Humor that went right over my head

Here’s Noah Smith, (world-renowned crusader for civility in blogosphere discourse) on Brad DeLong:

But when agents of the overgrown conservative hive-mind needed skewering, he skewered without mercy. And despite fighting against the conservative hive mind, DeLong has never become a thrall to the liberal one.

DeLong is often criticized for being mean – he did, after all, invent the “Stupidest Man Alive Award (TM)” – but I think that the exigencies of the moment justified that meanness; the Conservative Reality Bubble just had to be stopped.

And here’s Noah on The World’s Most Fanatical Open Borders Advocate (and perhaps the least disingenuous person I’ve ever met):

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21 Responses to “Humor that went right over my head”

  1. Gravatar of Jon Jon
    18. January 2014 at 11:14

    Basically Noah is a political operative now. That doesn’t mean everything he says is wrong. It does mean filtering him out raises your signal to noise ratio.

  2. Gravatar of Jim Glass Jim Glass
    18. January 2014 at 13:01

    despite fighting against the conservative hive mind, DeLong has never become a thrall to the liberal one.


  3. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    18. January 2014 at 13:28

    Jon, Hard to believe anyone could think Bryan Caplan was a phony. Have to think he was just joking–the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

    Jim, Have no problem with people praising DeLong. But saying it’s OK to be mean to people if they are conservatives? That’s kind of a weird moral system.

  4. Gravatar of cassander cassander
    18. January 2014 at 13:49

    >That’s kind of a weird moral system.

    not at all, treating members of my tribe better than members of your tribe is just about as normal as it gets.

  5. Gravatar of happyjuggler0 happyjuggler0
    18. January 2014 at 13:57

    Bryan Caplan seems to be taking the tweet seriously, and I don’t see a “just kidding” apology on econlog anywhere.

    Sometimes taking things at face value instead of bending over backwards to defend the indefensible (i.e. Noah Smith) is the correct way to go about things.

  6. Gravatar of Noah Smith Noah Smith
    18. January 2014 at 14:25


  7. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    18. January 2014 at 16:41

    IMHO – DeLong is snarky, but intellectually honest, which suggests to me that he’s stupid when it comes to judging other people’s motivations and values.

  8. Gravatar of hattip hattip
    18. January 2014 at 17:33

    “But when agents of the overgrown conservative hive-mind needed skewering, he skewered without mercy.”

    Hardly the words of a “world-renowned crusader for civility”.

    Sound like another left-wing hack to me.

    BTW, it is the Left that have a “hive mind”, not conservatives.

  9. Gravatar of William William
    18. January 2014 at 17:51

    Somehow you have the patience to read Krugman and Delong (I don’t), but you don’t write posts about how they are rude and uncharitable; you just expect it from them. I’d say it’s time to add Noah Smith to the group.

    After his comments here during the Kaminska affair, you would have been right to be suspicious of him.

    Then, he claimed literally not to understand what people were complaining about in the whole Krugman “2013 test/not a test” debate.

    And now we see Noah Smith’s response on today’s post (To wit: “Haha”). As most people acknowledged at the time, your post on Kaminska was fine. Time to stop referring to it and time to start just ignoring Noah Smith.*

    (*I also think Krugman and Delong should be ignored, even though I believe you that they are worth reading for their intelligent points. I just think don’t think incivility should be rewarded with attention. But it’s easy to understand why my suggestion is not an equilibrium.)

  10. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    18. January 2014 at 18:32

    The Dem Party leaders are usually trying to make it as socially unacceptable to be Republican; to be a practicing Christian (suggesting Tiger Woods become one, in order to enjoy forgiveness? Heaven Forbid! says the anti-Christian Dems in media); to be pro-life.

    Noah writes well and often has good thoughts, but he seems to truly believe Reps and Libertarians are … evil (tho he doesn’t quite believe in God, does he) — and when dealing with Evil, all means are justified.

    This constant demonization is what was done to Jews; and is now being done in Mid East against Christians. (2000+ murdered in 2013).

    Krugman and DeLong, both, are often disgusted, and should be called on it.

  11. Gravatar of Tom Tom
    18. January 2014 at 18:33

    often disgusted they are, and disgusting, and I am often disgusted with them. Even when I make typos.

