Too much transparency makes the world more opaque.

Kathleen Kingsbury of the NYTimes editorial page is proudly announcing that instead of following their historic practice of talking with the candidates off-the-record and then announcing an endorsement they will be utterly “transparent.”

On Jan. 19, the @nytimes editorial board will publish our choice for the Democratic nomination for president. It won’t be the first time we’ve endorsed a candidate — we’ve been doing that since 1860 — but we aim to make it our most transparent endorsement process to date. Historically, endorsement interviews are off-the-record — meaning nothing said leaves the room, other than the board’s final judgement.

[But now,] in a first for @nytopinion, all presidential candidate interviews will be on the record and filmed. Next week, we’ll be publishing the full, annotated transcripts online.

What an awful idea, sure to neuter whatever influence the NYTimes might once have had.

Here’s the problem. Under the off-the-record system a candidate could sit down with some smart people and say things like “look, I know tariffs won’t help but the WTO will knock them down anyway and I need to appeal to my base.” Or, “taxes on billionaires won’t raise enough to fund everything I want but to raise taxes on the middle class we need the middle class to know that everyone is going to pay their fair share.” Or “Our troops are demoralized and the plan isn’t working.” If everything is recorded, none of this can happen.

Indeed, what possible value-added can the NYTimes make with a “transparent,” “public” process? Everything that will be said, has been said.

In contrast, a non-transparent, off-the-record process can reveal new information because less transparent can be more honest. The off-the-record system isn’t a guarantee of useful information, as the NYTimes has its biases and the off-the-record system only works because it is coarse, but coarse systems can reveal more information.

The demand for transparency seems so innocuous. Who could be against greater transparency? But transparency is inimical to privacy. And we care about privacy in part, because we can be more honest and truthful in private than in public. A credible off-the-record system leaks a bit of honesty into the public domain and thus improves information overall. Too much transparency, in contrast, makes the world more opaque.


War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strenght. Transparency is opacity.

That makes it easy. Anyone she is for, I'm against.

So the old way was for the candidates to admit to their lies and the media would clean it up for the dumb voting public.

Talk about living in a bubble.

Is there anything less important than how the failed and disgraced NYTimes decides which ancient white socialist it is going to shill for in 2020? Can you imagine sitting around your house, being genuinely upset about the fact that they modified their procedure?

It's truly beyond belief.

That is not the point. In the great scheme of things, it might not matter (I guess it might matter for some Democrats), but that such measure is being opposed by people who think it will limitate politicians' ability to lie to their bases is preposterous.

Slow News Day

Enough about aged, millionaire socialists Sanders and Warren.

This is a good example of the 'Dutch cyclists virtue paradox, which I thought up earlier this week while cycling from Delft to Den Haag. The idea is that any mass uptake of virtuous behaviour results in a point where its marginal utility becomes negative.

Here in the NL, that behaviour is cycling. Who wouldn't be in favour of an entire country getting on its bikes, with profound health and environmental benefits. Alas, because almost everybody does, the overall standard of Dutch cycling is pretty bad. It's over-commoditised, lacking in norms and rules, full of entitled behaviour, with poor safety awareness or recognition. I could go on.

Think about the health benefits of eating seafood - aren't we told that it's the secret to Japanese longevity? Great, that also means vacuuming up the seabed. What about mass veganism? I don't want to live near the countryside that produces that (which will also be counterproductive environmentally). And in development, who wouldn't want to see every family in Niger and Laos in a cosy four bed detached house with two cars and golf club membership? Closer to home, I'm glad more people don't suddenly decide to have a staycation, walking in Britain's national parks.

Same goes with transparency. This is not a world of absolutes.

I see, so politicians should lie to us to make us make our decisions based on... their lies.

"look, I know tariffs won’t help but the WTO will knock them down anyway and I need to appeal to my base."
If anyone wonders how we got here, in this bad place of desperate, populist rage...

You have to keep in mind that AT and TC are in-power elites, and so they're goal is to protect the status quo that grants them and other in-power elites that power.

I can not believe our elites would think it right to lie to us to keep their power and privilege. That is not my America.

Oh and the NYT transparency endorsement process is gonna be some boon to the underclass....

It will be a bunch of Galbrathian golbdygook wrapped in a pretty bow.

If only hyper transparency could promote socially optimal public policy....

Bicycling in the US is a niche thing- I'm in it- but you can find plenty of bad behavior among American cyclists too.

The Dutch in no way, shape, or form think bicycling riding is virtuous.

They do think it is practical, quick, inexpensive, easy, and something they have been doing for generations.

And to be honest. most of the objections in this case seem to completely ignore that the Netherlands is a densely populated country. With the Dutch being fully aware of their norms and rules, having grown up with them.


Most of what you say, but in the end your comment is fatuous and silly. All of that can be true, but that does not mean that the Dutch do not also consider bicycle riding to be virtuous.

