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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New documentary: Media Malpractice... How Obama got elected

The purveyors of the website HowObamaGotElected.com plan to release a documentary on how the news media impacted the 2008 U.S. election.

Here's how they describe their project:

On November 4th, 2008 millions of Americans were shocked that a man of Barack Obama's limited experience, extreme liberal positions and radical political alliances could be elected President of the United States. For many of these Americans, the explanation was rather simple... the news media, completely enamored with Obama, simply refused to do their job.      

On Election day twelve Obama voters were interviewed extensively right after they voted to learn how the news media impacted their knowledge of what occurred during the campaign. These voters were chosen for their apparent intelligence/verbal abilities and willingness to express their opinions to a large audience. The rather shocking video below seeks to provide some insight into which information broke through the news media clutter and which did not.

The video is both interesting and revealing. I trust that the documentary makers conducted fair interviews, and selected individuals who really did seem to them to be well-informed. Assuming that that's the case, just what does the video prove?

We already knew, as I've chronicled again and again and again, that the major news networks (apart from Fox) were big supporters of Barack Obama. Surely, that fact alone influenced the outcome of the election, and the responses given by the subjects of the interview reinforce the notion that McCain and especially Palin were treated very critically, while Obama and Biden got mostly a free pass.

Unless voters were political junkies, they wouldn't know about some of the more significant gaffes of the Obama-Biden campaign, and they wouldn't know that Obama played some really dirty politics in Chicago to get elected as Senator. But they could easily tell which candidate spent a lot on clothes, and which one had a pregnant teenage daughter. The media, in short, either focused too much on fluff, or the voters cared more about fluff than substance, and the media, in good capitalist fashion, supplied what was demanded.

While the media may have played a large role, we shouldn't discount the abandonment of small government principles and ideology by the big government Republicans. That, too, surely played a role. Especially when you consider this CBS/NYT poll asking Americans which candidate, McCain or Obama, would raise your taxes. Americans thought McCain would by a 51 to 46 per cent margin. That's supposed to be a Republican bread-and-butter issue. When GOPpers lose on their own terms, they lose elections.

At any rate, here's the video:

UPDATE: Here's a Fox interview of the documentarian:

UPDATE2: Here are the results of that Zogby poll mentioned by Sean Hannity in the Fox interview:

512 Obama Voters 11/13/08-11/15/08 MOE +/- 4.4 points

97.1% High School Graduate or higher, 55% College Graduates

Results to 12 simple Multiple Choice Questions

57.4% could NOT correctly say which party controls congress (50/50 shot just by guessing) 

81.8% could NOT correctly say Joe Biden quit a previous campaign because of plagiarism (25% chance by guessing) 

82.6% could NOT correctly say that Barack Obama won his first election by getting opponents kicked off the ballot (25% chance by guessing)

88.4% could NOT correctly say that Obama said his policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry and make energy rates skyrocket (25% chance by guessing)

56.1% could NOT correctly say Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground (25% chance by guessing).

And yet..... 

Only 13.7% failed to identify Sarah Palin as the person on which their party spent $150,000 in clothes   

Only 6.2% failed to identify Palin as the one with a pregnant teenage daughter 

And 86.9 % thought that Palin said that she could see Russia from her "house," even though that was Tina Fey who said that!!

Only 2.4% got at least 11 correct.

Only .5% got all of them correct. (And we "gave" one answer that was technically not Palin, but actually Tina Fey)

Posted by P.M. Jaworski on November 18, 2008 in Media, U.S. politics | Permalink

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Comments

"limited experience, extreme liberal positions and radical political alliances"

That description could also be applied to Lincoln. Of course his reputation came after he died, not while he was a candidate like Obama.

Posted by: Zebulon Pike | 2008-11-18 3:14:11 PM


Assume, for the sake of argument, that there is a vast left-wing conspiracy that has taken over virtually all media outlets except Fox News, the last bastion of objectivity. Suppore that's true. I have one simple question: So what? If you really are a libertarian then you believe the press can print what they like for whatever reasons they like and can lie about those reasons as much as they like. Free speech and all that jazz. Even if the most blind Kool-Aid drinking conservative's worst nightmare about the media is true, there is no legitimate ground for complaint, other than liking to hear you own voice whine.

"It's the media's fault!" is a close second to "money and the ethnic vote" on the list of political excuses.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-11-18 5:15:53 PM


Fact Check: I don't know of any libertarians that are suggesting the state should break up the media. And I don't at all suggest that anything involving the law or the government should be done to the news media.

The criticism, it seems to me, is that the media is failing in providing unbiased news.

