Obama System, ‘the Optimizer,’ Targeted TV Viewers for Support – NYTimes.com

Obama System, ‘the Optimizer,’ Targeted TV Viewers for Support – NYTimes.com.


The history of the successful 2012 Obama campaign, and that of the failed Romney, uhm, effort, is being written. It comes down to differing approaches to “reality,” that is, the actuality of people in their milieu–cultural, social, economic. The evidence from the Republicans points to a culture of utter disregard to reality and belief in their own beliefs. But this, I’ve suggested, is simply symptomatic of the right-wing arc since Reagan, whose “morning in America” cheerfully announced that reality did not matter–a point that swirled in the cultural mind with “don’t worry be happy” like thick honey.

More interesting, and as the article I cite suggests, there is in fact an extraordinary change going on in public political commentary–and to a degree, academic, though I suspect that group has been exasperated for some time by the obtuse reticence to meet reality directly of many in the field. 

That change is the radical move away from an exegetical tactic of interpretation to a numerical analysis. The former is a kind of interpretive appreciation that invokes the critic’s experience, judgement and basic knowledge to arrive at an assertion whose truth value survived not on the basis of its falsifiability (as Nate Silver has pointed out, being wrong, really really wrong, is not fatal to the career of a pundit) as on the supposed plausibility of the account. Plausibility here would mean something like, “yes, that makes intuitive sense” to the reader. Again, not falsifiable, that is, not provable or disprovable, not even by evidence: after all, errors are always possible.

But why be wrong at all? And what does this supposed interpretation give us that is not given better by a rigorous account and rigorous methodology that provides falsifiable–right/wrong–answers? 

About the only thing that the cadre of professional pundits has to claim for itself as valuable is itself. But perhaps there ought to be a reassessment of this claim for value. Because right now, the evidence very strongly suggests that there is a lot more value in looking at the data openly, and with real accountability as to method and outcome, than in gut feelings. Who wants to be wrong when one can be right?

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