Since nailing the election last month, Nate Silver has a run a path of destruction through his doubters. Unskewed polls? Repented. Joe Scarborough? Said sorry. David Brooks? Ha. Only one doubter remains: Dylan Byers, the media reporter at Politico, who
called asked if Silver was a one-term celebrity and is now clinging to the deafening noise of punditry to combat the unstoppable number wizard. "Nate Silver: 'Punditry is fundamentally useless" reads the headline of a Byers post today, in which he recounts another Politico recounting of a talk last night with Silver, who has been chiding Byers and pundits at large since Election Day.
If you're on Byers's side, you're supposed to guffaw at the idea that punditry is for suckers — you're supposed to believe Nate Silver is fundamentally wrong. "This may overlook the degree to which punditry affects perception to political events, and thus polling data," writes Byers. "It may also overlook the degree to which Silver, though primarily a statistician, also engages in punditry in order to speculate on outcomes." Oh, snap. Those are fighting words. Did you see that? That's nerd talk for: We control you, Silver / Luke, I am Your Father. And take a glance at Byers's Twitter feed — he's making sure everyone knows that there are people who agree with him:
And another RT:
Now what would make a reporter like Byers defend talking heads? As Silver said in last night's talk with Jonathan Karl, "[W]here reporting is very, very important and journalism is very, very important, and there are some things about campaign coverage that I might critique. Whereas punditry is fundamentally useless." The punditry vs. reporting divide has been the stuff of journalism school for years, and while Politico has been known to give in to excessive punditry, and has been accused of peddling it, they did just honor the best new political reporters of 2012.
Except, well, a few weeks ago Silver accused Politico of "trying to start trouble," indirectly accusing the site of pushing that kind of pundit-fueled horse-race journalism. All this in reaction to that aggressively incorrect "one-term celebrity" column by Byers. Here's what Silver told ESPN's Bill Simmons:
Politico is a "who won the day" kind of thing, right? They're trying to cover (politics) it like it's sports but not in an intelligent way at all. They want to create noise, basically. Their whole thing is you have to have a lead story about some gaffe that somebody made on the campaign trail ... In politics, you can have a whole month where nothing of any import- whatsoever happens. But you still have to have Politico produce a paper seven times a week...
Obviously there's something a bit more personal here than just defending the honor of punditry. And, no, Dylan Byers probably wouldn't be fighting so hard if Nate Silver were actually just a one-term celebrity. He's not.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.