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Nate Silver Questioned About Gay Identity on Reddit

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As I mentioned on Monday, Nate Silver did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) interview on Reddit yesterday.

SilverReddit user snsiegel asked Silver:

In a recent profile, you stated you wished not to be known as a "gay statistician" but as a statistician who happens to be gay. Isn't that a bit naive in today's political and social climate? Don’t you think that whether you like it or not, people will treat you differently because you are gay and that your identity as a gay man cannot be limited to your private sexuality? As someone so ubiquitous now in the public sphere, should you be addressing issues in your writing that are related to gay rights as much as baseball?

Replied Silver:

It's a complicated issue that maybe doesn't lend itself so well to the reddit treatment.

My quick-and-dirty view is that people are too quick to affiliate themselves with identity groups of all kinds, as opposed to carving out their own path in life.

Obviously, there is also the issue of how one is perceived by others. Living in New York in 2013 provides one with much a much greater ability to exercise his independence than living in Uganda — or for that matter living in New York forty years ago. So perhaps there's a bit of a "you didn't build that" quality in terms of taking for granted some of the freedoms that I have now.

And/but/also, one of the broader lessons in the history of how gay people have been treated is that perhaps we should empower people to make their own choices and live their own lives, and that we should be somewhat distrustful about the whims and tastes and legal constraints imposed by society.

There were many more questions. You can read them on Reddit, or as a transcript in the NYT.


Ask Nate Silver Anything

Silver

Via FiveThirtyEight:

Nate will be answering readers’ questions live at 2 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday in an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. You can submit questions to Nate’s post here (the post will go up around noon on Tuesday).


Nate Silver: 'Sexually Gay But Ethnically Straight'

OUT Editor Aaron Hicklin delivers an engaging profile of Nate Silver, whom the magazine has named its 'Person of the Year'. Over drinks, Silver goes in depth with Hicklin about his critics, about how he became so good at being a stats geek (perspiration), what his plans are for the future, and his sexuality:

Silver“To my friends, I’m kind of sexually gay but ethnically straight,” explains Silver, who came out to his parents after spending a year in London studying economics—“I don’t know how I got any work done”—and considers gay conformity as perfidious as straight conformity. He supports marriage equality, but worries that growing acceptance of gays will dent our capacity to question broader injustice.

“For me, I think the most important distinguishing characteristic is that I’m independent-minded,” he says. “I’m sure that being gay encouraged the independent-mindedness, but that same independent-mindedness makes me a little bit skeptical of parts of gay culture, I suppose.”

He recalls a series of flagpoles in Boystown in Chicago memorializing various gay Americans. “There was one little plaque for Keith Haring, and it was, like, ‘Keith Haring, gay American artist, 1962 to 1981,’ or whatever [actually 1958 to 1990], and I was like, Why isn’t he just an American artist? I don’t want to be Nate Silver, gay statistician, any more than I want to be known as a white, half-Jewish statistician who lives in New York.”

Nate Silver: Person of the Year [out]

Incidentally, Silver spoke out about his sexuality for the first time earlier this year, so, though technically out, he made our big list of the '50 Most Powerful Coming Outs' because he decided to talk about it.


I'm Gay: The 50 Most Powerful Coming Outs of 2012

2012

2012: GAYEST YEAR EVER

"The fact is, I'm gay." Anderson Cooper's long-awaited announcement sums what it meant to come out in 2012. Again and again we heard the same sentiment — from pop singer Mika's equally anticipated confirmation, "If you ask me am I gay, I say yeah," to actor Andrew Rannells casually remarking about relating to a gay character, "I am gay in real life, so I definitely get it." —  proving that coming out today is in many cases a non-event, and certainly secondary to other achievements.

Yes, a lot has changed in the 15 years since Time magazine ran that cover of Ellen DeGeneres declaring, "Yep, I'm Gay," and even in the six since Lance Bass told People, "I'm Gay." Entertainment Weekly published a cover story this summer called "The New Art Of Coming Out," concluding, "The current vibe for discussing one’s sexuality is almost defiantly mellow."

Yet most of this positive change has happened in familiar territory.

