The blogosphere and thought leaders

by Judith Curry

Little boys and girls in ancient Athens grew up wanting to be philosophers. In Renaissance Florence they dreamed of becoming Humanists. But now a new phrase and a new intellectual paragon has emerged to command our admiration: The Thought Leader. – David Brooks

David Brooks

David Brooks has an entertaining piece called The thought leader.  Excerpts:

[A] new phrase and a new intellectual paragon has emerged to command our admiration: The Thought Leader.

The Thought Leader is sort of a highflying, good-doing yacht-to-yacht concept peddler. Each year, he gets to speak at the Clinton Global Initiative, where successful people gather to express compassion for those not invited.

He doesn’t have students, but he does have clients. He doesn’t have dark nights of the soul, but his eyes blaze at the echo of the words “breakout session.”

Many people wonder how they too can become Thought Leaders and what the life cycle of one looks like.

In fact, the calling usually starts young. As a college student, the future Thought Leader is bathed in attention. On campus he finds himself enmeshed in a new social contract: Young people provide their middle-aged professors with optimism and flattery, and the professors provide them with grade inflation.

Not armed with fascinating ideas but with the desire to have some, he launches off into the great struggle for attention. At first his prose is upbeat and smarmy, with a peppy faux sincerity associated with professional cheerleading.

Within a few years, though, his mood has shifted from smarm to snark. There is no writer so obscure as a 26-year-old writer. So he is suddenly consumed by ambition anxiety — the desperate need to prove that he is superior in sensibility to people who are superior to him in status.

Fortunately, this snarky phase doesn’t last. By his late 20s, he has taken a job he detests in a consulting firm, offering his colleagues strategy memos and sexual tension. By his early 30s, his soul has been so thoroughly crushed he’s incapable of thinking outside of consultantese.

The middle-aged Thought Leader’s life has hit equilibrium, composed of work, children and Bikram yoga. The desire to be snarky mysteriously vanishes with the birth of the first child. His prose has never been so lacking in irony and affect, just the clean translucence of selling out.

By his late 50s, the Thought Leader is a lion of his industry, but he is bruised by snarky comments from new versions of his formerly jerkish self. Of course, this is when he utters his cries for civility and good manners, which are really just pleas for mercy to spare his tender spots.

Toward the end of his life the Thought Leader is regularly engaging in a phenomenon known as the powerless lunch. He and another formerly prominent person gather to have a portentous conversation of no importance whatsoever. In the fading of the light, he is gravely concerned about the way everything is going to hell.

Paul Krugman

Motivated by Brooks piece, Paul Krugman writes The Facebooking of Economics.  Excerpts:

It used to be the case that to have a role in the economics discourse you had to have formal credentials and a position of authority; you had to be a tenured professor at a top school publishing in top journals, or a senior government official. Today the ongoing discourse, especially in macroeconomics, is much more free-form.

But you don’t get to play a major role in that discourse by publishing clever Slateish snark; you get there by saying smart things backed by data.

Obviously the web has changed a lot, although the process actually started even before the rise of blogs. Economics journals stopped being a way to communicate ideas at least 25 years ago, replaced by working papers; publication was more about certification for the purposes of tenure than anything else. Partly this was because of the long lags — by the time my most successful (though by no means best) academic paper was actually published, in 1991, there were around 150 derivative papers that I knew of, and the target zone literature was running into diminishing returns. Partly, also, it was because in some fields rigid ideologies blocked new ideas.

Anyway, at this point the real discussion in macro, and to a lesser extent in other fields, is taking place in the econoblogosphere. This is true even for research done at official institutions like the IMF and the Fed: people read their working papers online, and that’s how their work gets incorporated into the discourse.

So who are the players in this world?  I see a lot of solid professional economists; a number of equally solid economic journalists; and a few people who don’t fall into standard categories, but are by no means the kind of shallow operator Brooks describes.

Does this new, amorphous system work? Yes! In just the past few years we’ve had what I’d consider three classic economic debates. Of course most of the people on the losing side of these debates refuse to admit having been wrong, but it was ever thus — science progresses funeral by funeral and all that.

So don’t feel nostalgic for the days of authority figures dominating the discourse. Intellectually, in economics at least, these are the good old days.

JC comment:  Thinking about climate science, both of these essays provide some insights.  Like economic debates, the scientific and public debate on climate change is proceeding much faster than the peer reviewed journal process.  The Cowtan and Way paper is a case in point, in context of the intense public interest in the pause – within a week or two of publications, there was a plethora of analyses checking and interpreting this paper.  I also like Krugman’s statement: ‘rigid ideologies blocked new ideas.’

Foreshadowing these ideas, in my 2006 paper on Mixing politics and science . . . I wrote:

Some of the most relevant scientific debate on this topic is not being undertaken at meetings sponsored by the relevant professional societies and government agencies, but rather in the media and via blogs, and only slowly in the professional scientific journals. After reading The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century (Friedman 2005), we were prompted to reflect on how broadly the new technologies are influencing the scientific process on topics of high relevance. As pointed out by Friedman, the challenge is how to think about the new technologies and the associated changes that have irreversibly changed the intellectual commons and manage it to maximum effect. The new scientific process will eventually sort itself out among the new technologies, the need for the scientific review process, and the need for information by the public and policymakers. However, during this sorting-out period (which may end up being a period of continual evolution as new technologies emerge), the use of science to inform policy, particularly on issues of high relevance, will almost certainly become confused with the decentralization of scientific authority previously vested in scientists that have published on the subject in refereed journals. While this decentralization provides a better guarantee that the best possible information and analysis is out there somewhere, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify the best information and analysis in this new environment, providing more fodder for the politicization of science.

