Megan McArdle’s Hiatus

Megan McArdle is taking a break of unspecified length from blogging to "work on another project." Said project, she hastens to add, is not a baby.

Megan McArdle is taking a break of unspecified length from blogging to “work on another project.” Said project, she hastens to add, is not a baby.

Megan’s been at the blogging thing now over a decade and I’ve been reading her since the very earliest days of my own blogging career, going back over nine years. It was a much clubbier atmosphere in those early days, so I feel like I’ve known her for a long time. She moved to DC some years back for her job with The Economist, so we’ve actually met in person a few times. And we had her as a guest a couple of times on the late, lamented OTB Radio.

She’s always struck me as good humored and personable. For reasons I’ve never quite understood, Megan somehow became a source of tremendous antipathy some time after getting the big platform at The Atlantic. Despite what has always seemed a very civil and analytical tone, she’s apparently viewed in some circles as a combination of Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Michael Savage.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Economics and Business, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. As I’ve said before, I thought her pre-Atlantic venue bred a bad dynamic. So bad, in fact, that one hesitated to disagree with her because her comment sections were already overrun with misogynists and haters of other sorts.

    I’ve actually found the Atlantic venue better, and I think her pieces more thoughtful.

  2. Hurling Dervish says:

    I think it’s a Peter Principle/Ross Douthat thing. Many people read her stuff, suffused in pretension but with obvious logical or factual errors, and wonder how she got in the high-faluting position she is in. That and her obvious lack of empathy for people who are struggling.

  3. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    If I had been running The Atlantic, I would’ve fired her for the infamous throw-out-a-stat/later-say-it-was hypothetical (i.e., made up) goof.

  4. Moosebreath says:

    I agree with Hurling Dervish, and would add her desire to preemptively use 2 by 4’s on anti-war protesters, under the assumption that their protests will turn violent, which strikes me as being the antithesis of how anyone (but especially a libertarian) should view protests.

  5. legion says:

    @Hurling Dervish: What he said. Her writing at the Atlantic pretty continually struck me as utterly oblivious to the way the vast majority of actual human beings live, not having had the same advantages she did. I didn’t read her recent stuff regularly, but every single time I saw it, I was reminded of that old bit from Pauline Kael about nobody she knew voting for Nixon…

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    Megan somehow became a source of tremendous antipathy some time after getting the big platform at The Atlantic.

    Probably because despite her background much of her financial analysis is faulty. Quite amazingly so in some cases. She’s regularly been taken apart by people like Klein, Krugman, Pearlstein and De Long over the years. What probably ticks people off is that the Atlantic is a respected venue and even if you disagree with the commenters some times (Goldberg for example) there’s no doubt about his intellectual substance. If you want to play in this league you have to demonstrate a very robust intellect and total command of your subject or you rapidly become a joke….which I would say has been Ms McArdle’s fate.

  7. DRS says:

    I typically read the Atlantic cover to cover – and wish they’d have more real book reviews and not so much the extended personal essays in the book review section they have now – and I always skip MMcA’s articles. They seem so shallow to me, and don’t give me a good feel that she knows what she’s talking about. I wish they’d give Te Nehisi Coates her monthly space or at least alternate them.

  8. MBunge says:

    “For reasons I’ve never quite understood, Megan somehow became a source of tremendous antipathy some time after getting the big platform at The Atlantic.”

    Then you haven’t been paying attention. McCardle’s not actually that bad on a day-in, day-out basis. She’s certainly not all that much worse than Matt Yglesias. However, McCardle’s been caught in quite a few moments of either jaw-dropping stupidity or nearly psychopathic obtuseness and when that’s happened, she has not handled it at all well.

    Mike

  9. MarkedMan says:

    Shallow. Yep, that’s her. Intellectually sloppy too.

  10. Buffalo Rude says:

    @Brummagem Joe: What this fine fella said. James, the “somehow” is even more apparent when she tries to engage in her critics – a worthy trait on her part – and they tear her ideas and analytical skills to silly pieces. Seriously, James. Have you ever checked out the blog The Hunting of the Snark or Inverse Square?

    I suggest starting here.

  11. MarkedMan says:

    Whoops. Too fast with the send button there. I meant to add that back when I occasionally read her, she would frequently make a statement that made it apparent she hadn’t had any personal experience with the subject at hand. Rather, she had had a “profound insight” that she would share with everyone so their lesser minds would be clarified. When the first few comments showed her insight to be fundamentally flawed, she never corrected or backed down but rather would try to weasel her way out in an ever shrinking spiral of technicalities.

  12. TheColurfield says:

    A child of privilege from New York whose father relied on government contracts to build his wealth yet she used to blog as Jane Galt without any irony.

    Even better, she’s married to Peter Suderman, look up his stellar astroturfing on AngryRenter.com

    That tells you everything you need to know.

  13. Hey Norm says:

    I wouldn’t lump her in with

    “…Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Michael Savage…”

    I just don’t think she is very credible.

  14. Brummagem Joe says:

    @TheColurfield:

    I know nothing about her background but some her opinionating was excruciating. Since JJ advances the odd weird bit of economic analysis he probably doesn’t know the difference.

