Vox is up!

by on April 6, 2014 at 8:40 pm in Current Affairs, Education, History, Web/Tech | Permalink

You will find the introductory video here.

Here is an explainer for Game of Thrones.

Here is Ezra on how politics makes us stupid.

Those two articles are very good, and “work” in the intended manner.  Here is the regular home page www.vox.com.

Is it possible their real competition is Coursera?

1 Ezra April 6, 2014 at 8:44 pm

I think you might have caught us while the site was still flipping over. You don’t need to sign in to read the site!

Also, thanks!

2 Tyler Cowen April 6, 2014 at 8:46 pm

thanks, I have revised the post…

3 Anonymous April 6, 2014 at 9:55 pm

Is there a RSS feed?

4 ant1900 April 7, 2014 at 7:07 am

RSS seems to be dying. 538 doesn’t have RSS. Grantland killed their RSS feeds. Bloomberg did not have RSS for a while but finally did bring the feeds back. Sad.

5 Jan April 7, 2014 at 10:21 am

538 has RSS, but the feeds are divided up into the various issues areas (e.g. politics, science, etc.) It works with Feedly, at least.

6 glenstein April 8, 2014 at 8:56 am

Grantland still has their RSS feeds too. They don’t seem to be linked anywhere on the site, but they are auto-discoverable via the browser (in chrome you have to install an extension to detect RSS feeds).

Grantland features: http://grantland.com/features/feed/
Bill Simmons: http://grantland.com/contributors/bill-simmons/feed/
The Triangle: http://grantland.com/the-triangle/feed/
etc. etc.

7 Brian Sweeney April 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

There is, though I don’t see the link displayed on the site in a visible form. It looks like Vox may be relying on automated discoverability by apps that support it. Peeking at the code here are the two feeds that appear to be published at the present.

All posts: http://www.vox.com/rss/index.xml

Explainers Only: http://www.vox.com/rss/explainers.xml

I don’t think RSS is dead and I doubt it’ll ever completely die out. It’s safe to say that RSS is not getting much love these days. Which is a shame, because it’s still a viable, useful, and important distribution and communications format.

8 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

Wonder what’s the story behind the downfall of RSS….

9 Jay April 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm

My guess is that ad revenue is lower if users opt to only watch the RSS feeds, hence no incentive for the site to maintain it.

10 Lee Marie April 8, 2014 at 12:45 am

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11 Steve Sailer April 6, 2014 at 11:22 pm

Isn’t there a fundamental conflict between “news” and “yesterday’s news?” Is great content management software really going to make that distinction go away and allow you to lavishly monetize yesterday’s news?

12 Z April 7, 2014 at 8:23 am

His business model is to be a mirror that claps. Timeliness is really not that important.

13 glenstein April 8, 2014 at 8:57 am

I wouldn’t put it that way. It’s embedding the news in a broader context. It’s not all about timeliness but timeliness is one of the ingredients.

14 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 5:20 am

Site seems visually appealing & snazzy. OTOH, you seem light on content. Read that article about Amtrak boarding; that’s more a blog post whipped up in 20 minutes & some quick desk research than what a real deep article should be.

Maybe you guys should have waited a bit longer before releasing. The initial impression is often the lasting one. The initial novelty often gets you a visitor spike. If you disappoint, people are unlikely to come again after 3 months just to see if you’ve maybe improved.

15 ummm April 7, 2014 at 5:49 am

sorry,but your article on politics making people stupid was boring . it’s dry and expository like a senior high school essay instead of a magazine article.

16 john personna April 7, 2014 at 10:28 am

It may be boring (for a few) but it is also the best explainer of why the internet(*) is the way it is most people are likely to see this year.

* – and venues as small as these comments

My only “optimism” is that vocal opponents may slowly and quietly evolve “offstage” as facts sink in.

17 A Micahel April 6, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Surveys are costless means to cheer lead for one’s side. Put some money on the table and then ask people to do the gun control math problem.


P.S. It was an interesting article, on an interesting topic, but I hope he takes more than Kahan’s research as the definitive answer and delves more into the topic. One paper is a datum.

18 A Michael April 6, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Also, I reject the premise that more info SHOULD lead to more unified solutions. Normative assumptions underlie every policy choice. If there is disagreement on those normative assumptions, then information will not bridge the gap, even if people are not affected by what social psychologists would call Directional Motivated Reasoning.

Take for instance Global Warming. How do you weigh the economic trade-offs? At some level, it’s a normative matter about which rational, good intentioned people will disagree: http://www.lomborg.com

19 john personna April 7, 2014 at 10:31 am

No. An intelligent discussion would successfully partition belief and response. It is deeply irrational to disbelieve anything because believing it only might cause you to take action.

And yet this irrationality is quite apparent.

20 Clapping Mirror April 7, 2014 at 1:23 pm


21 glenstein April 8, 2014 at 9:01 am

That assumes, I think incorrectly, that normative disputes can’t be adjudicated with the right information.

And Lomborg I think is a perfect example that illustrates the point: http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/

22 ed April 6, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Thanks for the link.

I also find myself somewhat skeptical about Ezra’s description of the Kahan research. I’m sure there is something to this idea, but the results seem a little too neat, and I’d like to see it replicated. In particular it is hard for me to believe that math skills makes partisans *more* likely to miss the gun control question. If it’s true, it certainly is depressing.

23 libert April 6, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Perhaps it’s because people with better math skills can “torture the data until it confesses”?

24 Adrian Ratnapala April 6, 2014 at 11:56 pm

One speculation: maths skill (as discovered in tests) is correlated to the quality of someone’s education. That in turn is correlated to partisanship. So “votes Dem and is bad at maths” is a rough proxy for “leans mildy Dem”.

25 john personna April 7, 2014 at 10:35 am

I certainly see examples of this effect, recurring. Bicycle haters will claim that riders are dangerous jerks. Give them data and they won’t change, but only double down in anger at the riders. It is “tribal” in just the way the article describes.

