Humor, Polls, News and Confirmation Bias

We tend to accept as factual whatever we want to believe and reject the rest.

Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt today had a piece about reactions to a satirical post by Roger  Simon (not Roger L. Simon of PJ Media) stating that Governor Romney’s running mate, Paul Ryan, had disparaged him by, among other things, referring to him as “Stench.” Mr. Simon’s piece was taken seriously by many, from MSNBC to Mediaite and even by one of the world’s most prolific unintentional humorists, Paul Krugman.

Fox News stated,

Krugman, a blogger for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and a host of other liberal pundits fell for Simon’s satire — apparently finding the quote too good to not be true.

“Can I say that even though I’m not exactly a fan of Mitt Romney’s, this is just bad behavior?” wrote Krugman on his Times blog “The Conscience of a Liberal.” “You’re supposed to wait until it’s actually over before you do this kind of thing.”

Liberal talk radio host Taylor Marsh was giddy.

“Ryan is trying to save himself so he can live to run another day,” she wrote on her website. “Roger Simon’s piece has spread like wildfire and is causing a gigantic ripple.”

Hours later, word got around that Simon had made it all up. Even the part about how Romney had taken to calling Ryan “Gilligan.” Some of the folks who got fooled groused about it being too subtle or not particularly funny.

“OK, the word is that this was really clumsy satire,” Krugman wrote in a late entry to his blog.

Had those who took Mr. Simon’s piece seriously read it with modest attention rather than merely skimming it, even those endowed with miniscule senses of humor should have realized that it was satire. As noted at Power Line, it also referred to PowerPoint “as having been invented to euthanize cattle.”

A word about PowerPoint. PowerPoint was released by Microsoft in 1990 as a way to euthanize cattle using a method less cruel than hitting them over the head with iron mallets. After PETA successfully argued in court that PowerPoint actually was more cruel than iron mallets, the program was adopted by corporations for slide show presentations.

Conducting a PowerPoint presentation is a lot like smoking a cigar. Only the person doing it likes it. The people around him want to hit him with a chair.

PowerPoint is usually restricted to conference rooms where the doors are locked from the outside. It is, therefore, considered unsuited for large rallies, where people have a means of escape and where the purpose is to energize rather than daze.

The Power Line article linked above continued,

I don’t know, that strikes me as sort of humorous. Readers should have been able to figure out that Simon’s column wasn’t exactly on the level. But liberals are so desperate for evidence that the Romney campaign is on the rocks–a theme with no support in the world known as “real”–that they swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

Following a series of quotes from the principled media, the article continues:

That’s an impressive list of left-wing media personalities, all of whom are evidently more clueless than the average seventh-grader. Why? Because they are desperate. They fervently want Barack Obama to be re-elected, but they know his administration has been a disaster, and they fear that most Americans have noticed. So they are hysterical pretty much 24/7 and are not in the mood for nuance, to the point where they can’t even discern Roger Simon’s less than subtle effort to use fiction to discredit the Romney campaign. Or here is another way to look at it: the Democrats are past the point where they can deal with reality, and they are happy to rally round any comfortable piece of fiction that comes their way.

In similar fashion, Governor Romney’s “question” during a campaign appearance asking why modern aircraft don’t have opening windows for ventilation — followed by a pause for the resulting laughter that followed as expected –  was taken seriously by many who weren’t there.

Mr Romney, who has a track record of verbal gaffes, had referred to an emergency landing by an airplane carrying his wife during a fund raiser in California. But his light heart objection to windows that “don’t open” was seized on by critics as his latest outlandish offensive against common sense.

American media websites and blogs filled with mockery of the candidate. The storm scarcely abated when reporters at the event conceded Mr Romney had made a joke, albeit it one that did not translate outside the room.

According to an article at Huff ‘n Puff, this transpired on the Rachel Maddow show on Mindlessly Senseless Nonsense Beyond Comedy MSNBC:

Rachel Maddow tore into Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on her Monday MSNBC show for his odd remarks about airplane windows.

Following an emergency landing his wife’s plane had to make last week, the governor took a moment on the campaign trail on Monday to comment on her safety.

“I appreciate the fact that [my wife] is on the ground safe and sound,” he said. “I don’t think she’s aware of just how worried some of us were.”

Romney continued, “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go exactly. And you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that, but it’s a real problem,” Romney said.

