Ben Stein and Space Aliens

I do not want to step on the turf of fellow blogger Felix Salmon, who has established a new feature, the Ben Stein Watch, to commemorate the generally deranged and uncomfortably close to stream-of-consciousness output of the Sunday New York Times columnist who styles himself as “lawyer, writer, actor and economist.” Well, at least he puts economist last, since his formal economics training appears to have ended as an undergraduate, but he gets bonus points for being the son of former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Herbert Stein.

I’ll leave the much deserved evisceration of this week’s column, “Pledging Allegiance to the United States of Hedge Funds,” to Felix. I assume this piece is meant to be humorous, because it certainly can’t be taken seriously. But Stein’s not a skilled enough writer to pull it off, so it comes off as being merely unhinged.

I finally put my finger on why Stein bothers me. Most readers probably are too well heeled to actually stand in line in grocery stores, but one of the things that makes it tolerable for me is the occasional sighting of Weekly World News. For those of you who don’t know it, it is far and away the cheesiest, lowest production value, most outrageous weekly tabloid, and by a considerable margin. Alien abductions, weird human crossbreedings, sightings of Hitler, bizarre marriages/birth/diseases are among its staples. Where else can you read about Bigfoot kidnapping a lumberjack and keeping him captive as a love slave? I figured the staff had to get high every week to come up with this stuff.

But the thought recently occurred to me that if I actually believed in Area 51, or were a fellow tabloid publisher, the existence of Weekly World News would bother me, because it it degraded things that meant something to me.

Stein is the Weekly World News of economics writers. He natterings are so often contradictory or contrafactual that he might as well be writing about space aliens. But at least the guys at Weekly World News know that they are merely free associating and having good fun with it. I’m not sure Ben Stein recognizes that that is what he is doing.

New York Times, take note. American Media recently shuttered Weekly World News. Maybe Stein’s days are numbered as well.

Update 10/28, 6:30 PM: Felix Salmon weighs in here and Dean Baker has done the heavy lifting of taking Stein’s latest, such as it is, seriously.

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  1. Anonymous

    Yeah, you have to wonder ‘what the heck’ when an ‘economist’ is telling us that the long slide in the dollar is good for Joe six.

    He’s been off my reading list since about the time I realized someone had given him a column.

  2. Anonymous

    Zionist sock puppets like Ben Stein have to be sweating bullets now that the wheels are coming off the PNAC runaway freight train. Of course, Shillary really won’t effect much change, except to piss off a few million TFM’s, and hardcore christian psychopaths, but that’s what it’s all about, a huge dog & pony show to keep us all entertained. For those of us with half a brain and a bit of dry powder, this should be real entertaining.

  3. Anonymous

    Ah, twas a sad day indeed when the Weekly World News, America’s best adult comic book, ceased publishing its paper edition. Sniff sniff. I think the world is poorer for that. ;)

    Ben Stein? First, it assumes anyone would take him seriously, since he usually has a silver foot in his mouth. Like all good modern day Republicans, he earned his money the old fashioned way, he inherited it, whereas, goobs like billionaire columnist Tom Friedman married a real estate heiress.

    Nuff said.


  4. Anonymous

    I used to like Ben, but he has aged in a noticeable, intractable way in the last 3 years.

    I think he knows this is his last hurrah, and he is riding the flag and the administration off into the sunset.

    He used to make fun of the establishment, now he parrots their claptrap. Senility is a bitch, and its onset does not appear to be linear.

  5. a

    “Most readers probably are too well heeled to actually stand in line in grocery stores.”

    Gosh, I never thought that my weekly trips to the grocery stores disqualified me from being well heeled. Drats.

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