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When I get magazines in the mail, I put them in a pile so that later I can read them in order. I’m a few months behind on the London Review of Books so I just happened to read this article by August Kleinzahler which informs us that Donald Trump is invincible.

I have no problem with literary figures giving their takes on politics, but this is just a rehash of the major news media. It’s not an original literary take; it’s your grandpa who’s been reading a bunch of newspapers and watching lots of TV news and then regurgitating it back to you. This would be like a political magazine running a literature column by some pundit who did nothing more than read a bunch of book reviews and then churn out more of the same old conventional wisdom.

Or they could just go all-in and run articles by pundits on twitter who say things like, “Telling people to wear masks might be the single thing Trump could do to most improve his re-election prospects.”

P.S. Erik sends in the above picture of Ocelot who has gotten comfortable and is patiently waiting for me to take a look at the paper on default priors that we’re working on. I promise that I’ll get to it, right after this bit of bloggy procrastination.


  1. zbicyclist says:

    A deadline is a terrible thing. Needing to sell an article is a terrible thing. Needing to fill a 24/7 news outlet is a terrible thing.

    Much of which leads to terrible information. Nate Silver’s book has a nice chapter on pundits. Mark Hulbert has made a career out of showing that financial newsletters generally give advice that won’t help you beat an index fund.

    Yes, there are experts who know things. They usually aren’t writing on deadline.

  2. Andrew says:


    Sure, but consider the two examples in the above post:

    – August Kleinzahler was not on deadline. Also, the guy’s a poet, not a political pundit. Nobody was pressuring him to give his take on Trump’s odds of reelection. Or, to flip it around, nobody was forcing the London Review of Books to run this guy’s political punditry. This was not a regular column from Kleinzahler. Someone at the LRB had to read this and say, Yeah, this is worth publishing.

    – Nate Silver may be on deadline with his website, but nobody’s forcing him to spew out low-grade punditry on twitter. I think the problem here was not any deadline; the problem was that he felt the need to speculate with an inappropriate air of authority.

  3. Michael Nelson says:

    I think tweeting, “Telling people to wear masks might be the single thing Trump could do to most improve his re-election prospects” might be the single thing that Nate Silver could do to most improve his probability of being mentioned on other stats-related sites.

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