In the lead up to the Iraq War, I was working at home and listening to a lot of NPR. At that time, I wasn’t really a partisan. This was the period where I was transitioning from libertarian to what I am now. (Anarcho-syndicalist?) But it was a very frustrating time because it was obvious that the Bush administration was pushing us into war for no particular reason. And this came out of my listening to NPR, which was fairly pro-war.
This is part of a broader frustration I have that things that seem obvious to me are quite surprising to our cultural elites. The dot-com bubble? The stock market bubble? These were things that were obvious, even if you weren’t paying much attention. They were, however, unbelievable if you were an insider—a Power Player.
This morning Paul Krugman wrote an article about Jonathan Martin’s stupid comment that liberals would be disheartened to learn that Nate Silver’s model was mostly based upon polls, Scoop Dupes. Only someone who doesn’t follow Nate Silver would think that would surprise anyone. But Krugman makes the argument that the reason there is so much push back against Silver by political journalists is that Silver’s work makes the work of journalists much less important. What separates a journalist from, say, me is that they have contacts; they can get the inside scoop from the campaigns. But more and more, this kind of information is shown to be useless—especially compared to people like Nate Silver or even Real Clear Politics.
But Krugman goes further and said something that made me feel better about my experiences and ought to make bloggers the world over feel better about the work that they do:
Don’t get me wrong. I have a great deal of respect for muckraking. But this kind of work is so rare that when it happens, they make big budget films about it that star Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. And note: you don’t expose corruption in the White House by talking to the president and his chief of staff. One of the reasons that Woodward and Bernstein were able to do so much work was that they were young and not that plugged in. By far their most prominent source was Mark Felt (Deep Throat), and they only had him because they were using (typically) a disgruntled employee.
To some extent, Krugman is only saying exactly what I want to hear. All I have to offer as a writer is the vast amount of information that I consume and my relatively efficient but slightly skewed brain. But I’m not at all convinced this isn’t better than listening to the newest Judith Millers at America’s elite newspapers.