Saturday, October 24, 2009

Polling and Trolling

It was surprising indeed that Obama allowed (or perhaps even directed) his communications beagle, Anita Dunn, to get down and dirty with Fox News. Could this network have wanted anything more than a dirt-slinging confrontation with the dubiously premature Peace Nobelist to get even moderate Americans flipping on their channel to see what the fuss is all about?

There is more than enough fresh verbiage sprouting up in conventional and online news commentaries (a good balanced but critical example being Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus) that I do not have to wade in here other than to echo advice I had on a wall poster many a year ago: "Never mud wrestle with a pig: you'll both get dirty but the pig will love it!"

What I will comment on, however, is a poll that popped up on FaceBook today. Here is what it looks like (click on image to enlarge).

Adroit readers would need only a glance at this -- and particularly at the nigh incoherent and pathetically biased drivel the author placed above the three choices - to know that this poll and whoever mounted it on FaceBook seem not worth taking seriously. Alas, in addition to several of my FaceBook Friends - people I greatly respect - having taken this survey, the stats suggest that no fewer than 36,841 benighted souls have played along, no doubt to the orgasmic glee of the semi-illiterate perpetrator!

It is obvious, but I'll say it anyway for the record, that the survey is irremediably flawed. Of course, its purpose was what is called trolling: it's not meant to evoke reflection on the Obama-Fox conflagration but to stir up emotions and, if possible, legitimize the underlying ridiculous presumption that the Prez would even contemplate such a move.

I am sure logicians have complicated names for the erroneous thinking therein but for simplicity, think of it this way. Down the street lives a pleasant mild-mannered young man and his mother. With a few clicks I can set up a poll asking FaceBookers whether the fellow should murder his mum. Please choose Yes? No? or It's Illegal.

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