The Walled Garden of Empiricism

So, by now maybe you've heard about this amusing little story where seemingly half of left-of-center Washington, D.C. belongs to a private, off-the-record listserv in which they listserv one another about various topics before going back to their blogs and making the exact same joke about China? It's basically nothing to get hung about, though I do think the National Review's Mark Hemingway has a mild point about disclosure. (Speaking of which, here's mine: I don't belong to any listservs, least I don't think so, though I irregularly participate in a couple of Facebook groups that have nothing to do with politics or Washington.)

The real fun in this story, though, comes in the pomposity of the participants. A selection from the Politico article that started it all:

[Eric] Alterman said it's important that there are "people with genuine expertise" on the list.

"For me, it's enormously useful because I don't like to spend my time reading blogs and reading up-to-the-minute political minutia," he said. "This list allows me to make sure I'm not missing anything important." [...]

"No one's pushing an agenda," said Jeffrey Toobin. [...]

John Judis, a senior editor at The New Republic, described JList in an e-mail as "a virtual coffeehouse" where participants get a chance to talk and argue.

"There is probably general agreement on the stupidity of today's GOP," he said. "But beyond that, I would say there is wide disagreement on trade, Israel, how exactly we got into this recession/depression and how to get out of it, the brilliance of various punk bands that I have never heard of, and on whether, at any given moment, the Obama administration is doing the right thing."

But the best comes in a follow-up post by listserv founder Ezra Klein (or, as new New York Times token-righty columnist Ross Douthat calls him, "the William F. Buckley of movement liberalism"):

The emphasis is on empiricism, not ideology.

To be sure.

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  • ||

    Juice box heroes?

    That's so precious, I want to retch.

  • TofuSushi||

    Ezra Klein is the John Edwards of the young Progressive moement. I cannot believe you are doing a hit piece on him.

  • JiggleTits||

    Obama ice cream in Russia (I kid you not):

    http://www.trendhunter.com/photos/38165

  • ||

    Ezra Klein is the John Edwards of the young Progressive moement. I cannot believe it took you so long to do a hit piece on him.

  • ||

    TofuSushi,
    Talk to ghosts John Edwards or baby daddy John Edwards?

    By the way, I'm shocked, shocked to hear there's a liberal echo chamber.

  • Defeat Globalism||

    But isn't the point of liberalism to salve a wounded ego, and to justify being an irresponsible have-not with hatred for the responsible haves?

    I mean, come on. They're wimps on the street, but in his heart the average liberal makes skinheads look like Santa Claus. These people are propelled by hatred for those gifted by nature.

  • ||

    Klein is the new Buckley of the left sans about 40 IQ points. Every time I've seen the guy speak he comes off as kind of dull.

  • ||

    I agree that this is creepy. The Right blogosphere is out in the open, with no need to hide. There are a few secret lists on the fringes, for paranoid fringers linking to pretend there's a conspiracy out to get them, but nothing at all approaching the mainstream like JournoList. Imagine if all the media executives (stereotyped as being conservative) all got together and had a secret list where they talked about what tomorrow's stories would be. The left would be exploding in outrage! (For real, not the fake staged outrage explosions we're so used to).

  • ||

    Cock punches all around.

  • ||

    Is this any different from, say, Joe Klein having a weekly cocktail party at his house where the same people gather? I don't think so. Would that be creepy? I don't think so.

    In answer to Brandybuck, there's a big difference between "hey guys, what should we all make the lead story tomorrow?" and, "hey guys, I saw this interesting story about China, anybody know anything about it?" This listserv sounds like it's being used in the latter function.

    I can agree that if it were the former, that would be a problem. But I haven't seen that alleged.

  • T||

    I find Kelin's insistence it's about empiricism, not ideology laughable. That twatwaffle wouldn't know empiricism if it jumped up and bit him in the cock. He spends half his life arguing that failed counterproductive policies should be expanded and the other half arguing we should try things that have failed elsewhere.

  • EJM||

    ...new New York Times token-righty columnist Ross Douthat...

    ...which is a lot better than what LoneWacko calls him. ;)

  • Mari Dupont||

    The left is well known for its insistence on empirical proof. But I'm mainly interested in their punk band methodology; many a time I've crunched the numbers on the Sex Pistols and it just won't add up...I clearly need some of those lefty math skills to make my case.

  • Kolohe||

    Count me in the BFD category. This strikes me as no different as when Norquist used to have (still has?) the same sort of powwow's by fax and in person.

    And I thought the liberal blogosphere (and to be fair any subset blogosphere) often repeats the same memes (including the same jokes) because of groupthink and the human tendency toward cliche.

    Last, like Mr. Score plus Four said above, this is basically an electronic extension of the Georgetown cocktail circuit. The only irony is many of the the bloggers on this private listserv frequently bitch about the 'village' - apparently while either trying to gain entrance or in fact being part of it.

