Friday, January 2, 2015

All Is Calm, All Is Blight

Americans certainly are a short attention-spanned bunch, not to mention stuck like glue to whatever the top-trending story is on any given day. Our anxieties are fleeting and fickle. One month, all we cared about was the Ebola outbreak. By the next month, when nobody we knew personally had actually caught or died of the disease, it was on to the next big thing. Namely, Kim Kardashian's butt.

I have to say that I'm really fond of the actual next big thing on the Things We Hate List. Because politicians are now even more feared than the crappy Economy they helped to create!  Granted, only 18% of those polled by Gallup actually consider our elected leaders to be problematic, but that is huge compared to the mere two percent who still list terrorism as the top thing to be terrorized about. And that should really scare the despised politicians, who rely on fear fomentation to keep the proles in line.

Here are the complete results:

As you can see, there is virtually no agreement on what should concern us the most. I suspect, though, that most people would agree that being called by pollsters during the dinner hour can be considered universally problematic, especially since most "polls" are simply marketing ploys in disguise. I noticed that Gallup asked no questions about the total failure of the FTC's Do Not Call program.

And how about that section titled "War/Wars (non-specific)"?  People apparently were not permitted to be nuanced about, say, their approval of the 30 Years War as opposed to the current Forever Wars. As a matter of fact, the Gallup pollsters seem to assume that just because President Obama "responsibly" ended the Afghanistan War by leaving only thousands of soldiers behind, and is only dribbling back troops to Iraq in mission-creep piecemeal fashion, we are basking in some sort of Orwellian Pax Americana.

Since we can't agree on what to loathe, the pollsters glibly conclude that everything is calm amidst the blight. The sum of all fears effectively cancels each one out.
With unemployment and gas prices falling, the U.S. not being involved in any major wars and scaling back operations in Afghanistan, and no acts of domestic terrorism occurring, the factors that have caused Americans to converge on a single pressing concern in the past simply weren't present in 2014. Rather, as mentions of the economy and unemployment have dwindled since 2012, mentions of healthcare and government leadership have grown to join them, forming a set of comparably sized, moderate-level concerns that now define the public's view of what ails the nation.

Not only was this the average picture in 2014, but it remained the state of affairs in the last quarter, suggesting 2015 is starting on a similarly calm note. That is underscored by the significant improvement in the Gallup Economic Confidence Index in late December, reaching positive territory for the first time since before 2008.
So that last bit about consumer confidence should make the despised politicians a little happier. The Dems' Hooveresque propaganda campaign about prosperity being just around the corner seems to be working.

But how will the muddled poll results affect the messaging of the detested politicians? How, most importantly, will they affect "the narrative" of Jeb and Hillary's Neoliberal Death Match?
The dispersion of public concern seen in 2014 may also have implications for the 2016 presidential election. Should it persist, the lack of a single defining public issue could make candidates' task of honing a message for the election more complex.
I guess, like the population they aim to fool, they'll "hone" their message on whatever topic is trending on any given day. They'll talk about whatever the corporate media stenographers tell us to care about, cancelling themselves and us out in the process.

As long as we're on the subject of meaningless polls, I'll add to the current listicle frenzy by pointing you to the most despised words of 2014, as compiled in the frozen north by Lake Superior State University. Here's a synopsis of what should be banned:

BAE ("before anyone else"): I have to admit that I'd never even heard of this one.

Polar Vortex: the top-trending euphemism for Winter, making Jack Frost and Old Man jealous. I don't understand why it wasn't included in the Gallup Poll. They never even mentioned what we really should be afraid of -- and that is Climate Change.

Hack: the gripe is with the misuse of this word, as in "life hack." I still plan to use it liberally when describing loathed politicians and sycophantic journalists.

Skill Set: banned for redundancy. You have a skill or skills, period. Similar in annoyance to "mindset."

Swag: banned for its catch-all quality. It's a lazy verbal tic similar to "um" and "American exceptionalism."

Foodie: what took them so long to ban this one?

Curate/Curated: it used to mean something to do with a museum. Now, everything is curated. The NSA doesn't collect your emails and phone conversations, it merely curates them as valuable works of art. The word is also used to justify copying and pasting entire articles on one's blog. If you "curate" someone else's work, you cannot possibly be accused of theft or plagiarism. You just dug it up somewhere to put in your own vanity museum.

