Friday, November 9, 2012

Source Matters

I have gone completely off the deep end with my political obsession. 

I thought that I had reached the depths of my addiction when I spent 30 minutes watching General Wesley Clark on television shake the hands of potential voters at an Oklahoma City bus depot during his short-lived run at the Democratic nomination in 2004.  There was no commentary.  Just the video image of him shaking the hands of strangers on a cold morning but I was riveted.   

That was nothing.  This week I have discovered C-SPAN radio and I might be hooked.  Now I know there is no turning back for me.  I am officially a political junkie and that vice is still legal in this country.

Yesterday morning on C-Span, I heard “real Americans” calling in to discuss their feelings about the recently concluded presidential election.  You remember that one, right?  Bain, 47%, “you didn’t built that”, jobs?  According to the callers, it was the election in which freedom died and America ceased to exist.  According to the callers, the Founding Fathers were “legitimately raped”.  Somehow, I missed that during the election coverage.

I had seen and heard this depth of this despair already.  I’d seen the Facebook postings of flags flying at half mast, or worse, upside down as a message of distress.  My children had heard their friends, all of 10 to 14 years old, predict the end of civilization, an event hastened by the re-election of Communist, although most of these kids haven’t studied communism yet in their history indoctrination classes.  I had heard people openly ponder without a hint of shame or horror whether the President would “survive” until the Inauguration.  Yes, it’s that unhinged.

In sum, the Right is taking this one pretty hard.

I believe that some are legitimately and patriotically disappointed by the outcome of the vote Tuesday, and I understand that.  The intensity of some depression and in some cases anger is what shocks me and frankly, scares me.  I understand that on some level, too.  They are more deeply depressed and angry because they never saw it coming.  Of course they didn’t.  They were never prepared for the possibility that Obama would win.  And that’s a shame.  I blame the non-lame stream media, the Right Wing Echo Chamber.

The fact of the matter is that right wing TV and radio (and Internet of course), the sole sources of information for many of the most ardent Romney supporters and the most stubborn Obama opponents, did not accept poll after poll that predicted the exact results that occurred Tuesday night.  Instead, they focused their audience on outlier polls and invisible oversampling errors. 

Facts are stubborn things.  Obama held the lead for the entirety of the campaign, particularly if you focused on the Electoral College, the only college that counts.  But that did not stop right wing TV and radio from proclaiming a Romney surge or Mitt-mentum or the existence of secret Romney voters who were deliberately lying to pollsters so they could shock the world on Election Day.  Turns out that the pollsters math was real.  Turns out that the ones who were biased and pushing an agenda were the right wing talking heads.

I could give them the benefit of the doubt.  Perhaps they talked themselves into believing that Romney would win even though the math never added up.  The mind can be a powerful thing.

“Is this just math that you do as a Republican to make yourself feel better?” Fox host Megyn Kelly asked Karl Rove on election night, “Or is this real?”  I don’t think there is a more telling quote than that to summarize the right wing media’s ability to delude itself into believing just about anything, and it is a disservice to the viewers (and the nation).

The main stream media polling I read had pointed to an Obama victory since September.  The main stream media polling I read suggested a stable race with Romney never cresting over 230 electoral votes under the rosiest scenarios.  He never led in Ohio.  He never led in Nevada.  He never led in Wisconsin.  Pennsylvania was never in play for Romney.  Neither was Minnesota.  I knew all of this because I read and listened to sources outside of the Right Wing Echo Chamber that used math and multiple credible sources for their reporting.  The GOP faithful were caught by surprise, and that’s a shame for them.

The situation begs the question for me, and if you are a fan of right wing TV and radio, maybe it will beg the question for you, too.  If the right wing news media lied or intentionally obscured the true polling that was available, what else have they sold as fact that may actually be fiction?  If they ignored all but those polls that reinforced their preconceived conclusions, how can you trust them as a news source?  Maybe religious liberty is not under attack unlike the world has ever seen.  Maybe global temperatures and ocean levels are rising and the cause is man’s activities.  Maybe Romney’s tax plan wouldn’t balance the budget.  Maybe Paul Ryan’s plan would be the end of Medicare as we now it.  Maybe Joanie really didn't love Chachi. 

Maybe Obama is not a socialist.  Maybe by historical standards, he’s a center-left President who was handed a sh*t sandwich and made the best of it.  Maybe he is a Christian who was born in the United States.  Maybe he loves his country.

If they lied about the shape of the presidential race in the face of overwhelming statistics, what else have they been lying about?  It begs the question, and I’m sure someone will call into C-SPAN radio and ask it.

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