  • T||

    The only irony is many of the the bloggers on this private listserv frequently bitch about the 'village' - apparently while either trying to gain entrance or in fact being part of it.

    They all just want to be number 1, that's why.

  • Matt Welch||

    This strikes me as no different as when Norquist used to have (still has?) the same sort of powwow's by fax and in person.

    He still does. Sometimes Reason people attend! (Though I never have....)

  • Matt Welch||

    The only irony is many of the the bloggers on this private listserv frequently bitch about the 'village' - apparently while either trying to gain entrance or in fact being part of it.

    You know, to be totally transparent, I should confess that I tried for five minutes to find any listserv participant's dismissive reference to the "village" or "villagers," and came up with nothing. If Duncan "Atrios" Black is on that listserv, though, he's got something to answer for.

  • ||

    Is this any different from, say, Joe Klein having a weekly cocktail party at his house where the same people gather?

    I think it is, yes. This is a 24/7 echo chamber/message control factory. One which is almost certain to do the libs more harm than good, I might add. A little different than hoisting a few and ogling the tatas on that columnist from the Times.

    Would that be creepy?

    Boring, certainly. I can imagine that such an orgy of self-congratulatory smugness and mutual tongue-baths could be pretty creepy as well.

  • shecky||

    I've seen this story around the intertubes for a couple days now. Why does anybody care? Does anybody think private off the record mail lists are not very common, or worse, sinister?

  • ||

    Obama ice cream in Russia (I kid you not):

    In Russia, Obama ice creams you.

  • JB||

    Bunch of in-bred Obama groupies all humping each others' legs.

    This is a giant circle-jerk filled with left-wing tards.

  • Kolohe||

    find any listserv participant's dismissive reference to the "village" or "villagers," and came up with nothing.

    Maybe I got the bloggers confused with the commenters.

    I did find some posts from Yglesias and Klein wrt other 'village' code words like 'establishment', 'David Broder', and 'Washington Post'; for example a few that revolve around this post from Yglesias titled Village Idiots

  • Right Wing Realist||

    Were there any non-opinion journalists on the list? That would concern me.

  • ||

    This reminds me of a roundtable of pollsters I saw on CSPAN many, many years ago. Celinda Lake and other Democrats were obviously using the party's talking points o'the day, to an embarrasing degree. Frank Luntz chimed in with, "I'm glad to see everyone's fax machine is working."

  • la di da||

    March 19, 2009: Reason magazine discovers listservs.

    Mark your calendars!

  • Jesse Walker||

    March 19, 2009: Reason magazine discovers listservs.

    You mean Politico discovers listservs.

    As someone who's been on various email discussion lists for well over a decade, I'm amazed at the furor over this nonstory.

  • \"Markets Are Magical!\"||

    "Boring, certainly. I can imagine that such an orgy of self-congratulatory smugness and mutual tongue-baths could be pretty creepy as well."

    Dean, are you so out of touch, and full of yourself that you don't think that the same attitude applies to the groupthink that is a daily occurrence on here?

    When you sling insults you leave yourself wide open.

    This place is the very definition of an echo chamber, and that has been highlighted in discussions on here numerous times before. If you can't acknowledge the flaws inherent in your own group, then your political analysis shouldn't be trusted, period.

    "As someone who's been on various email discussion lists for well over a decade, I'm amazed at the furor over this nonstory."

    Jesse, it's not just THIS story. It's becoming common on Reason in general. I've been on this blog for years, and I can honestly say that this blog is turning into a wacko playground. Maybe it's rising unemployment, but R.C. Dean already assured us that there's nothing to worry about. Not everyone has lost their house yet!

    These kinds of stories would normally bring out the playful snarkiness in the movement, but since the election, trivial stories like this one have become these bizarre galvanizing moments for people on here.

    It's both intriguing to witness, yet disappointing when you consider how intellectually shallow the discussions have become.

  • ||

    This place is the very definition of an echo chamber, and that has been highlighted in discussions on here numerous times before.

    I don't really agree, but with joe gone the Force has become dangerously unbalanced. It's a possibilty that people were just resigned to the status quo of the previous administration but are freshly mouth-frothy at the new one.

  • ||

    I'm just an intellectual middleweight and I can't restore balance to the Force. But like they say in Street Fighter, or so my hopes go, Here Comes a New Challenger.

  • anon||

    Ok, can someone please explain the "chas freeman out" joke that's on all these blogs. I don't get it.

    Yes, you can insult me for my idiocy first- I figure it's SOP for blog posting.

  • Foobar Bingbaz||

    Right Wing Realist asks: "Were there any non-opinion journalists" involved?

    "non-opinion journalists"

    Haaaaahahahaha!!

  • ||

    "This place is the very definition of an echo chamber, and that has been highlighted in discussions on here numerous times before."