Then Ms. Maddow continued,

“It’s a real problem that the windows don’t roll down on airplanes? Is it also a problem that guns don’t shoot backwards through the barrel this way? Or that diving boards are only really ever mounted over very deep water? Why don’t the windows roll down?” Maddow asked.

She added, “I don’t think he was joking because he couldn’t possibly be joking about his wife almost being in a plane crash. You can’t joke about that, especially with her standing right there,” Maddow said. “So has he never seen Goldfinger?”

Perhaps Governor Romney has a better sense of humor than does Ms. Maddow.

Libruls do know how to laugh at what they consider funny, if it is consistent with their preexisting assumptions. They did that during the 2008 presidential campaign when Tina Fey, on Saturday Night Live, became a big hit by impersonating Governor Palin. One of the most memorable lines involved Governor Palin’s Tina Fey’s statement that she could see Russia from her house.

Even though the skit was obviously satire, many people accepted that Governor Palin had actually said that because they considered her (unlike themselves) stupid.

On September 20th, I posted an article at my blog entitled EPA to issue New Safety Rules for U.S. Flags. It claimed that in view of the death of a Pakistani burner of a U.S. flag who had inhaled the fumes, the EPA was going to require that no substances that become toxic when burned be used in U.S. flags, and that President Obama had ordered the EPA also to ban the use of fire retardant chemicals in them. I noted (with an appropriate depiction of Ali Baba of Forty Thieves fame, that

Sheik Mohammad Ali Baba, a noted humanitarian and proponent of wealth redistribution also known as the Deaf Sheik, applauded this development and made his own powerful gesture of peaceful cooperation in return.

The failure of the Great Satan to take this obvious step years ago is inexcusable and many of our beloved martyrs have been killed or injured due to its callous disregard for the health and safety of our people — indeed, of people across the entire world. However, by yielding to our protests over the Great Satan’s policies the United States has once again demonstrated that our overwhelming strength has triumphed over its abject weakness. Therefore, we applaud the action, belated though it is, and will demonstrate our appreciation by burning more of its wicked flags.

One commenter said,

“I have directed the Environmental Protection agency additionally to prohibit the use of fire retardant chemicals in all of our proud flags and to expedite the approval of its rule making process to ensure that the new rules are adopted and become effective within ten days.”

Is this factual? Where did you obtain this information? Burning the flag is at your own risk! If he truly intends to make them non flame retardant, I don’t think I want him running the country with decisions like that.

Perhaps the comment was satirical and I failed to detect its subtlety.

Are our senses of humor as well as our perceptions of reality dependent upon confirmation biases? The major political polling companies have recently claimed that President Obama has a tremendous and growing advantage over Governor Romney. President Obama’s supporters tend to accept such reports as The Truth, Governor Romney’s supporters and others tend to reject them as due to over sampling of Democrats consistent with the pro-Obama bias in “news” reporting generally. I like to think that the advantage attributed to President Obama has a lot to do with that as well as the evident failure of most such pollsters to poll “likely” rather than merely “registered” voters as well as to take into account the greater enthusiasm — hence higher likelihood that they will vote — of Governor Romney’s supporters.  I also recognize that all polls have flaws, that trends are more important than daily results, that much can happen between now and November 6th and that the best and only effective things we can do are to vote and to encourage like minded people to do the same. It’s all frustrating, but then so is much else in life.

Rasmussen, using data from polls of “likely voters,” today reported that forty-three percent of them think the economy will improve if Governor Romney is elected, compared to thirty-four percent who think it will improve if President Obama is reelected. It seems a bit odd that if “it’s the economy, stupid,” they are essentially tied. During President Obama’s term as President the economy has, using an obscure technical term found only in esoteric economic journals, “sucked.”

Today, after the polls reflected in the Rasmussen report had been taken,

The Commerce Department said Thursday that total durable goods orders fell 13.2 percent in August. That’s the biggest drop since January 2009 when the country was in recession. Aircraft orders fell by nearly 102 percent, pulling down the headline figure.

The article at the Washington Post explains why that is not very important, but also notes that

U.S. manufacturing, which had helped pulled the economy out of the Great Recession three years ago, has weakened since the spring. Factories have been hurt by a decline in consumer spending and slower global growth that has cut demand for U.S. exports.

Less factory production has sapped a critical source of growth and jobs in the United States. The trend is expected to keep growth and hiring tepid through the November elections.

