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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Johnathan suggested I check out, which I did, discovering that this technically sophisticated blogsite, run by a Princeton Biophysicist, Sam Wang, has even rosier projections for Obama than Nate Silver or Votamatic.  Now, I have already had my say about my shameless searching out of experts who confidently predict that what I want to happen will happen [which, as I pointed out, is almost the functional definition of a religion.]  But I took a few moments to read some of the scores of comments and comments on comments that had been posted on Sam Wang's site, and once again I was powerfully struck by the wealth of intelligent, knowledgeable people out there capable of speaking more thoughtfully, with more detail, and in a more balanced and reflective manner than any of the well-known paid opinion-mongers who clog the airwaves and the Op Ed pages of the major newspapers.  This seems to be true no matter what subject you choose to Google, regardless of whether it is an arcane specialty or a matter of common interest. 

When I was young, there were three networks:  NBC, CBS, ABC, and three evening news anchors who were, so far as anyone could tell, the only three knowledgeable, reliable, non-partisan wise men in the universe [there were, needless to say, no wise, knowledgeable, reliable, non-partisan women.]   What Walter Cronkhite said was as close as a Godless nation ever got to the Word of God.

With the advent of Cable, bloviators metastasized, rather like Tribbles, especially with the suspension of the requirements that Talking Heads be either wise or non-partisan.  At the same time, the national community fractured into echo chambers, with each of us [myself included, of course] seeking out the "TV personalities" whose views most narrowly matched our own.  So we have a public world populated by Chris Matthews, Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz, Sean Hannity, Bill Reilly, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, Gail Collins, and the ever egregious Tom Friedman.

But America is better than that, if I may allow myself a patriotic moment.  On the evidence of the blogosphere, this country glories in hundreds, thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of private citizens whose knowledge, wisdom, insight, and even literary style put to shame those who make their living by having opinions.

As young people like to say these days, who knew?


Don Schneier said...

I'm surprised to see (Northampton's own) Rachel Maddow on that list. Her established erudition and intellectual integrity seem to sufficiently distinguish her not only from those others, but from most in the media-political complex, as well.

Chris said...

I don't even think we should mention Tom Friedman, for fear even an insult is more limelight than he deserves.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Don, I agree completely with you about Maddow. I was just fleshing out a list, and should have substituted someone else.

Man From Atlan said...

Excuse me, but that's just a list of opinionators that many 'turn to because it reflects their own (narrow) viewpoints. Rachel Maddow occupies her very own narrow niche, and fits that description of one that many turn to for that reason.

As for an 'established erudition' and 'intellectual honesty', that is your own subjective opinion, and, not universally shared.

She has many failings on the foreign and economic policy front, imposed on her by left liberal views, and that is fine by me, since as I said, we're discussing the rise of new, educated commentary from hundreds of thousands of new voices to contrast with the established commenters, of whom Rachel is one.
So thank you, Robert for pointing me in the direction of Stephen Wang's site. We need more diverse opinions, and not, that of the few who occupy various spots in the narrow spectrum of socio-political discourse.

Daniel Laurison said...

I'm a regular reader here though not a regular comment-er. But I wanted to say:

You mentioned volunteering for Obama on this blog before (and I've used your comments in the "why I work for Obama" and "response to English Jerk" posts from April to try to convince my too-radical friends that they should be supporting Obama any way they can).

Given how close the race is likely to be, maybe you could make a plug on your blog for people to volunteer in this last week? Now is when calls to voters can make the most difference, as we can actually tell them (if they support Obama) where and when to vote.

While it's unclear (from lots of political science research) whether, when, or how much campaign messaging influences electoral outcomes, it's very clear that contact - calls and canvassing - can increase turnout. And in an election this close, turnout is really what it comes down to. I spent an hour making calls this morning at my local (Oakland) Obama office and reached 4 people who supported the president but needed the reminder/encouragement to go vote (and appreciated the early voting information). I'm pretty sure at least one of them might not have made it out to vote otherwise. As you know, the Obama campaign has a massive, sophisticated GOTV program, but it only works if there are massive quantities of volunteers. A lot of good liberals are not as excited about Obama this time, and so not volunteering. But if love of Obama doesn't do it, I sure hope terror of a Romney administration does.

Anyone can find places to volunteer near them at; you can make calls from home here: (But if you can get into a local phonebank office, they'll have the highest-priority calls there; and if you're in a swing state and can canvass, that's the BEST way to make a difference.)

Chris said...

This will be Obama's legacy. And this is why I cannot vote for him.

Don Schneier said...

Man From Atlan--it is not my "opinion" that Maddow has earned a doctorate from a very well-respected institution. But, even if were, that does not suffice to validate a disagreement with it. That one theory is more comprehensive than another is an objective criterion of its superiority. Likewise, with opinions.

Man From Atlan said...

Don Schneier--I know standards have dropped a bit but you're setting the bar for 'established erudition' rather low, don't you think? Yes, Ms. Maddow has a doctorate from a respectable institution and published a thesis, er, book. By all accounts she is a polite, intelligent TV program host. But I hesitate to call her erudite, not knowing of any broad, widespread scholarship or work on her part, aside from maybe she's 'read lots of books'. That is what some on the other side of the pond might call over-egging the pudding, such as when the enthusiasts call Obama a "constitutional scholar" :)

That your opinion is more widely accepted (perhaps in America) than mine is not an objective criterion of its validity, and you might also want to demonstrate how your argument is more comprehensive or er, superior.

Though perhaps Ms Maddow might want to say why she's never had Noam Chomsky or the late Howard Zinn on her show? Now those folk, are real examples of erudition, just saying.

Don Schneier said...

Man From Atlan--I think that you are missing two of my points. 1. A valid response to 'Maddow is X' is evidence that 'Maddow is not X', not 'that is your opinion'. 2. The 'comprehensiveness' of a theory connotes its internal structure, not how widely it is accepted. Unless you have a better criterion for evaluating opinions, that one, which is not merely my own, is superior.

Ben said...

To the Man from Atlan: Earning a Rhodes Scholarship and attaining a PhD from Oxford does not qualify one as erudite? ("Erudite" simply means "learned." Perhaps you are misunderstanding the word.)

Calling Oxford a "respectable institution," by the way, is ridiculous understatement.

Man From Atlan said...

I think you just posted the Wikipedia definition of 'erudite', Ben. As I made clear, I don't agree. I don't propose to debate with people who ignore the core of my argument and go off on their own tangents. It was interesting to see neon host capitulate so quickly on the issue of Maddow, who DID fit his own?

I think I'll go back and post on Huffington Post again, at least people there are not as pretentious in their ignorance.

Man From Atlan said...

I meant to say 'mein' host, the #111 bus is a bugger.