Maybe we should reject that vision of the journalist. Maybe, instead, we should embrace a vision that includes open and honest expression of bias (like we do here. We love liberty. Our news stories are from a pro-liberty perspective, etc.)

Freedom of speech is a call to keep the government out of it. It is not a call for silencing critics. I think it's perfectly all right for Republicans to express their criticism, to boycott, to write letters, and so on. All of that is consistent with free speech.

And they can, legally, print whatever they want, as far as I'm concerned. But that doesn't mean that I have to endorse what they write, or approve of it. Just as I can't silence them for putting out pro-Obama news, they can't silence me in pointing that out and saying "shame on you" (or an equivalent).

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-11-18 5:23:51 PM


"I have one simple question: So what? If you really are a libertarian then you believe the press can print what they like for whatever reasons they like and can lie about those reasons as much as they like."

Fact Check:

No one is denying that the mainstream media has a right to be biased and dishonest.

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-11-18 5:39:06 PM


Jaws,

Speaking of objectivity... The intrepid heroes of your post said (as you quoted them): "On November 4th, 2008 millions of Americans were shocked that a man of Barack Obama's limited experience, extreme liberal positions and radical political alliances could be elected President of the United States. For many of these Americans, the explanation was rather simple... the news media, completely enamored with Obama, simply refused to do their job."

Anyone who paid ANY attention to the supposedly in-the-tank-for-Obama media heard all about his inexperience, his having the most liberal voting record in the Senate, and his so-called "radical political alliances". These were all well reported, so if these folks are dismayed, it should not be because these facts were somehow covered up. The so-called liberal Obama-loving media covered all of this.

Furthermore, the Zogby poll is quite a push poll. I think if I had been polled by them I would have given some wrong answers just out of spite. Several of the so-called "facts" are not. Biden did not "quit a previous campaign because of plagiarism". He quit because of a ridiculously false accusation of plagiarism. There's a big difference there. Also, Obama did not win his first election by getting opponents kicked off the ballot (a tactic, it is worth noting, that many Barr-men here at the WS strongly supported using in Texas this year). He got 82% of the vote with two candidates against him. Furthermore, the poll asserts that "Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground". Not true. He was already a candidate before the gathering at their home and that gathering was one of dozens of similar ones before and after it as a part of the campaign. So his political career did not start there.

Picky? Pedantic? No. Just pushing back against a push poll. If this is the degree of objectivity of your intrepid "reporters", then when you say "I trust that the documentary makers conducted fair interviews" with the 12 people (what's the MOE on 12 carefully selected people anyway?) they talked to, I say I see no reason to trust anything they have to say.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-11-18 5:58:44 PM


What this shows is what impressions these obviously intelligent people (55% college grads) have imprinted upon them.

Unless you use Fact Check as a phony pseudonym to cover an ideological viewpoint.

The questions posed to these people, who were presented to the filmmaker at his request, are about questions of fact.

If nothing else, it demonstrates a college degree is not an indication of ability to properly digest facts.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-11-18 5:59:30 PM


Terrence,

"No one is denying that the mainstream media has a right to be biased and dishonest."

Really? Then you must have a rather strange definition of the word "malpractice".

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-11-18 6:01:46 PM


Hey Fact Check -
What was false about the accusation of plagiarism? Are you denying that Biden copied a speech from Neil Kinnock?
BTW, your inability to distinguish between criticism and censorship is risible.

Posted by: Craig | 2008-11-18 7:09:25 PM


Fact Check,

Haha, touche.

Maybe the analogy needs work, but here's how I understood it:

Doctors assign themselves the purpose of restoring people to health. Journalists assign themselves the purpose of informing people about the world (or maybe they don't. What do journalists see themselves as doing, anyway?)

When doctors screw up, and fail to meet their purpose through their own incompetence, that's malpractice. And there are legal remedies for it.

When journalists screw up, and fail to meet their purpose through their own incompetence (assuming that's what's been going on), that's... well, what? How about media malpractice?

The major difference is that there are no legal remedies available for people who have been misled through the incompetence of the media. In a sense, the law allows media malpractice.

Maybe that needs changing? Well, wouldn't that be interesting! Could Jenny, who doesn't know which party controls Congress, or much of anything else, sue the media for failing to get the right information into her brain?

Maybe in libertarian land people could start class action lawsuits against major media outlets for systematic bias in reporting?

I'm not sure. There are pretty significant differences between medical and legal malpractice versus media malpractice (if there even is such a thing.) The cost in terms of free speech would be substantial. If Jenny and co. could sue CNN for being biased, it would be like some kind of backhanded version of the Fairness Doctrine.

