Wednesday, May 30, 2012

On Polls, Politicking, and Super PACs

About super PACs:

They're not fooling anybody, you know. They're a blatant move by the classic men-behind-the-scenes to control the political landscape and the political discourse like they used to do. They're not about free speech. They're about money and power. We all know that.

But they're frighteningly effective, and so are their tactics. Most voters in a given election will vote based on emotion, not logic or facts, and the super PACs' tactics are focused on manipulating voters' emotions.

About politicking:

You know, since we stopped subscribing to cable TV and watching network TV, we have missed all of the political ads. And when I say "missed," I mean "not seen" or "not been subject to."

When we listen to the radio, we change stations every time we hear a political ad. (In fact, we frequently change stations for any kind of advertisement.) In radio parlance, political ads are an automatic tune-out.

When we read the newspaper, we read the political ads for local issues or candidates, and then go to the Internet to find detailed, impartial facts and to read both sides of the issue.

We get most of our news today from the Internet. We read from a variety of news outlets, analysts, and opinion leaders. We assume that everybody has a bias, and so we make sure to take our news from across the political spectrum. Some of the most detached, unbiased reporting comes from overseas, from outside looking in, but even then we are careful to watch for hidden biases.

We've noticed a lot more political advertising on the Internet. We ignore all of it. (However, we are intrigued by which political ads AdSense chooses to serve up on places like Zyzmog Galactic Headquarters.)

We listen to speeches, or read transcripts of speeches, on the Internet. Sometimes we will find multiple versions of the speech. Sometimes it takes a little work to find an accurate video of the speech, unedited and uncut. We listen to some of the after-speech commentary, but not much. After 5 or 10 minutes, the commentators go into talking-head mode, and then it's time to move on.

About polls:

I used to participate in telephone polls and surveys, thinking that I was fulfilling my civic duty in making my voice heard. Boy, was I mistaken. It took me a while, but I finally caught on to the fact that a "poll" is not really a "poll": the pollster is pushing a specific agenda, and is politicking (or selling, if it's a consumer poll and not a voter poll) just like everybody else.

Caller ID is a wonderful thing. During election season (like, right now), we ignore incoming calls if we don't recognize the calling number, or if no number is shown. There's no law that requires you to answer a ringing telephone.

That short pause before the human starts talking is also a wonderful thing. One day autodialers will be fast enough to eliminate the pause, but for 2012, that brief time while the autodialer processes our "Hello?" and routes us to a human or to a recorded message, is just enough time to alert us to the fact that it's a call we can safely hang up on.

This year I'm going to try something new. If I answer a ringing telephone and I don't realize it's a political call until the caller starts talking, I'm going to abruptly and wordlessly hang up. It may be rude, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to listen to them, any more than I have the time or inclination to listen to a door-to-door salesman.

To wrap up:

Politicians must hate voters like us. We think about the candidates, and the issues. We do our research. We look at all sides of the story. We judge the credibility of everything we hear or read, and we ignore  emotional appeals. And we hate buzzwords, slogans, and cute catchphrases, with a hatred that surpasses all understanding. We don't vote a strict party or ideological line, although we prefer moderates over radicals because we know they will get things done and not just crow like a rooster all day long. We vote for what we think will be best in the long run for our community, our state and our country.

No comments: