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The White House Correspondents' Dinner and the startling ascendance of nerd culture
The geeks have truly inherited the Earth
 
America's nerd-in-chief at the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner.
America's nerd-in-chief at the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner. Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

If history is an indicator, talk of the White House Correspondents' Dinner — affectionately known as "Nerd Prom" — is about to set Washington atwitter.

And the fact that journalists are willing to own the nerd word (even ironically) speaks volumes about how far nerddom has come in recent decades.

On the silver screen in the decade of Reagan, nerds always seemed to be sporting taped-together glasses and bow ties. But today, nerds are more likely to be celebrated for their quirky intellect than derided for their weirdness. Think of Abed on NBC's Community, or basically everyone on CBS's The Big Bang Theory — one of the hottest shows on TV.

And let's be honest: Journalists are just as nerdy as the physicists and geeky college students of our favorite TV shows. I think we all know a "Dr. Sheldon Cooper" or two.

Don't believe me? Consider the collective nerdgasm that occurred amongst journalists on Twitter when President Obama recently conflated Star Trek and Star Wars by dropping the term "Jedi mindmeld."

FishbowlDC, the gossip site that covers DC nerds the way TMZ covers Hollywood celebrities, has been chronicling this trend for awhile now. A few years ago, the site actually proposed a reality show for "Boy Banders" like Dave Weigel and Ezra Klein, called The Nerdy Shore(This was in the days before Nate Silver became a celebrity. Today, he may be king of all political nerds.)

But being nerdy isn't just cool. Rahm Emanuel told The New York Times that former OMB director Peter Orszag "made nerdy sexy."

Knowledge is power. And power is an aphrodisiac. But it wasn't always so. Remember when political wonks like Al Gore and former Sen. Paul Simon were considered too nerdy for their own good?

In days gone by, jocks ran the world. But in Washington's political and media circles, nerds run the show. As Ana Marie Cox recently observed, "Perhaps it is true that liberal nerds have made great strides in governing — certainly, our president is one…"

Nerds and jocks often find themselves in an inverse relationship. Nerds have more "game" as they age. Most jocks — except the very rare few who make it in the pros — often peak early. Then what?

Trust me, being a nerd is the smarter long-term investment. (Message: It gets better.) Maybe we even needed to be picked on to spark an ambition to be famous and prove everybody wrong?

The internet has clearly enabled the rise of nerds, too. Many of us might have been a tad too socially awkward to fit into the glamorous, pre-internet days of three martini lunches. But none of that matters now that we can take to our blogs and Twitter feeds, where we are witty, snarky, and possess a certain online savoir-fair.

So when you see all the tweets and stories about #NerdProm, take a moment or two to celebrate just how far we've come. Political journalism today is really the ultimate "revenge of the nerds."

The geeks have inherited the Earth.

 
Matt K. Lewis is a contributing editor at TheWeek.com, writes for The Daily Caller, and co-hosts The DMZ on Bloggingheads.tv. In 2012, the American Conservative Union honored Matt as  CPAC "Blogger of the Year." Matt lives in Alexandria, Va.

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