And even though they are experienced and good riders, that also does not mean that there might come a point when there might be too many bike riders for the roads, although I do not know if that point has been reached or not anywhere in NL.

Have you asked any Dutch people about that? I actually did, this afternoon - she considered riding a bike about as virtuous as any other mundane and banal action in daily life. After having first to explain why I was asking such a clearly bizarre question.

Or did you find throwing a baseball in school PE to be virtuous? Riding a bicycle is just something you do, to get from place to place cheaply and easily. Just like basically everyone else, in similar fashion to how American learn the basics of some pretty bizarre sports such as baseball or football.

The "road" in the NL is generally a dedicated bike lane - not the street, and not the sidewalk. And just like many things in the Netherlands, which has an extremely high population density, they can get crowded. As for too crowded - depends on whether you live in a major Dutch city, where crowded is normal.

Yes, I have, Abrc, but then people do not usually admit to considering themselves to be morally superior to others.

As a matter of fact, in Amsterdam the density of bike riding has reached the point where it has become a hassle for pedestrrians in some parts at some times, although probably not for native Amsterdam pedestrians. But then, hey, the Dutch are both more capable as well as being morally superior to outsiders.

You must know different Dutch people than I do. The Dutch I know tend to consider the Dutch to be fairly lazy and lackadaisical, and generally uninterested in feeling moral superior to anyone. But then, you might also feel that the Dutch feel morally superior because they often use campers on vacation. I, on the other hand, have been told enough times it is basically the cheapest and most practical way to go on vacation (for example, it is easy to pack in all the food you need to cook in your own kitchen) to believe what they say, as separate from the Dutch being modest about their inherent moral superiority.

Except Germans - they definitely and proudly consider themselves morally superior to Germans. Though not because of bicycle riding.

Amsterdam is its own case with all the tourists - Rotterdam or Utrecht would be better examples.

Fair enough, although I continue to think you understate the understated sense of moral superiority many Dutch have, although I may suffer from small sample bias.

Obligatory addendum:

The topic of the actual blog post is transparency in editorial board endorsements.

I don't understand your comment about veganism. A rather high percentage of farmland is devoted to growing crops to feed to livestock rather than people. If meat consumption drastically fell, it would mean less land devoted to farming, not more.

Is that the equilibrium though? At present, public speech is fiercely policed and scrutinised, and so only the blandest messages can be sent publicly. This is not completely opaque though, because private messages are mediated through trusted parties. But if you remove that process, there is an overall lack of communication, which perhaps forces candidates to be more honest publicly, and over time might reduce the public punishment for honesty.

Perhaps Trump was forced to be as blunt as he was in his campaign ("I'm gonna bomb the shit out of them") because he had (or chose to have) less access to the elite off-the-record mediation mechanism.

Very good comment.

So you don't want to see how the sausage gets made? Sound wisdom.

Blood, brains, scraps of intyernal oragns, and wheat, stuffed into intestines.
 Hence, Otto von Bismarck's famous comment.

Wasn't there some wonderful quote defining sausage as something like "a condom stuffed with sweepings from the abattoir floor."

...And it all gets made in a smoke-filled room too.


You don't get it, do you, UFC?

The issue is not seeing or not seeing sausage being made. Alex's point is that nobody will see it being made under this proposal, except perhaps for an occasional slip by a candidate. It is that all one will see is the altready public non-sauage blather by the candidates, not very interesting and not of much use.

You seem to be pretty naive for someone taking on the moniker you use here, UFC. I mean, didn't you used to overthrow governments? I would think you would be a bit smarter than you appear to be.

If faced with lying to everyone, all the time, I'd bet politicians would be more likely to tell the truth. More than if they are assisted and indulged in lies by some complicit cozy clique that gets to feel like it keeps secret and privileged knowledge of how "things really are" (and who pat themselves on the back, to boot, about how responsible they're being by keeping the harsh and difficult truth from the animal masses).

That is, I bet Alex's prediction would work out like that.

This is more about appealing to/satisfying NYT readers than about "transparency" or the best method for making endorsements. With "transparency", the NYT can claim it's not part of the elite: the NYT has no information that readers don't have about the candidates. I suppose the NYT would disagree, that "transparency" is meant to promote "trust" between the NYT and readers. Of course, that's transparently false. The NYT is the "newspaper of record" because it's elite; if it isn't elite, it can't be the newspaper of record.

on the record = more content to peddle

" sure to neuter whatever influence the NYTimes might once have had"

Missed the bit where the purpose of a newspaper was to have influence. What happened to plain *journalism*?

If candidates can't tell the truth to the NY Times about topics where they're lying to the rubes, then...what exactly is the problem? Under such a system, of course in their endorsement, the NY Times then couldn't explain truthfully why they made their decision as it depended on off-the-record information they aren't able to reveal. Privileged information from candidates would lead to obfuscation or lying by the editors.

