David Henderson On Pettiness, And Media Bias

David Henderson of Econlog on media bias:

An incident that happened almost two years ago. Ralph Vartabedian called me to get my take on the members of President-elect Obama’s economic team. I answered his questions. At no time did he ask me my ideology. Here’s his article.

So I wrote him the following:

Dear Ralph,

I saw your piece. I’m not a conservative. I notice also that not only did you get my ideology wrong but also that I’m the only economist to whom you ascribed an ideology. What gives, Ralph?

David

He replied:

Dear David,

I thought your comment about Summers and Romer came from a viewpoint of significant concern about what the Obama Administration was going to do, so I used the reference only as an indicator that you are critical of at least Summers. As for the conservative label, I based that on a couple of points…clearly Hoover is known as a conservative organization and I have honestly never known anybody in it who was a liberal. I believe you were on the council of economic advisors under President Reagan, no? You seemed pretty critical of the liberal members of Obama’s team and our data base at the Times indicates you are a registered Republican there in the Monterrey area. I can give you a call later today.

Ralph

I replied:

Dear Ralph,

Those are all relevant techniques for figuring out my ideology–if I’m dead. Given that I’m alive, another way is to ask me. Also, couldn’t you use those same techniques to discern the ideology of Blinder and others you cited? And yet you didn’t.

Best,

David

Later that day, he did call me. He said he felt apologetic. I persisted and asked him why he didn’t ascribe an ideology to the other economists quoted, who clearly had ideologies. He explained that I was the only one quoted who was critical of the Obama team.

“Did you hear what you just said?” I asked. “Only those who are critical are given ideologies.”

“Yes, I get it,” he said.

That’s why I didn’t blog on it. I thought maybe he really did get it and I didn’t want to reduce my probability of being interviewed again. Twenty months later he still has not called for another interview. My guess is that by simply confronting him about it, I reduced my probability to close to zero.

My take: People are not introspectivist enough. They have no self-knowledge. If an Indian journalist read this, how would he respond? I think I know: “If you are such an honest man, why did you say this now?” The truth is that you try to be nice to idiots, but it does not work.

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