This decentralization of intellectual authority is overall a good thing, although David Brooks satirically describes the emergence of a rather shallow group that in the climate field may be bloggers, consultants, or employed by advocacy groups.  I’m intrigued by Brooks’ description of the evolution of such individuals; I have seen people enter into this arena at all stages of life – from college age to post retirement.  Twenty- and thirty-somethings don’t have a monopoly on snark, it is alive and well in more senior bloggers (William Connolley immediately comes to mind).  There may be a mellowing with age effect – I used to find Gavin Schmidt to be extremely snarky; I find him less so now.   Which of these individuals successfully emerge as thought leaders?  Well I think getting rid of the snark seems to be a prerequisite for making it into the major leagues (not sure if I count making it into the Guardian or HuffPo as ‘major leagues’).  People who actually do analysis that is meaningful in an academic context (even if they choose not to publish in academic journals) seems to be another prerequisite.

The bottom line is that fields with high societal relevance – economics and climate change are prime examples – is that thought leadership requires a response time substantially more rapid that the academic publication and comment/response cycle.  Blogs and working papers posted on the internet are moving the scientific and public debate much more rapidly than was previously possible.  Rapid publication in online discussion journals is arguably a compromise between slower traditional academic publishing and the wild west of the blogosphere.

From my perspective as a university researcher in a field with high societal relevance, it seems that the reward structures and way we educate students is not well suited to this brave new world.

136 responses to “The blogosphere and thought leaders

  1. Hand on heart, I am fine, but I do worry that the way lab leaders, who are good at politics, get funding to hire young scientists and work them into the ground, using their ideas and work, to get more funding to employ more young, keen and hungry workers.
    We currently have a generation of aristocrats, held aloft by the toil of the unlanded. It is hell on the women in particular.

    • The first victim was the veracity of information published.

    • Thanks for demonstrating your PC bonafides. Although you mentioned women, you forgot to say it’s even worse for minorities and the LGBT crowd. Also, you should clearly point out that the aristocrats are OWMs. Finally, if you are a YWM, you should step aside and allow some minority to have your slot. After all, you didn’t really earn your degrees, but they did.

  2. Thanks, Professor Curry.

    Serious flaws in science journals have encouraged curious minds to look for other avenues to factual information.

    • “This decentralization of intellectual authority is overall a good thing, . . .” because loss of integrity in government science resulted from loss of integrity in constitutional government.

      Instead of reaping benefits from the last paragraph of Aston’s 1922 Nobel Lecture on a new “power beyond the dreams of scientific fiction,”

      http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/1922/

      Nuclear and solar physics were compromised and the survival of mankind put at risk in a futile effort to save the world from nuclear annihilation after WWII.

  3. “But you don’t get to play a major role in that discourse by publishing clever Slateish snark; you get there by saying smart things backed by data.”

    Krugman must not read his own columns. Which would explain a lot.

  4. > Little boys and girls in ancient Athens grew up wanting to be philosophers.

    Citation needed.

  5. Judith, I have always know him as Paul, not Tom Krugman.

  6. Brook’s description reminds me of him and for that matter Paul Krugman as well.

  7. omanuel wrote:
    Serious flaws in science journals have encouraged curious minds to look for other avenues to factual information.

    Serious flaws in consensus climate theory has encouraged curious minds to look for other avenues for factual information.

    Seventeen years of flawed forecasts have encouraged curious minds to look for other theories.

    If you are wrong for seventeen years, you are wrong. You have had more than enough time to cover up your mistakes and you failed.

  8. From my perspective as a university researcher in a field with high societal relevance, it seems that the reward structures and way we educate students is not well suited to this brave new world.

    Good point.

  9. Dr. Curry, you say “Friedman” instead of Krugman just a little into your remarks. Progly wanna fixit.

  10. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Thought leaders

    Wanna lead? Go ahead.

    Discourse at its finest.

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  11. After suffering more than one embarrassment for his snark, Gavin has simply adjusted his tactics. I doubt he has “mellowed” one iota.

  12. David Brooks: “Little boys and girls in ancient Athens grew up wanting to be philosophers. In Renaissance Florence they dreamed of becoming Humanists.”

    An aside, but these two assertions are preposterous. Only someone who knows nothing about ancient Athens and Renaissance Florence would utter such silliness. Philosophy, however defined, was largely an elite and esoteric activity in ancient Athens (and virtually any other time and place). The existence of some famous philosophers is no evidence that some large proportion of “boys and girls” in that era dreamed of becoming philosophers. Similarly, in Renaissance Florence, studying to become a lettered “humanist” (however defined) was very far from a common pursuit, if one considers the population as a whole. (Of course the addition of “and girls” is the kind of anachronism produced when people view the past through the lens of present beliefs — however much we lament it, the fact is that exceedingly few girls before recent generations were ever allowed or encouraged to grow up being educated to become philosophers or “Renaissance Humanists.)

    • Skiphil, Right, Philosophy action figures didn’t catch on until the 19th century.

      https://files.nyu.edu/iav202/public/powers/kant.html

    • > Philosophy, however defined, was largely an elite and esoteric activity in ancient Athens (and virtually any other time and place).

      Indeed, and it was also a discipline reserved to men who had had their public lives behind them.

      NW might appreciate that before doing philosophy, Plato suggested students do 10 years of maths, and before that, 10 years of sweeping.