"Indeed, what possible value-added can the NYTimes make"

Indeed. I can't imagine caring any more about the NY Times endorsement (or that of any paper) more than I do about which film the motion picture academy awards the best picture oscar. I suppose that, in their endorsement, the Times could provide a novel, insightful, never-before-seen analysis of their preferred candidate, but at this point what are the chances of *that* coming from any quarter? And who would trust that the reasons they profess in their editorial are the actual reasons (as opposed to personal relationships or favors owed or expectations of future preferred access or positions in the new administration)? Aren't we talking about folks who slip back and forth between sides of the political-journalism industrial complex? These aren't philosopher kings after all.

I agree with this, and might go a bit further.

Under the off-the-record system a candidate could sit down with some smart people and say things like “look, I know tariffs won’t help but the WTO will knock them down anyway and I need to appeal to my base.”

I think a candidate who did this would signal that they are both hypocritical and dumb. Hypocritical because that's the top level message, dumb because their second level message to the NYT is "I am lying."

Better I think to always frame a heartfelt message. Like "While I endorse these tariffs, I don't see them as an end in themselves and anticipate moving to a system of trade based on yadda yadda yadda."

It's not that hard.

Drop your hypocritical peeps, Tyler.

Oops, the concept was so "Straussian" that I assumed Tyler. Sorry to both of you!

The credibility of the NYT has been gone for some time and this pathetic gesture won't restore it. MR should quit linking to it so often.

It's telling they link to it so often.

It's telling you two to find another blog to pollute.

Not sure on this one tbh. On the one hand, you make a fair point. Full tranparency in a lot of endeavours will make them less likely to succeed.

On the other hand, public trust in the media globally is struggling an enormous amount and the consequences of that loss of trust have been pretty dire. The NYT is still one of the biggest most reputable papers on the planet with a brand that should allow it to get people useful information that they need to know.

When people think the paper is lying about politics they might start asking what else it is lying about. Is this PSA about the importance of vaccines a lie too? What about this article about using a child seat in the car? What about this article about not mixing opioids and alcohol?

Hopefully at least some papers are going to be able to reestablish themselves as somewhat credible non-partisan sources, maybe this is the NYT attempt at starting that process.

I guess they did it for branding purposes, to appear politically-correct. But paradoxically, it is also a stupid decision for branding. The function of a brand is to reassure the customer that the quality of whatever is sold is good without having to concern themselves with product tests and production process controls. Regarding media, for example, I used to delegate to The Economist my position on anything that was too complex for me to come to a decision in a reasonable amount of time, as for example with global warning (I stopped using TE for this function with the second Iraq invasion). It was a way to cope with the rationality of the ignorance.

If they disclose the means through which they come to their conclusions, then they either 1) publish a 500 pages book on each candidate platform that no reader will use, and most likely becomes a oppo-research, or 2) they take the interview at face value and make the recommendation based on it. At that point, I can read the platitudes-filled bullshit interview myself without much effort. What’s the value of the brand, then? Maybe only as a way to make sure I am following the herd thinking and signaling it buying the paper.

To me this signals the decline in stature of the NYT, and the decline in sophistication of NYT readership. If NYT is broadly respected, then as Tyler suggests, an opaque process gives us more information than we would otherwise get. Candidates provide NYT with material nonpublic information, NYT applies its wisdom and sound judgment, and we get an endorsement that synthesizes the off-the-record info into a facially simple but ultimately information-rich pick.

If on the other hand most of the country can’t trust NYT’s wisdom and sound judgment anymore (plausible), then the once-useful process adds nothing. So instead, NYT provides a substitute value to the remnant of Americans who still trust it (elites): virtue signaling.

Okay, but we might then have to wonder what Alex and Tyler are giving us.

If they aren't committed to transparency, is this the real thing, or just for the rubes?

Seriously, you are asking whether this place is simply a sophiscated attempt to push a certain perspective?


They’re not reporters, and they don’t endorse candidates. Not a valid comparison.

Which if carried to its logical conclusion, means they have no committment to being accurate either.

Don't be an obnoxious idiot, rube. This does not follow.

He got banned so he has to use these different handles now. Always been an obnoxious idiot. And the worst kind, the kind that doesn't know he's an idiot.

What if you just start from the premise that the NYT is going to endorse Elizabeth Warren no matter what anyone says? From there, it’s just a matter of how they want to market the endorsement.

Your premise that the editorial board is interested in real engagement with candidates, after which there will be some internal deliberation & then finally an endorsement is certainly questionable.


Why should we start from that premise? Do you have inside personal information on the views of those involved in this decision? I doubt it.

You look like another idiot shooting off his mouth very stupidly here today.

Why should we start from that premise?

You could also start with the premise that they intend to endorse Petey Booty-gig no matter what.

His point - that the assumption of good faith on the part of the editors - is not only warranted but more plausible than its converse.