26 Adrian Ratnapala April 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

When I am behind the wheel of a car, I am a bicycle hater. When I am on a bike I am a car hater. Since I noticed that effect, I’ve calmed down a bit, not I still jump between those tribes.

27 ed April 7, 2014 at 3:03 pm
28 Yancey Ward April 8, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Yes, Klein’s description is at odds with the actual paper. I think it a minor problem with the essay, though. Being better at math makes you better at getting the right answer regardless of your ideology, but the effect is muted if the conclusion violates your ideological priors.

29 Yancey Ward April 8, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Ignore my comment, you found a link decribing the problem.

30 moo cow April 6, 2014 at 9:25 pm

Brought to us by GE! Wow, Ezra has come a long way since I read him at Pandagon.

Anyway, Ezra, I don’t get it…the new site (I get the GE part). Maybe it is because I am stupid. We shall see.


31 Steven Kopits April 6, 2014 at 10:04 pm

On Ezra:

Climate change is a singularly bad example, as we are now 10 years+ without global warming. RSS satellite data now shows 17 years 8 months without global warming.

No comments, either. No comments, no readers.

32 Jan April 7, 2014 at 10:27 am

Thanks for disproving climate change. Your analytical methods and aggressive dissemination of the evidence has changed the mind of the vast majority of climate scientists.

33 john personna April 7, 2014 at 10:38 am

On the other hand, Mr. Kopits volunteers as exhibit No. 1

34 dead serious April 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

Stick him on a small island in the Pacific and let’s see how quickly he changes his tune.

35 Willitts April 7, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Mr Kopits is offering contrary evidence which you have just summarily dismissed. You and John Personna are Exhibits A and B.

Mr. Kleins article was an interesting read, but the vaccine is causing the disease. The absolute certainty with which he speaks about AGW and the venomous language he uses to describe opponents demonstrates the very phenomenon he wished to prove. It’s clear that he and Mr. Kahan think they have an antidote for political flavor aid with the odor of grape fresh on their breath.

The evidence in favor of AGW is nowhere near as certain as the mathematical solution to a contrived experiment. The wealth and fame confered on people supporting AGW doesn’t weigh in its favor. The PR campaign holds mass on every hot or rainy day of the year, and grumbles “climate change” on every cold day.

I would wager that the vast majority of warmists in the general population (or population of Prius or Tesla owners) couldn’t name three climate scientists and couldn’t name the five most abundant greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. AGW is a religious cult that might, accidentally, be right.

And whether or not they are right speaks NOTHING about the measures, if any, we should employ to ameliorate AGW.

36 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Vast majority of the population cannot name three drug eluting stents nor the drugs on them. Doesn’t stop them from getting angioplasties when death beacons.

Our world has become so specialized that it is unreasonable to expect such knowledge from laymen. The useful skill is trusting the right authorities. Not Fox news nor NYT but if a majority of ( relevant ) scientists posit an opinion I’ll go with that. Does not mean you cannot dissent but neither does it make AGW a religious cult.

37 msgkings April 7, 2014 at 2:58 pm

Bravo, Rahul. Well said.

38 Aaron K April 7, 2014 at 3:29 pm

If you can’t understand a problem yourself, blindly trusting an authority is not a great solution when the stakes are high. Significantly better than random guessing, but not great. There’s a reason people get second or third opinions from other experts.

There’s also a lot more to prudent decision-making than simply trusting a set of “experts”. For example, experts are often way more overconfident than scientific facts justify – for example, expert money managers on beating the market, or expert doctors on whether consuming eggs will contribute to heart disease. In politically-charged topics there is also a serious risk of groupthink for exactly the reasons Ezra identified – experts are humans too, with all the motivated reasoning that implies. Eventually the scientific process will correct these failures, but that process can take decades.

IMO, an under-appreciated strategy is deferral of judgment. It can help take some of the emotion out of the situation, help you see nuance better, and allow for new evidence to develop (particularly when partisans are trying to disprove each other). Note that deferral of judgment doesn’t necessarily mean you do nothing, it just means you respect how little we collectively know, and thus try to avoid making costly decisions from a state of relative ignorance.

39 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm

@Aaron K

Absolutely, go get second & third opinions. Maybe ask 100 top scientists and get a consensus opinion.

What does “can’t understand a problem yourself” even mean without more qualification? Do I understand that tumor in my spinal cord? Maybe I understand cancer somewhat but do I understand it enough to interpret the scans & analyse the histology & decide the drug regimen? Yet, I trust the experts, the oncologists, when they recommend a treatment. I don’t go about calling oncology a cult religion.

I mean I can understand allegations of systematic bias or inaccuracy or even conflict of interest but to insist that thousands of scientists are totally wrong or frauds or coordinating a grand conspiracy is a bit hard to digest.

40 dead serious April 7, 2014 at 4:37 pm

“IMO, an under-appreciated strategy is deferral of judgment.”

Under-appreciated by whom, exactly? You’ve just perfectly summed up the Republican platform: deny, deny, deny. Stall, stall, stall.

I’m not in favor of blind leaps of faith and action for the sake of action, but I don’t trust a right-winger when he claims he’s being pragmatic. No amount of hard scientific proof is ever enough.

If the subject comes around to creationism though, blind leaps of faith are just fine and dandy!

Even Reagan would be puking in his mouth listening to today’s typical ‘conservative’ idiot.

41 cassander April 7, 2014 at 8:09 pm

>Vast majority of the population cannot name three drug eluting stents nor the drugs on them. Doesn’t stop them from getting angioplasties when death beacons. – See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/04/vox-is-up.html#comments

When my doctor tells me that that if I get an angioplasty my angina will go away, and it does, he vindicates his status an an authority. Climate science, however, keeps making predictions that do not come true*, yet insist on maintaining their status.


