Thursday, January 14, 2016
Satirical site debunks Snopes.com
I have over the years had various gripes with the Leftward lean of Snopes.com (e.g. here and here and here and here). They do a useful job of debunking myths, hoaxes and legends but they are far too quick to brand something favorable to conservatives as either false or undetermined. They even have their own contemptuous word for a sentimental story favorable to conservatives. They call it a "glurge".
So I was delighted to read the latest from The People's Cube -- a well-known satirical site run by Oleg Atbashian, a former Soviet citizen. And with that background it is easy to understand that Oleg skewers Leftism savagely. I read most of his posts and have occasionally quoted them.
The gist of his latest is that Snopes have apparently taken some of his posts seriously. Although his posts are perfectly transparent (they would not be good satire otherwise) they fooled the humorless Leftists running Snopes! Talk about being hoist with your own petard! Snopes did however eventually wake up but continued their debunking of Oleg's "dangerous" humor. For a while they gave the People's Cube as the source of the story but now they give no source at all. The whole thing has tickled Oleg's funnybone and below is an excerpt fom his latest post in which he half-seriously lists his gripes with Snopes:
Snopes falsely described us as "a clickbait web site known for spreading malware," which is slanderous misinformation.
While our satire was clearly a response to Zakaria's asinine article gloating over the premature deaths of white males, which we extrapolated to the extermination of white females through Jihad, rape, and sex slavery, the Snopes's "debunking" omits this point entirely, stating only that "There was nothing to the report" and that "it was just another fake news item that apparently originated with a clickbait web site known for spreading malware."
At the very bottom of the page, however, the Snopes article is tagged as "satire" and "The People's Cube," while none of these words appear in the body of the article, which is what most people will read. Thus, Snopes was well aware that this was satire and who the author was, but it knowingly withheld this information from its readers, which is called "intentional misleading."
For a self-described fact-checking website that claims to be "the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation," such biased, slanderous, and intentionally misleading misinformation constitutes malpractice, as it violates public trust.
In addition to being unprofessional, slanderous, and misleading, this under-debunking was also plain stupid: if you want to lie about something, at least make sure you flush the evidence and wash your hands afterwards.
The author of the article is listed as one Jeff Zarronandia, "an American author and journalist who won the Pulitzer Prize for numismatics in 2006 and was one of four finalists for the prize in 2008. He was also the winner of the Distinguished Conflagration Award of the American Society of Muleskinners for 2005."
While this is obviously an attempt at a joke, this joker seems to deny the right to a joke to others. Besides, the very idea of listing made-up prizes, awards, and societies as his credentials on a fact-checking resource surpasses unprofessionalism and approaches imbecility. Perhaps Snopes should do some fact-checking on its authors before it attempts fact-checking satirical fiction.
Donald Trump’s big tent
The GOP should stop fooling itself. Trump is reaching more than just undereducated, angry white men
Republicans explain away their unwelcome poll-leader by dismissing his supporters as a loud but narrow network of angry white men and celebrity chasers.
It’s not true. A POLITICO review of private and public polling data and interviews with GOP pollsters shows a coalition that certainly begins with conservative, blue-collar men now extends to pro-choice Republicans, independents and even registered Democrats unnerved, primarily, by illegal immigration.
Indeed, the uncomfortable truth, for the pundits and fellow Republicans who turned their noses up at Trump, is that his appeal has spread over seven months so far beyond a rabble-rousing, anti-establishment rump to encompass the very elements of the American electorate the GOP has been eager to reach. And while it’s no majority, it’s a bigger group than anything the rest of the fragmented Republican field has galvanized.
“His coalition is not all angry working white males,” said Adrian Gray, a Republican pollster. “It’s all stripes. It’s a pretty big coalition. And among other demographics where he’s doing worse, he’s still leading or in the top two.”
Certainly, non-college-educated men have formed his base. Every one of 10 recent Iowa, New Hampshire, and national polls of Republicans shows Trump with more male support than female support and significantly more support from non-college graduates than those with degrees.
Trump’s robust performance with this group, however, has deflected attention from the breadth of his coalition. Though Trump has less support with women and educated men, he’s still at or near the top of the GOP field in those categories. And, exposing the depth of the GOP establishment’s misunderstanding of Trump’s support network, his coalition includes far-right conservatives as well as people who hardly register on Republican radar.
Trump’s supporters skewed significantly against the GOP grain on abortion, for instance, in an internal poll of Iowa caucus-goers conducted for a rival presidential contender last summer. Respondents who identified themselves as “pro-choice” were three times more likely than “pro-life” voters to support Trump, according to a Republican strategist with knowledge of the survey.
One large dataset shows Trump excelling above all with voters who call themselves Republicans even though they aren’t officially registered as Republicans.
Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm founded by veterans of President Barack Obama’s campaigns, built a model based on over 11,000 phone interviews with self-identified Republicans in 2015, part of a wider polling project. The data, first reported by The New York Times, shows Trump getting the support of 29 percent of registered Republicans but 36 percent of registered independents and 43 percent of registered Democrats, who in some states can still participate in GOP primaries.
The Civis data projects Trump’s support by congressional district, showing that Trump is especially strong in the rare pockets of the country where Obama performed worse while winning the 2008 presidential election than John Kerry did while losing in 2004, according to a POLITICO analysis.
In the Civis’ model, Trump runs ahead of his 33-percent national average in 30 of the 40 districts where Kerry matched or exceeded Obama’s performance, even though Obama ran about 5 points ahead of Kerry nationally.