Friend-Raising: typifies the mass marketization and dehumanization of life itself.

Cra-Cra: that is just craaaazy, dude!

Enhanced Interrogation: here's looking at you, New York Times.

Takeaway: not food for foodies, but a trendy word for "conclusion." As in, "what's your takeaway on the stupid Gallup poll?"

-Nation: another long-overdue one, in which loathed and insufferable people add "nation" after themselves or their organization. As in HillaryNation or FoxNation or ObamaNation. It's a real abomination.


Zee said...

It's interesting to see how fragmented—or complacent—we have become since 2008.

If one scrolls down a bit further on the Gallup page for which you provided a link, Karen, one finds a list of “The Top Four Issues Named Most Important Problem Facing the U.S.”

From 2008 through 2012, “The Economy” garnered 39%, 40%, 29%, 30% and 31% of the vote, respectively, dwindling to 22% in 2013, and now 18% in 2014. And from 2009 through 2012, “Unemployment” was voted the second most important national issue, with shares of 16%, 27%, 29% and 25%, respectively. Since “The Economy” and “Unemployment” are virtually synonmous, at least in my mind, it appears that we were pretty united—by a very large margin—in our sentiment as to the most pressing national issue from 2008-20012.

It was the economy, stupid!

What happened?

Have the American people simply given up all hope that the economy will ever improve and turned their attention in other directions?

Or, despite their generally uniform, outward opinion that the economy remains in the dumper, have Americans subconsciously started to buy into Obama's narrative that “prosperity is just around the corner” and, again, turned their attention elsewhere?

In either case, I think that the Gallup analysts' conclusion that this fragmentation will make it difficult for the pols to focus on a single--or one or two--issues in 2016 when vying for the vote, is probably correct.

Unless, of course, something disastrous occurs. Which is always a possibility.

Pearl said...

I am happy to see that your excellent comment to Krugman's latest column is surrounded by like minded others all receiving high recommendations. Maybe, just maybe it will filter down to average citizens who don't still know which way to turn. This is why we all have to continue to speak out until our throats are hoarse and thank you Karen for your continued exposures of the rotting of liberty and democracy in my birth country. It is a disease that infects other power directed nations - a global conspiracy against its own people.
I hope that those like Elizabeth Warren understand full well the urgency of their mission and will not compromise. We have to put pressure on anyone having the guts to stand up to what the future may hold otherwise.

annenigma said...

Who answers phone polls? The bored or lonely. Who even owns a land line anymore? Those middle aged or older who probably also rely mostly on tv corporate news (info-tainment) rather than internet.

The younger people get both their phone service and internet (and more) on one 'smart' device and don't own a land line so they are not polled. They also enjoy the benefit of more varied, less corporate sources for their news and the state of public affairs. They're also very connected with their generation so they know how everyone thinks. I wonder what they think when they see these polls. I wonder myself. Polls are such obvious dinosaurs that it's a wonder they're still considered legitimate and not just another form of info-tainment. I especially wonder why they get so much national media attention. Which brings me to another issue which I think could be related.

The Smith-Mundt Act, a long-standing law prohibiting the government from directing propaganda against Americans domestically, was overturned as part of the notorious and deadly NDAA of 2012. I believe that it's possible, if not likely, that the government has an interest in manipulating public opinion via polls. American would like to believe that they are part of the 'everyone' who thinks/feels the same way because we want to feel in sync with others and if that serves the government interests, so much the better.

'National $ecurity' and the 'National Intere$t' seems to encompass a lot of dubious activity since the merger of government and industry. I can see them wanting to partner up to get the public to believe we're all on board with whatever they want to do. And since Congress relies on polls to justify their actions and claim they represent us, it plays right into their hand$ as well. What a racket, as in RICO.

It's not like the regime isn't already engaged in a multitude of classified programs with the private sector (thank you, Edward Snowden), and we know they aren't informing Congress even when required to by law, and they simply lie under oath (thanks again, Ed).

When I see polls that surprise me, I wonder who is really behind them, who drafts the questions, and who benefits. Has the regime provided 'guidelines' to polling services similar to how they provided their own encryption code to private security companies (thanks Eddie), or 'classified' talking points from anonymous White House sources to corporate news agencies?

Propaganda can take many forms and there has to be a good reason for them to want to now legally target us. Certainly they have propaganda down to a science. They are probably providing some psychologists with lucrative private contracts just as they did with torture.