42 Jan April 7, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Ha, I cannot debating the evidence here with someone. I mean if someone here is an actual climate scientist with the background and understanding to actually make independent judgments, great. I can understand only at a very high level the arguments for and against global warming and based on that I find the arguments for it quite compelling. But the main reason I believe in global warming is that the vast majority of scientists and institutions dedicated to studying this subject believe it is true. I can be reasonably of skeptical of science I don’t fully understand, but here there is very little reason to be skeptical.

The thing is, almost nobody who studies climate science has an underlying motivation to say it is happening and that we must take action. On the other hand, there are a lot of people, corporations, etc. who have very good reasons to deny climate change and maintain the status quo.

43 Brian Donohue April 7, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Food for thought for the open-minded:


Plenty of people on both sides of the issue are interested parties.

44 Marie April 7, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Jan, that’s nuts. You know very well there are tons of people who study climate science that are motivated to say it is happening — you say it well enough, you get promoted; you say it too poorly or not at all, you’re no longer a person who studies climate science (at least not a paid one).

All sides of the issue are far, far to self-interested to be trusted. No, I don’t understand meteorology well — but I understand enough of human nature to make certain guesses. I’ve had car mechanics at dealerships lie to me, and while I didn’t have expert knowledge of clutches I knew enough logic and human nature to smell a rat, and bring my car to a different mechanic. I’ve had doctors way dig themselves deeper and deeper into error once a small one showed up, and while I don’t understand the parasympathetic nervous system I can see when a doctor seems to be BSing me, and I know to go to a different expert.

Unfortunately, in the area of climate science there’s no one to go to — everyone on all sides is under pressure or has something to gain from claiming a certainty about things they’re not certain about. So, unfortunately, I’m with Aaron K — the best we can hope for is to know what we don’t know, and that we don’t know, and keep trying to figure out an honest way to get better answers.

45 dead serious April 7, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Thanks – good post. I tend to agree that carbon taxes have the effect of closing of the barn door after the animals have escaped.

I have issue with the “worst case” climate change damage estimate (2.5% of global income seems low if the world’s oceans were to rise even by the lower projected amount: 12 inches.)

Unfortunately, a public discussion re: adaptation vs mitigation can’t even happen when a major chunk of the domestic populace has its fingers in its collective ears.

46 Jan April 7, 2014 at 9:29 pm

Marie, I disagree.

“You know very well there are tons of people who study climate science that are motivated to say it is happening — you say it well enough, you get promoted; you say it too poorly or not at all, you’re no longer a person who studies climate science (at least not a paid one).”

Why do you think there is more incentive to conclude that climate change is happening than not? For example, if a scientist made a very good case for the opposing viewpoint and actually convinced his or her peers that climate change is not happening, that person would quickly become quite famous, with all promotions and research money that accompanying becoming a superstar in your field. Believe me, there are so many well-resourced organizations and people out there dying to find people who can make a compelling case that climate change is a myth, someone who can effectively make that case will do quite well for himself.

Your personal experiences with bad doctors and dishonest mechanics are good examples that I think actually argue for my point here. If you get an assessment from one of them that makes you question their judgment, you got get a second opinion, and then maybe another to be sure. But ultimately you still rely on the experts, unless you yourself are qualified to make a good judgment. In this case, the experts that furnish the first, second, third and Nth opinion all agree climate change is happening, with a small handful of skeptics.

And I don’t really agree that all sides of the issue are too self interested to make sound judgments. Burning carbon is a huge business and there are only a very few groups that stand to benefit if we do take action to slow climate change. There are larger and more incentives for stakeholders to claim climate change is not happening than the other way around. This is because they believe recognition of the problem will lead to changes in public policy that will negatively impact them.

47 Brian Sweeney April 7, 2014 at 11:00 am

There is, though I don’t see the link displayed on the site in a visible form. It looks like Vox may be relying on automated discoverability by apps that support it. Peeking at the code here are the two feeds that appear to be published at the present.

All posts: http://www.vox.com/rss/index.xml
Explainers Only: http://www.vox.com/rss/explainers.xml

I don’t think RSS is dead and I doubt it’ll ever completely die out. It’s safe to say that RSS is not getting much love these days. Which is a shame, because it’s still a viable, useful, and important distribution and communications format.

48 Brian Sweeney April 7, 2014 at 11:04 am

Argh! Apparently I clicked on the wrong reply link.

Mods, feel free to delete this and the above comment.

49 tt April 7, 2014 at 12:57 pm

yeah! yesterdays weather was almost the same as todays,
therefore: no global warming! yeah!

50 Anon April 7, 2014 at 8:59 pm
51 jseliger April 6, 2014 at 11:08 pm

Looks promising, but I want a “show all cards” or “print all” button; I often read longer items via Instapaper, and Instapaper doesn’t work well with multiple pages. I don’t see a “feedback” or “suggestions” tab or e-mail either.

This may be a minority desire but like RSS it may be the desire of a disproportionately noisy minority.

52 Bryan Willman April 6, 2014 at 11:41 pm

Vox could have done a much much better job by really getting past the “there’s a right answer” nonsense and accepting the reality that politics, by definition, is about conflicts over things with very high stakes – status, wealth, freedom, life, and reproductive success in the face of natural selection. What’s more, since government is really “what we impose on other people, often against their will”, it should not be surprizing that people don’t give up the fight.

The great question of the day is NOT “global warming” versus “global warming skeptics” it is rather the much more difficult “global warming is real and horrible!” versus “so what, we don’t care at all, go away.” That is the real problem for activists – the vast majority of citizens in the 1st world, China, and surely other places, do not care if Polar Bears disappear or some obscure island in the Pacific is submerged or even that their own cities will be forced to move inland 100 years hence. So what? They are unwilling to pay anything real to avoid that, moving the cities will be a kind of fresh redevelopment project anyway, etc.

