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October 05, 2010


The Hurd and Rohwedder study, which according to its authors found "that the effects of the recession are widespread," is interesting in three respects. First, though it purports to be a study of the certain economic facts, the basis for those facts is self-reporting, so in truth it is reporting only the perception of the respondents, not whether those perceptions are accurate. Second, though it purports to find that these "facts" are the result of the recession, it merely assumes causality. Third, because no pre-recession benchmarks are presented, even whether there is a change from pre-recession levels to recession levels is unproved.

Knowledge of what the public's perceptions were of their economic circumstances during the three periods studied may well be useful. However, to magify the significance of that very limited finding to purport to find consequences of the recession is to engage in unscientific speculation. That the authors are probably correct in that speculation doesn't modify the conclusion that they have mischaracterized what it is their research found and substituted punditry for rigor. In an age of careerism and egotism, it's not surprising that these social scientists would fall prey to the temptation to puff up their modest research; in doing so, they're simply following the example of some physical scientists. (Climatologists, I'm talkin' 'bout you!) But that doesn't make it any less regrettable.

Brendan -

I don't ses a link to the "obscure black nationalists" you refer in the Levi Johnston tweet. to what exactly are you referring?

Both are obscure figures from the other side of the political spectrum who are brought on to cable news shows to be ridiculed.

I guess I missed the "obscure black nationalists" that were ridiculed on cable TV... a link to this event would have been helpful.

Here's an excerpt from a Dave Weigel post on Andrew Sullivan's blog:


I don't really get a chance to watch TV in Unalaska, and the one thing I miss is Megyn Kelly of Fox News. The last week or so of her work -- her one woman crusade against the New Black Panther Party -- has been truly riveting television. Kelly widens her eyes in a way that bespeaks both horror and anger at the subject she's reporting on. "Shocking new video," she'll say, introducing a clip of the Panthers acting like idiots and yelling about "crackers" at a Philadelphia street festival. "We have a DOJ whistleblower alleging there is a discriminatory policy at the DOJ voting rights section," she'll say, "and no one seems to give a darn." It's the "darn" that ties this together -- she's not just a journalist, she's a concerned citizen who has to bring you this story before it's. Too. Late.

The people who grab these videos for the web use the same cliches to title them. "Megyn Kelly DESTROYS Kirsten Powers on New Black Panther Case" says one of them; "Megyn Kelly schools lib pundit over New Black Panthers Party." But why is she doing so many stories on the Panthers? It's because Fox News uses the Panthers the way that Phil Donohue used to use the KKK or G.G. Allin. They're good on TV. The difference between the Panthers and other freakish groups that look good on the air, of course, is that that they threaten white people.

How often does Fox bring on the Panthers, or talk about them? A Lexis-Nexis search finds 68 mentions of "Malik Zulu Shabazz," a leader of the NBPP. The majority are appearances on Fox News, where Shabazz is repeatedly brought on to act as a foolish, anti-Semitic punching bag.

So a member of a group that has been accused of being involved in voter intimidation is just an "obscure fringe figure to ridicule" - not dis-similiar to a young man whose only fame is siring a republican policitian's grandchild?

That a rather unusual way to look at it...

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