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a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces



the debate and the spotlight of consensus

While the position who have particular political biases are relatively constant, it’s fascinating to watch the spotlight of what appears crazy to the general public shift around.

I first started reading Little Green Footballs during the run-up to the Iraqi invasion, because I felt that what they said there gave an insight into how decisions were being made or accepted among a large sector of the public. Steven Den Beste was required reading, because he seemed to be constructing (or interpreting) the abstract framework that best represented Bush’s foreign policy (he ended up writing a WSJ editorial spelling it out).

I didn’t agree with these people, but what they said certainly had predictive value — far more predictive value than those on most left blogs. People would say “surely Americans will see through this bullshit”, and they didn’t. Meanwhile, one of the warbloggers would say that Dean would pay for saying we weren’t safer after Saddam was captured, and lo! That’s what public opinion would reflect. The statements of the conservative bloggers matched much of public discourse (in the US, of course). I remember people like Brad deLong spending much of the first decade of this century standing with their mouths open, agape at the discrepancy between what was obvious to them and what “everyone else” appeared to see.

What’s is fascinating now is watching that spotlight move very dramatically away. The conservative bloggers confidently predict that McCain or Palin ruled the debate and … reality lurches away in the other direction. ESR talks about Obama’s campaign smelling of defeat, right as they begin their meteoric rise up the polls. None of the levers work. The die falls snakes eyes, throw after throw. You move the mouse up, and the cursor goes down. At this point, they’re convinced that the mainstream media, *and* the pollster, *and* random people in the street are just making shit up.

Again, this isn’t about right or wrong. This is about your ability to predict the general population. Just as it didn’t help to talk about dictators stealing the election when over 50% of the American population thought Bush was an allright fella, all the accusations that Obama is a marxist terrorist muslim aren’t going to help you when people are saying sure he’s a marxist terrorist muslim, but they’re going to vote for him anyway because he has a good healthcare policy. How do you compute that if you’re instapundit?

Most of all, I love watching that spotlight of opinion refocus on a point after these debates. And the focus pull in this election seems to be online videos. I thought McCain did okay in this debate, actually, but that’s not where the spotlight has fallen. It’s fallen on the reload button next to the YouTube clip of his “Zero? WTF?” moment. And he can talk about Joe the Plumber all he wants, but the more people who see Obama actually talking to Joe the Plumber (and it’s worth watching all the way through), I think the better Obama looks, not McCain.

I hope to god I’m almost done with this election. My citizen friends are voting early. As Nate Silver says, Obama is in “live boy, dead girl” territory these days. If there’s going to be a change in that, it’ll be one that no-one on either side predicts. The spotlight is steady, and for now it’s trained on the new president.

2 Responses to “the debate and the spotlight of consensus”

  1. James Says:

    So which are the blogs with predictive value now? FWIW the feeling I’m getting from blogs and election results all over the world is a growing dissatisfaction with politicians on both sides of the fence – a pox on both houses, as it were.

  2. Danny O'Brien Says:

    Well, I hate to toot’s horn again, but it’s a great model of not only a (hopefully) predictive blog looks like, but also one that is careful enough to put all its reasoning up front so the moment it stops being predictive, they should be able to realise it. I’m still amazed at how happily LGF and others are to wander off into the wildnerness, confident that it’s just the evil mainstream media that is moving out of sync with them.

    To be honest, it’s not really about accuracy, it’s about throwing out a bunch of edgy predictions, more of which stick than others. There are no blogs that tell you tomorrow’s news, but there are blogs that will tell you next year’s sunday magazine articles. I think any blog that you told you years ago about the sub-prime crisis is probably going to have some extra predictive oomf for a while. I am enjoying for its scatter-gun paranoia about economic collapse. Will it all be true? Nah. Will I be reminded of posts on it in three months’ time? I think so.


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