Most scholars believe that if the Constitutional Convention had been open rather than closed, the resulting document would have been considerably different--and a good chance there would have been no Constitution at all.

What I am about to say

Is off the record.

Why would you expect

A politician

To Tell the truth contradicting a public position

Off the record?

Yep, there is a certain charming naivete required to even accept the premise being presented.

Because they know the NYT is in on the lie and it'll help them frame it better. Good to all be on the same page when lying, wasn't that what Journolist was all about?

Your opinion, I suppose, but not the facts. See comments below.

Is there any evidence that a NYT endorsement has an affect on much of anything?

Primary wise, it affects coverage by other outlets. Especially if it is a dark horse.

I don't think it moves votes. Might help or hurt fundraising on the margin.

Meanwhile, Brazil's President Caprain Bolsonaro rejects corrupt dealings and has made the Biblical verse "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" his personal motto, frequently repeated. Maybe we, Americans, too, should put character above opacity.

Thanks for your thoughtful insight, Mr. Ford.

Amazing to think that the NYT actually believes that anybody still takes it seriously.

I do.

They have journalists who actually win awards for their reporting.

Pulitzer prizes have become just like Oscars and Nobels. You win them for being a member of the old boy network, not for any real merit.

Who made you the judge of that? Ask the Columbia School of Journalism.

As with any consumer product or service, only the consumer can judge it objectively. The providers will always cheer their own output no matter how much it stinks.

The NY Times team that reported on Fukushima in 2011 was runner-up for a Pulitzer and half of that reporting was an alarmist joke that went against what health physicists around the world were saying. There were also a lot of errors that should have never happened at that level. In one article, the reporter wrote that a person she interviewed was a radiation expert despite the fact that his Japanese CV showed that he is a veterinarian. They repeatedly called a nuclear activist a "nuclear expert" despite that he dropped out of college as a music major to joining the anti-nuclear movement in the 70s.

According to Politifact, the proportion of FoxNews statements that are mostly false or worse are 50% more than MSNBC and twice as high as CNN.

You can look at the facts if you want in a book entitled: Network Propaganda: Manipulation, Disinformation and Radicalization in American Politics by several Harvard Professors. You can find the book and earlier research at the Berkman Klein Institute at Harvard.

You are the victim of disinformation.

I have to ask. Just who are you signaling to when you use “according to Politifact” to make an argument? Does this work on people outside your bubble?

You have nothing to offer in reply as to a source that checks facts. What does that say about you and your bubble of deliberate ignorance and unwillingness to use facts.

Circular logic. The award juries have operated for decades on the assumption that all journalists admitted to the storied NYT newsroom are the best ones in the country. There are in fact many fine reporters at the paper, but the spoonfeeding of opinion along with facts in general reporting, along with the editors' selection of which stories to pursue, has diminished the credibility of the reporting function.

To be fair, other publications' financial stress and associated decline in quality -- over-reliance on police blotters, gimmicky features, questions unasked, bad grammar, terrible syntax, innumeracy etc. -- is much worse.

But not all newspapers can gather unto themselves 5 million new digital subscribers after the election of a president who is deeply unpopular with self-regarding elites.

"ARE much worse" in the second paragraph.

Sorry. I miss copy editors.

For a time, when parts of the media developed a national presence, like the New York Times, they reveled in the idea that the Fourth Estate was the real selector of the president. That time has come and gone. Newspapers have nowhere near the influence they once did and an endorsement of a candidate is an outdated ritual performed by a dying institution. The electronic media is now in charge but is so fractured that even Russian bots can get in on the action and actually elect a US president. We're in big trouble.

It's probably a good time to re-visit Michael Crichton's 2002 commentary on the media:

Media carries with it a credibility that is totally undeserved. You have all experienced this, in what I call the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. (I call it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.)

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect works as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward-reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story-and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read with renewed interest as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about far-off Palestine than it was about the story you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all.

But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

OK, Chuck, you are the only commenter here I am commenting on who has at least made some reasonably intelligent and knowledgeable remarks, and I take seriously that you spoke with Gell-Mann about this, whom I also knew.

Anway, there is one point where your argument sort of gets messed up, if not seriously so, although it concerns me as it seems to be key to what you are ascribing to the late Gell-Mann.

This is where you have the individual reading something in the paper on a topic they do not have private information about, apparently believing it, but then promptly forgetting it once the page is turned. What is this about and what does it have to do with all this? Hey, if people believe stuff that they should be skeptical about, but then promptly forget it when they turn the page, what is the problem here and who cares?

Again, rest of your remarks reasonable.

The quote is from a speech given in 2002 by Michael Crichton. I'd hoped that readers would realize that even without quotation marks, since it was mentioned before the quote. Your analysis is exactly backwards to the idea that Crichton was expressing. He says that he reads things that he's knows to be in error and then tends to accept the things that he reads later with which he has no experience or knowledge, forgetting that the stuff he knows about was wrong. Are you awake?

