In a wide-ranging interview with New York Magazine, Five-Thirty-Eight’s Nate Silver mocked New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as a “hedgehog” who “only knows one thing.” When asked to describe what a hedgehog is, Silver pointed to Friedman specifically and the op-ed columnists at the Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal:
Uhhhh, you know … the op-ed columnists at the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal are probably the most hedgehoglike people. They don’t permit a lot of complexity in their thinking. They pull threads together from very weak evidence and draw grand conclusions based on them. They’re ironically very predictable from week to week. If you know the subject that Thomas Friedman or whatever is writing about, you don’t have to read the column. You can kind of auto-script it, basically.
It’s people who have very strong ideological priors, is the fancy way to put it, that are governing their thinking. They’re not really evaluating the data as it comes in, not doing a lot of [original] thinking. They’re just spitting out the same column every week and using a different subject matter to do the same thing over and over.
You can read the full interview here.
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