The economy grew at an annual rate of just 1.3 percent in the April-June quarter, the Commerce Department said Thursday in a separate report. That’s much lower than its previous estimate of 1.7 percent and too weak to lower the unemployment rate.

Many economists below growth won’t exceed 2 percent for the rest of the year.

Apparently digesting this great economic news, the DOW and NASDAQ averages were up seventy-three and forty-three points, respectively, at the close today. Today, overall and in swing states, Rasmussen reported (again based on polls taken before that economic news became public) that the candidates are tied at forty-six percent.

Why aren’t voters turning away from President Obama’s failed domestic and international policies in herds droves? It may be that for many of them, the worse things get the more they believe his slogans that boil down to this:

I know you’re havin’ a hard time makin’ ends meet and trust me, I understand just how y’all feel. I didn’t make that happen and neither did You. Somebody else did and we all know who — the greedy rich capitalist warmongering racists who want to defeat me no matter how much it costs. If I lose so do You, but They win.

But don’t worry. I’ll win if  You — each and every one of  You — enter one of my raffles today so I’ll have enough money to fight my opponent, whose filthy rich contributors just want to get richer and get even more power over You. I promise that with another four year’s I’ll make it all better. Much better!  Believe me! I. Won’t. Fail. You! This time.

Hence, as life becomes more difficult the more, rather than less, popular he becomes.

Or, maybe the world is just nuts. It’s easy to assume that it is because it’s probably true.

That was from the late 1950′s and many things haven’t changed much since then.

So? Relax and enjoy it, but first please vote for the only nominee who has a chance of beating The Won. Also, run out and buy some mood medicine. I could use some myself.

About danmillerinpanama

I was graduated from Yale University in 1963 with a B.A. in economics and from the University of Virginia School of law, where I was the notes editor of the Virginia Law Review in 1966. Following four years of active duty with the Army JAG Corps, with two tours in Korea, I entered private practice in Washington, D.C. specializing in communications law. I retired in 1996 to sail with my wife, Jeanie, on our sailboat Namaste to and in the Caribbean. In 2002, we settled in the Republic of Panama and live in a very rural area up in the mountains. I have contributed to Pajamas Media and Pajamas Tatler. In addition to my own blog, Dan Miller in Panama, I an an editor of Warsclerotic and contribute to China Daily Mail when I have something to write about North Korea.
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3 Responses to Humor, Polls, News and Confirmation Bias

  1. Pingback: Is there a way to win the hearts and minds of ObamaVoters? | danmillerinpanama

  2. Joe Barton says:

    Hey Dan, that Kingston Trio clip was amazing.

    “We tend to accept as factual whatever we want to believe and reject the rest.”
    That fact proves what I’ve been saying all along! I knew I was right!

    But Dan, you don’t think that’s exactly what Ryan and many conservatives are thinking? I bet you Ann Coulter can’t wait to say ‘I told you so!’ The best thing Obama has going for him is Romney. All common sense says that he should be down in the polls. Not that I think Obama will surely win. He’s a train wreck himself. I have little faith in him. The killings of the Ambassador and others in Libya appears to be a major security lapse, his supposed strong suit. Then he’s got the debates and two more economic reports coming out plus the Republican voter suppression efforts. I’m worried.
    I also don’t dismiss the critiques of the polls despite my bias telling me I should because the people who are peddling that stuff are the most biased people on the political scene.

    Hey, as for Krugman. I know conservatives love to hate him and think he’s a complete dope, just like liberals do with Sara Palin. (thing is, Krugman ain’t no dope, sister Sara is. She really is. That ‘fact’, which has been confirmed by my bias, doesn’t make what conservatives say wrong but she’s a really bad spokesperson for conservatives. Even reasonable conservatives who lack the liberal bias gene agree with that.)

    The whole ‘alien space invasion’ thing, could it be that conservatives haven’t realized Krugman’s intentional irony, if not satire, when he channeled Saint Ronald Reagan with that comment? St Reagan was responsible for the goofiness of that analogy, which he was unfairly ridiculed for by libs, but his main point, like Krugman’s, is valid. We do all pull together in a crisis. Even conservatives become socialists during war times. Too bad their biases won’t allow them to consider ‘shared sacrifice’ when the crisis is economic. But maybe that’s just my own bias.

  3. Maddow and Krugman are perfect for each other!

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