From the monthly archives:

August 2018

Politics, Partisanship and Personality Types

by John Holbo on August 3, 2018

What are the best writings about politics, partisanship and personality types? To what degree can large-scale political formations – ideologies, partisan outlooks, temperaments – be credibly treated as a partial function of variation in personality at the individual level; variation we have reason to believe is measurable, moderately stable, independent and prior? (The Big Five and all that, I expect.) I can see why it’s going to be hard to tease it apart empirically. You are going to be chasing your tail, cause and effect-wise. If you find that members of Party X score relatively high for trait Y, which causes which? I have read a bit in this area but not a lot, and nothing that really seemed terribly convincing. (I am aware that Adorno and co. wrote a book called The Authoritarian Personality, for example.) If you don’t like the way I just framed the issue – fine, fine. It isn’t that I’m necessarily evil, as you were perhaps about to type, angrily. It might be that I’m just unsure how best to frame the issue. I’m interested in general discussions – popular explainers, such as there may be – and recent more technical research papers. I can well believe that a lot of bad, or highly speculative stuff has probably been written about this area of political psychology. I have a preference for good over bad, if available.

Brexit and the oral culture of journalism

by John Quiggin on August 2, 2018

For anyone following the trainwreck of Brexit, Richard North’s is an indispensable source. North was (and, at least in principle, still is) a Leave supporter, proposing a model called Flexcit (roughly, the Norway/EFTA/EEA option), but has long since broken with May, Johnson and the rest of the Brexiteers.

North is scathing about the low level of analysis of just about everyone involved in the debate, the only consistent exceptions being Pete North (not sure if or how they are related) and his former employer Christopher Booker who, despite being on the denialist fringe of the climate debate, seems to make sense on Brexit.

I’ll ask a question about Brexit over the fold, but I mainly wanted to cite this important observation. Attacking a recent report, he writes that the author

proudly announces that his piece “is based on conversations” with certain prestigious persons, rather than to reference to primary sources. This so typifies the “oral culture” approach of what passes for journalism, with not even a passing reference to the Commission’s Notices to Stakeholders.

It is probably this superficial, prestige-driven approach which defines the popular Efta/EEA narrative. The average journalist would have a nose-bleed if they ever had to look at a copy of the EEA Agreement. In-depth “research” means looking up back copies of the Financial Times. As for the politicians, they seem to make it up as they go along.

The point about the oral culture is spot-on, I think. I remember observing long ago that journalists, unlike bloggers, assume that they can ring anyone up about anything and expect an answer. That has a huge influence on the way the media work.

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