Polls, Subliminal Messaging, Ambush Interviews… Journalism or Guerilla Warfare?

The Fourth Estate has badly tipped its hand in the past few days.  Were it not for this clumsy transparency of method, journalistic bias would have to be considered a far greater threat to our nation than Al Qaeda.

I referred recently in this space to the absurd charge—blown up and down the corridors of misinformation by such flatulent outlets of half-truth as the Huffington Post—that Paul Ryan lied about Candidate Obama’s promising not to shut down a truck factory in Janesville.  One of the Post’s reporters (and many have contributed to circulating this malodorous breeze) obligingly includes some factual detail, as is indeed required of any good half-truth:

Vice-presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) backpedaled Monday from a claim in his Republican National Convention speech that President Barack Obama was responsible for the closure of a General Motors plant that in fact closed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

“What they are trying to suggest is that I said Barack Obama was responsible for the plant shutdown in Janesville. That is not what I was saying, read the speech,” he told NBC’s “Today.”   “What I was saying is the president ought to be held to account for his broken promises.  After the plant was shut down he said he would lead efforts to restore the plant.  It’s still idle.”

But Ryan appeared to be blaming Obama for the closure of the plant, located in his hometown of Janesville, Wis., in his speech:

“My home state voted for President Obama,” he said Wednesday. “When he talked about change, many people liked the sound of it, especially in Janesville, where we were about to lose a major factory.”

“A lot of guys I went to high school with worked at that GM plant,” Ryan said.  “Right there at that plant, candidate Obama said: ‘I believe that if our government is there to support you… this plant will be here for another hundred years.’ That’s what he said in 2008.  Well, as it turned out, that plant didn’t last another year.  It is locked up and empty to this day.  And that’s how it is in so many towns today, where the recovery that was promised is nowhere in sight.”

Obama did not promise to keep the plant open.  He said that with government help, the plant could remain open. (1)

Come now, Mr. Johnson.  If a public figure were to observe to the citizens of Janesville that contact with alien spacecraft would make their town the wealthiest in the nation, and that the right leadership could draw flying saucers down, he would be understood as making a proposition.  He would be promptly removed from office, as well, because his utterance would demonstrate gross flippancy, at the very least.  Obama’s remark was not on the outlandish scale of a prophecy about extra-terrestrials.  On the contrary, coming from a man who was competing for the most powerful office in the world, it was naturally received as an assurance.  “Vote for me, and you’ll keep your jobs.”  Obama WAS the “government help”.  Or if, even as president, he hadn’t the power to turn clunkers into cash, then he should never have created the rhetorical illusion that such power exists.  Ryan’s point concerned not what Mr. Obama did or didn’t do: it concerned what he said.

Suppose that I attempt to sell you a house with a crack running straight down a major load-bearing wall.  You ask if the crack is dangerous, and I answer, “No house that I’ve sold has ever been structurally unsound.”  You buy the house, the wall collapses, and you charge me with having lied to you.  Do you have a case?  After all, I never said that the crack wasn’t dangerous—and if you say otherwise, then you’re lying!

This is the kind of facile indifference to context and implication to which our meretricious media treat us every day in defense of a ruthlessly ideological crusader, and which earlier knights of the same crusade have practiced for generations.  President Clinton’s “the meaning of ‘is’” defense springs to mind; but one might add such whopping and homicidal lies as FDR’s denial of his having sold out Eastern Europe to Stalin at the Tehran Conference on the ground that no written document existed.  True liars are really good at lying about lying.  They also excel at smearing up and down with heated charges of falsehood those who indict their veracity.  What else would you expect from someone who has no regard for the truth—no sense of shame?  As the old Italian saying goes, figs don’t grow on thistles.

A most fertile and flexible mendacity, however, does indeed seem to prosper in the vicinity of a journalism degree.  This week it was the man billed at the Republican ticket’s top—Mitt Romney himself—who took a drubbing from the Fourth Estate.   Nagged at a press conference with strident demands that he confess his “regret” for condemning the Obama Administration’s handling of the 9/11 attack on our Cairo embassy, Romney stoically took it on the chin.  Though not point-blank accusations of lying, these questions had in common an assumption that Romney had spoken without sufficient information:

Two reporters asked Romney during a hostile press conference if he did “regret” his criticism. Another asked if he was politicizing the attack; “Shouldn’t politics stop for this?” the political reporter asked the political candidate during a political election.

