The Self-Important Arbiters of Reason and the Scourge of "Both Sides"
A great Twitter thread from Thomas Zimmer got me thinking...
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Today, I wanted to highlight a really smart comment I saw from, who recently launched the Substack. Responding to a tweet from FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver defending the idea of “both sides” journalism, Zimmer wrote the following:
Imagine looking at the path Republicans have taken *since* 2015 and thinking: “You know what we need more of? Both-sides false equivalence!” It’s a proper “Tell me who you really are” moment from one of the high priests of white dude (increasingly reactionary) centrism.
As is often the case with Silver, and so typical of the white male reactionary centrist pundit brotherhood, what is presented here as bold out-of-the-box truth-telling is little more than silly contrarianism in style and well in line with white elite orthodoxy in substance.
Silver is a key figure in a group of ostensibly liberal pundits who have become widely revered apostles of centrist realignment in American politics. Almost all of them are white men in their late 30s to mid-40s - Silver, Yglesias, Barro, Mounk…
This type of pundit operates from the conviction that he is capable of superior judgment across a wide variety of fields and subjects - from pandemic response to American history, from the climate crisis to how (not) to tackle racism.
These self-proclaimed Arbiters of Reason owe much of their prominent status to the idea that they are unbiased, dispassionate truthtellers, all about data, all about objectivity, brave enough to give us the unvarnished facts in a heroic effort against conventional wisdom.
All of them are increasingly hostile to “the Left,” convinced that the excesses of “woke” liberalism are a real threat, that radical “woke” activists have too much power in the Democratic Party - equivalent to rightwing extremists in the GOP.
Because they believe themselves to be unbiased, they are easily irritated by discourses about race and identity. Whatever puts the emphasis on the fact that they might not be objective Arbiters of Reason, but arguing from a specific white male elite perspective is a threat.
That’s a big part of why these white male pundits are obsessed with pointing out supposed fallacies of leftwing activism and spend much of their energy on scolding “the Left”: To their own elite status, these lefties constitute more of a threat than rightwing authoritarians.
Let’s be skeptical of this industry of ostensibly liberal/moderate/centrist pundits who act like oracles of reason and feel entitled to offer a firm assessment of *anything* - yet all too often just end up judging the world by whether or not it’s in line with their sensibilities.
There’s a lot of money and fame to be made as one of the Arbiters of Reason (an excellent term for these guys, by the way) referenced by Zimmer.
Nate Silver, Matt Yglesias, Josh Barro, and Yascha Mounk are just a handful of this generally-interchangeable reactionary centrist class of pundits who will be quick to equivocate in defense of the status quo.