Making Controversy Out of Nothing

22 May

The Washington Post did a poll, asking Americans what they think of the national anthem being played. The answer? 84 percent of Americans support the anthem being played or sung before professional sporting events. But that’s not the headline…

The headline of the article is “How do Americans feel about the anthem at sporting events? It depends which Americans you ask.” Okay, suspicious, but it’s there to attract your attention. The big reveal… “Fewer than 4 in 10 Black Americans say the national anthem makes them feel positive.” (blink) Are you kidding freaking kidding me?!

What I’m amazed by is that the newspaper worked with a university, sent out a poll, and instead of going with the results–because it wasn’t the one they were expecting–they had to exaggerate it to get the result they wanted to report. Instead of the fact that an overwhelming majority of Americans support playing the national anthem, what did they want to focus on? A clear minority of a minority didn’t like it. Seriously?!

The problem with living in a bubble is that you have no contact anyone outside your bubble. I’d be guilty of this, too, if I didn’t have a wife that thinks the Democrat Party is too far right for her tastes. But let’s imagine you’re a reporter for the Washington Post. You’re a liberal and always vote Democrat. You work in a solid blue District of Columbia, you probably live in an apartment nearby, or a comfy suburb that votes majority blue. All your friends are liberals and think Trump was the antichrist (or you would if you weren’t an agnostic). So you never talk with anyone with an opinion to the right of yours. Of course, black America is upset at the national anthem. We should all feel uncomfortable about it!

But when faced with hard data, which tells you that your assumptions are wrong, how do you write your article? Simple–you double down on your assumptions. In the article, they have to admit that even that 40% is sketchy… the actual number of black Americans with a negative view of the anthem is 22%. You have to say “fewer that 4 out of 10.” It’s like my old employer saying that “we’re one of three of the top hospitals in the country!” Really… so you want to guess which number they are? Third. Children’s Hospital Boston and CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) consistently rank higher. Third is still really good–and you can get just as good care there as you can in Boston. But saying, “We’re number three!” doesn’t inspire customers coming. If they had said “top 5 or 10,” that would have been fine… but the marketing department had to spin it higher.

So you have to ask yourself–is the poll valid? Well, it’s your own poll, you spent money on putting it out, you better believe it is. There’s a lot of ways to skew polling; the most obvious is to choose to only the population you want. If they polled just D.C. residents, they might have gotten closer to the answer they wanted. You can also skew the question. They asked “When the national anthem is played or sung at sporting events, does it make you feel…?” But they could have said, “Do you feel offended at the national anthem?” Or “Should we continue to play the offensive national anthem?” That would have skewed it closer to their result.

It’s just sad that when media tries to put people into pigeonholes, they get really confused when people don’t fit in the spaces they’re supposed to. Hispanics don’t consistently vote Democrat (which is why Puerto Rico isn’t going to be a state anytime soon, but they’re pushing D.C. towards statehood), majority pro-life, and are for stronger enforcement at the border. But I’ve already written about that–but what do you think? Are polls to be trusted? How do you react when you receive contradictory information about your beliefs? Let me know in the comments below! And if you want to continue to be challenged, check out one of my books. However, if $1.99 is too steep for your beliefs, go ahead and download one of my stories for free. (They’re not that controversial.)

5 Responses to “Making Controversy Out of Nothing”

  1. joliesattic May 22, 2021 at 8:50 am #

    Yup! (My new favorite word) But so true.
    Anything can be skewed to how you want it by how it is presented. The truth is generally somewhere in the middle is my guess. All I know is that, these days, when everyone seems to have an agenda, it’s hard to know who to believe without doing a boatload of research. Then again, research, like history will also be skewed. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

  2. DAP May 22, 2021 at 4:24 pm #

    Excellent commentary on polls and the media “spin”.

  3. iFlyMSP May 23, 2021 at 8:37 am #

    I see no reason to play the anthem at sporting events, but thankfully it’s over and done with quickly. It was instituted in time of war to spike nationalism, but since were now so completely polarized I have little use for it.

  4. Silk Cords May 24, 2021 at 12:55 pm #

    I think the only surprising thing here is that you may be at all surprised by this, LOL. I’ve complained about it for years… Decades actually.

    The first time I saw it was during the Reagan administration. I was a weird kid (teen) who listened to his speeches on the radio, and then would watch the news with my parents and hear him blatantly misquoted. The big one that Reagan still gets hate for to this day is his Dept of Education agenda. In his speeches, he’d say he wanted to do away with the Federal Dept **AND** transfer all of it’s money / funding to the states. His logic being they were closer to the individual student and better understood their needs vs some monolithic bureaucracy in DC. All that was reported was Reagan wants to eliminate the DOE and make kids stupid. Take half the story, spin a false conclusion from your cherry picked facts and present it all as hard news.

    Fox is just as guilty as MSNBC or CNN also. The only difference is who’s the target.

    Media outlets have become ratings whores and drunk on the idea that they have the power to effect social change. They forget their job is supposed to be to accurately report all of a situation and let the public make up it’s own mind.


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