15 March 2010

Good Advice for Bloggers Also

Ross Douthat's column in the New York Times today is worth a read. His closing comment might well be applied to bloggers as well as film makers;
. . . Hollywood’s inability to handle political complexity plays only a small part in our ongoing polarization.

But it is a part of it. Our nation might be less divided, and our debates less poisonous, if more artists were capable of showing us the ironies, ambiguities and tragedies inherent in our politics — rather than comforting us with portraits of a world divided cleanly into good and evil.


  1. Clearly they need to look at these cartoons then!



  2. meanwhile, at ClimateProgress, Joe Romm is having a go at Bjorn Lomborg:

    one of Romm's charges is that Lomborg did not specify his source

    it's this paper by Nicholls, Tol and Vafeidis: http://ideas.repec.org/p/sgc/wpaper/78.html

    I'm not allowed to put that in a comment, though

    Lomborg overinterprets our work, but he did not make it up

  3. Dear Richard Tol,

    I am a student from Renningen, a small town close to Stuttgart in Germany.
    I'm very interested in the topic for now well over a year, and - of course - read the books of Lomborg too.
    I'm very interested what you, as a economist, think about his work. Especially because he is very focused on economics.

    Johannes Wilhelm

  4. Richard,

    Could you clarify what you mean by 'overinterprets'?

  5. I'd be happy if Hollywood (and the news media) just let someone tell the other side of any story. It isn't that a single movie has to tell both sides. The problem is that all the movies tell the same one side.

  6. Douthat observes: "our novelists have never been terribly interested in the actual challenges of political life." Unlike novelists in which countries particularly?

  7. The first fall back of the loser is to say everyone does it.
    Everyone does not do it.
    Skeptics do not go out claiming the world is going to end if crazy policies are not implemented.
    Skeptics are not, as Hansen is, supporting calls for political and terroristic violence against the world.
    Skeptics are not suppressing peer review, as climatgate revealed, or seeking to intimidated the press, like Romm does.

  8. Polarization is inevitable in an era when everyone can communicate with everyone. If you want to be heard, you have to be noisy.

  9. Christopher-

    I am hoping people can be reasonable and thoughtful and still be heard. This blog and other "blogs of reason and respect" are places for that to happen. People were rude and disrespectful long before the internet. As Dr. King said, The church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society." Well, we are bloggers, not a church, but the same principle should hold.

    Others.. sorry if I've exceeded my preachy quotient for the week..

  10. -4-Marlowe
    on "overinterpretation" -- the Nicholls/Tol/Vafeidis paper assumes pro-active, effective, and cost-effective adaptation

    under those assumptions, the problem is not that big

    other papers in the same special issue show that these assumptions are not particularly realistic

  11. -3-Johannes
    Lomborg's Cool It is a popularised version of arguments that Tom Schelling, Bill Nordhaus and I have been making for a long time. Popularised and stripped of scientific and moral uncertainties.

    Lomborg's recent emphasis on geoengineering is mistaken. The risks are too large to have any faith in geoengineering as a solution.

  12. Sharon -
    For most of human history, information preservation and distribution was costly and could only really be undertaken by elites. This meant most people were restricted to local views on problems as well as the limited amount of external information available; this encouraged moderation and compromise. With the cost of information preservation and distribution going to zero for pretty much anyone, people are free to associate with whomever they agree with and seek out any information they like.

    When faced with viewpoints they disagree with, people can rapidly organize and ideologically reinforce each other as well as distribute as much information that is favorable to them as they wish. Since there are now so many people creating and distributing information, the most extreme (loudest) is usually the one heard and engaged. This encourages even more extreme reactions on the part of everyone else who disagrees, including societal elites.