We need more whistle blowers. Just imagine what is still being kept secret. I do.

annenigma said...

Oops. I forgot that all the big media companies now commission or partner with the polling services and with each other (New York Times/CBS), so of course they would give poll results national attention.

Just because CBS president David Rhodes is brother to Obama's deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes and tried to keep CBS News from covering Ben's email related to Benghazi talking points doesn't mean the media tries to influence the news, so they wouldn't try to influence poll results either.

And we know the New York Times would never do the government's bidding.

It's not who they are!

annenigma said...

Here's an interesting observation in the comments section of a NYT article about North Korea and mixed messages.

Jeffries in Sacramento wrote:

"Ever hear of the concept of the non linear world? It is used by just about every world leader out there today. Its purpose is to destabilize perception - nothing makes sense. By supplying contradictory stories it keeps the public from forming an opposition to the ruling elite. Because we can't construct a cohesive narrative against the status quo we give up. Between this story and conflicting government supplied economic indicators, we are becoming more confused every day. We are mislead and lied to and our supposed world leaders take advantage of it."

Food for thought.

Zee said...


Thoughts on a couple of topics that you've brought up...

First, we actually “own” a land line in addition to our cells; we like the redundancy in the event that something catastrophic ever takes place. Cell towers are above ground, and my land 'phone lines—at least in my immediate area—are all underground. It doesn't guarantee that we'll have “connectivity” in the event of a disaster, but it never hurts to have more than one pathway to the outside world.

Interestingly, despite having the same land line in New Mexico for the past 34+ years, I have never been “nationally polled” on any topic, much though I would like to give a piece of my mind to whoever might be asking any questions on national issues. Such is life, I guess...

Next, I wish that I could believe that because young people are so “tuned in” via their mobile devices and the internet, they actually have a clue as to what the hell is really going on, but I really just don't believe that's the case. Given the lousy educations and coddling that many of them receive today, IMHO they are easily stampeded into believing whatever line the last post or tweet they read today happened to be, rather than exercising so much as an ounce of skepticism and critical thinking regarding what they've seen and read over, say, the last year or so.

They may know “how everyone thinks,” but whether “how everyone thinks” bears any relationship to fact-based truth, or even common sense, is, to my mind, doubtful. The last lemming in line knows that the first one jumped off the cliff and it jumps too, not because it made any sense, but because that's the way everyone else was thinking at the time...

Finally, I haven't a clue what "Jefferies in Sacramento" is talking about when he talks about “the concept of the non linear world,” “used by just about every world leader out there today.”

I've never heard of it as some kind of bona fide sociopolitical “theory,” though I'm prepared to be shown otherwise. There's plenty in the social sciences that I haven't heard of.

From the physical scientist's standpoint, it has been a non-linear world since, well, forever. And non-linear equations are usually just as smooth, continuous and predictable as linear equations. Nothing new and unexpected here.

So I suspect that Jefferies is simply trying to add a little pseudoscientific-sounding “cover” to his homegrown theory that all governments deliberately lie inconsistently to their citizenry in order to keep them confused and off-balance. I suppose that it might be true, though I have never heard of such a term applied to politics or been shown that politicians are clever enough to do it as a deliberate practice even if it is a real hypothesis.

IMHO, Jefferies' basic observation—which has some truth to it— simply means that politicians can't even keep track of their own lies these days. Any ancillary political benefit that they might derive from confusing the electorate is strictly accidental.

Still, if there is some socio-political theory called “the non linear world” as described by “Jefferies in Sacramento” that has some sort of scientific basis, I'm prepared to re-examine my skepticism.

(Seer?) Pearl said...

I believe the events of l929 will repeat themselves and bring down the system with it. That is the only hope that will usher in a new possibility for change in the U.S. and the rest of the world as well. Perhaps this will usher in new kinds of possibilities with the support of people who see another path. I do not agree with Annenigma and Zee that the young are not listening to what we are trying to tell them. Enough are now, to make a difference when there are choices to be made. I remember living through the Depression years when choices were made to lead us out of the morass. However, if not, nature will take care of mankind in revenge of how it has neglected its place on the planet.
Visions that I and many of you will not be around to observe are going to happen either way but I do have faith in the people who have felt the harshness of their lives and know why. Protests are starting and I don't think will be stopped this time around. This may begin and continue to happen in some of our lifetimes I hope.

