Revolt of the wonks

Did Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein and their companions stop being liberals?

Topics: Jacobin, Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein,

Revolt of the wonks
This article originally appeared on Jacobin.

Once upon a time, hope was scarce and darkness everywhere. People looked for heroes. During the worst years of the Bush administration, we found them. They weren’t big or brawny, but they had heart. A bunch of nerdy kids blogging about politics were here to save the day.

Jacobin Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein and their companions were fearless — but, beyond that, analytical. They knew how to use graphs and the Internet, bringing an earnest quantitative approach that would make liberals the Very Serious People of the Digital Age. Even the media establishment had nice things to say about our protagonists.

There seemed to be something different about this band, an idealism that blended the resurgent youth activism that rallied behind Howard Dean’s 2004 campaign and against the Iraq War with the liberal “netroots” culture that developed alongside it. Their popularity grew as they were absorbed into the media ecosystem. Klein’s writing moved from his eponymous Typepad to the American Prospect to the pages of the Washington Post. Yglesias also got his break at the Prospect and ended up at Slate.

But at some point, Klein and company stopped being liberals. They even stopped being human. The singularity— a technological superintelligence — was upon us. The wonks had become robots, ready to force enlightenment down our partisan throats.

You Might Also Like

In science fiction, cybernetic revolts often begin benevolently. Humans are fallible, petty, prone to argument and war. Synthetics are precise, dispassionate, above jealousy and strife. Wouldn’t our interests be better served kneeling at the altar of disinterested judgment?

Klein wielded his new legitimacy with a simple, high-minded goal: to construct policy to benefit the greatest number. To this end, he went rummaging through the marketplace of ideas. He even sampled those of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), interviewing him in three parts and lauding his “honest entry into the debate” in a 2010 Washington Post piece titled “The virtues of Ryan’s roadmap.” In the same venue a few months later, Klein defended Ryan against attack by the far-from radical Paul Krugman. Klein pushed back against Ryan’s individual points here and there, but his mechanical mind failed to realize that the congressman was playing a different game—a far more dynamic and ideological one—than he was. The blogger wanted to tinker with numbers to make Washington run smoother; Ryan wanted to use data to obscure a different mission: ending the welfare state.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Sonic

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.

    KFC

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.

    Interscope

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>