      Paraphrasing, of course.

    • “David Brooks: “Little boys and girls in ancient Athens grew up wanting to be philosophers. In Renaissance Florence they dreamed of becoming Humanists.”

      translation. we know he is speaking metaphorically because of the silliness of the second statement. Thats your first clue students.

      Now, Translation

      “ ancient Athens is known and admired for its philosophers. Renaissance Florence is known and admired for its Humanists.”

      And we will be known for thought leaders, but thought leaders suck when compared to the great ideal past.

      Its like saying in the 50s boys grew up wanting to be Joe Dimaggio, today they want to be justin Bieber

      The point isnt not the factual accuracy of the desire. Its a way of figuratively speaking about what was best in that culture or time and trashing the present.

      Typical reactionary crap.

    • John Carpenter

      “Typical reactionary crap.”

      Well, some people take every word they read too literally. I see it happen here a lot and even participate at times myself. It gives yourself that ‘feel good’ illusion you know what your talking about…

    • Here’s a rewarding structure for the humanists:

      Bonfire of the Vanities (Italian: Falò delle vanità) refers to the burning of objects that are deemed to be occasions of sin. The most infamous one took place on 7 February 1497, when supporters of the Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola collected and publicly burned thousands of objects like cosmetics, art, and books in Florence, Italy, on the Mardi Gras festival.[1] Such bonfires were not invented by Savonarola, however. They were a common accompaniment to the outdoor sermons of San Bernardino di Siena in the first half of the century.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonfire_of_the_Vanities

    • “Well, some people take every word they read too literally. I see it happen here a lot and even participate at times myself. It gives yourself that ‘feel good’ illusion you know what your talking about…”

      I think its fun to take any text and read it like it is your bible an you have to find ways to defend it no matter what. it was fun to see people do that with climategate mails or any other text. watching what people do with other peoples texts is fascinating

    • I think its fun to take any text and read it like it is your bible an you have to find ways to defend it no matter what.

      Well thank you for that valuable insight into the mind of a practiced sophist Mosher.

      The giveaway with narcissistic sociopaths is that they simply cannot resist the temptation to boast, can they Mosher?

  13. How does Thought Leader differ from Very Serious Person? Inquiring minds want to know…

    • I would guess a Thought Leader goes to Davos, and Very Serious Person
      is suppose to be smart columnist. So Very Serious Person might write
      about Davos.

    • Good observation. One only has to think about folk like Thomas Friedman. The hacks have always been with us, and Brooks is the real deal As Charlie Pierce summed up this piece

      most little boys and girls in ancient Athens grew up wishing they weren’t slaves, and wishing they weren’t chasing sheep across a rocky hillside, and hoping they wouldn’t be dead of cholera before they were 15. In Renaissance Florence, they dreamed of not catching the Black Plague. Brooks seems to believe antiquity was populated entirely by over-educated spalpeens. Who was left to herd the goats, I ask you. And something can’t be both a phrase and a paragon, not even If You Capitalize It. Any little boy or girl in ancient Athens could have told you that.

      What Judith Curry misses, is that Brooks is talking about himself with no self-awareness, or maybe too much. Not surprising.

      Well, you start out being a coddled little genius nurtured by the think tanks and vanity publications and fanzines of the American right. Then you make a career out of whatever pop sociology text you read 10 minutes ago. Then you write a couple of books about how the American genius for mindless consumerism is the future of the country. Then you get a column in the New York Times. Unfortunately, there comes a conservative president who fks up everything from hell to breakfast, and all of the intellectual arboretums in which you were raised fall into disrepute. Dutch Elm disease of the mind become epidemic. So you backpedal as fast as you can, running over several of your previous selves in the process until you finally end up one day writing a column in which you pretend that you haven’t spent your adult life pumping your speaking fees and grazing the buffet tables at various brainiac circle jerks.

      Moral Hazard is still licking himself.

    • Steve Fitzpatrick

      Tom Fuller,
      “How does Thought Leader differ from Very Serious Person?”

      Hard to say for sure, but attending Davos is a strong indicator of being a Thought Leader. Ever having had anything to do with the Club of Rome group makes you a Thought Leader for certain. Laughing at the simultaneous foolishness, uselessness, and pomposity of those organizations makes it much more likely you are a Very Serious Person.

      I can suggest a few other ways to tell:

      1) Thought Leaders don’t actually accomplish much of anything useful. Very Serious people do actually accomplish useful things.
      2) Thought Leaders spend most of their time pontificating rubbish while simultaneously thinking themselves enormously important; a bit like drones wandering about in a bee hive.
      3) Thought leaders are almost always wrong when they make a meaningful prediction (that is, one which can be evaluated against reality within their lifetimes), while Very Serious people are usually right when they make meaningful predictions.
      4) Thought Leaders are immune to having reality change their views because they are ‘ideology centered'; they can’t actually learn anything new, and so over time begin to resemble useless idiots. Very Serious People learn their whole lives, because they are ‘reality centered’.
      5) Thought Leaders avoid, as best possible, making testable predictions, and focus instead on predictions which are extreme and frightening, but so distant that they will never be tested within the Thought Leader’s lifetime. These frightening predictions inevitably ‘demand’ large and immediate social changes and terrible economic disruption, which (surprise!) happen to align with the Thought Leader’s ideology.
      6) When a Thought Leader actually makes a testable prediction that turns out wrong (which is almost always), and that incorrect prediction is brought to their attention, they either a) deny outright they ever made the prediction, b) say the prediction is still true, but will happen “in the future”, or c) obfuscate endlessly. There is a lot of ‘Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?’ involved. The utter lack of humility combined with obscene chutzpa is almost breathtaking.
      7) Thought Leaders inevitably have a life of wealth and privilege. They live in mansions or luxury apartments, spend a lot of time on mega-yachts, and fly about the world in private jets, while insisting that others who are much less economically able make sacrifices for the ‘good of humanity’. The hypocrisy is almost breathtaking.