“Some people have said that you jumped the gun a little bit in putting that statement out last night and that you should have waited until more details were available,” another reporter said during the mid-morning event. “Do you regret having that statement come out so early before we learned about all of the things that were happening?” (2)

We know that this ambush was carefully laid thanks to a “hot mike”.  Yet whether or not mobbing a politician in this fashion is fair play—and it certainly isn’t anything new under the sun—the premise that more waiting would have mollified Romney’s harsh judgment is insulting to any adult of average intelligence.  The Governor’s initial statement referred to a Twitter release from the beleaguered embassy.  The announcement (for even twittering is now a source of official policy statements) essentially sided with the violent assailants in the street by deploring an elusive YouTube video contemptuous of the prophet Muhammed.  (It is possible that I might be censured and sentenced to death for not capitalizing “prophet” and following his glorious name with “blessed be his memory”… but who cares?)  I would like to ask the pack of slavering dogs with press passes on our side of the Atlantic just what third item of information they think should have been added to the two in Mr. Romney’s possession: a) that an Islamist mob had stormed our embassy in Cairo, and b) that embassy personnel had publicly—and globally—expressed sympathy with the mob’s outrage.  I contend that the response is prima facie unsatisfactory, unprofessional, and pusillanimous.  Mr. Romney obviously shares my feelings.  What new tidbit of intel would change our minds? 

Did our diplomatic personnel need to grovel in order to save their lives—were knives at their throats?  The suggestion is ridiculous, given the Egyptian government’s plain and minute orchestrating of the incident… but say it were so.  Then Romney’s remark stands, and can be supplemented with yet further indignation that the “apology” was extorted by bloodthirsty thugs. 

Was the YouTube video really, really offensive, as Secretary Clinton has persistently emphasized?  I haven’t seen it or even sought after it; as a Christian, I already know all about publicly broadcast material that attacks, derides, and defames the basic tenets of my faith… but say that this video was as repellent as a Bill Maher tirade against Christianity.  Then the nasty boys of Cairo, who apparently still have no jobs, might try avoiding it, just as I avoid Maher, and return to their bookmarked porn—or, if they can’t pay their wireless bill, to the Koran. 

Did the President himself not authorize the Twitter declaration?  In hindsight, with “more information”, we know he did not: he went off to get a good sleep despite incoming reports of the rioting, determined to be clear-headed the next day for his Vegas fundraiser.  So let us grant that he did not condone the twittered messages (and there were several of the same tenor).  Then… then nothing.  The ship ran aground on his watch, whether he was at the helm or not.

Now Romney is being raked over the coals for suggesting in a televised interview (“How shall I say it?”) that the President of the United States does not always tell the truth.  Liar!  Traitor!  Racist!  Infidel dog!  Reactionary!  Nazi!  Conservative!

As I attempted to manage my blood pressure this week and also focus on what I must do each day to make an honest living, I was further challenged by media-strategized guerilla assaults leaking through my defenses in the unlikeliest of places.  Whenever you load Yahoo to check your email, an AP or Reuters news story pops up demurely in the middle of the various links necessary for navigation.  I happened to notice that the headline-banners during the week were subliminally selling a single narrative: Romney “shoots before he aims,” charges Obama;

Ambassador Stevens was “a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States,” eulogizes Obama; incendiary YouTube video traced to Christian organization, sources say.  (I can recall the language only partially—it did not immediately occur to me that these trivia were assuming a noteworthy shape.)  Like billboards that a motorist passes routinely on his way to work, not so much seeing them as soaking them up, such whispers labor with ant-like persistence to construct a worldview.  In this case, the narrative is naturally that intolerant Christians are at fault for the riots, that Romney rashly exploited the situation for political gain, and that the President rose above the swirling passions like… like God Almighty.

And then there were the polls.  Oh, yes—Romney’s annihilation in the latest polling was another subject of Yahoo’s wire-service headlines just before the 9/11 meltdown.  Romney’s toast.  Romney might as well throw in the towel.  Obama’s “Clinton bump” is insurmountable.  Rush Limbaugh is of course correct that the intent of such “news flashes” is to demoralize.  Dick Morris (whom I have never considered a very savory character, but whose insights into this subject are as good as gold) further cleared the air throughout the week by explaining how very tendentious are the techniques employed by pollsters.  I had figured that much out on my own.  The much-cited Washington Post poll questioned fewer than 1500 people over the course of four days; the FOX News poll was “based on live telephone interviews on landlines and cell phones from September 9 to September 11 among 1,056 randomly-chosen likely voters nationwide,” as one discovers in the final paragraph of the online account. (3)