Those districts are largely contained in a band running through Appalachia, from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, and then across the Deep South to Arkansas and Oklahoma. Once Democratic strongholds, voters there have sloughed off the party in recent decades — a trend that accelerated rapidly under Obama. Now, Trump is giving a voice to some of their protectionist concerns about immigration and trade.
“Essentially, the old base of the Democratic Party, non-college whites in the Midwest and Appalachia, have been cut loose and are floating like an iceberg in the middle of the electorate,” said one Republican strategist supporting another presidential candidate. “And they’ve glommed onto the Republicans because it’s a two-party system. But they have no affection for the Republican Party as an institution.”
Now, they form a key piece of the Trump puzzle.
The pro-Trump crowd’s varied background is matched by equally diverse reasons for supporting him. But even though it has faded in intensity as an issue since Trump burst on the political scene this summer with an incendiary announcement speech, immigration is still driving a core base of voters into Trump’s camp.
In WBUR’s most recent poll of the New Hampshire primary, Trump’s favorability numbers jumped from 46 percent overall to 62 percent among those who said that illegal immigration posed a “major threat” to “you and people you know.” While 27 percent of all respondents said they plan to vote for Trump in New Hampshire’s February primary, his support rose to 35 percent among the GOP voters most concerned about immigration.
In Iowa, where Cruz has caught or even surpassed Trump in many recent Republican caucus polls, Trump still maintained a double-digit lead over Cruz among “immigration voters” in the most recent Quinnipiac University survey there. Among everyone in the poll, though, the two were essentially tied (28 percent for Cruz to 27 percent for Trump).
“There’s a segment of the population, white working middle-aged men, that has felt three big changes in America — globalization, technology, and demographics — that are changing everything we do on a daily basis,” said Gray. “In a lot of ways, this group has felt left behind by each of those.”
But “even people above the median income feel insecure, sometimes financially insecure because of these changes,” Gray continued. “That’s what builds the coalition beyond low-income and downscale.”
Trump also runs particularly well with people looking for a “strong leader.” While Cruz dominated among Quinnipiac poll respondents in Iowa who wanted a candidate who “shares your values,” Trump got 40 percent of those looking for a strong leader. Fox News’ most recent Iowa poll showed Trump getting 39 percent of those voters, too.
Focus groups of GOP voters help explain how and why. One such exercise, conducted by Data Targeting, a GOP consulting firm in Florida, recently interviewed a uniformly downcast group of Republicans about the direction of the country and its government. Two gave replies of “stagnant” when asked to describe it. Other replies included “mess,” “weak,” and “bought.”
The focus group illustrated how some typical political responses to government dysfunction have lost currency, opening a door into the presidential campaign that Trump barged through. When one participant said, “Democrats and Republicans need to work together,” another immediately replied, “That’s my worst nightmare!” “They’re all puppets,” another participant chimed in.
“Nearly every candidate running on the Republican side has made an effort to present themselves as not of Washington,” said Jim Hobart, a Republican pollster. “No one has a more credible message on that than Donald Trump. When he says it, it’s really true. It’s tough to out-anti-Washington Donald Trump.”
This makes for an uncomfortable truth for the GOP. But there’s enough discomfort to go around. For Trump’s camp, it’s unclear just how many of his supporters will actually cast a ballot for him — or anyone else — when caucuses and primaries finally begin next month.
Almost uniformly, GOP political professionals have discounted Trump’s chances of turning the full measure of his support into actual primary and caucus votes, and later delegates to the Republican National Convention. Public polls, they argue, are vastly oversampling nonvoters caught up in the mania surrounding Trump, distorting the picture of a more traditional Republican electorate that does not back him as heavily.
“It’s one thing to have support from people in all these different groups,” said Mark Stephenson, a Republican data and analytics expert who was the chief data officer on Scott Walker’s presidential campaign. “It really is another thing to turn them into a Trump voter, or especially a Trump caucus-goer, on election night.”
Trump’s most natural supporters are some of the people most disillusioned with politics. In the run-up to the 2014 elections, the Pew Research Center asked a broad group of Americans to rate their financial security on a sliding scale. As whites fall from the highest levels of financial security to the lowest levels, their support for Republican candidates plummeted from 51 percent to 21 percent. (Democrats’ support stayed constant around one-third.)
The remainder shifted almost fully into the “other/not sure” category, rather than moving into the Democratic column. Nearly all said they did not plan to vote that year. Trump’s candidacy may have activated a group of them, but converting them into voters remains difficult.
Meanwhile, the Civis Analytics data showing Trump at his strongest with registered voters who are not registered Republicans won’t be a barrier in every state primary, but it is a real obstacle nevertheless, starting in the first caucus state of Iowa. Only a small number of first-time participants usually join every four years, though Trump’s campaign is aiming to drive a generation of first-time caucus-goers and GOP primary voters into the process starting this February.
In a recent survey conducted for a different presidential campaign, Trump still ran ahead of Ted Cruz in Iowa — but only among voters who both could caucus in 2016 and have never actually shown up to one before. Past Republican caucus-goers, on the other hand, gave Cruz a solid first-place finish. One reason Trump’s polling lead in New Hampshire has proven more durable is that the state has an open primary system, instead of Iowa’s closed (and complicated) caucus.
Trump has been overcoming supposedly insurmountable obstacles since his presidential campaign began. But now that he has amassed these supporters, converting them from Trump fans into Trump voters may be the biggest one yet.
For more blog postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in). GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten. I also put up occasional updates on my Personal blog and each day I gather together my most substantial current writings on A WESTERN HEART.
List of backup or "mirror" sites here or here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to update. Email me here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or here (Pictorial) or here (Personal)
Posted by JR at 1:30 AM