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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Then they came for Nate Silver

Apparently, Bobo launched an attack on Nate Silver a few days ago. You know the drill: numbers can only tell so much, we Burkeans are never too sure of anything (except, paradoxically, the awesomeness of Burkean skepticism).

Not surprisingly, it’s being widely heh-indeeded by many in the establishment media. Here’s the New Yorker’s John Cassidy spending 300 words saying “I agree with Bobo…oh and also too I followed markets once so I know something about stuff like this I think.” Here’s Charles Lane re-tweeting Binyamin Appelbaum’s heh-indeed of Cassidy’s piece.

It’s natural that establishment pundits would dislike Silver, of course. He deals in numbers, whereas they are quantitative illiterates. He made his bones in the grimy world of sports statistics, they made theirs doing respectable things like blowing Marty Peretz (Lane) or writing comedic books about yuppies (Brooks). So they come from different places than he does.

This is about establishment media defending its turf, its position, its prestige. Fortunately, all of that is under siege. Once the American public was force-fed conventional wisdom by an establishment media that was profitable on its own terms; now people can read blogs and outsider pundits like Silver, and print media is hemorrhaging money.

And writers like Lane and Cassidy and Brooks have nothing to stand on but their good names. They haven’t risen to the top of a corporate hierarchy or law firm, they aren’t scholars or scientists of distinction, they have no special technical skills of any kind.

When you have a comfortable position and no convincing reason why you should keep that comfortable position, you are reduced to screaming RESPECT MAH AUTHORITAH. And counting on your fellow parasites to heh-indeed your screams.

None of this is to say that I worship Nate Silver or consider him infallible. But he did call the popular election in the last election with in a couple tenths of a percentage point and got 49 out of 50 states right too.

What has Bobo or Charles Lane ever forecast that accurately?


via Balloon Juice http://www.balloon-juice.com/2012/10/27/then-they-came-for-nate-silver/

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