  15. Brummagem Joe says:

    Does Suderman have something to do with this?

    The Web site AngryRenter.com claims to represent “millions of renters standing up for our rights,” but according to the Wall Street Journal, the site is fake:

    … the site looks a bit like a digital ransom note, with irregular fonts, exclamation points and big red arrows — all emphasizing prudent renters’ outrage over a proposed government bailout for irresponsible homeowners. “It seems like America’s renters may NEVER be able to afford a home,” AngryRenter.com laments. The Web site urges like-minded tenants to let Congress feel their fury by signing an online petition. “We are millions of renters standing up for our rights!” Angry they may be, but the people behind AngryRenter.com are certainly not renters. Though it purports to be a spontaneous uprising, AngryRenter.com is actually a product of an inside-the-Beltway conservative advocacy organization led by Dick Armey, the former House majority leader, and publishing magnate Steve Forbes, a fellow Republican. It’s a fake [[Grassroots|grass-roots] effort — what politicos call an AstroTurf campaign — that provides a window into the sleight-of-hand ways of Washington

  16. TheColurfield says:

    Yes he did thorough his “work” for the Koch funded Freedomworks.

    @Brummagem Joe:

  17. TheColurfield says:

    @TheColurfield:

    “through” not “thorough”

  18. W,D, says:

    Not the worst person on the internet, but definitely a classic case of “failing upward.” What grates is her tendency to fall back on smug dismissals of her critics with glib straw-man arguments (usually not linking to her opponents, to make it harder to verify what she is arguing about), and burying pretty weak premises in an avalanche of jargon-laden BS. I used to think she was knowledgeable, but I gradually noticed that whenever she wrote about something I happen to know something about, I could detect the BS right away. She basically trades on her refined BS-ing skills, and seems pretty indignant about suggestions that she back up her claims with verifiable facts.That’s in addition to the well-documented logical and factual howlers mentioned above that make her hard to take seriously.

    Also, she seems to waste a large amount of her seemingly very limited blogging time offering what seems like very dubious cooking advice (usually accompanied by thinly veiled sales pitches for the thousands of dollars worth of kitchen gadgets she insists are absolutely necessary to have). I wonder why her employer puts up with that.

  19. Jay says:

    What everyone else said. I agree with her basic values, but she comes off as too knee-jerk Lib to me. I guess libertarians need their version of Krugman or Mankiw on the blogosphere.

  20. Anderson says:

    McArdle is like a sober Ann Althouse.

  21. MarkedMan says:

    @W,D,: When you said

    I used to think she was knowledgeable, but I gradually noticed that whenever she wrote about something I happen to know something about, I could detect the BS right away.

    I thought “yeah, that’s it”. Whenever she says anything about something I actually have personal experience with, it is often either trite or wrong, which makes me very skeptical of anything else she has to say. Since life is short, I find that when I visit the Atlantic blogger masthead, I click at least once a day on Fallows and Coates, regularly to occasionally on everyone else but McArdle. It certainly not that I disagree with her, it’s just that she is a waste of time.

    I suspect this has to do with an inherent trait of libertarianism – it stands up only in a theoretical world, but comes crashing down when it meets reality. It’s a tough thing to say, but I really question whether someone who posits it as a real world governing philosophy could even have a thorough and insightful mind. Does anyone have examples that would prove me wrong?

  22. Sam Penrose says:

    I don’t have strong feelings about McArdle. I despise David Brooks, Gladwell, and Douhat (probably Clive Crook too if anyone linked to him) for the following reasons:

    – they cater to the worldviews of the rich and powerful who gave them their prominence
    – they are very, very eloquent, which makes them hard to refute
    – they give credence to a sort of gravitas-first thinking: decide what sonorous tones and incisive yet just-novel-enough-to-be-“interesting” noises you want to make, then go looking for narratives to support them

    They are, in short, a menace to the truth because they have been so richly rewarded for sounding thoughtful that they have long since lost the distinction between sounding thoughtful and thinking. Too strong an allegiance to small-c conservatism can be as blinding an ideology as any other, but a large fraction of our public intellectual positions are permanently pledged to it, because it is a court function.

  23. h says:

    McMegan is shallower than a puddle in the Sahara, petty (disclosure–yes, she ban-hammered me), and laughable in her financial “analysis.” Her posts are uniformly thinly-veiled attempts at rationalizing why she should be the selfish bitch she is. As previous commenters have implied, whenever she *does* spawn with Suderman, the babe will likely arrive as a fully formed Ayn Rand miniature.

  24. Console says:

    I put her more in the Thomas Friedman category. A pundit I love to read precisely because you know it will be easy to make fun of almost anything they have to say.

  25. HankP says:

    The IQ of the internets just went up 10 points. McArdle is really embarrassingly bad at what she’s supposed to be knowledgeable about, economics.

  26. Tillman says:

    My favorite episode involving McArdle occurred here on OTB. It was a post concerning the actual GDP growth caused by lowered taxes. McArdle chimed in about how the +.2% GDP from lowered taxes missed out on several technicalities. A commenter whose name is lost to memory offered the perfect rebuttal:
    “Why should we lower taxes for growth within the margin of error?”
    She did not respond to that.

