On the inscrutable oddness of Matt Yglesias

If you don’t know who Matt Yglesias is, the Washington Post has a good piece on him that includes this summary:

The Washington ur-blogger’s slightly contrarian, mildly annoying, somewhat influential, very lucrative path toward the political center

He is all of those things. He has been all those things since the early days of blogging. Andrew Sullivan, another major blogger from that era, used to give out something called The Matt Yglesias Award to other writers who were annoying and contrarian too.

Why I call him inscrutably odd is that I cannot tell if that annoying contrarianism is for effect or if it is just who he is. I used to think it was for effect, but I thought something different with his recent comments on Uvalde. As the Post describes:

Hours after the May mass killing at a school in Uvalde, Tex., he tweeted: “For all its very real problems, one shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the contemporary United States of America is one of the best places to live in all of human history …”

Technically true. But …

“[W]hat the f— man,” New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie, who also got his start at The American Prospect, replied in a tweet.

“Real people are experiencing actual anguish right now,” tweeted Yglesias’s former Slate colleague Dana Stevens, “and don’t need your middle-of-the-road ‘Well, actually’ garbage.”

For a smart guy to make such a comment makes me think there is something lacking within him that would say: time to give the contrarianism a rest. Perhaps it was a knee jerk reaction, a result of years of being that way that caused him to automatically blurt out something terrible like that. I don’t know. Like I said, he’s inscrutable.

When he is not being contrarian he can write really thoughtful pieces on topics like housing and the economy that I get a lot from. He is also good at skewering bad ideas from the left and right. To dismiss him like some do is a bad idea.

But then he writes something daft like a defense of the Austria-Hungary empire, a piece where he takes a contrarian position and like a good debater arranges the facts to support his argument, even if it means overlooking the obvious or assuming the opposite. No wonder he can drive people crazy.

To form your own opinion, if you haven’t already, you can catch up with him with this Washington Post profile, here:  Matt Yglesias and his Substack newsletter are thriving in Biden’s Washington. If you want more, this is another piece on him.

(Photo: link to the WAPO piece.)

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