The Illusions Which Ennoble Us

In celebration of the first decade of Barataria in one week, I would like to present this post from 2009.  It is dark, befitting the time it was written, but it is one of my personal favorites.

“The illusions which exalt us are dearer than ten thousand truths”
– Aleksandr Pushkin

Perhaps it’s the chill of December closing in on me, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Pushkin lately – and this quote is a favorite.  Pushkin was, like so many Russian writers, a man who found nearly carnal pleasure in staring the essence of humanity straight in the eyes and reporting what he saw in a cold, clear voice.  Normally, I don’t like translations that seem florid and over-wrought, but in this case it’s Pushkin.  The warmth comes in the delight of distilling the essence into poetry, as any true romantic knows.  It’s a glow that warms the heart of Russian fatalism, a crackling fire that accepts with a melting smile.  It also represents the exact opposite of how we, as Americans, have come to see our own world.

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Nate Silver

Nate Silver has left the biz.  The most celebrated political reporter in a long time jumped from the New York Times to become a sports reporter at ESPN.  It’s not really a mystery, given Silver’s love for sports and outsider status at the fossilized Times.  As Public Editor Margaret Sullivan put it, “A number of traditional and well-respected Times journalists disliked his work. … They were also tough on me for seeming to endorse what he wrote, since I was suggesting that it get more visibility.”

Not long ago that political reporters were more or less the top of the journalistic heap and sports writers were at the bottom.  Silver’s new gig turns that upside down.  It’s not a mystery given how much political writing is horserace driven and sports reporters have become the true celebrities of the biz.  But there is much more to it than that.  I believe Silver’s popularity brilliantly displays what journalism must be for a new generation.

Here is my obituary praising Silver’s career as a political journalist, written not as the end of Silver but as the end of good political reporting – for now.

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