Rummaging thru some boxes that hadn’t been unpacked from several previous moves, I rediscovered a great little book published back in 2002. The title is “Mobocracy – How the media’s obsession with polling twists the news, alters elections and undermines democracy”. It was originally recommended to me by friend James Bovard who has this endorsement on the back cover:
“Matt Robinson’s Mobocracy elucidates the chicaneries of pollsters, the craveness of the media and the confusion of the American public. Robinson shows how public opinion polls are derailing deliberation and dumbing down the political process. His book is a great antidote for anyone who still trusts the evening news.”
I interviewed Matthew one afternoon on WBAL/Baltimore and had a great time listening to him popping the pretentious balloons of TV’s blow-dryed news anchors and the pompous pundits of the print media who, by then – with a far less advanced internet, – were regaling unsuspecting viewers and readers with the True Revelations of Everything Everywhere through Polling Results. What Matthew Robinson did with Mobocracy was pull back the curtain Wizard of Oz-like and explain just how polls were rigged.
I strenuously doubt much of this will come as a surprise to anyone reading this --it’s probably a safe bet that we’re all settled in for the next 16 months’ worth of dogs and ponies, bread and circuses but you may be amazed to learn just how bad it is; that beyond rigging the questions and skewing the results, there is the staggering ignorance of the voters and how pollsters politicians and the media use that ignorance to parlay it into everything from voter results to law making.
If you were among the 23 million FOX News is bragging about having watched the first GOP so-called Debates and the accompanying Kelly/Trump slug fest, you likely saw Fred Luntz and his little focus group that both preceded and followed the snark fest. Personally, I found it surprising how transparent Luntz’s little group of orchestrated Mind Changers revealed themselves.
I’ve had some personal experience with focus groups. In broadcasting, owners of stations in large markets often hire companies like Luntz’s to get an idea how their on-air people are being received and perceived by a cross section of the station’s target demographic. Twelve to 20 people are brought in after meeting appropriate qualifications: age, sex, race – whatever. In most cases, they are played a segment of a certain show. Each participant has in their hand a dialing mechanism they’ve been given with instructions to turn the dial in accordance with how good they feel or how much they agree with what’s been said; turn it the opposite way when they disapprove. Trust me, entire careers have been made and lost with this technique. But as Robinson points out in Mobocracy, what questions get asked, how questions get asked, who is doing the asking – are all vitally important to the outcome.
I wanted to re-unite with Matt for another interview – but he has disappeared. Having left his managing director’s gig at Human Events not long after our interview, he became a speech writer for some Republican heavies during the Bush years and then…poof. The good news is that while out of print, Mobocracy is still available on Amazon – and at a very reasonable price. I just received an extra copy for a whopping $1.66! Some of the material is a bit dated – but the basics on polling methodology are as true today they were then. As we roll into the 2016 elections, a quick read of Mobocracy could be very revealing, even educational in appreciating the cute and clever things the Media, Politicians and Pollsters do to mess with the heads of voters and what happens next.
If you get a copy, be sure to share your thoughts with the rest of the class at your earliest convenience….