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The Argument Against Universal Voting Rights

By Brian | October 23, 2008 | Share on Facebook

Colleague Dave Sohmer sends along this gem:  it’s a clip from the Howard Stern show on Sirius Radio in which Howard sends one of his people to the Harlem section of New York City (famous for it’s high concentration of African American residents and a strong sense of racial/cultural pride).

The interviewer asks people who they are voting for and why.  The answer, invariably, is Barack Obama, and “because I agree with him on the issues.”  The interviewer then cites many of John McCain’s positions and asks the person if he/she agrees with Barack Obama on those specific issues.  Again, the answer is yes.  My favorite is, “If Obama wins, are you OK with Sarah Palin becoming Vice President?”  Answer: ”Yes, yes I am.”

Three completely separate thoughts on this piece:

1)   It’s very funny.  Click through if only for the hearty laugh.

2)  I literally haven’t heard a word out of Howard Stern since he left terrestrial radio, and I can’t say I miss him terribly.  This clip confirms to me that he still bases most of his humor on making people look bad in public (in much the same way that Jay Leno, Bill Maher, and to a lesser extent, David Letterman do).  It always makes me long for Johnny Carson, who found comedy in making regular people look good on television. Watch this and ask yourself how Stern or Leno would have handled this interview.

3) On a more serious (read: political) vein, this clip reinforces my belief that the pervasiveness of opinion polls in our culture today has seriously warped our ability to process information. It used to be that polls were an outputof the political process – a way to periodically check on who was resonating better with the public at large. Today, though, with our pre-debate polls, live polls during the debate, and post-debate polls, we are fed way too much information about what our fellow citizens are thinking. This data instinctively becomes an input into what we think. Right and wrong answers begin to develop. It becomes harder to give the “wrong” answer to a pollster than it is to give the “right” answer, skewing the results and reinforcing the “rightness” of the “right” answer.

Example: Do you approve of the job George W. Bush is doing as President? As we’ve been hearing for over a year now, the “right” answer to that question is “No.” But what if you believe the answer is “Yes?” It’s a subjective question, after all, and even today, some 25-30% of Americans feel that way. My point is, saying yes requires jumping over two hurdles (believing the answer is yes, and having the guts to say so in public), whereas saying no requires just one.

Are all of the people interviewed in the above clips idiots? Maybe. But perhaps they’re just nervous because they know they’re going to be on the radio, and so they are easily confused. And when one is nervous and confused, it’s a lot easier to give the “right” answer than to try and formulate a coherent story behind a “wrong” answer.

Obama’s lead is growing lately. Just two weeks ago, it was a dead heat, and now it looks like Obama’s ahead by ten percentage points or more. Has there been a significant change? Did the debates really sway McCain supporters into Obama’s camp? Or is it just becoming obvious now that Obama is going to win the election, and so people feel more comfortable giving his name to the pollster? And if that phenomenon carries itself into the voting booth, then who’s really picking our next president? The American people, or the media outlets and news editors across the country who conduct these constant polls and then report on them so vociferously?

Lots of questions. Anyone have any answers?

Topics: News and/or Media, Political Rantings, The World Wide Weird | 1 Comment »

One Response to “The Argument Against Universal Voting Rights”

  1. The Celeb Buzz » Blog Archive » The Argument Against Universal Voting Rights says at October 23rd, 2008 at 2:41 pm :
    [...] Colleague Dave Sohmer sends along this gem: it’sa clip from the Howard Stern show on Sirius Radio in which Howard sends one of his people to the Harlem section of New York City (famous for it’s high concentration of African American …[Continue Reading] [...]


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