    • Agree Steve, but couple of corrections:

      3) Thought leaders are almost always wrong when they make a meaningful prediction (that is, one which can be evaluated against reality within their lifetimes), while Very Serious people are usually right when they make meaningful predictions.

      — My guess is that serious people do not make a lot of absolute predictions based on pseudo science be it climate related, economic, whatever;unlike thought leaders who are certain of future catastrophes.

      4) 4) Thought Leaders are immune to having reality change their views because they are ‘ideology centered’; they can’t actually learn anything new, and so over time begin to resemble useless idiots. Very Serious People learn their whole lives, because they are ‘reality centered’.

      – Unfortunately, I think the Thought Leaders are in fact the useful idiots of the left. They are easily manipulated and help with the indoctination process.

    • Charlie Pierce and the dumb bunny have no idea of the history of disease; Cholera was first described, by a British doctor, in Bengal, India in 1817.
      By 1823 it had spread to Russia, an outcome of the ‘Great Game’.
      in January 1831cholera had arrived in Hamburg.
      The first case in England was reported in October 1831, in Sunderland, and it hit the East End of London was on 12 February, 1832.

      So the ancient Greeks would not be worried about cholera.

      Some writers and posters should stick to what they know and steer clear of all else; especially hare-brained box-kineticists.

    • Have you ever wondered why there was “choler” in “cholera”, Doc?

      Here:

      Apart from the rather probable derivation from cholē (the word for bile and a dominant term in the humoral theory, which is of Hippocratic and not Galenic [1] provenance), one more hypothesis has been suggested. The word cholera, sometimes cholēdra, originally meant a gutter (4). Following this connection, cholera came to mean a pestiferous disease during which fluids are forcefully expelled from the body, resembling a gutter (4). This etymology-derived definition could suggest that Hippocrates and Galen, the prolific medical writers of antiquity who each in his time referred to cholera, may have witnessed cases of this infectious disease, albeit not in the epidemic form it took in ancient India (5).

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3309598/

      What were you saying about bunnies, Doc?

    • note your source indicates it wasnt an epidemic.
      hence children would probably not worry about it.

      What do you call people who nit pick hacks

    • Steve Fitzpatrick

      Willard,
      The Wiki page you linked to indicates the most likely cause for that plague was typhoid fever, not cholera. That page does not even mention cholera.

    • Exactly, Steve Fitzpatrick: our concept of cholera (and for that matter, plague) might not be the same as the one in Hippocrates’ time. One may even argue that this would be true even if it did refer to the same disease as we do, if only because the whole conceptual apparatus wasn’t the same.

      Belief revision might always be the plague of parsomatics.

    • stevefitzpatrick

      Willard,

      I wonder if you can understand how obscure, apparently irrelevant, and utterly impossible to understand that comment is; I suspect you can’t, or you would not have written it….. it seems to fail the Turing test.

      Lucia was right. A deus.

    • “our concept of cholera (and for that matter, plague) might not be the same as the one in Hippocrates’ time”
      Or just maybe that the doctors in the British Army at the time were gentlemen schooled in the classics. The symptoms of cholera, which are caused by cholera toxin halting the uptake of fluid from the large intestine, are easily described and not for the faint-hearted. Simply put, these are cholera beds

      http://media.nowpublic.net/images//e8/0/e806a9171f70da6be182d185d178dc8f.jpg

      and any fluid that goes into the patient, comes out of the patient, very, very quickly and contains, yellow, bacteria and bile.

      The skin color change in Caucasians is also easily described:

      http://www.branchcollective.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/Venetian-Woman-Wellcome.jpg

      I do suspect you missed your calling Willard. You should have been a soldier. You tenacity in defense of an untenable position is a lesson to all.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Steve Fitzpatrick. My own hypothesis is that you’re a precious patzer that should read of reference and belief before pontificating on obscurity. Meanwhile, let’s try one step at a time:

      The word “cholera” in ancient Greece may not refer to the same illness as us.

      Like all illnesses, the concept of cholera changed over time.

      Beliefs like fear do not depend upon their objects (e.g. cholera) alone.

      This should suffice to get my point: we have no reason to expect that the fear of cholera for a young Athenian should refer to what was discovered more than two thousand years afterward. In fact, to reconstruct the story that way is so misguided as to be evidence of sheer silliness. To use this as a gotcha in counterpoint to Charlie Pierce’s response might go beyond that, since it is irrelevant to his point was that we have little reason to believe that many young Athenians had the luxury to entertain the dream of becoming a thought leader, and even less to philosophize.

      My own point was that to become thought leaders, young Athenians may have needed to become (if not outright leaders) role models like sophists, special pleaders whom had the honesty not to portraying themselves as Honest Brokers.

      Indulge as much as you like in cheap ad homs, I’ll respond by retelling lukewarm stories about thought leadership.

      Hope this helps,

      w

    • Calling Brandon. We need another worthless hole drilled to nowhere.

      I do not know what diseases killed Greeks, and looking them up would be a complete waste of time. Cholera smolera is a good enough.

