Wednesday, May 09, 2012

PolitiFact pimps NPR's Brendan Nyhan puffery

The truth-hustlers at PolitiFact have invoked fellow truth-hustler Brendan Nyhan to undergird their self-serving narrative of special expertise in divining the truth.

Who doesn't remember Bill Adair defending PolitiFact's 2011 "Lie of the Year" award based on the fact that most people live in a partisan echo chamber?

National Public Radio indulged its Nyhan fetish again under the story heading "Partisan Psychology: Why Do People Choose Political Loyalties Over Facts?"

Try this representative sample:
The flipped perceptions on gas prices isn't an aberration, said Dartmouth College political scientist Brendan Nyhan. On a range of issues, partisans seem partial to their political loyalties over the facts. When those loyalties demand changing their views of the facts, he said, partisans seem willing to throw even consistency overboard.
Nyhan and Reifler (as they regularly seem to do) fail to take into account the complexity of political issues.  Many things affect gas prices, and partisans and non-partisans alike will adopt complex explanations for changes in the price of gas.  Survey data such as that used by Nyhan strips away subtleties and slots the answers into a narrow set of choices.  Most and perhaps all of the difference noted between the apparent change in party belief probably results from simply placing greater emphasis on one aspect of the issue, almost as though people have a natural ability to sell used cars.  If the car isn't better because of outstanding gas mileage then it's better because of large trunk capacity.  Likewise the presidential role in setting gas prices gets communicated according to a favorable narrative.  And it doesn't necessarily mean that the person selling the apparently inconsistent narrative doesn't understand the truth.

Don't buy a used car from Nyhan and Reifler, by the way.


  1. My favorite part was this:

    "Nyhan also contrasted the outrage in 2004 among Democrats who felt that Bush was politicizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks for political gain, and the outrage today among Republicans who feel the Obama re-election campaign is exploiting the killing of Osama bin Laden.

    "The whole political landscape has flipped," Nyhan said."

    In order for anything to be flipped, the specifics must be the same. Nyhan gives no weight to the notion that perhaps Bush did NOT politicize 9/11, while perhaps Obama IS using the OBL killing for political gain, or vice versa. The actual differences between the two and our value judgements of each individual situation are what motivates the outrage.

    Nyhan is taking an apple and an orange and calling it the emperors new banana that only diviners of reality like himself can see.

  2. Putting the "political" in Political Science pretty much since he started.


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