We’ve seen this before – prohibition was based on the very well founded argument that alcohol caused a great many serious problems. And the net result was a huge swath of the population insisted on drinking anyway – choosing (rationally) their own needs over the statistical goodness of society. That’s the real nature of politics – the right answer is formed long before any study is done because the right answer is about who gets what – something that by definition science cannot answer.

One can surely build every bit as strong statistical evidence that wide spread use of marijuana is in fact a sub-optimal policy. And in spite of that it will be probably be legal throughout the US in the next 50 years – because a large enough group of people will insist that their needs are more important than any group need for a drug free life. Again, the many millions of mj users in the US don’t care that the US might be a better place if everybody stopped using it, and so they don’t care about any “science” that supports that position.

Gun control faces a similar issue – many people, enough to support shall-issue concealed licenses to come into being in all but a few states – hold some variant of a view that goes “we don’t care if statiscially gun control might work (and there is great debate) – WE will insist on the right to be armed for OUR OWN needs.”

And a huge drug maker trying to force everybody to take a vaccine they make – how manifest an example of rent seeking can there be? Our daughters are to be required to take this substance made by a huge money-grubbing drug company? No amount of science education will get past the power grab in that.

Vox is NOT doing deeper reporting (so far), it is rehashing widely reported results of dubious relevence in the same “but WE have the right answer and it involves more rules imposed by government!” churn.

53 dan1111 April 7, 2014 at 1:32 am

The article started out with some interesting points about how people on both sides of the aisle tend it think. But the inability to come up with any examples of when his own side was wrong undermined it significantly.

I agree that global warming was a particularly bad choice, though not for the reasons you state. This debate is not about accepting evidence but about trust. Most of us (I suspect Ezra included) don’t have the knowledge to independently review the evidence. Thus, it comes down it taking the scientific community at its word. Very different from “denying evidence”.

54 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 3:32 am

But I think there’s a large cohort of people from whom the trust or evidence are irrelevant. If you are a subsistence farmer in India or a poor Chinese assembly line worker the lack of immediacy of GW effects relative to all the other perils they face is the real issue.

If I face a risk starvation, malaria, dysentery & lead poisoning on a daily basis it is kinda hard to convince me of the grand existential crisis 100 years later, hard evidence or not.

55 john personna April 7, 2014 at 10:42 am

I have suggested several times to “skeptics” that “I don’t care” was a much stronger position. For years though, they did actually turn that down, in favor of spurious and unscientific deflections.

The reality supports the essay.

56 Willitts April 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Very nice rejoinder.

57 Bryan Willman April 7, 2014 at 12:11 am

Part II – “obamacare will significantly increase the number of people with health insurance coverage” – what, they are the PR department for the administration? It is NOT YET CLEAR if the number of people who actually pay premiums on new policies will be substantially more than the number who had policies cancelled. They are declaring it a kind of success when it will not be possible to know if that is so for some time.

The world really doesn’t need the NYT and WP editorial pages warmed over and drawn to greater length.

58 Andrew' April 7, 2014 at 10:32 am

“obamacare will significantly increase the number of people with health insurance coverage”

Not to mention, so the f what? Or put in the vernacular: at what cost?

59 john personna April 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

Are you making a normative suggestion, that people simply be better Sophists, rather than reactive, emotional, and tribal as they commonly are?

60 Adrian Ratnapala April 7, 2014 at 11:44 am

Bryan is overstating his case about how few genuine AGW deniers there are out there. But he is correct that if one tribe consists of people who think we should taken urgent, possibly costly action to correct AGW, then the opposition tribe is everyone tent do roll their eyes. That tribe includes non-deniers like me.

It gives me a weirdly good opportunity to watch these cognitive effects. Because even though I know that AGW is real, my heart is not really in it. So I can see myself eagerly pick holes in articles about it, even when I nominally agree with their conclusions.

61 john personna April 7, 2014 at 11:59 am

Don’t Republican candidates still use denial as a plank in their platform?

62 Jay April 7, 2014 at 2:37 pm

That is an easily answerable question, the answer being no. Are we including people who are against AGW “fixes” like carbon taxes and credit trading as “deniers”, if so then the answer is yes.

63 Jay April 7, 2014 at 2:38 pm
64 dead serious April 8, 2014 at 9:12 am

That’s hilarious – is that supposed to somehow prove that Republicans acknowledge climate change?

Try searching for the word “climate” amongst that claptrap. There’s some lip service about conservation of the environment – of course this can only be effective through private means because we all know corporations are usually looking out for the public good – but 3/4 of it is focused on energy independence and the rest is an attack ad against the EPA.

Try again.

65 Marie April 7, 2014 at 8:10 pm

It’s almost certainly true if you count expanded Medicaid as health insurance coverage. Which it’s not. It’s largely not even a promise of health coverage, since many or most doctors don’t take Medicaid for adults.

I really don’t mind someone being partisan, biased, whateva, especially if the bias is declared. We’re all on some continuum or another, that’s humanity, own up to it and then I’ll listen to what you have to say.

But when people sneak language around, like calling extra enrollment in Medicaid an increase in health insurance coverage (which I’m assuming, I could be wrong), that’s not o.k. That’s trying to trick people into agreeing with you by lying well to convince them yours is the unbiased truth. Yuck.

66 JWatts April 7, 2014 at 9:23 pm

“That’s trying to trick people into agreeing with you by lying well to convince them yours is the unbiased truth. Yuck. ”

What? You mean like telling people they can keep their doctor or telling them that the average families premium will drop? Come on Marie, what’s the big deal about lying to people as long as it’s in their best interest?

67 Marie April 8, 2014 at 8:55 am

I’m very sorry. I won’t complain again.

68 cato April 7, 2014 at 1:27 am

Klein argues that more information doesn’t persuade the other side of the political divide because of “identity-protective cognition.” Yet every example in Klein’s article frames the left, with which Klein self-identifies, in a favorable light. The supposedly non-empirical bad guys in the article are Sean Hannity, Antonin Scalia and anyone who doubts what Klein calls “climate change.” But these are exactly the groups that we would expect Klein to attack regardless of the evidence. Klein is simply advancing his ideology.

