Sunday, November 18, 2012

"Peggy" "Noonan's" Life on Mars

Apparently Martians are also using the analytic and marketing methods we've been using since the late 20th Century.

From the Wall Street Journal (via DeLong via Kos)
The other day a Republican political veteran forwarded me a hiring notice from the Obama 2012 campaign. It read like politics as done by Martians. The "Analytics Department" is looking for "predictive Modeling/Data Mining" specialists to join the campaign's "multi-disciplinary team of statisticians," which will use "predictive modeling" to anticipate the behavior of the electorate.
It might seem that, after the last thousand or so Noonan columns, pointing out flaws in the latest entry is coals-to-Newcastle. This is, after all, the pundit who told us the day before the election that Romney was on track to win because "all the vibrations are right."  (She said a lot of other memorable things in that column. You really ought to check it out.)

The temptation is to start letting them slide, but there's an issue here of reputation and metadata. Noonan is recognized as a authority on politics and her reputation is backed by the reputations of the major news outlets that publish her writing and put her in front of the camera. All of this contributes to the metadata that tells us how much weight to give Noonan's statements.

For the system to work, information sources that are consistently unreliable have to take a reputational hit, but Noonan either knows nothing about how politics works today (which is, remember, her area of expertise) or, worse yet, she has such a low opinion of her readers' intelligence that she believes she can scare them by dropping a few technical terms.

If Noonan's reputation doesn't take the hit here then the reputations of those who publish and broadcast her will. Every time the Wall Street Journal prints one of these columns, the trust we can place in the paper diminishes just a little bit. It's a small effect but it's cumulative. Give it long enough and it can eat away the standing of even the Journal.

1 comment:

  1. I guess that when the Obama campaign was looking for stats peeps, they weren't supposed to state what they were looking for in the job description.