A little too awake frankly, chuck. I shall put it back to you: Can you read what you wrote? It is pretty incoherent.

Furthermore, it is really unclear who is saying what. How much of what follows the colon in your longish post is a direct quote from Crichton, if any? Is it Crichton who knew Gell-Mann or you? Is the person "turning the page" doing so before or after they read the story they do not know the subject about, and what is it they are forgetting, the stuff they know that has nothing to do with the story they are reading or the story?

Whether it is you or Crichton, this is very bad writing.

Also, frankly, while he knows a lot and is very creative, Crichton has been wrong about quite a few things, without getting into details. On scientific matters he has lost his cred with me. In short, like a lot of the supposedly bad reporting in the papers, one should read him with caution and not just forget what one knows.

I shall also note that while the quality of papers and much media is declining, there remain some reporters and columnists who really do know their stuff and are pretty reliable, although their numbers are declining.

BTW, after this dumb comment by you, my opinion of your intelligence is substantially lower than it was, although you remain not as ridiculous as most of the other commenters I have dumped on (yes, I am very arrogant, but that is not news for any regulars here).

Ad hominem day for you, eh? There are, indeed , a few journalists worthy of that description, Russell Hubbard of the Omaha World-Herald, for instance. But he's quite exceptional. Amia Srinivasan would be as well but only a small portion of her excellent work can be called journalism. The fact is that there has always been a dearth of good newspaper writers, which is why they stand out from their peers. Past presidents have mentioned it frequently.

"Ad hominem"? Are you kidding? You wrote poorly. I am a hardass journal editor who reads super better than even your highest level English teacher.

What was your problem, boy? You made it look like you met Murray Gell-Mann. It now seems that you did not, and that it was the barely credible novelist MIchael Crichton who did so, not you, although even now you are not fessing up to having misled everybody here with an apparently phony claim you met Gell-Mann.

Sorry, boy, but you are just a piece of worthless misleading garbage.

By the way, I think we've reached such a depth of hypocrisy right now that nothing really needs to be off the record. It's overt. It's an implicit argument that everything is about political power now, and no pesky virtue that anyone might want to signal.

"You can't trust the CIA and FBI on the Mueller Report because they are deep state Democrats."

"You must trust the CIA and FBI on the Iranian threat, because some information must remain secret."

Or every clip of a Republican on the Clinton Impeachment vs now.

They don't even try for a consistent, public, moral framing. They lie and know we know they are lying. They don't care that we know, because this year they have the Senate votes to make us eat it.

Boomer discovers that politicians are lying hypocrites.

News at 11!

Every post from you is an apology for this behavior. A weak defense of the status quo.

Even if "politicians lie" it is logically impossible that they must lie equally, and therefore a aspiring moral voter has a path to a positive change in the world.

But of course this is not news.

Yes, acknowledging a fact is the same as an endorsement. What a bizarro world you live in.

Poor anonymous, walking around with a lantern in the daytime searching for the honest politician.

Let us know when you find him.

There are certain foundations to democracy. Truth is one.

We are actually living the consequences of a rejection of that reality.

But it isn't a "poor me" when 57% percent are up for impeachment. It means that at the margin, people have figured it out.

BTW, Brian reminded us that one origin of current Iran problems was the 2002 Iraq invasion.

That too was a failure (and for some a rejection) of truth as foundation for democracy.

In the darkest light, Alex's piece says it's fine if Bush lied to the public, and told Judith Miller why he really invaded.

Yes the dreaded aftermath of the 2002 invasion....what?

Boomers always want to return to a mythical past.

Trumpistas want to return to a fake version of the 1950s when manufacturing jobs grew on trees.

anonymous wants to return to a time when our politicians were honest patriots selflessly acting in a Spocklike collective self interest, and newspapers run by Hearst only delivered the verified facts.

I’m honestly not sure which is more delusional.

Your furious hand-waving is amusing for what it implies.

But again, I ask something very simple. In a varied political landscape make the moral choice, or failing that, the least bad.

A moral choice between corrupt establishment and increasingly senile corrupt populist?

Not seeing the moral valence.

I suppose you could reflexively vote for whoever opposes invading foreign countries as a decent proxy.

Sanders then?

If you are serious, I feel sorry for you. Either you don't feel you have the ability to make a moral choice. Or you are faking, because you are making a Straussian argument for what you know to be immoral.

You’re right of course, i could either write in a candidate during the general election, or vote libertarian.

Using your own criteria of course, would eliminate Biden as a candidate. He voted for the “2002 invasion,” as well as championed mass incarceration.

You seem stuck. You keep insisting that a moral choice must be a perfect choice, rather than a better one.

That's so famous an error that they made up a rule for it: don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Voting for a Libertarian who can't win is doing exactly that(*). It is setting the perfect against the good(**) and paving the way for the worse to win.

