The Airing of Grievances
Monday, April 12, 2004
If you ever feel like getting a sense of how sheeplike many people in our fair land are, might I suggest participating in one of the daily Fox News polls. Once you see the usually stupefying results, you can actually feel yourself being dumbed down by the sheer inanity of the numbers that tend to fall out. Today's poll is no exception. Here are the question and results
"Did National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice accurately portray the August 6, 2001 PDB when she testified before the 9/11 commission?
a. Absolutely! This PDB is only historical 81%
b. She "fudged" the description 4%
c. She may have been mistaken - but did not deliberately mischaracterize 4%
d. She is covering up 8%
e. None of the above 3%"
OK, first of all, answers b) and d) are essentially the same thing - if she were "fudging" things, it would be because she was covering up. Response c) doesn't really strike me as being realistic, given that she not only had over a week to prepare for her testimony and must have known the PDB would be discussed, she probably delivered the damn thing to the president herself back in 2001. Answer e) is, to me, the most valid, since, knowing full well that anyone watching would soon push to have the PDB declassified, she was probably just trying to put the best face on a pretty damning piece of information without having to tell a bold-faced lie on national TV.
But what is most troubling, obviously, is the percentage of people who answered a). Now, I understand which political demographic Fox appeals to. I also understand that there are plenty of people out there who support what Dr. Rice said and feel that she is unfairly being brought to task by the 9/11 Commission and the tangential allegations that have been made. Many of these people make valid and cogent arguments in the Administration's defense. But apparently, 81% of Fox News' audience is unable to read, not to mention comprehend, a very simple, 1.5 page plain-English memorandum. The last, and most important, two paragraphs of the PDB detail not what has already happened, not what threats existed in the late 1990s, but threats that were, at the time, ongoing. That, my friends, is not historical. A better option for the poll would have been "Kinda! While it did contain current threat information, much of the memo was historical, with not much in the way of actionable intelligence". Again, answer e) if anything. But, in our black/white, good guys vs. evil doers world, the gray area realities aren't part of the debate.
Now, I admit, this is waaaay too much to write about some meaningless website poll, but it was the easiest way to make my points, namely that a huge number of people in this country are ovine in nature and that media with an agenda can easily reinforce this behavior. Why would an astronomical 81% answer the way they have? Because, as incorrect as it is, it was the only option presented that comes anywhere near how many people feel. Dr. Rice incorrectly asserted that the PDB contained only historical information, President Bush reasserted as such. (By the way, how shameless was his press conference yesterday? If we always require such specific information to prevent a terrorist attack, I hate to break it to you buddy, we ain't gonna be stopping much of anything. Josh Marshall breaks it down better than I can) That's good enough for Fox News and, therefore, in their eyes, it is so. The network reinforces it all with polls like this, where the ugly anwers are diluted and lessened and the most likely scenarios omitted, with the results then broadcast as what "real Americans" think . Views are then crystallized based upon incorrect or incomplete information and the cycle perpetuates itself. Dangerous.