Voting, Writing and Arithmetic

Another great example of David Brook's almost-too-aburd-to-be-true sociologizing in today's Times. It starts out "there are two sorts of people in the information-age elite, spreadsheet people and paragraph people." There are so many things to say about this article, but it's not even worth getting into them. Here's a representative snippet:

I subscribe, however, to the mondo-neo-Marxist theory of information-age class conflict. According to this view, people who majored in liberal arts subjects like English and history naturally loathe people who majored in econ, business and the other "hard" fields. This loathing turns political in adult life and explains just about everything you need to know about political conflict today.

(Emphasis added.)

This is proof that David Brooks is living in some kind of weird ivory tower parallel universe. All political affiliation breaks down to college majors...uh huh.

We are dealing with classic Brooks: "there's a rift forming between segments of American society, and it's growing!" Invoke an implicit class war, not the Marxist kind which is passe (pub -- and not in line with his conservative leanings), but cultural, which is chic. The rift must conform with some commonplace stereotype, or at least something that can be easily understood by a five year old. See, half the country works with numbers - they vote for Bush - and the other half work with letters - they vote for Kerry (who votes for Nader then? [pub -- people who work with grow lights]) Of course there's an obvious flaw in the theory, and that is that all professors vote 11 to 1 democratic. But Brooks just lumps them all into the "paragraph people" category and everything is all right. As Brooks says, "At M.I.T.,[democratic support among the faculty] was 94 percent." I suppose that 94 percent of M.I.T. professors spend more time working with paragraphs than numbers. At least it is clear the scientific method doesn't apply much to the Times editorial page.

Another great piece of reasoning..."C.E.O.'s are classic spreadsheet people. According to a sample gathered by PoliticalMoneyLine in July, the number of C.E.O.'s donating funds to Bush's campaign is five times the number donating to Kerry's." Which, of course, is because they all learned Microsoft Excel in college and has nothing to do with the fact that Bush's economic policies overtly favor them.

Here's another great line: "Why have the class alignments shaken out as they have?... Numerate people take comfort in the false clarity that numbers imply, and so also admire Bush's speaking style." I don't know if he means to imply that when Bush speaks he evokes a false clarity. Would "false clarity" be synonymous with "convincing lie?" That must mean scientists, mathematicians, quants, actuaries, accountants, statisticians, and engineers are stupid. They might be, but they're certainly not stupid enough to write and seriously back an editorial promoting the ideas quoted above.

At any rate, I don't see any of this as a very big complement coming from a Bush supporter.

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