* - assuming in fact that you have a perfect Libertarian

** - as a spoiler candidate, implicitly

I'm thinking Brian might be off by 23 years.


Actually, 1953 the source of 1979, if that is what you mean by "Brian might actually be off by 23 years."

But the problem with that is that the Iraq invasion was in 2003, not 2002, so it would be 24 years. And who the heck is Brian?

Nobody on this particular part of this thread looks knowledgeable or intelligent, none of you. Sorry, but I am in my mangy street fighting mood today, correcting all the trolls and idiots and ignorami here, who are plenty numerous.

I don't regard 2002 +/- 1 a big deal.

As far as the reference,

Yeah, sure boy, you were wrong, but not by too much. No problem. Sure.

It really is (relatively) recent that the media have completely abandoned the concept of objective journalism, so that not a word they say can be trusted. But for the same reason you won't see any news show admit it.

Have you ever read a book? You think Hearst and Pulitzer's newspapers were objective?

There are specialists in media ethics. They're still out there, and you can follow them.

Check out Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu):

"Or every clip of a Republican on the Clinton Impeachment vs now."

Its not just Republicans, Nadler and Schumer, for instance, have videos showing reversed positions too.

It was a slightly windy, self-righteous way of saying, we've invested in all this video equipment and have committed to providing multimedia content - and here's something else to film, and post on the internet with the podcasts and such ...

But I missed where she supplied the connecting thought between this momentous decision and "in the shadow of voter suppression." [I'm not familiar with that, I would have supposed there was less than ever before in our history, this being an era of voter promotion - but I don't follow such things closely, so I'll go with it.] Is she suggesting that the Times had some complicity in that, or that past elections were illegitimate, and the NYT means to ensure that this one is legitimate? Or to plant the thought in advance that it was not? The AP Paranoid Stylebook?

I wonder what errors of judgment and wokeness they will find to humblebrag about in 2024?

Filming is the part I’m most curious about. Is the idea that the candidate and the NYT can use these as co-branded campaign ads? Or is the NYT just trolling for eyeballs in the hope that something goes viral?

Video is the only way you can make money with ads online. Remember banner ads? Everyone just ignored them.

Ever wonder why every single website started adding autoplay videos to every single page? That's why.

In other words:
1. There are policies that would upset voters but not the New York times. This is independent of whether these policies improve some objective function (e.g., economic growth, better infrastructure) that everyone ceteris paribus wants. These could be differences in preferences. For instance, the voters may think taxing billionaires is a good idea. The NYT thinks taxing billionaires is a bad idea. The candidate says publicly that taxing billionaires is a good idea.
2. Even though voters may have different preferences from those of the the NYT, they will listen to the endorsement of the NYT. So the candidate tells the NYT that taxing billionaires is a bad idea, off-the-record. The NYT endorses this candidate. Why would voters accept this endorsement?

As someone said earlier, it does not make sense in equilibrium.

How transparent of the N. Y. T.

This post is a perfect example of why I (and undoubtedly many others) visit Marginal Revolution daily. Well done.

Satire at this level is rare to find, no question

I don't see what is gained from editorial boards choosing who they endorse based on the lies they THINK candidates are telling as opposed to the lies they are SURE that they are telling.

But in this case, transparency is for Times' staff's benefit, not ours. Workers there were angered after the board endorsed Hillary over Bernie in 2016. There's nothing more than that going on here.

What is the role of a newspaper? Is it just to package news efficiently and engagingly? Is it also to provide analysis to tell us how to think and act on that news? Transparency promotes the first at the expense of the second. Given the proliferation of news aggregators on the internet, there is little value added left there. The NYT makes its money and secures its position as an opinion journal, for the most part, its role as an aggregator does not pay the bills. This move to transparency puts too high a priority on the aggregator role. We have no need for a NYT that merely presents us with the public faces of the candidates; we can find that anywhere. The NYT is only useful as a source of analysis and opinion; that role is enhanced by access to the more private thoughts of candidates.

The best counterargument would be that candidates have stopped being forthcoming in private meetings, because they don't trust that anything expressed can or will be kept off the record. In which case transparency is just an admission of defeat as a news organization. Using the videos of interviewing the candidates as click-bait are the actions of an entertainment business, not the journalists of record.

Or, perhaps you have difficulty from distinguishing fact from opinion:

From a Pew study:

The findings from the survey, conducted between Feb. 22 and March 8, 2018, reveal that even this basic task presents a challenge. The main portion of the study, which measured the public’s ability to distinguish between five factual statements and five opinion statements, found that a majority of Americans correctly identified at least three of the five statements in each set. But this result is only a little better than random guesses. Far fewer Americans got all five correct, and roughly a quarter got most or all wrong. Even more revealing is that certain Americans do far better at parsing through this content than others. Those with high political awareness, those who are very digitally savvy and those who place high levels of trust in the news media are better able than others to accurately identify news-related statements as factual or opinion."