    • > I do suspect you missed your calling Willard. You should have been a soldier. You tenacity in defense of an untenable position is a lesson to all.

      There’s no evidence yet you even get the position I defend, Doc. I’m giving you the answers, and yet I need to spell them out for you.

      Here’s the TL;DR — A young Athenian might have feared plague above all else, even if that plague ain’t even plague as we know it.

      I leave heroic defenses to climate Spartans such as you, Doc.

      ***

      Speaking of which, I am sure you recall what Aristotle had to say about the requirements needed to study philosophy

    • willard,

      Don’t mess with Doc.

      Obviously Vibrio cholerae didn’t exist until described by the British in the 19th C.

      Very thought leading.

    • ‘Calling Brandon. We need another worthless hole drilled to nowhere.”

      why call Brandon when willard does such an excellent job of channeling his inner Brandon.

      In all of this people miss the trope that brooks is using. he is NOT giving a history of what Greek Children actually aspired to. He is not making a factual statement that is rebuttable by factual statements.

    • ­> such an excellent job of channeling his inner Brandon

      I never said that Brooks made no sense, nor have I dismissed his satire because of this fumble. I have not gloated in the most annoying way. So the accusation has no merit.

      Once upon a time, I did the Brandon at Keith’s. I did not sound like I do right now. It’s not that tough to do:

      Nothing in Brandon Shollenberger’s response in 187# contradicts anything I said. It is filled with so many fallacies, I’d be hard pressed to point them all out. In fact, this is a ridiculous response.

      Brandon Shollenberger simply can’t say “look, it is uncontroversial that this article is not well known” to answer PDA’s point that Wegman social-network analysis bears some importance in the contrarian narrative. He can’t expect his irrelevant claim to fly in any real discussion.

      Brandon Shollenberger can’t simply say “look, the second paragraph was not the same as the first one”, and therefore imply that there is no connection between the two paragraphs. The first reason is that the second paragraph contains the claim that was in the first one; the second reason is that the ideas expressed in the two paragraphs are logically connected in his argument.

      Quite frankly, Brandon Shollenberger’s response here makes no sense.

      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2011/05/16/wegman-paper-retracted-watts-growls/#comment-790699196

      ***

      I don’t care much about Brooks. It has zest and gusto and I appreciate his self-deprecating humor. I only cared about associating thought leaders with philosophy. At least at first. And that care prompted me to write a single “citation needed”.

      Just when you thought you were out, the comedy of menace pulls you back in.

    • Brandon Shollenberger

      Making remarks just to insult a person who isn’t engaged in (or in some cases aware of) the discussion seems strange to me. It’s interesting to see Mosher going along with it though. This behavior is basically the same as what he called bullying before. It was even bullying directed at me.

      I think this sort of thing is pointless and pathetic, but I have to admit, I’m curious about it as well. I wonder how often my name gets referenced purely for derogatory purposes. How often do I not see it?

      And more importantly, what does it say that people refer to me like this?

    • Dear Brandon,

      Everything I said about you can be documented.

      In fact, every sentences I wrote in my impersonation of you (and other comments in that thread at Keith’s) are inspired by sentences you wrote, abuses collected over the years.

      What does it tell about you, Denizens may ask?

    • Uncle willard
      In his counting house
      Sitting on his
      Bags of moneyquotes.
      ================

    • willard

      ‘I never said that Brooks made no sense, nor have I dismissed his satire because of this fumble. I have not gloated in the most annoying way. So the accusation has no merit.”

      1. you are channelling another trait of brandon’s which has already
      been alluded to.
      2. It has merit for those who can see it.
      3. the fact that you can’t see it or refuse to see it is yet another similarity.
      keep channelling away.

      its right there willard just look

    • I’ve said enough already to refute the accusation of using parsomatics.

  14. Judith,

    Your essays are on economics which banks/investing firms have very clever ways to manipulate the system and peoples perceptions in how the economy is doing by manipulation of statistics or historical paths.

    Both science and economics have a great deal in common as scientists keep look for funding to further their statistical analysis.
    Factual science is not of a priority due to the corruption of the former theories that is protected at all costs to facts that are reported then are shelved.

    The media is totally corrupted to keep the politicians from pulling advertising monies or slashing funding budgets.
    This is why the internet has vast amounts of blog sites with very good information. In economics facts show why this system is in failure as well.

  15. Coming into this debate from the economics side, and having no respect for Krugman whatsoever, I found his statement most amusing:

    Of course most of the people on the losing side of these debates

    He should know about the losing side of the debate. In economics there are differences of opinion. Somethings can be settled with quantitative analysis, but as Economics is a hybrid science consisting of part social science, and part hard science, most items are never ‘settled’, and hence there really is no losing side. Just differences of opinion, on how people react given certain economic realities. But like the Dana Nuccitellis of the world, Krugman long ago stopped learning and so feels he is always right. Everything is pigeon holed into his way or the wrong way. And thus even when virtually no economists “lose” the debate, he constantly does. Why? because he no longer understands economics. Only his ego.

    I find Brooks’ analysis of the thought leaders to be somewhat optimistic. If only they did retire to anonymity. Instead, most are usually perfect examples of the Peter Principal. Not that they ever were promoted out of competency, only that their BS got them promoted to a level of relevancy where their lack of knowledge assets are readily apparent to critical thinkers, but alas too few critical thinkers exist (or at least use the skill on a daily basis). I point you to Larry Summers as a perfect example of Brooks thesis. He is only gone now because his ego surpassed his common sense. Gone, but just barely. Even when these “thought leaders” are shown to be naked as jay birds prancing around in their pretend clothes, the PC crowd covers for them as they were “once relevant”. Kind of like how NOW covers for Clinton, even though he did more damage to their stated cause than any horde of Conservatives ever could.

