May 31, 2011

I saw an interesting poll on Facebook… I know, that has to be the single worst place to look to for insight, but there was something very revealing on it… the poll question was to answer the following mathematical equation:

10 + 10 x 0 = ?

Now, the answer is 10, but about a third of people answered 0. It’s a perfectly understandable mistake… tons of people know that anything times zero is zero, but they forget that multiplication is always done before addition, so it’s actually 10+(10×0). What makes it worse is that a calculator will give you the wrong answer. But the correct answer is 10.

What I thought was revealing was the comments by the people who got it wrong, who noticed that 70% of the people polled gave the correct answer, 10. Overwhelmingly (actually, unanimously among people who commented), they pointed to it as proof that 70% of people are stupid, commenting with things like “what’s wrong with the world” and “this is pathetic” and “how sad that people don’t know basic math.” They truly believed that they were the mere 30% who knew correct math, and it never occurred to them that the majority of people may be onto something.

I only mention it because it’s such a pure instance of a lot of “debate” that has been in the news lately, and I think it explains a lot. A solid minority of people (I’ve pegged it at 26%) honestly, truly believe that they have all the right answers, and the fact that a vast majority of people disagree with them only proves that a vast majority of people are wrong. It’s the only solution.

I actually think those people have always been around, but they haven’t had a forum until the internet came around. When we got our information through schools and newspapers, there were people who took a greater world view and determined what was true and what wasn’t. Now a minority of people can access other people who share that minority, and band together. Even on the internet, they’re just 26% of people, but if they spend all their time on websites that cater to their world view (and 26% of people is still hundreds of millions of people in the English-speaking world alone), it looks to them like they are a massive force to be reckoned with.

It may even look like that to the other 70% or so of us, and lead us to conclude ourselves that humanity is in trouble, but if we continue to be aggressive in demanding intellect and reason in everything we see, and ignore the anti-intellectualist resistance force who attack us as elitist or naïve, we still have numbers that they never will. They may have never been as vocal and as powerful as they are today, but they’ve always been just 26%.



The Silly Season Begins

May 9, 2010

TVMI’m starting to enjoy the political season as much as college football season, if only because it’s the only competition more detached from reality and reason than the BCS. The mass exodus of incumbents is fucking fascinating. Not only Republicans– while the Democrats are resigning en masse out of disgust for what passes as a constituency these days, but all the Republicans being pushed out by Tea Party candidates.

Now, I am not one of those people who believe that Tea Partiers are stupid or racist. But they are ignorant, and this proves it for two reasons:

1. If you want someone representing you in Congress, regardless of ideology, buy off an incumbent. Not only do incumbents have a staggering re-election rate, but Congress is not a Democracy- seniority is everything. This concept of throwing out 20-year veterans and replacing them with random businessmen who promise to spend money on anything just doesn’t work. They go into the general election with no wind at their backs and the animosity of the huge contributors that had invested millions of dollars In the candidate that just got pushed out, and the few who win will accomplish nothing for two years and get voted out in 2012.

2. Polls only reflect the opinions of the people who were polled. A poll of 1000 people could produce unanimous results and still only prove that .0003% of Americans agree with something. There is one statistic that people tend to ignore, and it’s staggering: 80% of Americans don’t respond to polls. Add to this that many polls are done by phone, and you’re already limiting the demographic to people who still own a home phone. In 2010, that’s an overwhelmingly conservative and denialist group. But all those people who don’t give the time of day to questions like “does Obama’s Muslim heritage lead you to believe that American churches are at risk?” will still vote. In huge numbers. Especially if the leading candidate has ads on TV promising to cut funding for schools, infrastructure, and police. People do vote out of fear, but they’re far more scared of Anarchy than they are of Socialism.