    You clearly don't read it or if you do don't understand it. I rarely if ever agree with anything Fluffy has to say. On economic policy the monetarists and the Austrian gold bugs are always at each other's throats. There is a sizable and vocal minority that supports the war. The only subject that it is an echo chamber on is the war on drugs. But frankly there really aren't any reasonable arguments for the war on drugs so I don't see how it can't be. Juanita is as probably as good a representation of the prohibitionist view as any. It really is that crazy.

  • ||

    "I don't really agree, but with joe gone the Force has become dangerously unbalanced."

    There is a prinicpled pro-state collectivist argument to be made. The problem is that that argument to be principled necessarily includes going after Democrats. Joe refused to ever criticize anyone with a (D) after his name. He isn't really missed.

  • ||

    This illustrates another fundamental divergence in lifestyle between the poles. Right-wing journalists probably run a guild on WoW.

    That resto orc shaman who ninja'd a drop in Naxx last Sunday? Brit Hume. SCANDAL.

  • ||

    I look at Greenwald, Kos, Klein, Alterman and the whole crew and I am left wondering why it is that every leftwing journalist or blogger is a beta male douschebag. I can't imagine having to have dinner with one of them letalone be on a list serve with them.

  • Mike DeSoto||

    "There is probably general agreement on the stupidity of today's GOP," he said. "But beyond that, I would say there is wide disagreement on trade, Israel, how exactly we got into this recession/depression and how to get out of it, the brilliance of various punk bands that I have never heard of, and on whether, at any given moment, the Obama administration is doing the right thing."



    You could substitute the words "Democratic party" and "Bush" for "GOP" and "Obama" and most Republicans would nod their heads in agreement.

  • ||

    Uhm, Eric Alterman? Author of "What Liberal Media"? Irony is dead.

  • Mike DeSoto||

    Why does anybody care? Does anybody think private off the record mail lists are not very common, or worse, sinister?

    We just think that it's amusing that people on the left are doing the sorts of things which, in their nightmares, the right would do.

    Try to imagine, to begin with, that the media was packed wth rightwingers. And that it had gotten that way via the same mechanism the left used to take it over.

    Then imagine that people in the BusHitler regime were having private discussions with the self-proclaimed "objective media". Now imagine the reaction of the left.

  • peter Jackson||

    Nothing that the predominately leftist mainstream media did would bother me, ever, if they would simply cop to their bias and argue their point of view. It's their incessant, bald-faced, insistent lying that they are neutral that's the problem. It doesn't merely muddy the waters, it's bad faith, plain and simple; it's not civilized behavior.

    yours/
    peter

  • Jim Treacher||

    As someone who's been on various email discussion lists for well over a decade, I'm amazed at the furor over this nonstory.



    Let them eat cake.

  • ||

    I see Ross outed himself as a 'friendly righty', is Brooks also on the list?

  • ||

    JournoList is the Party line conference of the far left. Its purpose is to prevent publication of the contradictions that are inherent in the emotion based philosophy of its members and thus avoid embarrassing question from people who actually think.

  • ||

    My question is, if these guys removed themselves from the public debate, how much would we be missing? Judis is the guy who cowrote a book on why Democratic electoral victory was guaranteed from now on-- shortly before W's reelection. Brad DeLong explains economics well once in a while, but is 10 parts partisan shill to every one of that. Guys like Klein and Yglesias... I have never seen any reason why I should take them more seriously than any other random blogger. Really, if a bus with Journolist in it drove off a cliff, who would be the real loss to the intellectual life of the Left?

  • ||

    Mike,

    You are right. None of these guys write anything beyond the typical beltway liberal conventional wisdom. Anyone who is paying attention can figure out what that is on thier own. Hell, the old reason comment threads when Joe was on here and pretty much get everything these clowns have to say. What annoys me about these guys is how smug they are. They really think that they are smarter than everyone else and that they are a bunch of independent deep thinkers when in reality they are anything but. If the bus runs off the cliff, it is a short bus.

  • ||

    I would love to have the skill to hack into that list and publish the archive. I bet there is some amazingly offensive and stupid shit on it. They are so defensive and secretive about it because they have something to be embarassed about.

  • ||

    Proof of de Tocquville's observation that intellect proceeds directly from God and man cannot prevent its unequal distribution. They are secretive because they don't want someone to say,"I know that guy and he is a stupid ass".

  • sfcmac||

    Advice for the leftwingnut 'listserv': Get up off your knees and wipe your chins.

  • ||

    "Advice for the leftwingnut 'listserv': Get up off your knees and wipe your chins."

    But Obama promised to respect them in the morning

  • ||

    Look, I know that there are those who hate John Edwards, but Edwards is truly a good man. He made a mistake, true enough, but he's despised by the Ezra Kleins, the elitists of the left.. in fact, Zack Exley's minions infiltrated his campaign staff and sought to erode support from within, to push support to Obama's campaign.

    Ezra Klein is a fascist, and Matt's turning Klein's snarky response about empiricism, was spot on. They hide away on that listserv to basically make sure that the rest don't stray from group think, as well as for other reasons.

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