Silly Season

With the approaching presidential elections we enter the Silly Season, when otherwise sensible and knowledgeable people abandon all reason to make some of the most ridiculous arguments to advance the interests of one candidate or another.  I completely understand why smart people make these really dumb remarks — they love hearing themselves talk, the are indulging fantasies of being able to influence events over which they have virtually no actual influence, it is part of their job, etc…

But that raises something that I don’t understand at all: why does anyone pay these people to spout nonsense?  I can’t see that it does anyone any good.  I don’t believe that raving on Twitter makes any difference to how anyone will vote.  I find it hard to believe that anyone derives entertainment value from their dribble.  So why does someone voluntarily hand money to individuals or organizations that revel in the Silly Season?

I think I may have discovered an answer while watching a production of Twelfth Night the other day.  I noticed that everyone keeps handing Feste, the fool, money even though he almost never does what they want.  In fact, he mostly makes fun of his patrons for which they hand him gold.  They often do so just to make him go away.  Andy maybe that is the solution to the mystery of why anyone pays the babbling idiots of Silly Season.  It isn’t because they benefit from the nonsense; it is just that they wish the fools will spout nonsense about someone else.

Of course, the babbling idiots of Silly Season are not nearly as insightful and clever as Feste, so perhaps another example might better illustrate why they are paid.  I was recently walking on Bourbon Street and saw the world’s oldest profession.  As the saying goes, they aren’t paid for their services; they are paid to leave.

And in case you need some examples of the nonsense spouted during the Silly Season here are some:

New York Times blogger, Nate Silver, recently tweeted this spin to the abysmal job numbers: “This jobs report is no big deal. Every economy has a few bad decades.”  Um, OK.  And he also tweeted this: “Per capita global GDP did not grow AT ALL between 2000 B.C. and the Industrial Revolution. We’re just reverting to the mean!”  Unless this was meant to be satire, these are remarkably stupid things for a smart guy to say.

Slate columnist and perpetual windbag, Matt Yglesias, provided this spin: “Impressed by conservatives ability to pretend to believe that Obama is 100% responsible for events 1.5 years into divided government.”  One can just imagine how he would crow about Obama’s genius if the circumstances were opposite.

And Kevin Carey, who is somehow considered an expert despite never having conducted a rigorous study or had any significant experience, offers this talking point: “Romney’s education platform is a sign of how swiftly the consensus Republican position on education has been overwhelmed by… the economic interests of big business.”  I didn’t see anything in his piece showing that Romney’s education proposal served the interests of big business, but he just needed to throw that in there to keep the meme going.

I apologize for citing only only pro-Obama examples because I could just as easily find a steady stream of silliness from the pro-Romney side.  These were just the first few to catch my eye and I’m too lazy to dig up more.  Unlike these ladies of the night, I don’t get paid for blogging and spouting nonsense.

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6 Responses to Silly Season

  1. Greg Forster says:

    Political actors need a veneer of legitimacy to conceal (mostly from themselves, though to a certain extent from others, too) the real nature of what they’re doing. The Festes of the political world provide this, and relatively cheap compared to the value they provide. Plentiful supply, minimal production cost and low barriers to entry keep prices low in spite of high demand.

    Those Nate Silver comments do come across as ironic to me. And while Yglesias may well be for sale for all I know, I think you mean Slate.

  2. Thanks for catching my Freudian slip… Sale instead of Slate. I’ve corrected it.

    And I suspect you may be right about Nate Silver being ironic. But one of the problems with Twitter addicts is that they can never develop an idea (or satire) in 144 characters. The medium is designed for Silly Season at all times.

  3. You know some things are just too important and tragic to be useful sources for irony. Lack of economic growth fits that bill.

    Jay-I feel that way about some of the proclamations coming out of Fordham on Common Core that indicate they simply accept everything at face value. Without looking further into just how critical the implementation phase is and how much paid scholarship, like the Rand Change Agent Study of the 1970s, has gone into forcing fidelity of implementation this time.

    And the vision they are to be faithful to has little to do with the content of the CCSS. That is to be merely “experienced” and interacted with. Usually as a group activity.

    So my thought in the end is I know that’s wrong and Fordham’s writers are getting salaries and health insurance.

  4. Alsadius says:

    Nate Silver was blogging the other day about how these economic numbers are going to hammer Obama’s chances. I feel pretty confident that those remarks are satire.

  5. Ok. Forget Nate silver’s example. The point still holds.

  6. Alsadius says:

    Oh, sure, there’s no shortage of dumb things pundits say. We can all agree on that.

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