POSTED COMMENTS TO A COLUMN BY MARGARET WENTE IN TORONTO'S GLOBE AND MAIL
Margaret Wente is back with her favorite cheap-trick "analysis" of a serious matter.
She gets one person who has written a book or is known for his/her views on a topic and treats the person's unproved notions as authoritative research, here that person is Jonathan Haidt.
She did the same thing in Iraq some years ago, quoting the infamously one-sided scholar on the Mideast, Bernard Lewis.
She did it in Vancouver where she was supposed to be studying free-injection sites and sourced a single prejudiced "authority."
Her method represents hack journalism at its most developed. It just happens to be one of the basic techniques of propaganda too.
It's all very much like the notorious legal practice of expert witnesses: a single expert witness is brought into the courtroom and paid for his/her one-sided opinion in hopes of influencing the jury when indeed the reality is that hundreds of experts disagree and only their full range of views offers the state of the truth.
Her "authority" in this case just doesn't begin to get it right, offering a specious notion dressed up as an idea.
The political Right's success anywhere is not owing to a better understanding of human nature. That's actually rather a sophism and an indirect way of saying what would read as foolishness were it phrased more clearly: the Right is right.
The Right's success is owing to a couple of extremely basic factors.
The first is money and lots of it.
We always and everywhere observe the Right pandering to special interests for campaign funds.
Money doesn't buy a seat in a legislature, at least not yet, but it gives politicians the wherewithal to market and advertise and travel and put on an impressive show (everything from stages and backdrops and music and big flags and the ease to ship them around quickly like a travelling rock band) and just saturate the airwaves with their pancaked faces, fluffed hair, and bleached teeth.
And then there are constant polls to test the effect of statements day by day, sophisticated polls that are very costly to run.
We know marketing and advertising work: tens of billions are spent every year just to sell this versus that soda pop or burger or deodorant, and the companies spending those vast fortunes know they are not squandering their money.
It is no different in politics.
Human beings are highly susceptible to suggestions, only the suggestions must be cleverly phrased and they must be tailored to the needs of the individuals or groups - the job of marketing. It is very costly to create and tailor these suggestions across millions of people.
Genuine issues have long receded into obscurity in elections. Rather we get costly advertising pitches designed to just suggest a position on a matter of public importance, and we get swirling dust about non-issues like patriotism, religious views, families, or flags.
And just whom do you think it is that has the best access to money?
Second, there is what we might call the stupidity factor. It is an established fact that conservative views tend to be correlated with lower intelligence. Like all correlations in statistics this one does not hold in every individual case, but it very much does hold on average.
It doesn't take a great effort to sell stupid people: just look at the millions who bought books and tickets supporting that total air-head, Sarah Palin.
When you direct your appeal to this group, it doesn't take much imagination or hard work to come up with the right words.
Witness Rob Ford's (relative) success: he's actually convinced that if he asks people in general, people who have no idea of costs or finances or urban planning, about wanting subways, that he has earned a mandate to build them. But it is an illusion, one built on asking a simplistic question of lots of people with no background in the subject being asked. It much resembles asking a very young child whether she wants to be a princess or he a magician or armored knight.
Were the same question put, as it should be: here are the choices and briefly here are the costs and taxes and difficulties associated with each, the results would be quite different.
It is actually part of the approach of genuinely stupid politicians - the Sarah Palins, the Rob Fords, the George Bushes - to elicit public responses with the least possible thought or detail or accountability. That makes their jobs so much easier. And as any good advertising person knows, selling a complex idea is very difficult.
"Liberal$ have lost the trust of Canadians. The need to learn some lessons about telling the truth from the Conservatives."
A 39.6% majority represents lost trust in the other side? After all, this is not just about the Liberal Party, it is about liberal views.
This reader brings up, inadvertently, a major factor in our politics: our democratic system is broken.
There can be no mandate to do anything involving great change, change which affects everyone, when more than 60% of voters don't want you in office.