Political Pundit Nate Silver Has Bad Ideas About College Protests

CulturePalestine Nate Silver
Political Pundit Nate Silver Has Bad Ideas About College Protests

If you don’t know who Nate Silver is, congratulations on your normieness and know that as deeply honored as I am to be Editor-in-Chief of Splinter, there is a significantly damaged part of my brain that would switch places with you in an instant. It yearns for the normie life, but as much as it wishes to know absolutely nothing I currently do, the rest of my brain will never let that happen.

Silver first became famous through baseball. He created the PECOTA projections that are one of the sport’s foundational sabermetric constructs that endure to this day. He’s had a fair amount of success playing poker too. Part of him is really, really smart.

But like me, the part of him in control will never let that other part fully take over, and I will go to my grave believing that in 2008, Nate Silver made the same deal with the devil the Boston Red Sox did in 2003 after Aaron Boone and the New York Yankees delivered perhaps the biggest heartbreak yet in one of baseball’s oldest and fiercest rivalries.

As Boone touched home to officially send the Yankees to the World Series, the Red Sox were teleported to hell and they begged the devil for salvation. He promised them he would give them everything they ever wanted, and in return he would ask for just one thing: that afterwards, they become the thing they hate most in this world.

Anyone who watched Silver’s trajectory unfold alongside the post-2004 Red Sox as they Yankee-fied themselves knows what I’m talking about.

Silver famously hated political punditry and he was right. In 2008, it was stale, outdated and bereft of any serious analysis (also known as the default status of mainstream political punditry). Silver brought his baseball and poker math skills to the political arena, and predicted 99 of the next 100 states correct across two Barack Obama administrations which reshaped the political world (around celebrity).

The press reacted to Silver’s genuinely impressive accomplishment with astonishment, as their slate of “I talked to one guy in Ohio, so John McCain is going to win”-style analysts utterly failed them in an election that realigned the political map. He became a star for nerds, and founded the data journalism website FiveThirtyEight that was eventually bought by ABC News. It did and does good data analysis, but after a while, Silver seemed to lose interest in the math, and began to spend a lot of time antagonizing the left on Twitter.

Allured by the siren song of cable news bookers, he began a journey into political punditry that now is so stale, outdated, and bereft of any serious analysis I can almost hear Charlie Daniels start plucking his violin every time I read Silver’s posts.

Nate Silver, University of Chicago grad, former special correspondent for ABC News, and one of Time‘s 2009 One-Hundred Most Influential People, took one look at the show the press and their allies in power are putting on at Columbia University, and decided that gosh darnit, kids these days shouldn’t be protesting at Columbia, they should be drinking beer at a good apolitical state football school like Texas!

Fuck you Nate. Some of us aren’t dainty little ivory tower sissies and can do both. It’s pretty astonishing that a sports fan who lived through the Colin Kaepernick saga seems to think that liking football and caring about politics and acting on it exist independently of one another. This is a pretty big window into his and everyone else’s worldview like his who can’t seem to understand the moral revulsion young people are expressing in response to an American-backed genocide.

Not to mention that his implication that activism is empirically bad on the merits is pure pig ideology that he tries to put wonk lipstick on. There are some studies like this one from the University of Michigan asserting that activism at a young age actually makes people better critical thinkers.

Like Silver wants, I spent most of my time in college destroying brain cells at an alarming rate, hanging out with my girlfriend, and going to every University of Massachusetts hockey, basketball and football game with thousands of my friends—but I still had plenty of time left over to harass George W. Bush’s chief of staff Andrew Card out of graduation over the Iraq War along with those same thousands of friends.

The booing of our elite and esteemed guest speaker comprised a huge percentage of the commencement ceremony. I even saw professors jeering him, and you don’t have to take my word for it. Mother Jones felt it was significant enough to cover, and they also described it as such in 2007.

The video above of police arresting a journalist (only in Donald Trump Joe Biden’s America, amirite folks?) is the tip of the iceberg of intense images of protest coming out of Texas. This one will stick with me for a while.

Nate, turn your television off and go outside. One of those very state schools you believe to be an idyllic version of what an apolitical college experience should be produced this guy telling you to go fuck yourself. Just because all your elite friends in media and politics are mad about what their kids are doing at the Ivies doesn’t mean that’s the only place where activism is taking place.

There is activism on a ton of college campuses right now because generally speaking, most activists are young people. Missing this extremely obvious point that applies to a general population in favor of assigning it to a specific sample that fits his narrow and cloistered worldview is…well…it’s exactly what Nate Silver hated about political analysis when he got into this game. The symmetry is so beautiful it makes me want to cry.

He wrote a far more reasonable article on Substack elaborating on this point, proving that even though his pundit brain is clearly in control, his logical brain still is in there kicking good ideas around. The piece was more specific about the various problems with elite colleges and I actually agree with most of it. His general prescription that good state schools are mostly preferable to the Ivy Leagues is correct, even just on the finances alone. I cannot recommend the University of Massachusetts enough; it was the greatest decision I’ve ever made.

The tweets above were part of a thread he admittedly used to “blatantly shill for this newsletter” that is about a lot of different things, and left-wing politics is not at the forefront of most of his points in it. The fact that he used this opportunity to punch left with gross generalizations and wrongheaded assumptions reveals what Nate Silver really wants, and it’s to be like everyone he hated in 2008.

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