Really?  A group smaller than the typical crowd at a typical shopping mall on a typical Saturday tells us our nation’s destiny?  And over the phone?  My household receives “nuisance calls” constantly, some of which may indeed be from poll-takers.  If we don’t recognize the caller, we ignore the call.  How many Americans, I wonder, give their cell numbers out to anyone but family and close friends—and how many must shut their phones off, in any case, during work?  How many people are home during the day to answer “landlines”?  Isn’t there a tremendous amount of what statisticians call self-selection in the process described?  That is, aren’t the people likely to respond to this particular means of contact most probably members of a specific age group and employment status (young or elderly and/or unemployed, I would guess)?  Morris explains that pollsters “correct” for aberrations of the kind I describe by plugging in formulas of mysterious concoction.  For instance, if the day’s phoning harvests only 5% black respondents, the pollster multiplies these responses to reflect the percentage of black turnout in whatever past election he chooses as his baseline.

What is the difference, then, between polling and writing up your own results off the top of your head?  These methods are so patently open to abuse that they amount to nothing more than just another trick, another con, another finesse… another lie.

I have never felt such seething contempt for reporters, pollsters, and others of that motley, mouthy tribe as I have this week.  Of course, they and their Gestapo of politically correct, progressivist allies would like to silence people like me—and Rachel Alexander, and Rush Limbaugh, and probably even Dick Morris—using the gag order on free speech that they have christened (with the unconscious irony of which only incorrigible liars are capable) the Fairness Doctrine.  They lobby these days, as well, for any criticism of Islam (whether tasteless or otherwise—offense is in the eye of the beholder) to be punished with hard time in prison, or perhaps with beheading (in deference to Sharia law).  Their outrage rains and hails upon anyone who obstructs the pathological need to invert and subvert that drove them to a Journalism major, in the first place—where the craving for “news” conceals a deeper craving for daily “change”, for universal disorder. (4)

There is, no doubt, something to be said for chastening public displays of crudity; but to accept reprimand from people whose soulmates march about in pink vaginas is as utterly indigestible as hearing fevered denunciations of Western debauchery and homosexuality from human swine who gang-sodomize a wretched captive before smothering him.

The good news about “news” is that, on our side, we don’t need a Fairness Doctrine.  Sooner rather than later, the mainstream journalistic community will hang itself high on all the rope it has been granted by our free society.  The category nebulously styled “likely voters” already knows, for the most part, that these straight-faced assassins of character and tormentors of truth are most trustworthy when taken as diametrical opposites of reality’s voice.  I expect polls, in particular, to suffer a permanent demotion to the cloaca maxima of propagandistic mass-manipulation once Barack Obama goes down in overwhelming defeat.  Perhaps thereafter our class of ideological pimps will seek employ in societies that routinely use and better appreciate their talents.  The new Egypt would be a great place to start.  

NOTES

(1)  Luke Johnson, “Paul Ryan: I Wasn’t Blaming Obama For GM Plant Closure,” The Huffington Post, 4 Sept. 2012, < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/paul-ryan-today_n_1853759.html >.

(2)  Neil Munro, “Team Romney Slams Administration, Media on Embassy Attacks,” The Daily Caller, 12 Sept. 2012,  < http://dailycaller.com/2012/09/12/team-romney-slams-administration-media-on-embassy-attacks/#ixzz26XlcED00 >.

(3)  See < http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/12/fox-news-poll-obama-has-lead-over-romney-in-post-convention-poll/ >.  Viz., “The Fox News poll is Likely voters are registered voters who are considered most likely to vote in the November presidential election.  The poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R).  For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.”  

(4)  Conservative commentators are fundamentally mistaken, in my opinion, when they claim that such hives of progressivism as the newsroom and the classroom result from indoctrination.  Most college professors are left-of-center because that position brings them comfort and acceptance within their peer group—and I imagine that the situation at major networks is much the same.  Such people cannot produce a causal chain accounting for their “beliefs” because they have never deduced any and never heard any explained to them.  To the extent that this forward-marching herd is not simply chasing its own tail, its leaders are animated by the sheer joy of moving… for heaven may always loom over the next horizon as long as one merely moves.  (“Where do I want to go?” posed the French poet Baudelaire, mocking the absurdity of the romantic spirit.  “Anywhere out of this world!”)  In other words, contradictorily, progressive intellectuals like being with the “non-conformist group” that constantly explores the “edge”.  Only thus can they import a weak facsimile of risk and excitement to their forever adolescent lives, their development terminally stalled in moral anemia and perennial spectation.

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