Friday, November 02, 2012

THE NEW YORK TIMES PUBLIC EDITOR ALSO BELIEVES IN THE CONFIDENCE FAIRY

Joe Scarborough has been ragging on Nate Silver, and recently Silver responded on Twitter by challenging Scarborough to a bet: Scarborough should pay $1000 to the Red Cross (later increased to $2000) if Silver's forecast is right and Obama wins reelection, and Silver agrees to do the same if he's wrong and Romney wins.

For this, Silver has been chided by New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan.

At the Times, a certain degree of stodginess is part of the brand; arguably, that could be a reason for Sullivan to tut-tut. But part of Sullivan's argument literally makes no sense:
... whatever the motivation behind it, the wager offer is a bad idea -- giving ammunition to the critics who want to paint Mr. Silver as a partisan who is trying to sway the outcome.
How the hell does it do that? Silver isn't trying to help Obama win with his forecasts. He's arguing that his method is a scientific way of measuring what's going on in the race, and he would be arguing that Romney was a strong favorite to win if that's what the numbers told him. Saying that he's trying to help Obama along by expressing confidence in his method is like saying that if the Wright brothers placed a bet on their plane, the bet itself would increase the chances that the plane got off the ground.

But Sullivan clearly believes that it's perfectly rational for right-wingers to argue that Silver's forecasts can skew the race. This is confidence-fairy thinking -- if Romney seems to be losing, he'll lose.

But if measurements that are as accurate as the measurer can make them say Romney will lose, then why the hell shouldn't the measurer say so? With confidence, even? Because it will sap the purity of Republicans' confident essence?

5 comments:

Lex Alexander said...

The Times needs Silver right now a lot more than Silver needs the Times. And I left a comment explaining that fact on Ms. Sullivan's blog post. Using small words.

Victor said...

I might understand her point if he had valuable real estate on the Op-ed page, like Bobo, the 'Stache of Non-wisdom,' or 'HS Confidential' Dowd.

But like Lex said above, they need him a hell of a lot more than he needs the NY Times.

Still, she's far better than the last feckin' idjit who occupied that chair.

BH said...

Shorter Sullivan: "Silver gets too much attention. Nobody west of Pittsburgh has ever heard of me, although I'm extremely important because I have a titled job at a Very Important Newspaper. I shall loftily remonstrate."

Jack said...

Demonstrating, once again, what Josh Marshall said about how Washington is "wired for Republicans." The whole beltway / Villager mindset is wingnut-centric. (I know, New York isn't in the beltway, but the Times is still part of broader Villager culture.)

Also reminds of Scalia's suggestion that the actual results of the 2000 election might cast doubt on Bush's election. Silver's factual data casts doubt on what's truly proper: Republican confidence.

Peter Janovsky said...

My take on this last night.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/01/1154048/-Times-Aghast-at-Nate-s-1-000-Scar-Bet?showAll=yes