best to check with the someone to see if he/she actually said it.

UPDATE: One wag asked me if the hoax was not so unfair, because Krugman has analyzed the possible economic impact of other disasters and speculated about the impact of fantasy disasters. Yes. The hoax is unfair. Krugman didn't say this, for one, and there's an obvious difference between speculating about a fantasy disaster and what happened here.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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