Pearl said...

Annenigma: It is not too clear about your comments about the younger generation who don't get polled and exactly what they are learning by reading other sources of news. Knowing what others think (presumably their peers) could mean almost anything. Are they tuned in to realities with their peers in school and social lives at all? I hope they are.

Karen Garcia said...

Re the Gallup poll: half the calls were made to land lines and half to cell phones, so younger people were part of the sample of a thousand people. I am pretty sure that a person is asked to give an age range and must be over 18 to participate.

I've been polled a few times, all by political campaigns. What peeves me is you have to choose from among their very limited selected choices and not volunteer your own. For example, when I was polled on the presidential campaign, I was not allowed to state I was for Jill Stein. So most of my answers were "none of the above."

You're usually asked to respond in words like "always," "somewhat," "never" and the like. I suspect that most people, regardless of what they really think, choose the middle answer so as not to be perceived as being too extreme by the pollsters.

Denis Neville said...

Who answers phone surveys? Of those who do, how many cooperate?

“Those middle aged or older who probably also rely mostly on tv corporate news (info-tainment) rather than internet,” says annenigma.

[oldsters without cell phones? If we are old white persons who watch cable news, we probably watch Fox? Are we really all Fox News fans just because we’re old?]

“The younger people get both their phone service and internet (and more) on one 'smart' device and don't own a land line so they are not polled.”

[Nearly all major polling organizations now include cell-phone-only households.]

“The younger people enjoy the benefit of more varied, less corporate sources for their news and the state of public affairs. They're also very connected with their generation so they know how everyone thinks.”

Stereotyping is always a mistake, but especially when it comes to age, because the older we get the more different from each other we become. While some “old white people” are glued to Fox News, others of us are mobilizing against inequality, poverty, global warming and climate change, Keystone, fracking, police brutality, the erosion of civil rights, voting rights, women’s rights, etc., etc., etc..

annenigma said...

Lighten up everyone. I'm one of those bored and lonely old folks, otherwise why would I be here? Seriously, I would gladly respond to real polls simply out of gratitude for finally being asked, but all I get are 'polls' which are just campaign appeals. Congress naturally wrote numerous loopholes in the Do Not Call Registry law.

Yes, I have my doubts about how accurately polls reflect the general population. For example, who has Caller ID? Who pays attention to who is calling? Who is willing to take all calls? The same people who answer their door bell just because it rings, even when they aren't expecting anyone.

We're narrowing the field here.

Who would be willing to answer a call from a Blocked or Unregistered number especially after business hours? Who would answer during the dinner hour after finally getting home after a long commute and starting dinner?

Who is willing to not just answer the anonymous phone call but endure the long silent delay while the computer transfers the call to a human? Randomly generated calls, as these polls claim, are computer generated calls.

Yes, I make assumptions as do the many crooks who call homes during the day, hoping to get an elderly victim who they can convince to transfer money to Nigeria so they can collect their winnings. They know the elderly are home during the day, usually have land lines, and are not on the Do Not Call registry - not that that makes any difference to crooks.

I believe there are legitimate assumptions that can be made about who answers random phone calls, and who actually participates in these polls. They are not simply based on prejudices.

Will said...


I'm not bored, lonely or old; I'm just here for the food.

P.S. Here's an infomercial for an ingenious new product that I truly believe can help ease some of the civil unrest here in the homeland:

ste-vo said...

We have a land line. Cell service in VT where we live, and not sprawlville in Chittendan County - greater Burlington, is so poor that you have to have a land line. You may have cell service in the morning, but not the afternoon and out at the lake in the summer forget it! That being said, I will continue to watch the slow-motion train-wreck that is Amerika in the early 21st century. Perhaps it will gain a little momentum this year. I am also anxious to read Kunstler's forecast for 2015 and of course Sardonicky!

Bert Gold, Frederick Maryland said...

Like Zee, I own a land line. Unlike Karen I never answer polls. Ever. They are all about selling something. I'm not buying.

Richard Ohio said...

Your list made me laugh out loud. Then I realized that should have been on the list

Kat said...

what happened to James Howard Kunstler? That guy has turned into a full blown reactionary and racist.
I'll just say I don't buy into the whole idea of localism. A return to small scale and labor intensive production is not what we need in my opinion.