Nate Silver usually struck me as workmanlike, sober, and grounded, not the stuff of self-embarrassment. Then I came across this daft, incredibly flippant item that he published earlier tonight, while New York State presidential primary returns were being tabulated (H/T Freddie DeBoer):
I live within a few blocks of Madison Square Garden–close enough that I can see it from my apartment–and few things annoy me more than being stuck at home when I could be at a New York Rangers playoff game. Unfortunately, the state of New York decided to schedule presidential primaries for April 19, failing to anticipate that they’d conflict with Game 3 of the Rangers’ opening-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The game is tied 0-0 after a scrappy first period. Chris Kreider had appeared to score a goal for the Rangers, but the goal was disallowed by superdelegates after a replay revealed the Rangers were offside on the play.
This falsely modest, pseudo-self-deprecating, kinda maybe sarcastic twit is a B-list political meta-pundit popularized by the New York Times and widely celebrated as a master statistician. Silver is no Milton Street. He’s part of an in crowd so self-serious that it makes John Hickenlooper sound like James Traficant addressing Congress about the human yearning for wider bottoms. These people don’t actually make fun of themselves; they’re deathly afraid that real modesty would ruin their juju. Put another way, they don’t operate in an aboveboard enough fashion to be trusted or tolerated when they dabble in anything resembling sarcasm. They consider themselves the proper masters and operators of the Overton Window. A free, self-governing society does not tolerate leaders who flip on a whim from a gratingly earnest death grip on the tiller to coy, passive-aggressive assertions of quasi-humor and quasi-sarcasm. That right there isn’t humility; it’s gaslighting.
The fucking Rangers, though. By Bruce Springsteen’s reckoning, they had a homecoming in Harlem late last night, but that story becomes far too rawdog far too quickly for Nate Silver’s tastes. Some young woman with an old soul watches her gangster boyfriend die in an ambulance after a gunfight, or something to that effect, as happens sometimes in real life. Meanwhile, Midtown motherfucker is claiming to be annoyed with the State of New York for holding an election opposite a cherished hockey match, forcing him to spend part of the night on his (very well compensated) job talking the story of political numbers for other mandarins instead of watching his boys beat the shit out of yinzers. Not only that, he wants us to appreciate his wonderfully intersectional sense of humor synthesizing the rule-bound competitions of politics and sport, like he’s the fucking Clausewitz of the ice.
I have had the misfortune of becoming acquainted with probably dozens of equally shitty peers at Dickinson, plus a few administrators of the same rotten character. They are to socioeconomics and institutional governance precisely what Nate Silver is to political commentary: condescending, self-righteous, self-serious, more-educated-than-thou turdbuckets who go around acting like their own shit doesn’t stink and then making a show of taking offense and scandal whenever someone has the adult temerity to announce that serious, articulable problems have arisen, demanding a prompt, serious response. These are people who cherish power, not duty; form, not function. It shouldn’t be too hard to see how Bill Durden was a good cultural fit with these shitheads. For Dickinsonians, however, it is too hard to see. Their collective mind’s eye has all the visual acuity of Stevie Wonder.
But for the grace of God and a wire transfer from my parents in the nick of time, I might well be spending a third consecutive night in my car right now. I have absolutely no sympathy for a self-serious political analyst of national stature passive-aggressively whining about how a major election in the state where he currently lives conflicted with a fucking hockey game that he wanted to watch live. He should be eating leftover pizza out of a trash can in Washington Heights for all the negative utility he insists on delivering to his society under the imprimatur of its largest city’s newspaper of record. Romans of the late Empire are said to have been no less fascinated by sports.
There’s no bottom to the slime mass of overpaid professionals who treat politics, policy, civics, the mechanisms of government, and really everything else possibly having a bearing on the commonweal as nothing more serious than a game of Risk. They’ll LARP us to death if we don’t tell them no. In some circumstances, they won’t heed anything less than systemic rioting. Remember, there’s a great deal of overlap between Nate Silver’s crowd, the crowd that has gotten us all tied up in everyone else’s business in the Middle East, and the officials who dictate policing in our ghettos.
Sometimes I think we ought to bring back “college boy” as a slur. All too much of what the American academy is producing today, especially at its highest reaches, is dishonest, fourth-rate pseudointellectuals who construe their own proto-oligarchical self-dealing as leadership, even noblesse oblige. They probably do this because no one around them has the wherewithal and the principle to tell them to shut the fuck up for being such insufferably arrogant and destructive assholes. There’s no end to the yuppie scum choking out everything in its path and refusing to go home.