Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Niall Ferguson Again Shows What A Bozo He Is -This Time On JFK

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Some four years ago (June 16 post to be exact) I skewered the semi-educated Brit twit named Niall Ferguson over his distortions of the fracking industry and its effects on water.. (Ok, actually I recounted Josh Fox's snappy takedowns of this puffed- up former Oxford don, noting how Josh  "ate his lunch" in the course of an appearance on Bill Maher's Real Time.)

Now, Ferguson is offering his inane, know nothing bloviations again, this time as part of a London Sunday Times polemic against John F. Kennedy. (One would have thought these latter day academic goofballs who know next to nothing of the Kennedy presidency would by now have steered clear of it, but like blind fools they put their feet into it every time).

In this specious polemic Ferguson makes use of a "contemporary" verdict on Kennedy's presidency to arrive at this sloppy conclusion:

"The resemblances between the two presidents are more than superficial. In particular both were too much inclined to see politics as a family affair. What the Trump presidency has revealed is not the way the presidency has changed as an institution but the way the American press has changed."

Implying that every major media piece blindly praised Kennedy as opposed to excoriating him. But anyone who paid attention to the media at the time knows this is bare bollocks.  For example,  the central organ of finance capital - The Wall Street Journal -  launched various diatribes accusing JFK of being a "statist" and other things. Some of those articles include:

- 8/6/62 'No Cause for Celebration'; p. 6;

- 3/26/63 'Too Much Money, Too Little Thought', p. 18;

- 8/15/63 'When Friends Become Foes', p. 8

Meanwhile, Henry Hazlitt, contributing editor at Newsweek (The Washington Post's sister publication) was airing many of the same complaints against JFK. These polemics, appearing regularly in Hazlitt's 'Business Tides', included taking JFK to task for his tax policies - including the proposed tax on U.S. business earnings abroad while he also chastised Kennedy for "welfare spending".

One month after the 8/15/63 WSJ article, Fortune implored Congress to stop JFK from using tax policy "as instruments to manage the economy". ('The Dream Businessmen Are Losing', Sept. 1963, p. 91).

As for the "contemporary  verdict" cited by Ferguson, it was undoubtedly excavated from one of the Reich wing nuts that detested him and all he stood for. Historian Arthur Schlesinger, in his book A Thousand Days, pulls no punches on how Kennedy was vilified:

“…in the domain of the radical right it all became much sicker and nastier. Not since the high point of the hate-Roosevelt enthusiasm of the mid-thirties had any President been the target of such systematic and foul vilification. Everything about Kennedy fed resentment: his appearance, his religion, his wealth, his intelligence, his university, his section of the country, is wife, his brothers, his advisers, his support of the Negroes, his refusal to drop the bomb.”

All this is germane now as we continue to see codswallop penned by semi-educated screwballs like Niall Ferguson.  The 'family affair' charge alone discredits everything else Ferguson writes. By way of historical note, JFK appointed his brother Bobby to the position of attorney general. A one off in terms of any claimed "nepotism". That was it. Trump meanwhile has had Don Jr. running campaign aspects and lying about meeting with Russkies (even getting the number he met with wrong), as well as son-in -law Jared making nice with the same Russkies and virtually taking over all State Dept. functions while wife Ivanka has set up her own office beside Daddy's in the White House. What exactly does Ivanka do? Who the hell knows?

How has Ferguson managed to make such an outsized mark for his over-inflated intellect? One theory advanced by Daniel W. Drezner in his book, The Ideas Industry  is that  "the extraordinary rise of the American superrich, a class interested in supporting a particular genre of ideas", has led to their wider dissemination.  According to a recent article in The New Republic ('The Rise of the Thought Leader: How The Superrich Have Funded A New Class Of Intellectual', June).

As the piece explains:

"Whereas public intellectuals like Noam Chomsky or Martha Nussbaum are skeptical and analytical, thought leaders like Thomas Friedman and Sheryl Sandberg “develop their own singular lens to explain the world, and then proselytize that worldview to anyone within earshot.” While public intellectuals traffic in complexity and criticism, thought leaders burst with the evangelist’s desire to “change the world.” Many readers, Drezner observes, prefer the “big ideas” of the latter to the complexity of the former. In a marketplace of ideas awash in plutocrat cash, it has become “increasingly profitable for thought leaders to hawk their wares to both billionaires and a broader public,” to become “superstars with their own brands,"

Ferguson is also included in this class of plutocrat- funded nattering nabobs, e.g.

"Similarly, the historian Niall Ferguson leapt headlong into brand-building: crafting books intended as scripts for TV series, giving lucrative speeches, and writing for a dizzying array of publications. Like other overstretched thought leaders, Ferguson landed in trouble when his Newsweek cover story on President Obama in 2012 turned out to be riddled with errors and misleading claims. Interviewed for The Ideas Industry, Ferguson is frank about his transformation from Oxford don to thought leader: “I did it all for the money.”

Well, it is pretty clear one can also conclude vast errors are replete in his pseudo-historical comparisons of JFK to Trump.  And if he's already produced a tract "riddle with errors" on a relatively recent president, why the hell should anyone trust him on one living more than fifty years ago? Ferguson may know some history all right, but all of it ersatz history.

The NR piece again:

"As Drezner notes, some of the marquee names in thought leadership are distinguished by their facile thinking and transparent servility to the wealthy."

So clearly it would serve Ferguson's purpose of servility to the plutocrats to enhance Trump comparisons to Kennedy despite the fact virtually none exist (apart from being the offspring of a rich guy). This also explain how Ferguson could write such twaddle as:

"Perhaps if JFK had been a Republican, he would have been treated with the same ferocious animosity as DJT is treated today for much less luminous acts".

But I already showed how false this claim is by reference to much of the financial press at the time. A real historian -   as opposed to a pretender like Niall Ferguson - would have been competent  enough at his job to turn up the many instances in the larger media where JFK was attacked. But, like his defense of fracking 4 years ago, his knowledge of Kennedy is half-assed.

But maybe we have another explanation (besides sheer incompetence)  for why Ferguson's pontifications are so patently half-assed. For example,  when he so aggressively defended fracking four yeas ago. The New Republic again (ibid.):

"Corporate sponsors, in turn, have grown bolder, pressuring scientists and others to steer their research away from conclusions that might threaten profits, and working to discredit those who insist on following the facts where they lead, particularly in climate science. "

Bottom line: the guy is a plutocrat's dream: a yapping 'yes' monkey and historical revisionist,  prepared to hock his principles for a fast buck and who merits no more respect now than he did when Josh Fox ate his lunch  four years ago.

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