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19 June 2009 1:54 AM

On Discourse

Lefty Blogs Chart Course for Future

As the right focuses on Twitter, the left is increasing its sizable advantage in a different communication medium: the blog post + graphic. Anyone who follows blogs on both sides of the ideological divide knows what I am talking about. Take Matt Yglesias. Map. Bar graph. Figure. Those are consecutive posts!

Ezra Klein takes time to praise a graphic here. He slips one into a post here. Scared of the Chinese? Relax! He reassures us that the national debt is as American as these pie charts.

And Conor Clarke? He got this baby linked all over the Internet.

Strange, isn't it? The right has empiricists -- Jim Manzi and Heather MacDonald are examples of folks who offer evidence based arguments grounded in quantitative analysis and/or thorough reporting. But even they almost always have their say in words. Is it the left's affinity for arguments from wonkery that's driving this trend? Its association with academia? Its cultural preference for Macs rather than PCs? Its appeal to visual learners? Is there a graphics competition on the Journo-List?

Thinking Big has questions, but as yet, no answers. Have a theory? Write Thinkingbig@theatlantic.com

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Comments (4)

Conor Clarke

I don't know if there are any robust reasons for a left/right split here. There might be an informal chart competition among lefty blogs. (Maybe we should make it formal?) But I'd say the train is leaving the station and the right should really get on it!

Beyond that, I think the journalist's comparative advantage is always going to be presentation/explication and not a kind of academic expertise. (Much as I'd like to pretend otherwise.) My sense is that most journalists try to make clear, clever charts for the same reason they try to write clear, clever sentences.

Thanks for that thumbnail, btw.

Geoff in DFW

It's probably just a trend extending from the proliferation of charting on the web. Sites like graphjam and indexed have been doing this (virally I might add) for awhile. Liberal blogs are more prolific, so maybe they've just picked up on this quicker.

Charts sure are purdy though.

Bah. Two-dimensional graphs. Anybody can display a Laffer curve to show that tax cuts don't always work. What's the point?

Impress me with time-varying flash videos of three-dimensional plots. Better yet, throw up some equations and I'll vote for whatever you want. Even if it's electromagnetism.

Charts and graphs work best when you have facts to support your position. Reality's liberal bias is why leftys use more charts and graphs.

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