  12. Gravatar of J Mann J Mann
    18. January 2014 at 19:25

    I think Noah’s trolling, but to the extent he’s serious about DeLong, I disagree.

    DeLong is smart, but his jerk store style isn’t a good way to give anybody a needed skewering. People who aren’t inclined to agree with him already write him off as a knee-jerk bully. If Noah means that the world needed someone to convince inflation hawks and neutrals that they were wrong, DeLong doesn’t do that. If Noah means that he personally enjoys seeing someone say mean things about people he disagrees with, then I don’t see how that was needed, just welcome.

  13. Gravatar of mnop mnop
    18. January 2014 at 22:06

    I think Noah’s (obvious) point is that TOTALLY open borders, as Caplan argued for in this debate, is such a jaw-droppingly terrible idea that Caplan ends up undermining the more moderate pro-immigration case.

    As Unz notes: After ninety minutes of hearing both sides of the issue, there was a swing of thirty-two points toward our opposed position, and we won handily.

    To the larger question of civility… Professor, while you’re amazing and brilliant etc etc, I think your focus on civility is completely wrong-headed.

    Intellectual dishonesty is 10,000 times worse than incivility. Or rather, intellectual dishonesty is the ultimate in incivility. If PersonA calls PersonB a malodorous dunderhead, so what. But if PersonB misrepresents the truth, well pretty soon you’re invading Iraq in search of wayward aluminum tubes.

  14. Gravatar of Anthony Juan Bautista Anthony Juan Bautista
    19. January 2014 at 05:48

    Wonderboy Noah Smith is a doppelganger to Wonderboy Ezra Klein: Acting as truth-seeker only when the truth advances political Liberal preferences. I might read his peer-reviewed stuff, but I doubt he has much. The blog is just another note in the political partisan cacophony.

  15. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    19. January 2014 at 06:34

    dtoh, Many many amazingly bright people are utterly clueless about what their fellow human beings are actually like. I meet them all the time in academia, and you see them all over the blogosphere. It seems like it’s much, much harder to understand people than DSGE models. And yet somehow lots of people with average IQs do manage to understand their fellow human beings.

    mnop, You missed both points entirely. It’s Noah Smith who is obsessed with civility, not me. This was simply a humorous weekend post.

    And the tweet suggested Caplan was a phony, at least if we assume Smith was not joking. That was Smith’s claim. He was not claiming that Caplan was sincere but was unintentionally undermining his cause (Your claim.)

  16. Gravatar of Philip Philip
    19. January 2014 at 20:45

    Noah Smith seems very smart and calculating. I think he understands that to gain a huge audience, your best bet is to choose a side and write to that side.

    The more he tends in this direction, the less I read him, but I suspect his numbers are trending up.

  17. Gravatar of Andrew’ Andrew'
    20. January 2014 at 07:12

    DeLong skewers people because could be on MSNBC, except that he couldn’t?

  18. Gravatar of Andrew’ Andrew'
    20. January 2014 at 07:14

    Has he actually read ANY Caplan btw? Can’t be. Homework: go read some Walter Block, then you’ll be qualified to carry Caplan’s book strap.

  19. Gravatar of Andrew’ Andrew'
    20. January 2014 at 07:16

    Or he’s cleverer than I think he is by half and trying to create a wedge issue without understanding that we wore this down to the nub a decade ago. Whenever libertarians get a fair debate with liberals we are going to make mince meat of them.

  20. Gravatar of John Thacker John Thacker
    21. January 2014 at 09:47

    The “A makes an extreme and/or bad case for X and ends up undermining X” is a fine argument. The “A makes an extreme and/or bad case for X and ends up undermining it– so it must be because he’s a secret double agent” argument almost never improves the discourse, nor adds anything to the first argument (except, I suppose, for reinforcing tribal loyalties in some situation, which I guess must be Noah’s point.) It can be thrown into nearly any situation (bad antiwar arguments from celebrities? Must be hiding secret Bush pro-Iraq war leanings! Dislike what Snowden did or other things he thinks– he must be trying to discredit the “real” anti surveillance people) in order to make things worse and polarize people, though.

  21. Gravatar of J Mann J Mann
    21. January 2014 at 10:27

    Caplan posted over on econlog.

    He understands Smith’s subsequent tweets to indicate that Smith may have assumed that because Caplan thinks IQ tests provide useful information, Caplan is also privately anti-immigrant.

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