If Klein is above ideology, then why not highlight the left-wing opposition to GMOs, the left-wing opposition to food irradiation, the left-wing opposition to fracking or the left-wing opposition to drilling in ANWR? Or the left-wing obsession with gun control, despite the evidence?

Better yet, how about observing that no one on the right disputes the fact that the climate changes? Everyone on the right agrees that the climate changes. The left doesn’t even frame the issue in an honest way. In reality, there are two issues. The first issue is whether the U.S. should adopt futile measures to reduce CO2 output despite the fact that the BRICs will continue to produce CO2 and to do this with the knowledge that such measures will reduce U.S. economic performance even as they do nearly nothing to affect climate change. The second issue is whether we should ignore the evidence that global warming stopped nearly 15 years ago despite increasing CO2 levels, that the models circa 1998 did not predict a halt to global warming over the ensuing 15 years, that the world went through a global cooling period from 1940-1975 despite increasing CO2 production, and despite the fact that the globe has warmed and cooled on its own accord for 4.5 billion years (for starters).

The argument over climate change would be a particularly good subject for identity protective cognition study if Klein would put his ideology aside. There is a flood of federal dollars that supports the publication of papers that support the anthropogenic global warming theory. This creates an incentive to publish papers in favor of the theory. There is peer pressure to support it. There is fear to oppose it. There is little upside to opposing it, particularly in academia. Its easier and more peaceful to just keep quiet. There is a left-wing echo chamber that supports it and threatens to excommunicate anyone who dissents from it. Conversely, the theory functions as a badge of self-identification with the left to support it. There is a self-selection effect in that students who oppose the theory are likely to simply avoid going into any field where the orthodoxy reins. It just isn’t worth risking your career for it. It is intellectually trendy to support it, just as it was trendy to support deconstruction some years ago. There are ideological reasons to support the theory. If one is on the left and thinks that the world would be a better place with a weaker U.S., then hobbling U.S. industry in the name of “climate change” would be laudatory regardless of the evidence. If one opposes oil and natural gas drilling for ideological reasons then “climate change” is a perfect excuse to push for what you wanted anyway. What we have here is a long list of ideological and non-rational reasons for people to support the anthropogenic global warming orthodoxy despite the mounting evidence against it.

Indeed, an identity protective cognition theory might explain why the mounting scientific evidence against the theory (both empirical and theoretical as per Lindzen, Spencer, Christy, etc.) is dismissed as “un-scientific” and anyone who disagrees with the orthodoxy is branded a “denier.” But a theory of this sort wouldn’t accord with Klein’s self-identity. So never mind.

69 Alan April 7, 2014 at 5:09 am
70 john personna April 7, 2014 at 10:46 am

Dude. That was a blanket position that you will not scan for facts, because “framing” is more important to you.

71 Willitts April 7, 2014 at 12:30 pm


72 Yarric April 7, 2014 at 2:05 am

A comparatively minor point, but their map for a Game of Thrones is something of a travesty. What they give here http://www.vox.com/cards/game_of_thrones_season_4_explainer/can-i-have-a-map-of-the-spaces-these-families-occupy is highly misleading – compare it to this “general borders” map here: http://oi40.tinypic.com/2ujrzew.jpg. The Starks had both the Grey and Light Blue territory on this map – 3 times as much as they are indicated to on the Vox map. Around half of the Greyjoy territory on the Vox map is actually Lannister territory, as given by the Red “Casterly Rock” area on the other map. The Baratheons control none of the territory near the Orange “Kings Landing” area except the island of Dragonstone (and the southern green territories are off too). Finally, the Tyrells, who are more powerful than any other two factions combined in army size and economic might, aren’t even represented on the map, either as a Lannister ally or their own force. I would say that about 50% of the content of the map is simply wrong.

I get that they are going for “minimalistic” representation with circles, but I would wager its a classic case of over-reaching in their expertise. Modern bloggers, in particular economists, like to claim the ability to add value to everything – something Nate Silver has done with his new project as well. And sometimes they certainly can add value! However, they also need to ground themselves in what they don’t know, and avoid going into territory they haven’t mastered as to prevent mistakes like these. I hope the authors simply didn’t care about the errors, as opposed to not knowing, but things like this make me lose confidence – I cant trust them to be accurate on topics where I am not enough of an expert to catch the mistakes.

73 Greg April 7, 2014 at 2:38 am

Another victim of Klein’s pro-Baratheon identity-protective cognition.

74 dead serious April 7, 2014 at 11:45 am

I loled.

75 Sam April 7, 2014 at 2:39 am

The point of politics is policy. – Ezra Klein

Straussian Robin Hanson reference or identity protection from the main whose career is policy?

76 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 2:46 am

Vox is kind of a cross between a 1987 HyperCard deck and a 1992 Frequently Asked Question list. For example:


And that’s a good thing! Those were good formats and it’s a shame the FAQ went out of fashion. Whether a giant FAQ on virtual index cards providing “Wikipedia with an attitude” is a good business strategy is something that Ezra Klein and Jeff Bezos have disagreed upon.

Well, good luck to Ezra.

77 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 3:26 am

I like FAQs too? Have they really gone out of fashion? I seem to see them a lot.

78 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 4:47 am

They were enormous before the WWW in the Usenet days, and they stayed popular for maybe the first decade of the Web, but now they seem underused. I don’t know why.

Writing nonfiction in dialogue format goes in and out of fashion. Plato and Galileo did it, but in some other eras it just wouldn’t occur to people to do. Maybe Ezra will succeed in bringing back the FAQ?

79 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 4:51 am

Another legacy feature I miss is single, long, unadorned pages of pure text content. No having to click for every subcategory & bite sized pages of content.

