Bleg: A Very Serious Question

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37 Responses

  1. Avatar greginak says:

    People who post questions on blogs!!!….Zing….that was easy.Report

  2. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Ooooh, can we jump on Paul Krugman on this post!?Report

  3. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    Here is an example of Very Serious Thought:

    Matt Y notes that the wealthiest communities/suburbs around D.C. (and other cities) have the best public schools. He argues that building more town homes and apartments in these areas will allow middle-class people more access to great public schools.

    Matt Y does not ask himself whether it is possible that most Americans just might prefer detached homes and they will purchase detached homes where they can afford them. Nor does he ask what can be done to increase school quality in those areas instead.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      It’s not like we’re talking about San Francisco, here.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      I’m not sure Matt Y is powerful enough to be Very Serious. He might be Serious though.
      But anyway, just having any opinion and megaphone doesn’t make someone a VSP. It’s being in the top echelon of media/news voices so that your voice carries weight and can sway opinion and MSM debate. Having a mustache helps also although that does lead to a gender bias.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:


      Citing Vox and Matt Y?

      If VSP = People that believe their own BS, and that’s how I read it, you nailed it baby!Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    I don’t really have a definition of Very Serious Person other than, you know, someone is pretty serious about something, but then I don’t really use the phrase as intended by the intertubes.

    But as best I can tell from my reading others:

    Very Serious People = Other Pundits Who Are More Famous Than I Am & Get Paid More Than I DoReport

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      Does Freidman get paid more than Krugman?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      Very Serious People = Other Pundits Who Are More Famous Than I Am & Get Paid More Than I Do with whom I disagree.

      Because if they agree with you, then they aren’t Very Serious People, a term of derision. If they agree with you, they are Legitimate Authorities.Report

      • Avatar Francis says:

        You need to add that the Pundit-In-Question can’t have any demonstrable expertise in the area on which he/she is opining. TFriedman, the quintessential VSP, did not appear to have any expertise in military occupations or Iraq’s history when he was boosting the war.

        Krugman may be wrong, but at least he’s trying to show his work. A VSP has no work to show; he simply opines.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

          This I will concede. Krugman at least has the credentials.

          How about Mark Bittman when he’s going on about food or Ag policy?Report

  5. Avatar LTL FTC says:

    1. Self-congratulation on making “tough choices,” the consequences of which fall on everyone but them.

    2. Elbow pads. Nice leather elbow pads.Report

  6. I think of the Volokhites as Very Serious People. Like when they argued that Hilary legally couldn’t be SecState because turning down the raise wasn’t good enough, even though they’d never argued that before, and anyone who disagreed was a partisan hack.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    My definition of a Very Serious Person: Someone That You Cannot Jump On.

    This changes from sub-sub-culture to sub-sub-culture but that’s the number one telltale sign.Report

  8. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    @burt-likko gets it right. What Very Serious Person is really just an insult that unpaid bloggers through at the established opinion writers who appear in print and on television for good money that they disagree with. Cowen and Farrell are both wrong.Report

  9. Avatar veronica d says:

    My definition of a very serious person is a well-paid and/or well-connected wonk or opinion journalist who likes to present themselves as being “above the fray” or as a presenter of “hard truths”. Said wonk or opinion journalist does not realize their own partisan motivations for the policies they advocate and does not take time to realize how others might be adversely effected by said advocated policies. Very Serious People are often in positions that are lofty enough that they become immune to criticism and/or being wrong.

    I don’t have an opinion about what a “very serious person” is, since I don’t really use that phrase. But yeah, to me this paragraph sums up a lot of “privilege.” It’s the power to opine without consequence. It’s having no skin in the game.

    It’s worse when your the sort of person who tons of clueless jerks feel entitled to opine about. Furthermore it sucks when you’re the sort of person who doesn’t have much power to “speak back.” Then add to that the idea that the broad culture already has tons of nonsense ideas about you already, and is super curious about you, but primed to listen to the most appallingly stupid ideas. Mix all that together and — well — you know.

    Anyway, if we wanna call that “very serious,” the problem is that the vast majority of Americans are so very serious that I wanna puke.

    Well, at least they are about topics that matter to me.Report

  10. Avatar Stillwater says:

    Tyler Cowen seems to come off as losing right away because he forget that the phrase very serious people is usually used in a sarcastic and derision filled manner.

    But being that clueless means he actually won, doesn’t it? He’s revealed himself as a VSP.Report

  11. Avatar greginak says:

    One part of being a VSP, i think, is having a large megaphone to offer all these wonderful opinions but having no actual credentials. Krugman can talk about econ, he may be slippery or stupid or wrong or have bad facial hair, but he is a knower person about the stuff he is opining on. On the other hand, to pick as easy example, we have William Kristol. He yakks on and on about foreign policy but has no expertise. He is just a guy who has a megaphone so his opinion is Very Serious. There are plenty of examples like him and many of them pushed for war in Iraq but we could find liberal examples also.Report

  12. Avatar Robert Greer says:

    I’ve always taken “Very Serious Person” to mean something like “someone whose viewpoints are generally taken seriously by mainstream media publications, no matter how removed from reality those viewpoints actually may be in the current situation”. So during the run-up to the Iraq War, the hawks got the benefit of being Very Serious People, while war opponents had to meet a higher standard.Report

    • Avatar Christopher Carr says:

      I think this is pretty close, actually. I think I’d like to qualify your statement by saying that a Very Serious Person is never criticized for anything ever in the mainstream media – whenever I hear the phrase Very Serious Person I think of Malcolm Gladwell or Atul Gawande.Report