Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When Judgments Tell You More About the Person Doing The Judging Than It Does About The Subject-Matter

So, normally we look to certain people--experts, informed laypersons, or just people other than ourselves--to get their perspective on subjects of interest. If it's a controversial matter about which we aren't certain, it's informative to access the judgments of others--and the more expertise they have in the matter, the better.

However, as we understand the matter at issue better, and as it becomes clearer to us which answer is actually correct, the less helpful the other--expert and quasi-expert--judgments become. In fact there comes a point in this process at which the experts' (and quasi-experts') judgments tell us more about those putative experts (and quasi-experts) than they tell us about the matter at hand.

If someone who claims expertise in meteorology tells me it's going to rain in a week, then that's valuable (though defeasible) information about the weather a week from now. But if the thunder is crashing and the clouds are rolling in, and the alleged meteorologist is still telling me it isn't going to rain...well, this probably tells me more about him than it does about the weather. And if we're standing in a downpour and he's insisting that it isn't raining, then I know everything I need to know about his degree of expertise. His denial that it's raining when it demonstrably is doesn't give me reason to conclude that it isn't; it gives me reason to conclude that he doesn't know what he's talking about.

We've hit such a point with the denizens of the Corner and their ilk--the Bill Kristols and Charles Krauthammers of the world. The facts at hand--about Barack Obama, John McCain, and George W. Bush--are clear enough. That the Cornerites et. al. continue to insist that black is white, night is day, ignorance is strength, Obama is a radical or whatever...well this does convey important information, but not about Obama, McCain, and Bush.

There are tough calls and there are easy ones. The tough calls are, well, tough. I tend to disagree with the Cornerites, Kristols and Krauthammers of the world, but I usually try to hear them out and think hard about their points. But when the easy calls roll around, and they continue to blast out the same strident, partisan, blinkered bullshit that they always do...well, it becomes clearer and clearer that they are not people to be taken seriously.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know why you talk about the Corner all the time. Everytime you do I go look at it and it does't say what you say it does. And I watched Keith Olberman last night and in the end part all he did was yell. Just like George Wallace but not like Hitler, haha. But I listen to everybody, even you.(Haha again.) Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. But Keith Olberman looks crazy.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:57 PM  
Blogger The Mystic said...

I do have to say that the phrase "Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me. But Keith Olberman looks crazy." may be, if perhaps repunctuated and changed slightly, one of my favorite things I've ever read on the internet.

Maybe the entire comment is required. I don't know - there's something about that last part that required me to wipe off my monitor and refill my glass of milk.

That's not a criticism, either. I'm just saying.

10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I said what I have to say, don't tax the American Dream and people that work hard.
And Keith Olberman looks *crazy* yelling but I don't think the Corner does. but people at your site can say LOOOOOOOOOOOL and that's Ok but the Corner isn't so I don't know who you think people should take seriously. Thank You, Winston Smith, you let me say what I have to say except Mr. LOOOOOOOOOOL says woof woof blah blah. Haha.
You vote for Obama and I'll vote for McCain but just ask Obama and The Economist to get me a job at Acorn after I get layed off. Spread the wealth. I put bookmarks for your site and the Corner so I'll read both of them but for now goodbye.

1:56 AM  
Blogger Winston Smith said...

Er, actually unemployment tends to be lower under Democratic administrations.

But as for Olbermann: I'd had more-or-less enough of that guy months and months ago.

Before he switched to McCain, he was the only guy on tv saying the kinds of things about Bush that needed to be said, and good on him for that. But he seems largely tedious to me by this point. It's like he's got to fill the whole show end to end with breathless outrage. JQ tells me his special comment from two nights ago was just embarrassing--but I wouldn't know, as I wasn't watching...as I so often don't anymore.

7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can read his special comment here.

A small dose:

In that time, Gov. Sarah Palin, Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, McCain spokesperson Nancy Pfotenhauer, and Rush Limbaugh, have revealed that there is a measurable portion of this country that is not interested in that which the vast majority view as democracy or equality or opportunity. They want only control and they want the rest of us, symbolically, perhaps physically out.

Gov. Palin:

"We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington D.C.," you told a fund-raiser in North Carolina last Thursday, to kick off this orgy of condescending elitism.

"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, very pro-America areas of this great nation."

Governor, your prejudice is overwhelming. It is not just "pockets" of this country that are "pro-America" Governor. America is "pro-America. "And the "Real America" of yours, Governor, is where people at your rallies shout threats of violence, against other Americans, and you say nothing about them or to them.

What you are seeing is not patriotism, Governor. What has surrounded you since your nomination, has been the echoing shout of mob rule. Indeed, that shout has echoed to Minnesota, where the next day an unstable Congresswoman named Michele Bachmann added to the ugly cry.

"I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out, are they pro-America, or anti-America. I think people would love to see an expose' like that."

For nearly two years, Ms. Bachmann, who made her first political bones by keeping the movie "Aladdin" from being shown at a Minnesota Charter School because she thought it promoted paganism and witchcraft, has had a seat in the government of this nation, a seat from which she has spewed the most implausible, hateful, narrow-minded garbage imaginable.

Well, Congresswoman, you have gotten that "expose'" you wanted, have you not? Though not perhaps in the way you imagined.

Since giving voice to your remarkable delusion that there are members of Congress who are "anti-America," and the extraordinary tap-dance of sleaze and innuendo about Sen. Obama which followed, the challenger for your house Seat, Elwyn Tinklenberg, has been inundated by donations – $7,000 in the three days after you spoke.

One point in Olbermanns' favor is that at various rare times, he has apologized for something that was on his show, that he felt shouldn't been said. and that is something that can't be said for Limbaugh, Faux News, etc. on the other side of the aisle


Oliver Cromwell

2:33 PM  

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