  27. Jib says:

    @MBunge: Yes exactly. I read a lot of economic bloggers of all persuasions and neither she nor Yglesias are very good. When the recent post went out about political bloggers should stop blogging about economics, I thought it was about Megan and Matt. Both of them offer very shallow economics in defense of their ideological prejudices. They are political bloggers masquerading as economic bloggers.

    The good economic bloggers are much more rigorous in their approach and also more humble, less sure of their theories. Mainly because a lot of then invest for a living and the market often kicks the crap out of them (as it does any of us who invest). They know blindly following ideology is a great way to lose lots of money.

  28. Moderate Mom says:

    Isn’t it amazing that someone so stupid could obtain a MBA from the University of Chicago? I guess their admission standards must have gone down around the time Ms. McArdle applied. I wonder where all the the people commenting here got their MBAs?

  29. Anderson says:

    @Moderate Mom: Mod Mom, George W. Bush got an M.B.A. from Harvard, a school not significantly inferior to Chicago.

    So what is your point?

  30. Davebo says:

    Mcardle isn’t an economist. She’s an MBA who managed to mangle some work at the WTC after 9/11 into a blog and then the Atlantic.

    If we are counting on Meghan to point us the way to economic improvement we’re screwed already.

    It would take thousands of words to point out all of the errors in her posts over time. I could probably use ten to point out when she was right and that would include kitchen ware.

    As to how that reflects on James’ opinion… You be the judge. They do have something in common after all.

  31. Susan of Texas says:

    When we like someone we have a tendency to ignore the negative and focus on the positive; this tendency is even stronger when we have met them. Ms. McArdle also has the advantage of supporting the rich and powerful, which is always a popular stance among people who want to be part of the rich and powerful’s world. So it is easy to see why McArdle would be popular among those on the right side of the discourse.

    If you look carefully at McArdle’s posts you can plainly see that her most popular posts, ones that run over a thousand comments, are posts in support of ideology and attacks on the left. I have posted in excruciating detail her lack of civility towards those not in power or in her peer group. And I have posted in even more excruciating detail her poor analysis.

    Both of these factors, however, are almost negligible in comparison to the fact that McArdle lied to her readers to support her ideology, utterly betraying her responsibility as a jounalist. When journalists lies to defeat their enemies’ goals (in this case a mild reform of the health insurance industry), they utterly discredit themselves. This is not my opinion or analysis; McArdle admitted that she made up statistics that she said were the basis for her rejection of “Obamacare.” That is not her only lie, of course; once one goes down that path it is far too easy to continue.

    The fact that this lie, openly admitted, did not seem to damage her career merely confirmed what was already obvious; The Atlantic (and its connections to organizations and corporations that seek to end accountability to anyone) is an ideological venue, not a source of impartial journalism. There’s nothing wrong with being ideological but there is everything wrong with journalists pretending to be impartial when they are not. A free society depends on a free press. The amazing thing is that a free market depends on a free press as well, yet that factor is often ignored when free market advocates fight for their goals. Otherwise we end up with asymmetrical information, in which the rich always have the advantage and the middle classes must act blindly.

    We often see people express surprise and sadness that McArdle should be so put upon and unfairly saddled with such virulent enemies. These people never address McArdle’s behavior except to praise it. They ignore the lies, smears and insults, and shake their heads sadly at the low level of discourse amoung the rabble on the left. If you want to support McArdle, show us how we are wrong; use evidence and facts, quotes and logic.

    It is hard to believe that you do not understand why she is so routinely mocked. You are not stupid; you know she often misinterprets and omits important information. You’ve read her claims that liberals scream and cry and whine when they disagree with the right. You know exactly what she does and why she does it.

    McArdle will continue to prosper and grow wealthy. The middle class will continue to sink into oblivion. The imblance of power and wealth in this country will ensure this happens. The people who attempt to fight back will fail. But the wealthy and their employees are helpless in one, tiny regard: they cannot change the truth into a lie. They can twist, obscure, drown out, or bury the truth, but it will always be the truth, and the servants of power will always be nothing but liars instead of the scholars and intellectuals that they long to be.

  32. JohnMcC says:

    I bet she’s a fine cook.

    Since my momma told me, if you can’t say something nice about somebody….

  33. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Anderson:

    Mod Mom, George W. Bush got an M.B.A. from Harvard, a school not significantly inferior to Chicago.

    Harvard is not inferior to Chicago when it comes to MBA’s. Many would consider it superior. This however does not mean that some dunces don’t have MBA’s wherever they were awarded.

  34. mantis says:

    Isn’t it amazing that someone so stupid could obtain a MBA from the University of Chicago?

    It’s amazing that someone with an MBA from Booth, whose job it is to write about economics, can’t perform extremely basic math functions, and lies about it when caught. That’s what’s amazing.

  35. Dave Anderson says:

    @Jay: But Jay, say whatever you want about Krugman or Mankiw — they actually have the demonstrated chops to talk about economics. McCardle does not.