Posts tagged Nate Silver
In March 1991, Rodney King was beaten by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department. It was captured on videotape, one of the first viral videos of a new age, and it heated an unstable flammable mixture. The mixture smoldered during the year between the incident and the trial of the LAPD officers; when they were acquitted, oxygen got to the smoldering rags and the Los Angeles riots, the deadliest riots in the US in over 130 years, broke out in late April and early May 1992.
Too late, seeing what his traffic stop and beating had triggered, King pleaded with Los Angelenos: “Can we all get along?”
Looking at the current state of political discourse, I think the same thing.
I was amazed, dismayed, and ultimately saddened by the treatment of President Bill Clinton by his opponents. The Internet was still relatively new then. There was a World Wide Web, but it wasn’t in widespread use, and I got most of my online information from what were called “Usenet Newsgroups”. Anyone with a bit of computer savvy could set up one of these groups and say their piece. I had family in Mena, Arkansas, so I was more than a little surprised to find a group called (as I recall) alt.conspiracy.mena. I can’t find any trace of it now, but here’s a sample of the kind of things you’d find there.
Take the entire Vincent Foster suicide conspiracy theory. Based on a very thin line of “evidence”, it was the most vile, nasty, evil set of accusations I had ever seen. Even that thin reed was fortified by Rush Limbaugh and his ilk on talk radio and TV.
Again, after 9/11, my fervent hope was that we would band together as a nation and move forward based on our manifest common interest. Then President Bush send Colin Powell to present mostly fabricated evidence to the United Nations, and we were at war with Iraq, but at the same time we went back to our war of words (and sometimes bullets) in what now passes for “political discourse”.
Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog was a political breath of fresh air for me. I discovered it in early 2008, shortly after Nate established it, and I found there a community of people who actually amassed scientific and rational data to support their positions. Even the people I disagreed with seemed to be struggling to stack evidentiary bricks on their side and we on the liberal left attempted to do the same.
When Nate moved to the New York Times and became bound by the Old Gray Lady’s comment policy, we knew the jig was up. We tried, first at 538Refugees, then here at Logarchism, to recreate what was lost, but Nate’s blog had that indefinable quality that came from his personal and political nous and incredible intellect. We have since attempted to make the same match burn twice.
And so I still long for that place where we use logic, and data, and science, to feed our thoughtful, reasoned argument. A sort of political science forum with the emphasis on the “science”. A place where, as the old saying goes, “we can disagree without being disagreeable”.
Let’s be the change we want to see in the world. Let’s go out and make political discourse the way we want it to be. Slowly, surely, we will turn this wrecked battleship around and get back to where we need to be.