Polls and the Polling Pollsters Who Poll Them

One of many victories for the pollsters

One of many victories for the pollsters

Hey, you! Stop believing polls. Stop it! Stop using them to argue for your candidate or against another. Stop using them to create underdog narratives about a candidate getting 20% of the vote, or stories about an insurmountable lead by a candidate getting 20% of the vote.

Why harp on creating narratives from polls when you could be talking about the issues your candidate supports instead?

Why should you ignore the polls? Because until it starts to matter, and actual voting is around the corner, polls don’t gauge any true reflection of reality. If they did, we’d be talking about the successor to President Herman Cain right now.

Increasingly, pollsters have created a cottage industry of building narratives for the publications and news networks to which they’re attached. Those publications and news networks ignore what’s statistically significant or contextually important in order to build the best narrative they can tell, regardless of accuracy. It would seem like information is just that, and a statistic is a statistic, but when that information is cherry-picked and couched within a story written to appeal to you, is it still unbiased information?

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White guy, what has happened to common courtesy? If there’s one thing Americans have always respected, it’s authority. But suddenly, it’s OK to mouth off to the cops? And I seem to remember a time when you could engage in an honest debate in this country without the thought police banging down your door and clamoring that you “hurt their feelings” or “triggered” them or “choked them to death on video.” That was a time when ALL lives mattered, not just those that are taken with impunity by the people sworn to protect us. Where are the days when a man was considered innocent until the 35 women who accused him of legitimate rape were halfheartedly discredited?

I wish I could offer you solace in this moment, my little saltine. But I can’t. As a white woman, long the maker of your sandwiches, I have also walked among the harbingers of the world to come. I’ve been to some meetings. They don’t want me to tell you, but I think you deserve to know.

It’s over.

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Threat Quality Retrospective

Posted: August 3, 2015 in Threat Quality

SO!

Inspired by that one nerd who keeps turning up in the comments to call me a taste fascist and imply that I’m insufficiently respectful of the opinions of Jonathon Chait and Joss Whedon, I have been looking back at and doing some thinking about Threat Quality and about the writing that I’ve done here and that other people have done here, and what the future of this “blog” is, et cetera and so forth.

Let us consider.

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david brooks

(I’ve decided to continue with this series, “David Brooks: Threat or Menace?” which was previously called “David Brooks: Hero or Menace?” because I had misremembered a joke about Spider-Man.)

This week isn’t quite as exciting as last week’s; we’re probably never going to get quite the staggering constellation of “white-guy cluelessness” and “fantasy worlds in which Jefferson Davis is Abraham Lincoln’s evil anti-matter duplicate” in our lifetimes. Or maybe we will, it is David Brooks, and there doesn’t seem to be a bottom of the barrel when it comes to this guy’s cluelessness.

Like I said, though, this week isn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen.  It’s David Brooks talking about the “minimum wage muddle”, in which he stakes out a position somewhere between “Abortions for Some and Tiny American Flags for Others” on the one hand and “helpless shrug emoji” on the other.  I’ve got some things that I want to say about just what is at the root of Brooks’ quivering “let’s-not-be-hasty” timidity masking as moderate patrician condescension, but first I want to at least address just what the “minimum wage muddle” is.

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What an extraordinary creature is David Brooks.  Sometimes I read his columns, usually when an article about them appears with a subheading of “Can you believe this shit?” – Brooks is a …what is the word for a person whose job is to have opinions about things and then write them down?  An opinionist, I  guess – David Brooks is a professional opinionist for the New York Times which, much to the detriment of some and at least slightly to the detriment of all, remains the single most important journalistic outlet in America, and possibly (by dint of its influence and reach if nothing else) the world.  David Brooks is, in a way, powerful.

He is also terrible. His opinions are terrible, and I think his opinions are often expressed terribly, which means he’s violated two important requirements of being a professional opinionist – an occupation which, to my knowledge, has only got two requirements in the first place.  I have decided to take on his column this time as a challenge to myself; I may make a project of it if this proves suitably interesting.

So!  You may have heard that Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a book about his experience as a black man, particularly as a black man living in Baltimore, that takes the form of a series of letters to his son.  It is full of impassioned rage and exactly the sort of clear and incisive perspective that you read Ta-Nehisi Coates for.  Naturally, David Brooks read this book and, also naturally, had an opinion on it.  It is his job, after all.

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The thing about a tumor is, it’s not just malign tissue.

(Well, the first thing is that it’s not “malign” at all; tumors aren’t evil, they’re just obstinately disinterested in the well-being of the organism that supports them. They’re more like Libertarians.)

A tumor isn’t just malign tissue, it’s a factory for malign tissue. It swells up somewhere, on your testicle, for instance, which you discover in the shower on Sunday night because your doctor told you when you were fourteen to start checking for tumors, because being fourteen wasn’t already an age replete with anxieties about uncontrollable forces destroying your life, you had to add in fucking tumors.

You find a mass on your testicle, and you know how tumors work, you know that it’s metastasizing even as you think about it, sending out fucking saboteurs to the rest of your organs.

I’ve had an ache in my thigh for a while now; is it a muscle pain, or is it a metastasized tumor that lodged in the muscle tissue of my leg? My back hurts, my spine is crawling with tumors. There are tumors in my intestines, in my prostate (prostate cancer is what killed my grandfather) and my colon (colon cancer is what killed his brother). There’s a pain in my groin roughly in the spot where my lymph nodes are (lymphatic cancer is an extremely common and dangerous variety).

If it hasn’t metastasized, maybe they’ll just cut off one or both of your testicles. If it’s spread to your muscles and your bones and your intestines, maybe they’ll just have to amputate my entire lower body. People can survive like that – you have colostomy bags for the rest of your life, and a wheelchair obviously, and you don’t fence or do kung fu or do a lot of things anymore, really.

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This movie was fine. There were a bunch of robots, and people shot beams at them. Thor hit some robots with his hammer, Hulk smashed some robots, Captain American kicked his shield around a bunch of times. The best part was James Spader’s exasperated Ultron, who just couldn’t believe how people didn’t get how great his plan is. Actually, I think as far as villains go, Ultron was probably the second best we’ve seen in a J. Whedon Joint – Holland pointed out to me that making the villain an insane robot actually makes a lot of things make a lot more sense. We’d have a hard time buying this kind of “I dunno, what about a meteor?” plan from a crazy human being, but a crazy robot, sure. Who knows WHAT those fucking things are up to.

(Who’s the first best villain? Loki? No, it’s the Mayor of Sunnydale from season 3 of Buffy. I contend that the best parts of Loki are actually Hiddleston’s nuanced, three-dimensional performance in Thor; in the Avengers, he’s interchangeable with any other dumb old megalomaniac.)

Obviously, though, I am here to talk about politics.

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