Nate Silver Goes Off on Politico – The Best Post-Election Interview I’ve Heard Comes From ESPN

I’ve never even heard of the BS Report with Bill Simmons from ESPN radio. I have no idea how he got Nate Silver to open up like he did (they are both sports numbers guys and talk like they are friends), but this interview was amazing. For one thing, Silver went off about Politico, (without mentioning Dylan Byers). His long quote is below. It’s a similar critique to what John Stewart always makes of 24 hour cable news, but still it was fun to hear Silver make it.

I always think that what is so unique about Silver’s commentary is that he comes at politics (and I think at life), from such a completely different angle. As a statistician he doesn’t look through the same lenses as everyone else. He is not beholden to ideologies from the left or the right. He makes people on both sides of the aisle mad at him. This is part of why I think Silver is such an interesting case, because I think this is how Christians should be. Silver’s allegiance is to the numbers and analysis. The Christian’s allegiance is to the gospel and the Kingdom of God. If you are doing this well, it will make people on both sides of the aisle mad at you.

During the last few weeks of the election, Silver was being attacked daily for his predictions. (Just read the comments section here at Paperback Theology in the days leading up to the election.) There’s one fascinating exchange when he says that he doesn’t really respect the apologies that came after the election from those who slammed his method and called him a fake.

“I’m kinda not big on apologies. I mean I think apologies make sense …under two circumstances, right? If you really have some one off mistake… I went to Vegas and some x and y happened. I’m sorry honey, it will never happen again, and you are sincere about that. Or you’ve had a repeated mistake, and you really change in your philosophy, in your outlook on how you are doing things. But these guys are going to be making the same partisan kind of comments four years later.”

Silver’s critique of politico was interesting as well.

“What’s remarkable for me is that you had some journalist for Politico who tweeted out “All Nate’s doing is averaging polls and counting electoral votes right? That’s the secret sauce?.” Well, yeah, and the fact that you can’t comprehend that very basic thing, that says more about you than it does about me, right?… Politico is a “who won the day” kind of thing, right? They’re trying to cover (politics) it like it’s sports but not in an intelligent way at all. They want to create noise, basically. Their whole thing is you have to have a lead story about some gaffe that a candidate made on the campaign trail … In politics, you can have a whole month where nothing of any import- whatsoever happens. But you still have to have Politico produce a paper seven times a week…”

If you have a minute, I highly advise clicking here and listening to the whole thing. If you want to just hear the political part, start in at about 48 minutes.

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  • Vincent

    Simmons podcast currently holds the honor of being voted the best sports podcast on ITunes, and he is always talking up sabermetrics and also how things like that can be applied to other areas, not just sports. He frequently exchanges email debates with Malcolm Gladwell, and Chuck Klosterman is a guest writer on Simmons’ site and a guest on the podcast also. Just listened to the podcast, and it was extremely entertaining and informative as usual. Silver and Simmons are probably friends from the Sloan Conference held annually at MIT. The quality of this interview is not a surprise to us regular listeners.

    • Tim Suttle

      Thanks Vincent. It is interesting that Simmons has Gladwell on – I know Gladwell has written a bit on sports, football in particular. I’m so glad to have stumbled upon him!