The Reality-Based Community will Close its Doors at the End of this Month

Not an April Fool’s Day joke, we have been discussing the future of RBC internally since Mark Kleiman’s passing and have decided it’s time to close shop. We will have some final reflections from RBCers here in the month to come. In that spirit, I am re-upping this piece from early 2011 that still rings true to me about the role of this blog.

A slow day off of work combined with a fast new lap top (Xmas gift) and no hangover (I followed Mark’s suggestion) makes this a good day to blog. I better understand this medium than I did when I started, and though I remain ambivalent about whether I should keep blogging, there is no denying that I learn from the blogosphere, including RBC.

One of the things I have observed is that many political/public policy blogs are comfort food for a pool of regular readers. If you create a site called “immigrantsaredestroyingourcountry.com” or “legalizecocainenow.com” or “Allrepublicansareevilmonsters.com” you will over time accrue a readership, potentially a large one. Your role as a blogger is to repeat, in a thousand different ways, the message captured in your blog title. Your amen corner will then comment enthusiastically, over and over, in post after post that you are oh so right about what you think.

If such a blog strays from its message, the tell will be readers commenting “Hey, this blog is supposed to be advocating X and this post of yours seems to indicate that Y may be true”. And then, the ultimate insult from a comfort food seeker “This is the kind of post I would expect to see on blog Y”. The accusation isn’t that the blogger is wrong, but that the blogger is a traitor to the cause.

Whether providing political comfort food is right or wrong, it’s human nature to seek it out at least some of the time and that’s not going to change. But I thought it was worth saying that it is a feature and not a bug of RBC that if you read us for long you will encounter viewpoints and analyses with which you disagree (perhaps quite strongly).

When Mark Kleiman asked me to start blogging here, he knew there were things we didn’t agree about. And he didn’t say “You must support position Y, political party A, candidate Q” or anything else of that sort. He just asked me, as he asked a diverse range of people over the years, if I wanted to blog here and I said yes. Quincy Adams (ahem), Jonathan Zasloff, Amy Zegart, Robert Frank, Kelly Kleiman, Matthew Kahn, Steve Teles, James Wimberley, Lesley Rosenthal, Michael O’Hare, Bob Jesse, Andy Sabl and Harold Pollack have different knowledge bases and different points of view, which I consider all to the good.

I can tell from our comments that most RBC readers understand that there is no loyalty oath required to be a blogger here, nor an understanding that the posters must agree with each other. There is a shared commitment to evidence over opinion, as well as to civil debate, but that’s different than being monolithic on substance.

Very occasionally I get a comment along the lines of “This blog is supposed to advocate Y and you aren’t doing your part”. This makes it worth repeating that this isn’t a comfort food blog; that’s not our comparative advantage. Does this cost us readers? I am sure it does, but that doesn’t bother me and I assume it doesn’t trouble Mark either. The readers we keep are smart and intellectually curious, and those are the kind of people I want to spend my time around.

Do I wish that more people were interested in data, dialogue and potentially having their opinions proved wrong than are interested in comfort food? Broadly speaking, yes. But I hope this blog comforts those who have a taste for something other than comfort food.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

15 thoughts on “The Reality-Based Community will Close its Doors at the End of this Month”

  1. Sad news. Probably first time in a month that i checked the site, as opposed to daily when Mark was around, but I will still miss it. I will still follow you, keith, other places you write. Other than Mark i came here mainly for you – watched every movie you wrote about and loved them all!

    Stay safe and all the best to all here.

    1. Thanks for this very kind note, and even moreso thanks for being a member of the community.

      Best wishes to you and your loved ones,
      Keith

  2. Also very said to hear it, one of my favorite blogs. I suggest the final post be links to where the current authors can still be found.

    Thanks for all the words of wisdom, and Mark is greatly missed even by those of us who never met him.

  3. One other thing: will RBC still be online even though it’s no longer publishing? If it’s a matter of hosting costs, I’ll pitch in $50 to keep it around for a few years more, and I suspect others would do the same.

    Actually still another thing – Keith, I talked to Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen about your work years ago and tried to get him to follow up. I’m sorry it didn’t seem to click with him AFAICT from then, but maybe it will at some point.

    1. I have been in touch with Kelly about this and our hope and belief is that the archive will still be here, but we appreciate the offer regardless.

  4. I am very sorry to hear this, although I understand the reasoning. And certainly, things go in cycles, and there is always, at some point, an end.

    I have appreciated this blog as a place where I could always rely on new and interesting information, reminders to check the data and think critically, clear writing and cogent argumentation, and analysis that was driven by a desire to see things as they were and not by emotion or tribal fealty. I have appreciated James Wimberley’s range of expertise, from Old English to modern diplomacy and the art of the possible, and his habit of drawing attention to interesting and significant moments that not everyone would necessarily spot; Harold Pollack’s analyses, financial comments and advice, insights into caring for family, and photos, which have inspired me to look at my own little piece of the world more carefully (and take a few pictures); Keith Humphreys’ discussions of policy and–importantly– his movie recommendations, which have often steered me to a movie I would enjoy and, being thoughtful and thorough, away from some that simply would not have been my cup of tea; Kelly Kleiman’s literate and astute cultural analyses; and of course Mark Kleiman’s discussions, which were invariably out of my league, but whose clarity and precision I could and did admire.

    I could go on and on, and I regret not mentioning the work of many more who have written here, but if I tried to do so, my comment would be longer than most OP’s, and that’s bad form. Anyway, to everyone who’s written here, thank you. I’ll miss you. Please accept the greatest compliment I can give: it’s been a pleasure to learn from you.

  5. I am very sorry to hear it. It’s peculiar that the internet is so big but there are really not many places I like to hang out. This was very special.

    I echo much of what lcoleman6 said, and also I really liked Michael O’Hare’s posts. I had a class with him, long ago, and I’m sorry to say, I had *no idea* what an interesting person he is (my fault of course). From Zasloff, I learned of a good group to donate to (AJWS), which I keep meaning to do. And lots of interesting things about Jewish history and culture from both he and Mark (him and Mark?). Do you guys remember when Mark invited everyone to his New Year’s party? Well, I actually went. What a sweet person. Who does that?

    I got a few verbal spankings from Katya. Deserved, I am sure. It was fun sparring with Brett.

    Perhaps a higher power will intervene. Maybe you guys can just merge with another blog, if no one feels like keeping it up? I am not ready for this. I confess, I do not care for (negative) change. Where will I get good movie recs? My favorite critic is trying to retire – I’m bleeped! I had always half a mind to post the music program from this church I go to for James – it all goes over my head really but I had a feeling he might have gotten a kick out of it.

    Phooey. Seriously … somebody out there, merge with these people!!! Pleeeease.

  6. As regular reader and occasional commenter from the blog’s earliest days, I will miss it. Thank you to all who produced it, especially Professor Kleiman, wherever you are.

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