Former NFL star Wade Davis' coming out was a first, as was current professional boxer Orlando Cruz's. And Lee "Uncle Poodle" Thompson from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo helped broaden the overall discussion about LGBT people. But there are a few people on this list who were less valiant, like Republican Sheriff Paul Babeu, and still others who remained quiet about their sexuality to the day they died. The debate over balance between privacy and responsibility is still one worth having, and clearly there are more arenas where LGBT people need space to shine.

All in all, though, 2012 shows that gay people who break down that closet can have it all.

Who had the 50 Most Powerful Coming Outs of 2012?

Find out (in alphabetical order), AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "I'm Gay: The 50 Most Powerful Coming Outs of 2012" »


Nate Silver: Pro-Gun Side Winning War Of Words

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In the wake of yesterday's shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, a tragedy most of us are still trying to process, statistician Nate Silver decided to look at the use of the terms "gun control," "second amendment," "gun violence" and "gun rights" in news stories over the past three decades.

In 1993 and 1994, when Congress was debating a ban on assault weapons, the phrase “gun control” was used about three times per 1,000 news articles. Use of the term was even higher after the mass shootings in Columbine, Colo., peaking at 3.7 instances per 1,000 articles in 1999. It reached a low point in 2010, when the term “gun control” was used 0.3 times per 1,000 articles — less than one-tenth as often as in the year after the Columbine shootings.

Averaging the frequency of usage over a five-year period reduces the effect of these news-driven fluctuations and reveals a reasonably clear long-term trend. In recent years, the term “gun control” has been used only about half as often as it was in the 1980s and about one-quarter as often as in the 1990s and early 2000s. [See below]

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The term “Second Amendment” was rarely employed in the 1980s, but it has become much more commonplace since then. (Since 2008, the term “Second Amendment” has been used more often than “gun control.”) A related phrase, “gun rights,” has also come into more common usage.

He concludes that the language game has helped shape the debate: "The polling evidence suggests that the public has gone from tending to back stricter gun control policies to a more ambiguous position in recent years. There may be some voters who think that the Constitution provides broad latitude to own and carry guns – even if the consequences can sometimes be tragic."

Last April, after Trayvon Martin's shooting, Jill Lepore at The New Yorker looked at how the right-wing in the mid-late 20th Century successfully turned the "second amendment" into a political bargaining chip, forever altering the gun control debate in this country.

"The assertion that the Second Amendment protects a person’s right to own and carry a gun for self-defense, rather than the people’s right to form militias for the common defense, first became a feature of American political and legal discourse in the wake of the Gun Control Act of 1968, and only gained prominence in the nineteen-seventies," she wrote.

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Nate Silver Looks at Hillary Clinton's Ratings, and 2016

Nate Silver takes a look at Hillary Clinton's chances in 2016 with regard to a moving average of Mrs. Clinton’s favorable and unfavorable ratings dating back to 1992. Silver notes that Clinton is popular now, but boosted by the fact that her role as Secretary of State is for the most part non-partisan, and that at the times when she has become an "explicitly political figure" her favorability has also taken a hit:

HillaryThe surge in Mrs. Clinton’s favorability ratings late in the 2008 campaign, although perhaps partly testifying to her steadily improving skills as a campaigner and to her new role as an underdog in the Democratic primary race, may also have reflected the fact that Republicans had less incentive to criticize her. Instead, they were trying to woo her supporters — or bolster her chances to prolong the Democratic nomination process.

...

A secretary of state is not necessarily above partisan criticism, but attacking a secretary of state can potentially backfire on the opposition party. As Mitt Romney discovered during the presidential campaign foreign affairs can present an unlevel playing field to the opposition party. The White House and the Department of State have a number of defenses that they can employ to shield themselves from criticism, from claiming that they are protecting the national interest, to accusing their opponents of being unpatriotic, to arguing that their opponents lack knowledge of the situation on the ground. The secretary of state, like the president, also enjoys the symbolic trappings of incumbency when she conducts diplomatic affairs.

Were Mrs. Clinton to run for president again, she would lose most of these advantages. Republicans would begin to criticize her, delicately at first, and then more expressly as the election drew nearer.

Silver's Clinton chart, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Nate Silver Looks at Hillary Clinton's Ratings, and 2016" »


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