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Hullabaloo


Thursday, December 22, 2005

 
Public Scorn

by digby

Following up the post below about the White house polling operation, Paul Lukasiak in the comments notices another dimension to this problem that I missed and it's very interesting:

The Post had no problem asking this question as far back as March 2005

17. (IF DECREASED, Q16) Should all U.S. forces in Iraq be withdrawn
immediately, or should they be decreased, but not all withdrawn immediately?


Now, at that time (and to this day) NO Democratic Congressional Leader or Serious Presidential Candidate was advocating "immediate withdrawal" --- this was just the Bush "cut and run" straw man representation of the Democratic position.

The Post does not bother to formulate questions based on proposals advanced by leading Democrats --- there is no question about Murtha's actual proposal (phased redeployment over 6 month period when "practicable with a significant "over the horizon" presence) or withdrawal formulas offered by people like Kerry (withdraw 10,000 american troops for every 30,000 Iraqi troops that are trained.)

Furthermore, the Post is quite comfortable advancing White House straw man arguments using the "some people" method, as in this question asked starting in August...

"18. Some people say the Bush administration should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. military forces from Iraq in order to avoid further casualties. Others say knowing when the U.S. would pull out would only encourage the anti-government insurgents. Do you yourself think the United States should or should not set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq?"


This was a truly insidious question --- "some people say" that the presence of US forces only exacerbates and strengthens the insurgency, and that apparently includes the vast majority of Iraqis who want us out. But you don't get that information in the question -- the only "reason" for setting a deadline is "reduction of casualties." (Not to mention the fact that no Democratic leader was saying "set a firm deadline" in August 2005....)

The reality is that the Post doesn't ask about impeachment because asking the question legitimizes the idea of impeachment -- and the Post is too beholden to the White House to permit that to happen.


This cuts to the heart of the matter. When the Washington Post (or others) ask a question, it legitimizes the question. Back in that poll in 1998, just five days after the story broke. The imnpetus for taking it was not that "serious" people were talking impeachment, it was just that "some" people were talking impeachment. And those people, with te exception of the silly George Stephanolopulos, were beltway Republicans.

Matt at MYDD today notes another example of egregious WaPo polling:

From the Washington Post's polling director Richard Morin's online chat yesterday:

New York, N.Y.: When a newspaper like The Post commissions a poll, it gives the result prominent play, usually on the front page. But when a different organization conducts a separate poll, that poll's results are given much less prominent play, and often not mentioned at all. The implicit assumption is, "Our poll is better than theirs." Is this sound journalism?

Richard Morin: See the last answer. It would be unsound journalism to ignore other survey results, particularly if they offer insights your own may lack. But to give them as prominent play? No, and I think it is unreasonable to expect us to
.

The Washington Post put on their front page a story by Richard Morin titled 'Majority of Americans Support Alito Nomination'. A Fox News poll just showed Alito with cratering approval ratings. Morin's story clearly ignores other survey results which present completely different findings, something he just called unsound. It's clear this is not an isolated incident - Chris just documented Morin's failure to live up to standards he sets for himself.


The Washington Post polling operation has a problem. They are clearly responsive to GOP pressure in their questioning and yet they get angry at what they see as coordinated Democratic pressure. Morin even insulted a member of the public for using a copy and paste e-mail to complain about polling.

Most recently, a psychology professor from Arizona State University sent me the copy-and-paste e-mail, not a word or comma was changed. I only hope his scholarship is more original.

We first laughed about it. Now, four waves into this campaign,we are annoyed. Really, really annoyed.

Some free advice: You do your cause no service by organizing or participating in such a campaign. It is viewed by me and others with the same scorn reserved for junk mail. Perhaps a bit more.


First they laugh and then they get angry. Does he assume that these aren't real people, that they are fakes, paid shills, that they don't believe what they are saying because the language has been cut and pasted? If each e-mail were originally composed would it make a difference? It doesn't seem so. It's the fact that a web-site encouraged average people to complain to the Washington Post about something those people clearly agreed was a problem. Why is that deserving of laughter and annoyance? Did he take the time to think, even once, about the substance of the complaint? If it had been lodged by a high level Republican would he have laughed and then been annoyed?

A parade of operatives and politicians go on television every day spouting robotic talking points ad nauseum and nobody says that they are illegitimate. And nobody does it more effectively than the GOP. Frank Luntz proudly and openly discusses the fact that he tells his GOP clients exactly how to phrase things. Newt Gingrich wrote the book on repeating emotional phrases over and over to paint the opposition in derisive terms.

It's quite obvious that the Republicans have staged a quarter century "campaign" to sway media coverage. Now that they are in power they marshall very heavy hitters to lodge complaints and they go right to the top. John Harris and Len Downie admitted last week that high level Republicans and the White House complain all the time and they go out of their way to allay those complaints.

I*'ll use the same example of how this works that I used in a post last week. I'm sure the same thing happens at the Post:

Russert: Libby called me to complain about something he had seen on MSNBC...

Imus: What did he complain about on MSNBC, do you remember?

Russert: I haven't gone into it,--you know-publicly-cause I just didn't want to get involved with all that viewer complaints, but I do remember it because of his language that he chose and that's why- I actually called Ben Shapiro, the president of NBC news and said I just gave your direct line to this guy named Lewis Scooter Libby, who is upset about something he watched on TV and you may hear from him.


So when a "viewer" from the White House complains it gets referred to the president of NBC News. WaPo editor Len Downie says "We want to make sure people in the [Bush] administration know that our news coverage by White House reporters is separate from what appears in Froomkin's column because it contains opinion."

Yet when readers and viewers from around the country complain via a web campaign, the recipients view their complaints with the "same scorn that is reserved for junk mail, maybe more."

It's quite clear that the mainstream media think that their readers are irrelevant when it comes to political coverage. Perhaps this explains why so many people find the mainstream media increasingly irrelevant.




Update: Here's the link to the Democrats.com post that asked people to contact the major media outlets and ask why they were refusing to ask the question when the Rasmussen and Zogby polls were showing a rather large number of Americans supporting impeachment. I don't know why this should be considered illegitimate --- especially when political editor John Harris uses a friend's enjoyment of Dan Froomkin's column as evidence of Froomkin's liberal bias.



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