Even the conservative columnist Ezra Klein!

By Razib Khan | February 13, 2013 4:03 am

I’ve observed the rise of Ezra Klein out of the corner of my eye for years. Political blogging is not really my thing, but I’ve been “around,” and I’ve brushed up against the “Juicebox” now and then (though I interacted with Matt Yglesias as early as 2003, usually I get on the radar of Washington policy types when my friend Reihan Salam picks up something I say). So I thought I’d point you to a profile in The New Republic, Ezra Klein: The Wise Boy, A tale of striving and success in modern-day Washington.

But I want to preface it with a weird incident that happened last year. My high school history teacher, now retired, and a self-identified moderate Democrat (his background is urban Midwestern white working class), passed along an Ezra Klein column and observed, “even the conservative Ezra Klein thinks….” Not everyone is a political junkie, or has watched the ideological perceptions of people change over time, but this was really bizarre for me.  Four years ago I talked to Klein on the phone while working on my profile of Reihan Salam. I didn’t use anything Klein said because he kept pulling the best stuff “off the record.” Since I’m not a journalist this struck me as kind of strange, but I respected his preferences. I always think it is really weird to think that circa 2013 Ezra Klein is saying anything good about Republicans, when circa 2008 Ezra Klein had very little positive to offer when allowed to be candid (sugarcoating the tone and content; and to be clear, he had only good things to say about Reihan).

And yet who I am to judge? Archives of my stupid thoughts go back to 2002. That’s 11 years, and I’ve changed quite a bit, though not in all ways. Many people who become “public intellectuals” today are not going to have the luxury of being stupid anonymously, to get prominent you have to put yourself “out there” in the first place. When people ask me how to become a decent blogger, I always say, “get over your fear of saying stupid things in front of people.” Of course at some point you can start to pull things off the web, but it is highly likely that your comments are cached somewhere, and are going to be retrieved if one is persistent. I found the profile of Klein interesting, and appreciated that the author brought to light his older comments…but really who doesn’t have plenty of contradictory opinions over a decade? If you put a lot of them out in public in a journal form it isn’t hard to construct juicy juxtapositions.

This is of course just an elaborated version of what everyonis going to go through with the “death of privacy.” We’re in the awkward transition where digging up old quotes or embarrassing photos still has shock value. The trick will get old soon enough.

  • https://delicious.com/robertford Robert Ford

    That is why I’m glad for the arrival of Neuroskeptic and Keith here. Sean, Carl and Ed are great writers but I enjoy reading prose with a little more punch. Stir that pot!

  • http://twitter.com/Ed_Realist EdReal

    I have participated in online forums since 1998, mostly with the same community. My views have remained extremely consistent over time,and when they change,I can always find a post in which I describe the transformation. For example, I used to have the standard suburban parent’s view of teachers. When I became a teacher, I was astonished at how much smarter high school teachers were, relative to my expectations. I also was surprised to realize that intelligence and content knowledge, past a certain point, weren’t as essential as I thought to outcomes.( my own intelligence and content knowledge was considerably higher than the average teacher, so it wasn’t a case of defensiveness.)

    Of course, I’ve also transformed from a centrist Clinton Democrat to a barely Republican–but then, I’m still a centrist Clintonite., There’s just no room in the party for that view, and I’m long past disgusted with liberals and progressives.

    I can’t stand any of the juiceboxers. A group more entirely removed from reality is hard to imagine. In all cases, they are a product of the contacts they gained at their elite university and their willingness to stake out a political position and sing the song someone wanted to hear.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Gene Expression

This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com


See More


RSS Razib’s Pinboard

Edifying books

Collapse bottom bar