80 Adrian Ratnapala April 7, 2014 at 5:13 am

FAQs are less useful that before Google invented the search-engine-that-mostly-works. They might be the very best format for putting the most important points about given topic in one place. But nowadays we can automaically find the obscure blog post that answers the equally obscure questions that we actually have. And if we really do want questions-and-answers, StackOverflow style sites are even better. All this is bad news for EK.

Breaking it up into small questions also annoys me. It’s not exactly the clicking, its way that forced hiding and clicking breaks up my thoughts. But people are different: I find the Sun mentally more taxing than the Times or the Guardian because I don’t know what to focus on — an yet the Sun sells many more papers than the others. This is probably also bad news for EK.

81 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 5:40 am

Excellent points.

Back in 1992-93, I was genuinely interested in reading frequently asked questions lists on Usenet on dozens of subjects, such as the diplomatic dispute between Greece and The Ex-Yugoslav Republic Formerly Known as Macedonia or whatever it’s called. But most people just want to find the answer to one question (e.g., What do you call it? or Why?), not find out what the all the questions are. And Google is better at that.

82 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 6:04 am

Funny thing with FAQs is that they are not that great for finding answers to specific questions now with Google etc. around.

But a well written FAQ makes excellent, engaging reading on almost any topic. Much better than most articles. There’s something about the format that promotes clarity & precise thinking.

83 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 6:38 am

It worked for Plato.

But you and I are up in the middle of the night talking about the excellence of the FAQ format, which probably suggests, sadly, that it won’t make it in the marketplace.

84 dead serious April 7, 2014 at 9:15 am

Hypercard! Thanks for that long-since-forgotten reference!

85 Steve Sailer April 7, 2014 at 5:46 am

So, what about Vox’s idea of being “Wikipedia with attitude?” Is there a market for a reference work that’s better written and wittier than Wikipedia?

Wikipedia hunts down and deletes good writing. A few years ago I was reading the Wikipedia page on Mike Judge’s “King of the Hill” animated sitcom. Plopped in the middle was a 1,000 word essay of fine literary criticism on the personality and cultural significance of Hank Hill. It was so well crafted that I recognized it as the prose style of my friend Kevin Michael Grace.

I came back a week later and it was gone: it was too good for Wikipedia.

But, people like Wikipedia. Heck, I like Wikipedia.

86 Willitts April 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm

With due respect to you and your prosaic friend, Wikipedia is still intended as an encyclopedia, and essays have little place in it. It might be more suitable for your friend to host his own essay and put a link on Wiki to that. Even so, if everyone used Wiki as an advertising medium, it would lose its usefulness. Im sure your friend’s essay would show up in a Google search.

87 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 1:05 pm


88 andrew' April 7, 2014 at 6:52 am

Pretty condescending from the get-go. We know climate “change is real”. It is just not as real as YOU think it is, and it is not as you think it is, and it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

89 The Anti-Gnostic April 7, 2014 at 9:12 am

The poking around I did had buzzwords defined, but no cites to support a number of confidently stated conclusions. Journalism apparently doesn’t hold itself to a lot of rigor. Of course, if your real intent is just to write an editorial, it doesn’t really matter. But, there are plenty of folks doing that; I do that.

Also, there’s not near enough money in journalism to attract “the smartest minds.” Journalists have an absurdly inflated sense of self-worth. The average lawyer or surgeon has more humility and perspective.

90 Asher April 7, 2014 at 7:20 am

I agree with everything Tyler wrote except for these two points:

‘Those two articles are very good, and “work” in the intended manner.’

91 Jay April 7, 2014 at 7:28 am

Better text…. Here is Ezra on how Ezra makes us stupid.

92 Tarrou April 7, 2014 at 7:33 am

I’ve long been an avid consumer of Kahan’s work, I think it’s some of the most important psychological research being done today. The complete lack of self-awareness as Klein explains how this sort of thing happens, and implies that it only happens to people he’s opposed to is breathtaking. Not once does he seem to consider “wait, if everyone deludes themselves over politics, and smart people delude themselves more than dumb people, how sure am I that X is real?”.

93 Yancey Ward April 7, 2014 at 11:50 am

Best comment on the thread.

94 Jon Rodney April 7, 2014 at 1:02 pm

… best comment on the thread for someone who paid no attention to the several paragraphs discussing this exact subject. Seriously, reading comprehension fail.

95 dan1111 April 7, 2014 at 5:23 pm

That doesn’t really counter the point. The thing is, Klein is perfectly willing to consider this point in the abstract, but it doesn’t enter into his subsequent thinking about actual issues. That is the whole problem with the article. He first says “both Democrats and Republicans ignore evidence”, but then his conclusion appears to be “this explains why Republicans are obviously wrong about these issues.”

96 Jan April 7, 2014 at 12:37 pm

There is a whole section where he and Kahan talk about guarding for this type of bias, recognizing that identity-protective cognition affects everyone. I agree it would be great if they used a couple examples of “good” policy that runs counter to stereotypical liberal view on something.

But the point here is not to denigrate every single policy analysis out there because it might be biased. That nihilistic view runs counter to thinking, explaining, and debate. Just because you can understand the underlying factors in one’s reasoning, doesn’t mean you’re done talking about it. I’m not sure what you expect. What is the antidote?

97 Willitts April 7, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Ezra has the antidote, he just hasn’t injected it into his brain yet.

98 Jan April 7, 2014 at 4:03 pm

When you say stuff like that you immediately lose credibility with anyone who doesn’t hate Ezra Klein.

99 lxm April 7, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Let’s see Klein says early in the essay:

Liberals were extremely good at solving the problem when doing so proved that gun-control legislation reduced crime. But when presented with the version of the problem that suggested gun control had failed, their math skills stopped mattering

Your comment in reply: “The complete lack of self-awareness….”, completely overlooks Klein’s example of left bias. Your comment and most of this whole thread proves Klein’s argument correct. We are all self-deluded. Darwin knew it. He said something like this: He[Darwin] found it necessary to write down every piece of contrary evidence which appeared to contradict his beliefs because otherwise they would disappear from his mind.

