zombie lie/zombie economics

victor steinbok aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM
Wed Sep 21 07:26:12 UTC 2011

Ben Zimmer might have covered this already as he's previously looked into
various "zombies". My apologies if I'm duplicating anyone else's results.

Word Spy posted "Zombie Lie" back in April, although two of the quotes were
added later. It lists "earliest" appearance on Eschaton, back in 2006:

n. A false statement that keeps getting repeated no matter how often it has
> been refuted.


> No matter how hard we try to kill them, they keep coming back to eat our
> brains.
> —Duncan Black, "Zombie Lies," Eschaton, January 20, 2006

Media Matters has a whole category of Zombie Lies that currently numbers
over 100 entries (apparently--although it's very hard to count, as current
links show up on virtually every page and are displayed in Google results).

Balloon Justice blawg lexicon has a different definition of Zombie Lie,
blaming journalists rather than politicians:

Zombie Lies--Journalism by urban legend. "No matter how hard we try to kill
> them, they keep coming back to eat our brains." May have originated with the
> proposition that Jack Abramoff gave money indiscriminately to both Democrats
> and Republicans. Others include: Al Gore claimed to have invented the
> Internet; Gov. Bob Casey was barred from the 1992 Democratic National
> Convention because he opposed abortion rights; Bill Clinton held up the
> tarmac at LAX for four hours while getting a haircut.

 UD has a tentative, unapproved definition: Lies that just won't die, no
matter what the facts are.

After a bit of creative filtering, I also found this, directly attributing
the coinage to Atrios (Duncan Black):

May 25, 2006
> Zombie Lie is a term made up by Atrios reffering to the Jack Abramoff
> scandal. (Jack Abramoff is the disgraced lobbyist who pled guilty to
> corruption charges. Abramoff was a College Republican, he gave all of his
> money to Republicans. While some of his clients gave money to Democrats,
> when he was working with them, they gave more to Republicans and less to
> Democrats than they had in the past. So newspeople and pundits like to say
> that Abramoff gave money to both Republicans and Democrats; that this is a
> bipartisan scandal. But he didn't. And it's not.) No matter how many times
> that you prove that Abramoff gave money ONLY TO REPUBLICANS, people keep
> coming back with "Abramoff gave money to both parties". It keeps coming
> back, you cannot kill it.

It's very tempting to accept this, as this is only a few months following
the "earliest" Atrios post.

Google gives a total of about 22K raw ghits for /exact/ phrase. Virtually
all come from liberal and progressive blogs or those quoting these sources.
The Atlantic, Mother Jones and Columbia Journalism Review have accepted the
usage as idiomatic.

The Big Picture economics blog expands this to Zombie Economics (including
"supply-side economics"). [ http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/ ]

Princeton UP has just published a book with the same title:
Zombie Economics: How Dead Ideas Still Walk among Us.

There is another "Zombie Economics" book on personal finance [
http://goo.gl/Av8Tc ], but this one is unrelated to the topic at hand.

The earliest (dated) mention of Zombie Economics that I found was by Thomas
Palley on his blog on January 15, 2007:

Zombie Economics: The Myth of the Twin Deficits. January 15th, 2007 at 4:48

> This is pure nonsense. The twin deficit hypothesis is a classic case of
> zombie economics, refusing to die despite powerful contrary empirical
> evidence and theoretical argument.

Paul Krugman has used both Zombie Lie and Zombie Economics in 2010, giving
both of them a jolt of popularity.


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