March 2nd, 2015
Being Wrong Is Not Enough: How The Media Protects Conservative Punditry
The mainstream media is in the midst of yet another round of tut-tutting a pundit who isn’t a part of the club. Of course, it happens to be someone who made the right call. In 2008 Nate Silver crunched the numbers and determined that there was a high probability of Barack Obama winning the election. At the time, people like Republican-leaning pollster Scott Rasmussen pooh-poohed the idea of averaging polls in order to determine a result. Turns out, it’s a pretty good predictor of events.
But now that Nate Silver’s model has consistently seen a higher probability of Obama being re-elected, the media gang has decided to attack him. It’s worth noting that Silver’s model doesn’t indicate that there’s no chance of Mitt Romney being elected, just – based on his model – a lower probability than Obama. Also worth noting that none of these detractors made any noise when Silver forecast GOP gains in 2010. It’s almost as if Silver is making his analysis based on data, and not pandering to political forces.
Contrast this to Fox News pundit Dick Morris, who never gets anything right. Fox constantly pushes Morris – to the point where he offers tours of their studio to Republican donors – and rarely is it noted just how wrong Morris gets things while promoting the outside groups he stands to profit from.
Or you could compare the attacks thrown against pundits (and politicians like President Obama) who had the nerve to oppose invading and occupying Iraq. Compare it to people like Bill Kristol whose only real mea culpa for banging the war drums was a sheepish shrug on The Daily Show. Or Stephen Hayes, who wrote an entire book about “The Connection” between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein that we all knew was b.s. at the time of its publication, but has been even further debunked by actual events. Is Hayes an outcast, a living joke? No, he’s Dick Cheney’s biographer and part of Fox News’ “All-Star” panel.
Conservative media does not subject its members to any sort of honesty tests. Instead, absolute nonsense is rewarded and stupidity is rewarded. The mainstream media, in response, is so afraid – so cowed – by the conservative press, that they never call out these bad actors. Why risk getting angry phone calls from Limbaugh listeners or pissed off comments from Drudge when its easier to just sit across and smile with the very wrong pundits at the next White House Correspondents Dinner (or similar event)?
A guy like Silver annoys this excrement-laden ecosystem. I don’t know him, but based on his writing I’ve constantly seen a strain of “I could be wrong” in his writing. He knows that the middle-of-the-road and liberal readerbase he’s built will likely burn him if he gets something very wrong. He could have gone the “unskewed” route in 2010 and tell liberals what they like to hear, but there isn’t a progressive tradition of elevating bull like there is on the right. There’s no incentive to make Morris-style predictions on the right. There’s no money in it.
The right doesn’t like it because it hurts their fact-free “Romney has momentum” narrative in favor of the more reality-based “slight edge to Obama” one. The mainstream media reacts badly to what upsets their right-wing abusers, and we get more crappy analysis and attacks masquerading as journalism.
(FYI, the title of this blog post is totally stolen from Paul Waldman’s book, which is a good read)
March 2nd, 2015