If you haven’t discovered this about your thought processes, maybe you can learn from this article, even though it’s written by Klein. Jonathon Haight talks about this as well.

The echo chambers are real.

100 JWatts April 7, 2014 at 9:41 pm

Did you notice that Klein’s comments against Liberal’s were very mild and non-specific, such as “when presented with the version of the problem that suggested gun control had failed, their math skills stopped mattering”, but then he devoted multiple paragraphs to pointing out the failings of conservatives?

Echo chambers indeed.

101 Claude Emer April 8, 2014 at 2:07 am

Klein’s politics are irrelevant. He’s not making a claim that he’s above reproach. He’s commenting on a scientific study that shows echo chambers exist. It’s hardly news, btw if you’ve ever heard of Your Deceptive Mind or Predictably Irrational and many other books by psychologists and even economists who study decision making.
Actually, one just has to read the comments on this blog to be convinced, although MR comments could also be used to demonstrate how people consistently miss the forest to obsess over the tree.

102 Yancey Ward April 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

The gun control mention isn’t relevant because it was a contrived part of Kahan’s research. Klein didn’t discuss gun control in the real world. The point critics are making is that Klein wrote a title “Politics Makes Us Stupid”, but then every actual real world example describes “Politics Makes Them Stupid.” That a lot commenters can’t understand this critique is proof Kahan is onto something, as is Klein’s essay itself.

103 lxm April 8, 2014 at 5:50 pm

Cherry pick much?

The gun control was a part of Kahan’s research. It was not “contrived.”

The Sean Hannity argument was totally contrived.

The HPV issue is not identified as to who the arguing parties were and which political allegiance they may have held.

And the Scalia argument that says that Scalia has cocooned himself in the echo chamber should worry everyone more than anything else in the article if it is, in fact, truth..

Most of the article is describing the machines in both parties that have their members toeing the proper line and describing the “intellectual abyss” that Kahan presents us with and potential solutions to it.

So if you want to ignore the substance of the article then maybe you are correct: “Politics Makes Them Stupid.” But as far as I can see the title and the substance of the article are the correct way to look at it: “Politics Makes [all of] Us Stupid!”

104 loveactuary April 7, 2014 at 7:40 am

anyone upset that the Game of Thrones card / page doesn’t mention George RR Martin?

105 Adrian Ratnapala April 7, 2014 at 9:00 am

No why should it? George RR Martin has not written anything about the topic in years. It’s time to move on.

106 Bob April 7, 2014 at 10:37 am

Nah, more upset at the fact that it gets many things wrong. The TV reporter in the local newspaper wrote an better article to help people catch up.

If Vox was a restaurant, it’d have a whole lot of advertisement, and would have way too many attractive women on it for the food to be any good.

107 Urso April 7, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Nah, you just have to click to the next tab

108 Stuff white people like April 7, 2014 at 10:05 am

I’ll stick with reading about history and foreign policy from books and appropriate websites, and why I would want to flip through irritating little internet “cards” (by the way it often accidentally flips forward on my iphone) on irrelevant topics like game of thrones or train boarding I have no idea. Barely worth a tweet. And the question and answer format is not appropriate for all subjects, and feels somewhat childish and condescending.

109 Rahul April 7, 2014 at 11:17 am

+1 The whole project has a damn condescending taste to it. It’s like analysis dumbed down.

110 john personna April 7, 2014 at 10:50 am

I love the subtext common in comments here … Klein cautions on rationality, but we can’t accept it, because it is from Klein.

The prosecution rests.

111 Jon Rodney April 7, 2014 at 11:23 am


… Maybe Ezra needs different versions of the article for people of different political persuasions, to overcome their particular brands of motivated reasoning?

112 Andrew' April 7, 2014 at 11:30 am

Or you could respond to something that is actually said here.

For example, he posits “what would happen if Sean Hannity decided global warming was the most dire threat facing the planet” and then worries he’d be attacked.

As well he should be because that would be incredibly stupid. We have thousands of nukes. Global warming MIGHT cause some problems.

Maybe we dislike Klein because he keeps being the same as he always been and we are right.

113 Andrew' April 7, 2014 at 11:32 am

Global warming is, in fact, just a small part of the energy problem.

Klein is either being biased, or asinine.

114 Andrew' April 7, 2014 at 11:33 am

And he spends a really long article without getting to the actual reason why:

Two party system

115 Andrew' April 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

You seriously don’t get the irony with comments like this?

“”Scalia dismissed the evidentiary findings of a lower court as motivated by policy preferences. “I find it really demoralizing, but I think some people just view empirical evidence as a kind of device,” Kahan says.

But Scalia’s comments were perfectly predictable given everything Kahan had found. Scalia is a highly ideological, tremendously intelligent individual with a very strong attachment to conservative politics. “”

Or that I still haven’t found a single liberal example provided by Klein?

You seriously don’t get it? Why don’t you get it?

116 Andrew' April 7, 2014 at 11:48 am

Why don’t you get it?

117 Yancey Ward April 7, 2014 at 11:53 am

Andrew, I like you and usually find myself in agreement, but the constant replies to your own comments are a bit annoying.

118 john personna April 7, 2014 at 12:04 pm

If the prosecution had not rested already, it would now.

Andrew’ doubled down attacking Klein, rather say than tying it to Caplan(?) and Overcoming Bias.

IOW a rational observer must acknowledge that widespread irrationally exists, and that this observation was voiced by a random human does not undo it.

119 Andrew' April 7, 2014 at 12:06 pm

That’s why I only come here to get pissed off and then leave.

“Consider the human papillomavirus vaccine, he says. That’s become a major cultural battle in recent years with many parents insisting that the government has no right to mandate a vaccine that makes it easier for teenagers to have sex.”


