Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Turn It Off: Polls and more Polls

The other night, my wife received a phone call that was supposed to be a poll.  It quickly became clear that this was no carefully worded, unbiased poll.  It was a political poll that would eventually lead the person being polled to give the answer the pollster wanted.  It was clear that the poll was a from an anti-abortion group looking for statistics that would back up their position.  I've had similar polls hit us before.  They have a specific design to elicit a specific response.

This brings me to another poll about attitudes.  This a poll about shifting attitudes in the partisan divide.  Did you know at one time most people were able to sit down and talk out differences without calling the other person name.  "Steadfast Conservatives" and "Steadfast Liberals" in this survey actually see the other side as a "threat to the nation's well-being." These two sides  represent the extremes in both groups.  They will not change their minds, and they will not listen to what others say.  The fact is that the two parties often go after the more fanatical and ignore the vast majority which fits most of us.  Given how wide the point of views vary on the conservative side, the extreme right tends to be much more fringe than the extreme left.  And this brings me to another reason why you need to turn off all the follows and biased sites.  It's the base. 

It stands to reason that the most vocal groups, the loudest and least likely to care about the facts, are the fringe groups.  They are the ones that post the memes, troll the opposite group's social and media pages, and wouldn't listen to facts if they had them tattooed on their arms in easy to read type.  Original and critical thought is not their strong suit. They are the ones who refuse to see the science behind climate change as a reality on the right and the science about GMO's being safe on the left.  They both tend to point to one debunked study as the touch stone of their beliefs and ignore the mounting evidence to the contrary.  It's like that group of people who have stopped immunizing their kids because a single, debunked and now with-drawn study from the 90's said there might be a link.  To date, not a single study has shown any link between autism and immunizations.  Still though with the facts staring them in the face, they believe the connection to be true, and all the while, once controlled and nearly wiped out diseases like whooping cough are on the rise.  So with the minuscule odds vs. the very real odds of catching a disease, they have blindly chose minuscule over a real danger.  The same is said for any extreme view.  Again and again we are daily bombarded by the faithful on the right and the left with misinformation that has not been verified in the least.

Take for example a new anti-gun control meme coming off the Right Wing News page about the "largest school shooting in American history" was not Sandy Hook, but when the evil government killed 290 Native American women and children.  The problem with the entire meme is that the only massacre of that size by the government in 1890 was Wounded Knee.  A simple Google search discredits the whole thing, and it is also what leads us to the account of Wounded Knee.  It was the culminating and most horrific event of the "Indian Wars." Yes the majority of those who died were women and children.  The problem is that historians do not agree on the number who were killed.  It was perhaps as high as 290 and perhaps lower at, according to the History Channel, 149.  Wounded Knee was not a school.  It is not a school shooting and the Natives were not unarmed.  In fact, the reason the calvary attacked was to disarm several Lakota Sioux.  Between 25 to 29, again the number varies, U.S. Calvary soldiers were killed.  If the friend who posted this piece had turned off the feed to this tripe, that friend would have never been influenced to post this horrifically misinformed meme.  It would simply circulate among the extreme fringe who are protected in tin foil anyway.

Not to be out done, another meme making its way from a left wing page shows two ears of corn.  The hand labeled pictures, which shows barely eaten ear of corn labeled "GMO" and a stripped ear of corn, labeled "Organic" makes the comment that even squirrels know the difference. The problem is, of course, we don't know if either ear of corn is actually what it says it is or that squirrels even ate them. In a taste test I saw on TV, people could not tell the difference between organic and factory farm bananas but would announce when told that one piece was organic that it tasted better.  The problem was that both sections of banana they were given to taste came from the same banana.  One piece was labeled organic.  The other problem is that if squirrels, and other rodents actually had such a discerning pallet, then the exterminator's poisoned feed pellets would fail miserably.  Again, if  the friend had turned off this feed or simply refused to pass on this meme, it would eventually fade from view.

Hate begets hate and stupidity begets stupidity. Far too often, we have been trained on the instant nature of the internet to react quickly and immediately.  Too many people simply don't check it before passing it on.  We have all been caught.  I now refuse to post any meme of scientific or political nature without checking first.  If we continue to allow the hate and fear to bombard us, we will only see the partisan divide grow.  A page that calls itself Right Wing America or Democrats for America is not going to be a middle of the road page.  They will pander to the extreme base.  They will do their best to push us further apart.  If you want Republicans and Democrats to move back to the middle, where  most of us are, then they need to know that the biggest demographic they need to reach is no longer listening to the pandering and hate. We are moving these extremists  back to the corner to scream at nothing and carry their sandwich sign that says "the end is nigh" while wearing their tin foil hat.   If we do this then the end is near...for them.

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