Are Numbers the Left-Liberal's Love Language?
I just read a yummy, triggering piece in The Nation called, “‘Stats Bros’ Are Sucking the Life Out of Politics” and wanted to share it.
Over the last decade or so, we’ve seen the rise of a media figure I like to call the “stats bro”…These men—and they’re always men; usually white, middle-aged, establishment liberals—cut a charming, yet sober, figure in a polarized political landscape.
Stats bros claim to be the foil: “epistemically modest” purveyors of fact and reason. In reality, they conflate data and politics, taking their tools for precise descriptions of the actual world, all the while tending to the neuroses of the liberal electorate.
It’s a sophisticated and good-spirited takedown of the Nate Silvers of the pundit world. If you’re a longtime friend of the pod, you know I’ve been a critic of precisely this type of public figure for a while.
I view them as one step above snake-oil salesmen. Not because they’re outright grifters, but because they’re playing a deceptive game with the public’s mind: They assign statistical probabilities to social and political phenomena that are literally unpredictable, and then encourage you to substitute statements of statistical probability for political judgment.