Part 4—Slowest children from Stanford: This very Wednesday, Allison Benedict wrote something shocking at Slate.
Benedikt, a self-identified liberal, described her pleasure as she watched Fox report the election returns. She described her household’s schadenfreude as the talent at Fox broke the news:
Obama was going to win!
Benedikt described the way conservative viewers had been misinformed by Fox. But as she did, she authored a striking parenthetical comment.
Can Allison Benedikt say this?
BENEDIKT (11/7/12): As Conor Friedersdorf writes in his very smart Atlantic piece about the failure of the conservative media, it’s “easy to close oneself off inside a conservative echo chamber.” As he points out, Fox News and other conservative media are “far more intellectually closed” than, say, NPR. Fox News feeds its viewers a line of bull about the way the world is. Viewers buy this line of bull. Misinformed viewers become misinformed voters. And then misinformed voters are shocked when Obama wins. Hey, I thought everyone hated this guy? (The preceding is a very good reason why liberals should limit their MSNBC viewing, by the way.)Can Allison Benedikt say that? By Friday morning, 1747 comments had piled up at Slate. Many of the comments discussed that last heretical statement.
Is MSNBC comparable to Fox in any conceivable way? Can liberal viewers become “misinformed” in some significant way as they watch The One True Channel?
Actually yes, they can. That isn’t to say that MSNBC is “just as bad” as Fox, although in many ways the channel does seem to be trying.
MSNBC may not be “as bad,” but we’d have to say it’s gaining. Indeed, we thought of Benedikt’s heretical statement as we watched Rachel Maddow last night.
For us rubes in the liberal world, Maddow has been cast by the suits as Our Own Former Rhodes Scholar. In part, the marketing around her stardom involves a central conceit of pseudo-liberalism:
We are the ones who are smart!
But Maddow often isn’t smart; routinely, the work performed on her program just isn’t smart at all. Consider the moment in last night’s show when she shot down a GOP canard—the notion that Hurricane Sandy blunted Romney’s momentum.
Maddow played tape of several Republicans making this assertion. Then, she swung into action in a strikingly clueless way.
To enjoy Maddow’s carnival-barker certitude, click here. Move ahead to 7:45:
MADDOW (11/8/12): This is a narrative Republicans are telling themselves, that the Beltway media is also now starting to tell itself because they keep hearing Republicans say it. It is not a theory born from reality.Let’s stop right here. First, note the way Maddow fails to name anyone in “the Beltway media” who is pimping this momentum narrative. As we've told you a thousand times:
I mean, this is a checkable thing, right? This is an empirical idea. Their theory is that Mitt Romney was on track to win this thing if it weren’t for that blasted storm. This is something we can check. I mean, it’s easy, right?
OK. Let’s start with this. We’re all in agreement that the polls were correct, right? Despite all the nonsense ahead of the election about how the polls seemed so wrong before the election, now that the election has happened, it has been proven and we can all agree that the polls reflected math and not some an nefarious agenda to make conservatives feel bad, right?
So, the polls were right; we can all agree. Out of all the polls, let’s look at the one we know now mathematically was the most accurate daily tracking poll. The one that was most accurately reflected what was really going on in the race. That would be the Ipsos-Reuters poll.
People! It just isn’t done!
That’s a familiar act of self-censorship. Beyond that, note the unexplained, unsupported claim that Ipsos-Reuters was “the most accurate daily tracking poll.”
Is that claim correct? We have no idea—and Maddow made no attempt to support it. But let’s assume this claim is correct. The larger blundering started as Maddow presented a child’s idea of the evidence:
MADDOW (continuing directly): Did Hurricane Sandy blunt Mr. Romney's momentum? Was he on track to win if it weren’t for that storm?By now, the Ipsos-Reuters poll is being described as totally right! (Routinely, Maddow embellishes on the fly as she pretends to prove her points to a nation of grateful viewers.) But Maddow’s presentation flies in the face of the data her staff was presenting in a simple graphic—a graphic which appeared right behind her on your TV screen.
Well, Hurricane Sandy made landfall October 29. Here’s how Obama and Romney were running against each other in the most accurate poll in the country on the day before the hurricane:
On the day of the hurricane, October 29, President Obama is up 48, Mitt Romney is up 47 percent. And look at the five days after the storm hit. Hey, again, President Obama ahead by the exact same 1 percent.
So before Hurricane Sandy, President Obama ahead one or two points. After Hurricane Sandy, President Obama ahead by one or two points.
Remember, this is the poll that we know in retrospect was totally right. So if we believe the polls, which we all do now in America, and the Ipsos-Reuters poll was the most accurate one of all the polls in this presidential election, then really, provably, there was no Romney momentum going into Hurricane Sandy that was ruined by the storm. It just didn’t happen and it’s checkable.
That pitifully limited graphic presented three pieces of data. It showed Obama ahead by 3 points on October 28, then ahead by 1 point on October 29. As Maddow noted, he was still “ahead by the exact same 1 percent” on November 3.
Was Romney riding a wave of momentum which got blunted by Hurricane Sandy? The limited data which Maddow presented completely comport with this theory! The data in her (absurdly limited) graphic show Romney narrowing the gap by a full two points on the day the hurricane hit—then failing to gain after that.
Only a child would think you could dismiss the “momentum” theory on the basis of three data points from one tracking poll. But the data in Maddow’s graphic were completely consistent with this theory—and note the way she simply misstated the data which were right there on the screen:
“So before Hurricane Sandy, President Obama ahead one or two points!” That’s what Maddow told us viewers. But right behind her, the graphic said something different: Before Hurricane Sandy, it showed Obama ahead by three points—by three points, which then dropped to one point. But then, we often marvel at the way Maddow mischaracterizes data or quotations which she and her staff have put right there on the screen.
We often wonder if other viewers fail to notice this conduct.
Only a child would think you could dismiss the “momentum” theory on the basis of three data points from one poll. But the data presented by Maddow weren’t just comically insufficient. They were completely consistent with this theory—and Maddow misstated the data in two different ways! (You can reread what she said for yourself.)
So how about it? Is it true? Did Hurricane Sandy blunt Romney’s momentum? On November 5, Nate Silver debunked this claim in an intellectually serious way. By way of contrast, Maddow’s presentation seemed to be the work of a rather slow child. Other embellishments and misstatements followed as last night’s program continued.
This one presentation doesn’t matter that much. In fact, it doesn’t “matter” at all. And yet, D-minus work is performed on this program on a consistent basis.
Last Friday, we marveled, as we often do, at a series of obvious misstatements by Maddow—misstatements which flew in the face of material she was presenting right on the screen. Tomorrow or Monday, we’ll run through that particular reign of errors. But before we do, let’s make a key point:
These persistent errors are somewhat puzzling coming from Our Own Rhodes Scholar. Plainly, it seems that Maddow would score quite well on an IQ test.
How can it be that such a bright child turns in so much failing work?
If we judge her by a great deal of her work, Maddow is one of the slowest children from Stanford! We thought of this when we read the vile thing Allison Benedikt said.
Tomorrow or Monday: A common occurrence