U.S. Politics for "Tech Nerds" (and Everyone Else)

I usually try to limit my posts on this blog to issues directly involving higher education.  But as AAUP President Rudy Fichtenbaum has pointed out, “the attack on higher education as a public good is a political attack” that “requires us to respond by entering the arena of politics.”  And today, via Paul Krugman’s blog, I stumbled upon a terrific piece on the state of American politics by David Roberts, who writes for the website vox.com.

Tech nerds are smart. But they can’t seem to get their heads around politics,” is framed as a call to so-called “tech nerds” (you know, young Silicon Valley types) and especially Tim Urban, whose Wait But Why blog Roberts calls “one of the purest expressions of the nerd spirit,” to better understand politics.  But whether or not you’re a nerd, Roberts’ analysis provides one of the best descriptions of the sad state of the American political system today.  I highly recommend reading it at


3 thoughts on “U.S. Politics for "Tech Nerds" (and Everyone Else)

  1. This is a terrific article on multiple topics–on the tech nerds’ disengagement from politics, on the commonplace fallacies about American politics, on the current polarization within American politics, and on the cultural and media frameworks which have promoted, accelerated, and deepened that polarization.

    I ‘d like to add one observation: namely, that, even beyond the “partisan” media, politics has become more driven by, than simply reported or analyzed by, the media. The main driver has been that political operatives have now become, pervasively, the “expert commentators” on which the media depends. These operatives have very much shaped not only what the media reports but how it reports it. It is another version of the “revolving door” in politics–an equally pernicious but less widely recognized parallel to former government officials becoming lobbyists. It is what has entrenched the notion of equivalency in viewpoints–the insistence that on every issue, there must be a “balanced” treatment of the viewpoints regardless of their relative merits. It constitutes a gutting–or an abdication–of the media’s “watchdog” function in a free society.

    • I agree with your point. Until the Reagan administration, the FCC had a “fairness doctrine” which required media outlets to include all viewpoints. What seems especially egregious is the Fox News network, managed by Republican political operative Roger Ailes. This network seems to me a clear violation of any pretense of impartiality and yet there is little comment about it. The conventional media has problems as well but they are not so blatant. The flip side of this is that the FCC has opposed grassroots media efforts such as microradio or attempted to quash net neutrality.

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