  16. FWIW – I just tried to reply on an article on the Huffington Post. They state the November temps are the highest since 1880. I countered, saying the UAH satellite records show this November to be the 8th warmest since the beginning of the satellite era in 1978. The mod response was “Due to the politically sensitive nature of your comments, your post is being moderated” My post never got through.

    • That has happened to me many times on my comments about economics and global warming. I am no longer sure it is censorship since I have also had some very negative comments get thru. Keep trying and it may go get posted.. Those folks need a serious education about the real world. There were articles with blatant misinformation and intentional sleight of hand about Social Security. Nothing like links to the SS Trustees Report to set them free. Not as many SS articles any longer.

    • The UAH temperature series does not prove GISS and NOAA are wrong, and vice versa. Month to month, they’re often not on the same page.

      I would guess the moderator has no idea what UAH and GISS are. They should have allowed your comment as it’s not even”remotely sensitive”.

    • One commenter on that article called global warming a hoax. I don’t know how that got through and yours didn’t, but why some comments are moderated and others aren’t can be puzzling. It happens everywhere, but I think less here at Climate Etc. than at most places.

    • “One commenter on that article called global warming a hoax.”

      Mark one for comments here, too.

      Global Warming is a hoax.

      Andrew

  17. Krugman doesn’t realize the irony of him attempting to defend his economic clique by quoting Brooks who was talking about people like Krugman. Ten or twenty years from now, Krugman will be sitting at lunch with someone else no one cares about talking about stuff that no one cares about because a) he is Professor Emiritus at Princeton or b) he is finally fired because of his failed theories. Either way, he will still be sitting inside of Brooks paradigm.

    • There’s good evidence emerging to suggest that day should not be too far away. In the UK Krugman was the BBC’s favourite economist appearing on our TV screens almost weekly pontificating how the Chancellor, George Osborne, was utterly deluded in the austerity package he was pursuing for the UK and how no such measures had EVER produced anything other than failure and massive increased unemployment and further catastrophic decline.

      Oddly, since Osborne’s measures have began to pay strong dividends, with strongly increased employment, and growth we have seen nothing of Krugman. Not even once, just to acknowledge his fallibility, far less to offer Osborne an apology.

    • Brooks was talking about people like Brooks, which is, well, what Brooks always does.

    • Actually I think he is already there. While he has his column in the NY Times, only the sycophants quote him for authority. The rest who read or quote him do so in mockery.

    • My sense is that Krugman’s public behavior has pretty much burned his bridges even within the elite Democrat-leaning part of the economics profession from which he emerged. Years ago his name began to generate nervous laughter and then eye-rolling. But I think his social role today is value-maximizing–he has a large group of loyal followers who adore him, some of his critiques hit the mark, he seems to have lost his motivation to produce original research so the opportunity cost there is low, and even back in the Clinton administration he was way too abrasive and difficult to get an important government job (again reducing the opportunity cost). The man meets the moment.

    • Steve sez “[Krugman's] social role today is value-maximizing.”

      Today, as compared to yesterday you mean? Too true.

      The chief pre-requisite for Swedish favor at that time seems to have been boiling invective towards the previous US president (Pinter, Krugman) or simply not being him (Obama).

    • @brent

      “Global warming will kill us all, warns Common Core-aligned homework”

      Well, I don’t know about ALL of us, but it will dang sure kill a passel of us if anyone takes it seriously enough to actually enact and enforce regulations reducing ACO2 by 90+% as commanded, ex cathedra, by the CAGW’ers.

  18. Well, congrats to JA, thanks in no small part to her, David Brooks just made number 4 on the Hack List. Before listing a few bon mots from there, Eli would like the bunnies to think about why our host admires the empty bag of wind that is David Brooks AdmittedlyTom Friedman from the same stable, is a bag of wind who sucks any intelligent thought from those brave enought to read him or so Eli was told by his taxi driver on the way from the airport.

    The Columnist begins as a Young Conservative Intellectual. It is important for the Young Conservative Intellectual to be a converted radical, so he will have a story of his foolish young radicalism and of his conversion, which he will credit to William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman. He finds meaning in seriousness as a concept. He admires Edmund Burke. The Columnist will be a public intellectual, not a mere pundit. He will be wry, but never funny. Lightly ironic, but never sarcastic. If he mocks, it will always be gently.

    The Columnist floats around the Conservative Media for a while, where he is guaranteed work for life so long as he remains ideologically correct, but the columnist has grander dreams. He wants everyone to admire his seriousness, and that will not happen so long as he’s writing “The Democrats Are the Truly Stupid Party” and “The Clintons Are Actually to Blame for Enron” at a conservative magazine, where those takes are conventional and expected, instead of an Ideas magazine, where those takes would be fresh and counterintuitive.

    • ‘why our host admires”

      funny. I didn’t see any words indicating that she admired him.

      she found the piece funny
      the description of the evolution intrigued her.

      i find no evidence of admiration

    • Let me teach you something, Herr Professor Doktor Hasenpfeffer. Hacks run the world, so it is important to listen to what they say. Pointing out that hacks are hacks is trivial. This is why you are a peon and JC is a Dept Head.

    • > I didn’t see any words indicating that she admired him.

      Not enough charity, perhaps.

    • Howard, true, self respect don’t pay well.