So maybe the documentary makers shouldn't have used the word "malpractice" in their title, huh? I see the point.

Best,

Terrence

Posted by: Terrence Watson | 2008-11-18 7:12:45 PM


The blogger states "57.4% could NOT correctly say which party controls congress (50/50 shot just by guessing)

81.8% could NOT correctly say Joe Biden quit a previous campaign because of plagiarism (25% chance by guessing)

82.6% could NOT correctly say that Barack Obama won his first election by getting opponents kicked off the ballot (25% chance by guessing)

88.4% could NOT correctly say that Obama said his policies would likely bankrupt the coal industry and make energy rates skyrocket (25% chance by guessing)

56.1% could NOT correctly say Obama started his political career at the home of two former members of the Weather Underground (25% chance by guessing)."

THe use of "n% could NOT correctly say" indicates the true motivation of this "poll". It was just another lame attempt to make educated people and people who voted for Obama seem uninformed to those who are mis-informed with right wing talking points.
Obviously whoever wrote this feels that only their view is the correct one, and any other views or choice of wording is "wrong".

So, when I say that neither party "is in control of congress" because neither party has a filibuster proof majority I would be in the "could NOT correctly say" group. Even though I can indeed SAY "Democrats control congress", but that would be just what the poll taker wanted to hear, not necessarily the facts of the matter.

When I say that Biden quit a previous campaign partly because of damage from a smear campaign accusing him of plagerism, I'm in the "could NOT correctly say" group because my choice of wording would undoubtedly be different than the poll "right answer". I'm well informed of the facts and the way they are percieved by the right wing.

When I say that Barack Obama's previous campaign used a very smart move and challenged the authenticity of many of the signatures on his opponents' candidacy petitions and won, causing the opponents to be removed from the running, I'm telling the truth. It's just not the version deemed correct by this particular poll so... back to the "could NOT correctly say" dungeon for me.

When I say that Barack Obama stated that corporations that choose to use only coal for energy instead of cleaner options would then go bankrupt because of the cap-and-trade system, I would be in the "could NOT correctly answer" group because I don't think it's a bad thing for companies that refuse to get with it and operate responsibly to have to suffer the consequences of being major polluters. Also because I realize that he didn't say that he wants to/is going to bankrupt coal consuming companies.

If I say that Obama's political career had already been launched when Ayers held the event at his house...well you know.

Posted by: Meez | 2008-11-18 7:51:55 PM


Craig,

"Are you denying that Biden copied a speech from Neil Kinnock?"

Absolutely. It never happened. As I am sure you know, politicians on the campaign trail have a boilerplate speech they do over and over and over again. In 1988, Biden's speech included a very small part where he repeated words used by Neil Kinnock and in so doing he clearly attributed them to Kinnock. But on one occasion he forgot to make the attribution. Dukakis' smear troops got a video of that particular instance of the speech and spread it around that Biden was plagiarising Kinnock. The characterization of what he did as such was ludicrous, but the shit stuck, so out Biden went.

You might recall earlier in this year's Presidential campaign there were attempts to accuse Obama of plagiarism and then McCain (of all things) of plagiarising Wikipedia. In both cases it was nonsense upon stilts as well. So it goes.

Now Stephen Harper's plagiarism case this year was more interesting because it really WAS plagiarism. But Harper was not culpable in the word stealing because he knew nothing about it and the content of the speech was an accurate reflection of what he thought, so it (rightly) amounted to nothing as well. In fact, the only real plaagiarist politician I can think of is Ralph Klein, who plagiarised an essay he wrote as a school assignment while he was Premier and taking university classes on the side. But we all know he's a boob who can't write a clear thought of his own.

Posted by: Fact Check | 2008-11-18 7:54:15 PM


Boo hoo!

Ya got trounced. Conservatism has failed. Deal with it.

Posted by: Big M | 2008-11-18 9:23:56 PM


Conservatism never fails, since it is the accumulated ‘best of' over the ages.

Ignorance and the ignorant have claimed a temporary victory, but it can never last.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-11-18 10:04:51 PM


Meez & FC;

You guys seem to be saying that the people interviewed knew all about these issues and had dismissed them. But the fact is that they weren't even aware of the accusation of plagarism, about possible dirty Chicago-style politics on Obama's part, or even about Obama and Ayres.

For instance, it is a well known fact that in the beginning of Obama's political career, the Ayres' did indeed hold a launch/fundraiser for him. You may quibble over whether that was the beginning of Obama's campaign, or somewhere in the middle, but you can't deny the association. The people interviewed hadn't even known about that association. And yes, it is important, at least as important as the pregnancy of young Miss Palin.

