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I run a newsletter/podcast called Volts about clean energy & politics. Subscribe & join the community at volts.wtf! (@drvolts@journa.host on Mastodon.)

Seattle, WA
Joined March 2009
Some personal news! Friday was my last day at Vox. Today I'm launching a newsletter called Volts, devoted to my twin passions: clean energy and politics. (And I am now, yes, drvolts.) Drop by to learn more and subscribe! volts.wtf/p/welcome-to-volts
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This profile is brilliant -- it reveals so, so much about its subject, only a small portion of which is stated explicitly. Tons & tons conveyed between the lines. A short thread!
I wrote about Pamela Paul and the most perilous pronoun of all: the first-person plural newyorker.com/culture/person…
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We find that a) Paul has spent pretty much her whole life embedded in elite journo/political circles, and b) she is *extremely* sensitive to external judgment & expectations.
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So, if you're embedded in current US elites & want badly to maintain their approval, what do you do? Exactly what Paul has done: "has metoo gone to far?" "Has trans gone too far?" "Has woke gone too far?" "Has healthy food gone too far?" IOW: reactionary centrism.
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She frames this as "how we live today," but the reactionary centrist take on how we live today is always the same, no matter the subject: things used to be better, but now meddling liberals have made things uncomfortable & contentious.
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Anyway, Paul is basically a weathervane, so the subjects/tone of her columns are a strong indicator of the weather among US elites, as it were. And then here, completely unselfconsciously, she lets rip the undying credo of the reactionary centrist:
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“If people on the fringe are accusing me of ‘making straw-man arguments’ or ‘both-siderism’ or ‘false equivalency’ or ‘just asking questions’ or ‘concern-trolling’ ... then I know that I’ve done something right, because it means I’ve written something smart and complicated.” 💥
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Just perfect. No notes.
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Oh wait, one other note. Earlier in the piece: "To my mind, the role and responsibility of a columnist is to always write what you think." Let me just suggest that a prior responsibility, in line before "write what you think," is ***inform yourself about your subject***.
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If you skip that step -- if you just sit down & "write what you think" -- what you write is likely to be little more than a rehashing of priors, assumptions, second-hand factoids, & gossip absorbed from your peer/social circles.
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That's what the recent piece on American Dirt felt like. No digging, negligible reporting, nary an original insight, just a kind of recounting of what People Like Her vaguely recall from the incident ... which is, shocker, "woke went too far." nytimes.com/2023/01/26/opini…
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Anyway, when people say "woke has gone too far," folks in elite circles nod & rub their chins & comment on how brave it is to say so; Paul craves their approval, so she says that, over & over, & counts the backlash from the "fringes" (ie non-elites) as evidence of success.
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It's a perfect storm of elite navel-gazing that is wasting what is probably the most valuable real estate in media, which any of dozens & dozens of less fortunate writers could fill more ably. Feh. </fin>
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David Roberts retweeted
This episode is excellent — economistic thinking, geoengineering, a 4th IPCC working group on values/ethics, transparency, technocracy. Have to read this book!
Today on Volts: it's a long pod on the dangers of mathematical modeling in climate & other fields! I know, I know, you're excited. And you should be. It's a banger. volts.wtf/p/on-the-abuse-and…
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"the best way to beat crooks and liars is head on, rather than via the indirect effects of good economic stewardship and triangulation toward the median voter." @brianbeutler's newsletter keeps me sane. us19.campaign-archive.com/?u…
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"What if the best way to defeat the fascist threat isn't with a bottom-up approach of deradicalization-through-industrial-policy, but a top-down approach of exposing and revolting against the GOP's corrupt, medieval politics? Or at least, why not try both?"
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"Those voters don’t dislike Ds for principally economic reasons. They prefer Rs because they are swamped with RW rhetoric & ideas & lies that they find appealing or presume to be true & the best way to disrupt that dynamic is to alter the informational stew with new ingredients."
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🎯
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