    • willard,

      charity. I admire what Brooks writes, but dont admire
      Brooks. It’s well written. Funny. I disagree with it and he’s a rather unpleasant person. But thats a different matter. Its kinda like my attitude toward Roman Polanski.
      i’d recommend his movies, but would suggest not spending time alone with him.

    • Ya wanna nice crease, there, a sign that it’s all ironed out.
      ========

    • I found both David Brooks and Charlie Pierce worth reading, more so taken together. Doc’s photos were interesting too. And that’s notwithstanding the dozens of links I that helped me discover.

      A pity a debate on cholera can turn so bilious.

    • I dialed 634-5789 and got a non-working number.
      ===============

  19. “Blogs and working papers posted on the internet are moving the scientific and public debate much more rapidly than was previously possible.”

    Can anyone name any significant contributions to climate science from the blogosphere?

    • cue an argument about the meaning of the words significant and contributions.

    • Steve Mc has pretty much discredited a number of proxies and their usage in paeloclimatology.
      Mosher and Zeke started their methodology based on internet conversations as how is the ‘best’ way to get an ‘average’ temperature from station records.

    • Joseph: In problem real-time solving, it’s always advised to tap your gauges and then do an objective cross-check to determine if any of them are giving you bad data. The last thing you want to do is follow a tumbled attitude gyro.

      The blogonets have forced *climate science* to tap their gauges and check their $hit.

      That’s only significant in the real world, not in academia, so you can have the answer you like.

    • Only history will judge. The question is whether blog science will count in the historical timeline. It’s a risky experiment to blog first and publish later.

  20. A fan of *MORE* discourse

    Joseph asks “Can anyone name any significant contributions to climate science from the blogosphere?”

    It is a pleasure to answer your thoughtful question, Joseph!

    James Hansen’s much-read Climate Commentaries Web Page, which complements his scientific writings, strongly influences foresighted Popes and farseeing farmers …

    … and (unsurprisingly) Hansen’s web page is totally ignored by Chris Monckton/WUWT/slogan-shouting demagogues/corporate shills/cycle-chasing denialists/elderly crackpots/innumerate pundits/extremist thinktanks and hyper-libertarian vigilantes.

    The latter cohort comprises the ever-shrinking bubble of ever-more-vehement, ever-nuttier, ever-less-rational, ever-less-influential climate-change denialism, needless to say.

    This process is not complicated, Climate Etc readers … and its inexorable acceleration represents a triumph of Jefferson’s vision of science-guided rational far-seeing public discourse.

    Thank you for your question, Joseph!

    \scriptstyle\rule[2.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}\,\boldsymbol{\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}\,\heartsuit\,{\displaystyle\text{\bfseries!!!}}\,\heartsuit\,\overset{\scriptstyle\circ\wedge\circ}{\smile}}\ \rule[-0.25ex]{0.01pt}{0.01pt}

  21. When discussing leadership, the best advice can be found on a statue outside the US Infantry Platoon Leader school.

    “Follow me.”

    • The best advise is what they drill into your bones in enlisted bootcamp: don’t listen to your dingbat college-boy officer platoon leaders.

    • I know a certain college graduate who commanded a Morter Platoon in Afghanistan and last year a Parachute Infantry Company over there. He doesn’t come within a light year of being a dingbat (or a boy).

    • I don’t doubt that, but I sure he had to earn his sergeants respect before the troops listened to him.

    • David Springer

      Marching orders are passed out by commissioned officers to non-commissioned officers. Non-coms then give those marching orders to the troops subject to audibles as conditions require.

  22. blueice2hotsea

    Little boys and girls in ancient Athens grew up wanting to be philosophers. – David Brooks

    Yes. Many young are given to emulating celebrities.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/sophists/

    The major sophists were considerable celebrities, and were active in public affairs. The Protagoras captures the excitement which they engendered on arriving in a city, the cosmopolitan clientele who accompanied them and their associations with the rich and powerful. Some made a great deal of money; … something in the region of thirty years’ wages for a skilled craftsman…

  23. Unfortunately, Brooks got the Thought Leader designation wrong. It does not originally come from the do-gooder end of the spectrum but from the corporate world, as a marketing tool of consulting firms trying to advance the impression of their forward-thinking visionariness. Then individual consultants and speakers got in on the act–speaker’s bureaus like the T.L. label to describe people they are flogging–and then the TED phenomenon caused do-gooder-with-a-gimmick types to get thrown in the same bin. Scholarly types often disdain the T.L.s partly out of jealousy and partly out of exasperation at the hugely flawed Thoughts by which the Lead.

    For an excellent review essay about of one of the classic Thought Leader books, performed by a real scholar, I recommend the gracious and highly educational yet devastating

    http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~mchinn/Leamer_FlatWorld_060221.pdf

    • Thanks Steve. New to me. If the rest is as good as the first paragraph, I may die laughing. Ed Leamer may be the world’s funniest economist.

    • > Scholarly types often disdain the T.L.s partly out of jealousy and partly out of exasperation at the hugely flawed Thoughts by which the Lead.

      Thanks, Steve.

      This resentment goes back at least to Plato’s Republic. I know that Luc Brisson worked a bit on Plato’s notion of phthonos, i.e. jealousy. This concept should not only apply to objects, but to virtues, insofar as it the most important obstacle to makes philosophy possible in the first place.

      Plato may not have been the most self-reflective chap. He did try to have some TED talks with a king. Was not much of a success.

