SHAMEFUL JOY

Posted in Quick Hits on March 24th, 2014 by Ed

Full disclosure – not like you couldn't figure this out on your own – some of my less than laudatory attitude toward Nate Silver stems from professional jealousy. He is living quite literally a dream life and I am a professional failure who is going to die in rural central Illinois in one of those "We noticed a funny smell coming from the apartment" scenarios. He was smart enough, however, to realize that most people in the media and the public are ignorant about how math works and therefore they are likely to be extremely impressed by relatively basic statistical analysis. Yet despite the fact that what Silver does is not complicated to anyone who has some training in stats, it's often more complicated than it needs to be. It's an old academic trick – make something just complex enough that your audience won't be able to understand it and they will assume that you're correct because you're clearly smarter.

So it was that a man who called two of the easiest, least competitive presidential elections in the last few decades came to be seen as a modern oracle.

It is with no small amount of schadenfreude , then, that I watch the impending failure of his new, independent FiveThirtyEight website / media company. Proving once again that the New Media is about hits, hits, and trolling for more hits, Silver has elected to give an audience to a climate change "skeptic" to ensure plenty of outraged attention is directed toward his site devoted to "data-driven analysis." The shit has already hit the fan among some of his more high-profile liberal allies like Paul Krugman. What better way to emphasize one's slavish devotion to Data than to hire someone who has a decade long track record of consistently cherry-picking and manipulating climate data.

To paraphrase Bill Hicks, he might have been an artist at some point; if so, now he's just another set of holes at the capitalist gangbang. He'll find that making money without resorting to this kind of hackery will be considerably more difficult than, you know, calling a presidential election that one candidate ends up winning by 70 Electoral votes.