Here is the link:

I judge a news source by whether it has hired journalists, and ever fired a journalist for misreporting. Breitbart probably fails on both scores, whereas the NYT passes both tests.

The paper "Open Covenants, Clandestinely Arrived At" by political scientist
Barbara Koremenos at Michigan is related. You can find it by googling it.

It's a retreat, like everything the left does. If it's all in the open they are blameless and they don't have to take a stand on anything. The continued path to irrelevance.


My prediction: if not this cycle, then soon, they will proudly and at great length announce that they were split, perhaps along identity lines, unable to reach something so bourgeois and Western-centric as a consensus. Or unable to so foul themselves as to even countenance the American system by playing along and endorsing a single candidate. The tune may change with administrations but they want to burn the whole place down so much more than they want anything else.

Hasn't a NYT product become confirming the bias of the median Democrat? If so, then showing the selection process behind the curtain might comfort the supporters of candidates not selected. A "You are among the right people" sort of message.

For the rest of us, isn't the NYT endorsement is now an endorsement of public talking points? (was it ever more? I assumed so...?)

I haven't engaged in pro/con-NYT above, because it's boring, and perhaps an example of sewing grain upon the rock.

But since you ask, I think progressives distinguish between the news and editorial sides of the house. They generally trust the news, but regard the editorial side with suspicion.

As an independent I'm not that far away from that. I generally trust the news, and can take or leave the editorials. Some are ok, but it's hit and miss.

If true - if there is such a sharp distinction as you say, and it's not actually two halves of Holy Writ - then this could easily be seen as an attempt to square the circle - to give the impression that what they do on the opinion side is not bloveating, but rather, the "science of opinion": here's our data.

It's easy to forget the distinction between transparency and accountability. The former can create a certain form of the latter, but not necessarily the best kind. Indeed, transparency often just means being accountable to the mob. And in a similar vein, it's easy to confuse being accountable to the mob with serving the public's interests.

By mob, apparently you the America people.

Te world does not read the NY Times.

The NY Times is now a trade journal for diversifiers.

550 million (in 2005) page views a month and very large subscription base.

How does that compare the the Marginal Revolution or Breitbart?


List below the facts that support your claim that the world does not read the NYT. You can use subscription data, page hits, etc. and place it relative to other outlets. If you do not have any data, I am not surprised. Post your data for your claim below.

2005 was fifteen years ago. Why quote such old statistics? And "page views"? Not even "unique page views", "visits", "unique visitors" or some other slightly less meaningless statistic?

They have a bit less than 5 million subscribers as of late 2019, most of which are online. Their online subscriptions are growing at a pretty healthy rate (see the graph in the middle of this article). They have a goal of 10 million subscribers by 2025.

But is this "very large" and is this "the world"? And some online subscriptions may be like gym memberships... some people never cancel them but hardly ever actually use them. About 20% subscribe only to things like crosswords rather than the news product.

In any case, the NY Times and the Washington Post benefit from the Trump effect and from the utter collapse of local newspapers in many US cities.

Both NYT and WaPo are wholly owned oligarchic propaganda organs that would dry and blow away in a week without support. The fun part about WaPo is that I suspect Bezos is spergy enough to think buying it was a way to influence Washington.


What you are saying then is that, "with the collapse of local newspapers in many US cities," the NYT is doing quite well, relative to others. By the way, it was Matt who made the claim about "the world" . I don't know what he means, or even if that is relevant, as I doubt there is any newspaper that is read by the "world", although I suspect, and perhaps why you don't like it, is that the NYT is one of the most influential newspapers and news organizations in the world.

Read it and weep.

It's not merely "relative to others". I suspect they're actually grabbing a larger share of the shrinking pool of newspaper readers nationwide, at the expense of local papers that are in a vicious circle death spiral of declining readership / declining quality.

Whatever the reason, the New York Times is actually doing really well lately in terms of online subscription growth, and they are adding newsroom employees. Hoping that they will die is just wishful thinking.

They have lost influence though, if influence is defined as the ability to change anyone's mind. They have become more nakedly partisan and have drifted further leftward, and so aren't perceived as a "newspaper of record" anymore. Like Fox News, they are mostly preaching to the converted now.

Your response is an example of a disinformation tactic called "whataboutism". If you would like to read about this, go to the Berkman Klein Institute at Harvard and look up the free online book called Network Propaganda.

Neither of which are really comparable to the NY Times in intent or brand. You probably need to compare it to Fox News. There isn't really an unquestioningly right-leaning paper in the same sense that the NY Times is so completely left-leaning. The Wall Street Journal, for example, is much more centrist with an editorial page that dislikes Trump and is strongly open borders, and a journalistic commitment to regularly tearing the crap out of big business, its ostensible market.