    • Stagira, the tuition.
      =====

  24. I often think that both the philosophers and sophists (or scholars and thought leaders) underestimate their audiences. Lots of businesspeople read the output of T.L.s looking for an inspiration or some metaphor or something they can use to get a competitive edge–they’re really not looking for Truth and are more concerned about finding useful fragments than about the validity of the work as a whole. Sometimes a T.L. bad idea gets picked up widely, usually not because of its intrinsic persuasiveness but for its usefulness to other agendas. Or else because it is “what oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.”

    This realization doesn’t stop me from getting aggravated by the propagation of shoddy ideas, though.

  25. Want to know why our “Thought Leaders” are so lost?

    “Once regarded as the essential Christian virtue, humility has become to many ‘a weakness or character flaw.’ A few contemporary thinkers have noted its absence. For example, Claes Ryn has observed that ‘the humility characteristic of the older kind of American is becoming rare in leading political circles.’ Jonathan Sacks, a leading rabbi in England, has called humility the ‘orphaned virtue of our age.’ This article will provide evidence to support these observations.”

    http://www.nhinet.org/konkola18-1&2.pdf

  26. Thought Leaders strike back:

    Brooks’ piece caused something of a stir on Twitter, the natural habitat of the Thought Leader. The critiques were almost as revealing as the column itself. Here are my four favorite types of responses to Brooks’ column, with a few examples of each.

    1. The Blissfully Unaware Thought Leader
    [...]

    2. The Thought Leader Who Is Angry Brooks Burned Him
    [...]

    3. The Thought Leader Who Thinks Brooks Isn’t in on the Joke
    [...]

    4. The Thought Leader Who Decries Brooks’ Sexism

    http://freebeacon.com/blog/thought-leaders-respond-to-david-brooks/

    All in all, something for every reward structures.

  27. Thought leaders still wonder what Brooks is talking about:

    What the Hell Is David Brooks’s Column About?

    1) It’s about the Internet.
    [...]

    2) It’s about Paul Krugman.
    [...]

    3) It’s about Tom Scocca’s “On Smarm,” from Gawker.
    [...]

    4) It’s a self-referential rip-off of an old idea.
    [...]

    5) It’s about Brooks himself.
    [...]

    http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/12/what-the-hell-is-david-brookss-column-about.html

    I can sympathize with the sentiment expressed by the title of this listicle.

  28. Paul Krugman received an economic Nobel for his ideas on free trade.

    Which held fatal flaws: 1. The assumption that unemployment levels in the various trading nations are the same.
    2. The assumption that a workforce can be instantly retrained to take on new tasks.

    Now we are just noticing that all the economic success that free trade brings actually flows to the multinational corporations and a minority elite.

    • You’re wrong. Krugman’s “novelty” was proposing theoretical conditions for when interventionist policy on trade might improve a country’s economic welfare. In his later popular writings, though, he rowed back because the very restricted nature of his findings had been, he felt, misrepresented by rent-seeking protectionists.

    • Thanks for the correction, Steve. It was a bit of a general statement.

      In the words of the prize committee, “By having integrated economies of scale into explicit general equilibrium models, Paul Krugman has deepened our understanding of the determinants of trade and the location of economic activity.”

      Certainly in Krugman’s later popular writings he is very much an advocate of free trade.

      I note that you are too. quote: “rent-seeking protectionists”.

    • David Springer

      Nobels in soft sciences are awarded via intangible politics. Al Gore got a Nobel fercrisakes. That was almost rock bottom but not quite.

  29. A thought leader comes in too late:

  30. Interesting to me that even the term “snark” and all of its trendy derivatives is so in vogue now. It is as if we are supposed to believe that a new form of clever human behavior has evolved in concert with the rise of computer aided communication. Not really. In the old days we simply referred to such persons as “smart asses” and their behavior nothing more than manifestations of inverted childish insecurity.

  31. A1: Hello.

    Y99: Hello.

    A!:As you are new to the neighbourhood I wanted to
    introduce myself.

    Y99: And you are?

    A1: I’m your local thought-leader.

    Y99: … Sigh.

  32. This is nothing new. It’s just a “snarky” take on an old idea put forth by Thomas Kuhn 50 years ago in the “Structure of Scientific Revolutions.”

    Kuhn said that scientific progress is not incremental, but comes through revolutions in paradigm. Old paradigms only die out when the old scientists die. New scientists then set the new paradigm, which doesn’t change till they die out. Kuhn argued that science is more dependent on culture and ego than scientists would care to admit. I think Fred Hoyle’s adherence to the “steady state” theory of the universe is a good example.

    Right now, climate science is in a paradigm. The establishment are the proponents and adherents because the establishment founded this paradigm. Who knows what the next paradigm will be? According to Kuhn, we’ve got to wait a while until we find out.

  33. DS +1.
    I am writing it down.

  34. Smart people with the best ideas always win in the end.

    The best ideas survive criticism, bad ideas linger through repetition.

    Also, proving yourself to be correct most of the time, being willing to admit errors, acting with integrity and – ARCHIVING YOUR CODE – is the way to become the person people trust to be correct.

    W^3

  35. I found it interesting when Judy said, “There may be a mellowing with age effect – I used to find Gavin Schmidt to be extremely snarky; I find him less so now.” I’ve noticed that too, though I haven’t attributed the changes in Gavin’s demeanor to Brook’s life cycle of the Thought Leader, but Gavin having reached that stage in Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development where he is taking stock of his life and career and has realized that if he doesn’t make some changes now he is going to go down in the history books as both snarky and wrong.

    W^3

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