Bob Sutton writes in 2006 on the tendency of people to rate negative, even nasty assessments as more intelligent than positive ones, with application to the TV show "House", whose protagonist is a nasty genius (seen via Cosma Shalizi's belated discovery that he's mentioned in the comments).
I think I am susceptible to this when reading about politics; the nastier and more pessimistic and hopeless a rant on a political blog is, the more likely it is to affect me on first read, regardless of how good the argumentation is.
Maybe it's because of some sort of perceived payoff matrix concerning eventual outcomes. If you're a pessimistic curmudgeon about something and you find out you're wrong, at least you've been pleasantly surprised. If you're trusting or optimistic and you find out you're wrong, there's nothing good about the experience at all. Of course what this neglects is the shorter-term penalty of feeling bad about everything in the first place.
Matt McIrvin's Steam-Operated World of Yesteryear
- Or, as I call it, the Michiko Kakutani Effect