I will grant you that while Fox News is to the right what the NY Times is to the left, it's tough comparing such very different media when both are dying in part due to tremendous technological pressures that have little or nothing to do with their ideology.

The NYT is about as left wing as any other source of news which is based on selling itself to capitalists and warmongerers.

It is a fantasy of the highest order to think that the NYT is anything but a cheerleader for the existing system.

Sure. Like I said, Fox News is the closest right-leaning analogy. Middle-brow, and don't ask the hard questions. Just cheer for the team.

This is a joke, right? "We have to lie to you about why we're endorsing this candidate because you're too dumb to know your own interests. But you can totally trust us to endorse the candidate that is best for you and not the one that's best for us."

What is good for the New York Times is good for America.

Optimistically we will see if the NYT treats all the Democrat candidates equally I.e. Warren is asked softball questions while Bloomberg get high and tight fastballs at his head. We may also get an idea of how smart the editors are - tough questions with follow ups.

You fancy their editorial board is composed of trial lawyers?

"what possible value-added can the NYTimes make"

That's the problem. What possible value does the NYT provide in general? It's a relic that just refuses to die, all while begging for new relevance by making the interviews into one more product to be marketed.


Having done some defending of you against some of the sillier criticisms of your post here, now let me raise my own question. I actually happen to agree with your main point, but I fear it may not make much difference. This is both because of the declining prestige and influence of the NYT, for better or worse, but also because in their endorsements the NYT cannot say anything about these "of course I know better than that" statements. In that regard I suspect such remarks make little difference in their ultimate decisions about endorsements, except perhaps for cases where candidates even off the record continue to defend unwise positions in their platforms, which might lead the NYT folks to not endorse them for their stupidity.

As it is, there are other areas where I think lots of transparency has not necessarily been all that helpful. One of those involves the Fed. Of course for decades we have people pushing for greater transparency there, and there has been greater transparency. But in fact I think what this has led to is, well, lying by Fed officials in public about why they are really doing things, as their public statements must conform to all sorts of previously announced stuff, some of which may be completely irrelevant, but they cannot say so in public.

Thus we had the matter of the most recent increase in interest rates that happened under Yellen's watch. The officially publicly stated reason was to prevent an inflationary outburst before it could get going. Certainly some Fed people thought that. But there is a lot of reason to believe that the real reason some of the more important ones supported this, without naming any names, is that they wanted to get the rates back up to a level where they could be lowered again in case of a recession appearing, but that was not a publicly acceptable thing to say. Of course the more recent declines in an effort to stave off recession have now weakened the ability of the Fed to actually offset the recession that will eventually come when it does.

Barkley, agreed! I see this as an intuitive way to explain the deeper results that more transparency can be less informative. Many applications as you note.

This new approach is a sign that the NYT recognises that it has a credibility problem and can no longer say: "trust us and vote for this candidate". A healthy sign.

I'm gonna knee-jerk on this one, I'd prefer politicians to face an absolutely stark choice to lie to everyone or no one. Healither.

Lying to the public as a whole and preserving the truth for a cosy clique of insiders, well, that's hardly a society of the level playing field, but one where cronies and schmoozers with personal relationships and inside information will get ahead beyond their merit (by predicting what will really happen). More, its a pat on the back for cynics and Kremlinologists and a kick in the teeth in those who trust politicians at face value. It's a world of Inner Party and Outer Party.

Better that the heavens should fall than that I endorse that to stand!

Who can question Pravda?

Oh,I am being bad, and I am not picking on you at all personally, MM, but in fact I have in real historical time questioned Pravda and been proved right in a very serious way, a matter that Tyler Cowen is very seriously aware of.

Some wisecracks in certain locations (such as a blog run by someone married to someone from Moscow) are not quite as amusing as you think they are.

But, hey, like most commenters here, not only should you be forgiven but you will be, even though you are a hopelessly ignorant fool

A bland reference to Pravda in the customary shorthand-for-propaganda manner? Horrors. Everyone knows Russians never made jokes about every aspect of life under Communism. I mean, it's definitely NOT a whole genre.

Actually in the bad old days, Pravda often got used as toilet paper. Really.

Ok, here's the Big Secret: Warren, Nutty, Sanders and Biden will increase taxes, business regs, enviro regs, impose carbon taxes, impose equality regs on biz and encourage immigration. Trump will do the opposite.

1. Candidates provide an answer to each question using a single-use pseudonymous identifier, using standard ZK techniques to prove that (i) they are a registered candidate and (ii) they are only answering each question once.
2. The pseudonymous answers are scored, and the scores signed.
3. The candidates ZK prove their total scores.

I'm trying to figure out if I'm being 1/4 serious or 1/2 serious here....

So when you lie to your wife about cheating on her, and you lie to your girlfriend that you're going to leave your wife for her, you're actually doing them both a favor? U r sew smRt!!!!

The lyin's the easy part. The trick is to keep 'em from running into each other and talkin'. Now that's hard.

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