Erica Jong Tells Italians Obama Loss ‘Will Spark the Second American Civil War. Blood Will Run in the Streets’
“If Obama loses it will spark the second American Civil War. Blood will run in the streets, believe me. And it’s not a coincidence that President Bush recalled soldiers from Iraq for Dick Cheney to lead against American citizens in the streets.”
“Bush has transformed America into a police state, from torture to the imprisonment of reporters, to the Patriot Act.”
(More insanity at the link above.)
So here is my fear: that McCain will win. In a sense, I share this fear with Erica Jong.
This may seem like an odd thing to say given that I
prefer am less against McCain to win the Presidency than I am against Obama winning the Presidency. Indeed, if I were going to vote (which I don’t think I will), I would vote for McCain. So why do I fear a McCain win?
Because the media have brainwashed the public so successfully into expecting an Obama blowout. So if McCain actually does win, in that context, I’m afraid we will see an insanity breakout (as illustrated above) of epic proportions.
Here’s the problem, as I see it: with every election that goes by, it seems to me that the media and polling institutions get more and more divorced from reality. There has always been a media bias, but only in recent years has that media bias translated so dramatically into the kind of cooked poll numbers, heavily-slanted predictions, and attempts at creating self-fulfilling prophecy that we have been seeing. The media seem to have really found their oats these past 8 years, realizing that they have the power to manage and control expectations of political outcomes. It seems as if they have collectively decided to use that power to its utmost, with no scruples or honor about it whatsoever, and with no regard for anything resembling objective truth. And it seems to be only getting worse.
In the 2000 election, media and pollsters told us that Al Gore had a slight lead (let’s say something like 51-49) over George W. Bush. Yet the actual election was a statistical tie, if measured by popular vote. And of course, Bush won via the Electoral College. So, the media/polling picture departed from reality, but only slightly (let’s call it 2%).
In 2004, the media and pollsters told us that Bush was very very unpopular, that the Iraq War was a detested disaster, and that Kerry had a slight lead or perhaps even a better lead than they told us Gore had had in 2000. Yet Bush carried a popular-vote lead and won the Electoral College more handily. We now had – let’s say – a 4% divergence from reality. The pre-election media/poll picture was getting less accurate and more mythical.
And people started to notice, too. So much so that when Bush won, frustrated lefty commentators started saying – apparently with a straight face and believing their own spiel – stuff like “this can’t be right, look at the polls! look at the exit polls! Exit polls are never wrong!” This sort of argument was sincerely used by otherwise intelligent-seeming people to argue that the election must have been ‘stolen’. It had to have been! Polls can’t be wrong, and the polls told us that Kerry would win! Some even suggested the polls ought to carry more weight than the actual election.
The cognitive dissonance caused by unrealistic media-created expectations had real effects, too; stories popped up post-election about Kerry supporters who had to seek counseling after the election. The media essentially told all these people a fairy tale that Kerry would win, a fairy tale based on a combination of wishful-thinking and propaganda. The people who believed that fairy tale received a shock.
So that brings us to 2008. The media essentially tells us to expect an Obama blowout. But what if this, too, is a fairy tale? What if 2008 is just a continuation of the trend we started seeing in 2000 (2% distortion) and 2004 (4% distortion)? What if the picture the media and pollsters have been painting this year is distorted by even more, by 6-8% or so?
That’s what we’re being told is the size of Obama’s (supposed) lead, isn’t it?
Arguing against my paranoia here, I suppose, is that the media’s view is based on hard data. You know: polls.
Here’s the thing about polls: the more you learn about how they are done and calc’ed, the more you realize that they all contain a zillion fudge factors. It’s not as simple as ‘ask 1000 people whom they’ll vote for and extrapolate the fractions to the entire country’. All the pollsters multiply Democrat responses by one number and Republican responses by another (usually smaller) number. There are other factors and weightings that go into polling models, including geography, social class, whether someone is (claims to be) a registered voter or a ‘likely’ voter, or whatever. By the time you add up the effect of all these factors, who knows how accurate the polls really are? 5% margins-of-error really begin to add up if you’re multiplying several of them together. Not only that, but the more fudge factors and ‘models’ are thrown into a polling calculation, the more wiggle room there is for, well, bias to creep in. A (D)-leaning pollster might decide to weight the (D) responses 2-to-1 over the (R) responses, if he “thinks” (=hopes) that (D)s now have a ‘natural 2-to-1 background advantage’ in the country. Once you allow the existence of that kind of factor, the potential is there for cooking poll numbers however you like. And the more factors and the more complex the model, the more potential there is. It all boils down to incentives, and bias is a very potent incentive.
It’s similar to the problem that existed in creating bond ratings for mortgage-backed-securities. The rating agencies surely had very complex and scientific objective-seeming models for, say, defaults and foreclosures of the mortgages that back all these bonds, credit-default swaps, CDOs, etc. Models that contain a zillion and one factors that each have to be estimated, modeled, measured individually. The models all said, of course, “this senior tranche of a CDO backed by such-and-such uncorrelated bonds deserves a AAA rating”. The ‘correlation’, of course, being a phony parameter that turned out to be, well, basically 1. We all saw what happened as a result: a bubble in subprime-backed bonds and CDOs that turned out to be completely divorced from reality.
What if the same thing is going on in media reports and polling? Only, not due to greed, but due to bias and, well, ‘hope’, on the part of pollsters and media types?
Is Obama the “subprime” frontrunner?
The media have told us that Obama will win. As a (sort of) McCain supporter, I hope they’re wrong, of course, but in a way I also hope that what the media have been telling us is based on reality – not on wishful thinking and bias. However this election turns out, I hope it wasn’t all just a…just a bubble.