Memewatch

Tom Lee weighs in on Taibbi, and, I think, nails it:

Naturally, I have no idea about any of this stuff other than feeling vaguely hostile toward Byron York. Still, I was a little uncomfortable when I first read that exchange: Taibbi's scolding about credit default swaps came at a time when a lot of other people on the internet were also suddenly speaking knowledgeably about the financial meltdown and the rarified financial instruments to blame for it. That wave of spontaneous expertise seemed to occur suspiciously shortly after the air date of an episode of This American Life that discussed the crises and CDSes in particular.

Which is not to say that TAL is wrong; I listened to that episode, too, and it seemed excellent! But it's been both amusing and off-putting to see so many people brazenly parroting the same single News Source White People Like. I have no idea if this criticism actually applies to Taibbi, but the conversation between him and York certainly made it sound like it could.

I used to call it NYRB syndrome:  the mysterious process by which everyone in Manhattan read all the books reviewed in the NYRB, and also, agreed with the reviewer.  Now it seems like the disease may be multifactorial, and more prevalent than previously expected.  A little knowledge is a dangerous thing--at least until you learn enough to know how much you don't know.

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Megan McArdle is a columnist at Bloomberg View and a former senior editor at The Atlantic. Her new book is The Up Side of Down.

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