I’m out.

120 Andrew' April 7, 2014 at 12:10 pm


Note john’s continued non-response.

I’d love to get an actual argument out of someone.

121 Yancey Ward April 7, 2014 at 12:17 pm


Of course John won’t reply, he wears the same intellectual blinders that Klein wears. Tarrou nailed it with the comment above, and John is doing the exact thing that was criticized.

122 john personna April 7, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Note my continued focus on the theme. Of course there is this thing, where information does not reduce the conflict, but only inflames it.

All your responses to Klein’s examples reinforce that theme.

Of course “the politics of HPV” was a thing, and often irrational. (Is there a rational argument against wide vaccination? That “values” are more important than lives is not one, actually. )

123 john personna April 7, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Come on Yancey, Torrou only reduces to “Klein is wrong, because he is right.”

An obvious jujitsu, designed to acknowledge the theme while rejecting it (and the author) at the same time.

It does not Overcome Bias.

124 Jan April 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Yancey and Andrew, I am just curious if you could name one policy issue that you agree with Ezra Klein on. I assume you follow his stuff pretty closely, since you have come out against what he produces generally. But is there just one issue where you think he got it right?

125 JWatts April 7, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Nobodies attacking every position that Ezra Klein ever took. What they are attacking is the mood affiliated article he just wrote.

126 Jan April 7, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Please read the comments. Many are attacking everything about the site the author, including plenty of ad hominems.

127 Yancey Ward April 8, 2014 at 11:50 am


You are the perfect example of what Klein was describing (and so was Klein, which was Andrew’s and Tarrou’s point). Klein could have made a much stronger case supporting Kahan’s research if he had included examples where progressives are blinded by ideology. Perhaps Klein cleverly plans to make this point after letting people like you make fools of themselves slavishly defending the omission, but I doubt it.

128 Yancey Ward April 8, 2014 at 12:12 pm


There is a single comment (Jay’s) which is pure ad hominem. The rest of the comments are simply pointing out how Klein demonstrates the idea behind Kahan’s research and, apparently, doing so unintentionally. The very fact that you read mine, Andrew’s, and Tarrou’s comments as ad hominem is very, very funny given the subject being discussed. Note the one example where Klein comes closest to revealing an example of liberal bias- he can’t bring himself to even discuss it.

To your question, I think carbon dioxide will make the Earth warmer all else being equal. I think people who deny the effect of greenhouse gases are wrong on the science, but I think a lot of progressives are wrong on the magnitudes of the effects, and Klein could have discussed this, too. Unlike a lot of commenters above, I think global warming was a perfect topic to outline Kahan’s hypothesis, but Klein failed in utilizing it properly because he, too, is blinded by ideology.

129 Willitts April 7, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I don’t see a single comment rejecting the proposition because it’s Klein.

Defense rests.

130 Yancey Ward April 8, 2014 at 11:54 am

Indeed, this is the point- the comments are pointing out that Klein couldn’t seem to find a single example where ideology blinds “us”, but instead finds examples where ideology blinds “them”, not that they disagreed with Kahan’s research. And not a single reply by John or others addresses Andrew’s point. One might blame this on intellectual dishonesty, but I think it really just demonstrates Kahan was correct, but they just don’t see why they are demonstrating it themselves.

131 blazing originality April 7, 2014 at 11:01 am

love it. looks great. best of luck to ezra et al. see this review here:


132 john personna April 7, 2014 at 12:30 pm

Note also how many of you who assume that if I subscribe to Klein’s theme, I must love him in all arguments all the time.

I submit that the rational observer can address the theme without getting sidetracked by the personalities.

133 Thomas April 7, 2014 at 4:17 pm

When we are expected to believe: “Look at me, I provide *the best* analysis on the internet. It is rational and overcomes bias. Every one of my positions just happens to coincide with the left, and every one of my examples of bias just happens to come from the right. Ignore that, just a coincidence” some people may object.

That John Personna doesn’t object is no surprise to anyone. Like Klein your opinions have approximately 90% coincidence with “the left”, and also like Klein, you suggest that your analysis is better than anyone you disagree with by virtue of their disagreement.

134 S.C. Schwarz April 7, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I read the Vox piece about how politics makes us stupid. Of course, it’s not that politics makes Klein and his friends stupid. Oh, no, liberals are immune to this disease. Every example Klein gives (climate change, HPV virus) are cases where Klein is sure he’s right and it’s his opponents who are stupid.

The underlying social science research is right: rationality is not about getting things right it’s about winning arguments. See Jonathan Haidt (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/the-righteous-mind-by-jonathan-haidt.html?pagewanted=all) or Robin Hansen (http://www.overcomingbias.com/2014/04/reason-stories-both-tuned-for-contests.html) for a more balanced view.

135 ed April 7, 2014 at 3:02 pm

OK, here’s strong evidence that my skepticism about the research results as reported by Ezra were correct.


136 Aaron April 7, 2014 at 3:43 pm

Is Ezra’s piece about “mood affiliation” by another name?

137 JWatts April 7, 2014 at 9:50 pm

It’s simultaneously about the subject and a demonstration of the subject. If he wrote it intentionally to make that point and then follows up with an article pointing out this out. So that he can then say, “See even my Liberal readers are prone to this bias”. Then his article will have been brilliant.

138 Yancey Ward April 8, 2014 at 11:41 am

And he can use Paul Krugman as an example:

Supreme Irony

139 Rich Berger April 8, 2014 at 10:43 am
140 Floccina April 9, 2014 at 5:07 pm

Interesting that Ezra would say that, I wonder if he would agree to putting the full FICA and Medicare taxes on everyone’s pay stub every week. I wonder if he thinks all taxes should be explicit or does he think that the current stupidity of politics is good because it allows politicians to fool people into allowing politicians to do what is “good for the people” like hiding half or the SS and Medicare taxes does.

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