July 2012

ABSTRACT: “Shithead savant” should become a technical term in the social science branch of Science Studies, along with “trained incapacity” and “occupational psychosis”.


Nate Silver is a shithead savant — he’s much brighter than you and me but he’s capable of missing the point even when it’s crawling up his ass. For some reason, the Republicans have been spending millions a year on voter discouragement for decades, and for some reason, for the last several years they’ve been running a nationally coordinated voter discouragement campaign involving every Republican governor, Secretary of State, or state legislature in the country — but don’t worry, it won’t make much difference, says Silver.

College Republican crooks like Karl Rove are ten times smarter than PolSci PhDs like Nate Silver. That counterintuitive fact should be carved in the tombstone of the Democratic Party. (If you call Silver media and not political — well, the media need their own tombstone.)

“Only 2%”. 2% isn’t even a close election, it’s a solid victory.

Chris Hayes on this topic.


I am not one for conspiracy theories. Occam’s razor generally leads one to prefer explanations involving incompetence or individual malfeasance over larger, complex, well-orchestrated wrong-doing.

That’s a malicious caricature of what a conspiracy is. A conspiracy is several people secretly working together toward a wrongful goal, using wrongful methods.

Conspiracies are common in history. Not only do criminals and revolutionaries often work secretly, so do many legitimate organizations (intelligence organizations, secret police, political groups) and these often act wrongfully.

Conspirators are gamblers.  Sometimes conspiracies succeed and sometimes they fail.  Conspirators don’t expect to get total control of everything; they just intervene secretly and maliciously in a situation in the hopes of getting whatever they hope to get.   It’s like baseball — batting .333 is success. There’s plenty of stupidity and chance and incompetence involved in any situation, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t conspiracy too..

Some of the things Enron did were conspiratorial. Secrecy, dishonesty, lawbreaking, coordinated activity. Their scheme almost worked. Examples can be multiplied.

Liberals have brainwashed themselves into laughing scornfully whenever a conspiracy is spoken of, and they also are too willing to grant the intellectual honesty of their opponents. Often a political argument consists of one side saying whatever is  necessary to buy time until a fait accompli has been achieved. Spokesmen who seem stupid aren’t necessarily stupid themselves; they’ve just correctly estimated the stupidity of their audience.

Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and post-WWII anti-communist conspiracy theories  led liberals to assume that all conspiracy theories are false. They also had an ulterior motive. People who talk about conspiracies are thereby confessing that they’re outsiders. But liberals all think that they’re insiders, and it’s uncool for insiders to get all upset about business as usual (i.e., the normal dishonesty which makes the system function) . Conspiracists are ejected from the old boys network because they threaten to blow the cover of some of the other insiders.

Conspiracism starts with the conviction that the system is stacked against you and that you can never win, and liberals don’t want to believe that. As the conservative triumph starts to bite, maybe some of them will wise up.

From a comment  here.