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Friday, October 23, 2009


Polls and the media

The corporate media is bad enough when it comes to polls and politics. Precious space or time that could be used to inform people about the issues of the day is spent giving out the "horse race" details - who's ahead, who's coming from behind, etc. But if it's bad to waste space that could be used to inform, what's even worse is to waste space to misinform. In today's paper there are no less than two examples of that. Page one of the San Jose Mercury News features a story about how some people won't be getting the H1N1 vaccine. I concede that that, per se, is a newsworthy story. But what isn't newsworthy is "A CNN poll conducted last weekend [that] found that...43 percent of those polled believe the 'vaccine has side effects that can lead to death or serious health problems.'" Honestly, I do not give a damn what my neighbor or someone is Tuscaloosa thinks about the safety of the H1N1 vaccine, unless that person is a health professional or immunologist who is properly educated on the subject. X% of Americans don't believe in evolution, and Y% think the earth is 5000 years old (etc. with many other examples), but all that proves is that X or Y% of Americans are either idiots or simply poorly educated, but it doesn't prove that there's an X% chance that evolution isn't a valid theory or that there's a Y% chance the earth really is 5000 years old. Scientific facts are provided by scientific evidence, not by polls, and even the hint that polls have the slightest relevance in this area is part of the dumbing-down of America to which the media contributes.

Just three pages later, on the first news page of the paper (aside from the front page), another article informs us "Poll: U.S. belief in global warming is cooling." Again, I don't honestly give a damn what most people think about this subject; only the opinions of scientists working in the field are of any value whatsoever in determining the nature of the problem. Democracy (and hence people's opinions) becomes relevant in talking about the solutions to problems - how much money we should spend in dealing with it, what other things should be unprioritized in order to do so, etc. But not the science itself. Publishing the poll just tends to make people think it's a valid way to determine if the problem does exist, and is once again a disservice by the media, not a service.

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