As for your claim that the majority Democrats do not control the Congress because Republicans can still filibuster on occasion... yeesh. The fact is none of the respondents had any idea of even who had the majority...they weren't being careful by pointing out that filibusters negate control, they were simply guessing wrong.

I have met very few Obama supporters who knew anything about their own candidate. They had no idea of the idiocy of Joe Biden (and those racist boogie men who plan to kill Obama because he's black will probably refrain now because Biden is so stupid!), but knew every Palin smear.

You know that every Republican knew every wart of McCain and Palin. But most Obama supporters didn't even know the issues with their candidate to dismiss them.

Posted by: Johnny 100 Pesos | 2008-11-19 7:42:42 AM


Johnny 100 Pesos

Very well done, dude. That is what concerned me about so much about my fellow Obama supporters. They voted for him not because of any of his views but because he was half-black or black from his POV. Historically speaking, that type of blindness leads to some scary leaders.

Posted by: Eric | 2008-11-19 12:31:19 PM


It's pointless to state the obvious fact that the poeple who voted for Obama were stupid. It's clear that Obama got pretty much the usual Democratic vote. If the usual Republican vote had turned out, McCain would have walked away with the election. But they didn't. Too many Republicans couldn't bring themselves to support McCain.

It wasn't the stupid people voting stupid that did it. It was the smart people, just a little too smart to vote.

Posted by: ebt | 2008-11-19 12:57:20 PM


ebt:

In the survey, 55% of the respondents had a college education.

The conclusion is not their stupidity, but what negative facts about each candidate stuck.

Posted by: set you free | 2008-11-19 1:12:29 PM


ebt, let us not fall into the trap of calling those who disagree with us stupid. You can be smart...and still be wrong.

Most of the people in the video didn't seem stupid, just uninformed or misinformed.

It seems to me like negligence for a voter to be uninformed in this wonderful information age.

But on the other hand, if you can pick up the NYTimes every day and still not know the facts about Obama (or others in the campaign)... perhaps these people victims for trusting a media that was too busy promoting a candidate to actually perform a background check on him.

Posted by: Johnny 100 Pesos | 2008-11-19 1:21:36 PM


"Maybe we should reject that vision of the journalist. Maybe, instead, we should embrace a vision that includes open and honest expression of bias (like we do here. We love liberty. Our news stories are from a pro-liberty perspective".

Pro-liberty? How asinine is that? It's an easy cop out to say that your political opinion is in favour of something blatantly positive. Personally I'm pro-happiness, pro-justice and pro-fun.

P.S. Are you saying that part of Obama's energy policy makes as good a headline as Palin spending an obscene amount on clothes?

Posted by: Dave | 2008-11-20 4:39:25 AM


"I trust that the documentary makers conducted fair interviews, and selected individuals who really did seem to them to be well-informed."

Well, that's your mistake. You're trusting probably self-interested people to do the right thing. It's the equivalent of assuming that Michael Moore is somehow going to be fair, or Bill O'Reilly is for that matter.

You are either stupid, naive beyond aid, or a mountebank. For your sake, I hope the last.

A pox on you all.

Posted by: LT | 2008-11-24 8:23:58 PM


This is ridiculous methodology. 12 people? Since when does that constitute any sort of reliable poll? Especially when the author and administrator of the "poll" was obviously a supporter of a particular candidate and an opponent of another. Regardless of which side of the political spectrum a person is on, we should all demand a little more respect for our critical thinking skills than this kind of "investigation."

Posted by: hm | 2008-11-28 11:13:59 PM


hm: 12 people *in the video*, but it came with a national Zogby poll with 512 people. At least the latter is a little bit more representative (even if we can continue to be skeptical).

The documentarian is trying to run the same kind of poll with McCain voters, but Zogby is, at the moment, refusing to do it. Maybe he'll find someone else to run the poll.

Posted by: P.M. Jaworski | 2008-11-28 11:22:06 PM


What is your point? That Obama supporters are less intelligent then the squirrel-eating, slack-jawed yokels who are Gov. Palins core supporters? Or for that matter the tantrum throwing, conservative media hacks who have not even been able to realize (or more likely admit) that they are a dying breed and are now regulated to the political sidelines. Say high to the Green Party.

Posted by: Carl Smith | 2009-01-11 1:28:23 AM


Yes the liberals, liberal news media had helped to elect Obama cause they wanted a new bad guy to bash, I was still suprised it did not take them long next too, and they already started on the Bashing of Obama too..

You see bashing someone new still does help to sell the newspapers.

Posted by: thenonconformer | 2009-01-11 6:34:16 AM



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