Friday, June 08, 2007

William Rivers Pitt-style populism

"....a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."(from Shakespeare's Macbeth)

Demographics are sort of the hack-journalist's stock in trade. Someone, somewhere does research, conducts polls, gathers stats on citizens' opinions on Bush or Britney Spears, and the Bill Pitts of the world depend on those demographics to prop up some polemic du jour (reliability of course an issue: some polls are more representative and unbiased than others. But that doesn't usually stop the polemicist). The polemicist then spices up his "research"--say, using a quote from Macbeth (an amusing source, since the rapacious Lord Macbeth--and his Lady--in ways seem like prototypes for say Bill and Hillary Clinton. At any rate, machiavellian ruthlessness works for links oder rechts: as the Bard knew, and methinks Bill Shakespeare was not exactly a member of the Labour party circa 1600).

The belle-lettres are quite important, since the WR Pitt style polemicist wants to conjure up some emotion, some DailyKos like rage, some Democratic Underground righteous indignation: the demographics are there to alarm the political consumer, just as some bad news about property values might scare some. It's like a type of political marketplace: Bush/Cheney's popularity index.

Admittedly Bush/Cheney seem fairly sinister, from all appearances (or at least a bit duplicitous): but not so much more so than Hillarians or Pelosicrats, if truth be told (or Putin and various Islamic fanatics, for that matter). The more interesting issue, however, involves the real implications of those ever-changing approval ratings: and we here at Contingencies suggest that the popularity indices don't mean shiete, more or less, and the "do you support the war or not" polls are also mostly meaningless.

When the Iraqi war effort begun, some 75% of Walmartopolis approved. Now it's only like 30% (some say more, some a bit less). But do those approval ratings have anything to do with the success or failure of the US Military, assuming that Jane Q. Public knows enough to make an informed decision? No. Tragic war is, but Jane's sense of tragedy has NO relationship to the success or failure of the specific tactics of the US Military.

Political polls mean about as much as --as little as---ratings of the current favorite Bubblegum Blockbusters, Inc. or Top 40 do. They simply measure subjective preference, and anyone who thinks that is an accurate measurement of political effectiveness or "Good" is about as confused as someone who mistakes Al Gore for a scientist.

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