1. washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/… My @monkeycageblog take on the plausible story behind the decision of the NYT/networks all to jump at once after days of waiting. Brief summary below.
2. The role of major newspapers and networks in the U.S. "saying" that the presidential election has been won is weird, and as far as I know highly unusual internationally. It obviously isn't a law - but it has become a collective norm/expectation.
3. While I don't know of any research on this (but IANA Americanist), my presumption is that this is a contingent byproduct of a decentralized vote counting system, where there isn't any immediate official decision as to what has happened overall.
4. So news organizations rather than officials create the common knowledge that the election has been decided. And they have to do this based on statistical best guesses and other forms of knowledge. They can be wrong, or overconfident, leading to awkwardness or even disaster.
5. This time around, Fox called Arizona pretty early. Ex post, it looks as though they went out on a limb, though the limb will likely hold, despite some dangerous creaking and cracking. This presumably made other networks/newspapers pretty nervous about getting too far ahead.
6. This in turncreated a complicated strategic situation. Over the last two days, news organizations have become increasingly certain that Biden was going to take it. But there wasn't any obvious point at which near certainty transformed into absolute certainty.
7. And no-one wanted to be the first to venture out and say it definitively. It's a specific kind of collective action situation - what game theorists call an assurance game. I don't want to do something unless I am sure that everyone else will do it too.
8. So what happens? As far as I can see (this may turn out to be wrong) - people find a Schelling type coordination solution. When you are trying to solve a complicated strategic problem, where there are different possible solutions, you look for a "focal point"
9. That is - you look for a potential solution that stands out to everyone, perhaps for arbitrary or semi-arbitrary reasons. So the coordination game here is - "when can news organizations officially say that this is over?" See @NateSilver538
10. And over the last 24 hours, gossip begins via Twitter about how news organizations might jump when Biden's lead exceeds the 0.5% cutoff for a recount in Pennsylvania. This created a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, that news organizations _would_ jump at this point.
11. This was quasi-arbitrary - there are many other potential complications besides the need for a recount. But this arbitrariness was secondary, so long as _everyone knew that everyone else knew_ that this was a plausible cutoff point to make a decision.
12. And since everyone, including the professionals, was clicking the same Twitter feeds with the relentlessness of conditioned monkeys in a Skinner box, everyone _did_ know that everyone else knew.
13. Hence, plausibly the outcome. First - the risks of being first mover in calling are greatly lowered, since the first mover can be pretty sure that they will be followed. And second, everyone following in an incredibly short space of time, once the first call was made.
14. This explanation might turn out to be wrong. But I suspect that it is right or mostly right, and provides a nice illustration of how simple game theoretic reasoning can usefully explain social processes. Finis.

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Henry Farrell

Henry Farrell Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @henryfarrell

31 Jul
1. (thread) reuters.com/article/us-chi… This story talks about a report suggesting that China should move away from the SWIFT financial network to reduce its vulnerabilities to US penalties and surveillance. It's _just_ a report. Still, as @RichardMNephew says, "Watch this space."
2. The background to this is the way in which the US has weaponized global economic networks such as SWIFT (which is lynchpin of world financial system) against adversaries, as @ANewman_forward and I describe in our work on #WeaponizedInterdependence mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.116….
3. Systems such as SWIFT used to be disregarded in the same ways as the plumbing of a building is disregarded - so long as it works, who cares? Now, however, the plumbing is becoming political as networks are weaponized. China's problem is that it can't readily retaliate in kind.
Read 20 tweets
28 Jul
1. Thread on my and @ANewman_forward piece at Lawfare lawfareblog.com/schrems-ii-off…, which in turn builds on our recent book amzn.to/2UVnyI6 . Short version - the Schrems II decision taking down Privacy Shield transfers etc. doesn't mean what US commentators think it means.
2. US security people have reacted to the decision with disappointment, derision or anger (a strong sense of 'there go those crazy ECJ judges again' pervading the debate). They find the notion that international surveillance should be subjected to judicial scrutiny weird.
3. But this, we say, fundamentally misunderstands how surveillance has changed in a world of fast communications networks and interdependence. It's not just targeted and expensive pursuit of high value targets - instead it involves bulk collection of data on entire populations.
Read 13 tweets
6 Jul
1. @annawiener has a great new article on Section 230 in the New Yorker this morning. IR scholars tend not to pay much attention to domestic laws like 230. In a new piece (forthcoming in @IntOrgJournal) @ANewman_forward and I argue that's a mistake
2. A next to-final draft is here - dropbox.com/s/tvyxmwqvwwjf…. Our argument is straightforward - that rules like 230, which effectively delegate the regulation of user-generated content to platform companies - were the foundation of the global communications order.
3. They not only underpinned the business models of companies like Facebook, but seemed like a win-win for the US model of liberalism, spreading US values (open communication) at the same time as they promoted the economic interests of US companies.
Read 20 tweets
9 Jun
I just finished writing a piece on the demise of Bleeding Heart Libertarians and the divisions among intellectual libertarians an hour ago crookedtimber.org/2020/06/09/bro…. Then @lindsey_brink writes an essay which speaks more directly to the disagreements. It's strong stuff.
"When it comes to making government strong enough and capable enough to do the things it needs to do, libertarianism is silent. Actually, worse than silent. ... [it] .... is dedicated to the proposition that the contemporary American state is illegitimate and contemptible."
"The gradual diffusion of these anti-government attitudes through the conservative movement and the Republican Party has rendered the American right worse than irrelevant to the project of restoring American state capacity. "
Read 14 tweets
6 Jun
(1 of n) - Today is a day of big protests. I want to highlight this piece by @lara_putnam @EricaChenoweth and @djpressman on the protest movement more generally. washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/… . This is one of those occasions on which @monkeycageblog can provide unique insight.
Lara has been doing research on political organizing in Pennsylvania. Erica and Jeremy have been gathering an extraordinary large scale dataset on protests across the US. They combine these understandings in this piece to figure out how the Floyd protests are changing America.
Their findings. First - we have never seen protests as broad as these in US history. Likely the widest set of protests to this point were the Women's Marches, which took place in 650 places across the US. Even with highly preliminary data, clear that far more is happening now.
Read 9 tweets
22 May
1. A short thread on this very interesting conversation between @njtmulder @adam_tooze and Mark Mazower last week on coronavirus and big structural questions, trying to pull together a few of the themes, and perhaps butchering them in the process bit.ly/2Xk3NMc
2. The most striking part of the conversation was Tooze's notion of the "Blitzkrieg Anthropocene" - that we are realizing that the Anthropocene is not just a matter of slow trench warfare over decades, but sudden overwhelming attacks that upset our basic beliefs about what works.
3. So if we are not in a world of la guerre de longue durée, what happens next? Tooze, building on and arguing with Mulder, stressed the limits of wartime analogies - particularly ones that stressed the need for an enemy to mobilize state planning and solidarity.
Read 15 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!