Facebook Freedom and Other Things

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Bob Lord

I’ve now gone over a week without signing into Facebook. It wasn’t a challenge thing. I just felt like Facebook was a time suck and wanted to see if I’d miss it. I don’t. At all.

Which makes me wonder: For how many of us has social media insidiously become part of our daily routine? I read commentary about people “addicted” to social media. But I question whether it’s really an addiction in most cases. Seems more to me that checking our social media accounts becomes part of our daily routine. Over coffee, open Facebook. Lunching alone? Open Facebook. Or Twitter.

Do I miss my 2,000 or so Facebook friends? No. Most of them aren’t among my real friends anyhow. And the few that are know how to get hold of me.

Less Facebook means more time to read books. On that front, I highly, highly recommend Matt Taibbi’s Hate, Inc. At its core, Hate, Inc., is an update of Manufacturing Consent, where Noam Chomsky and co-author Edward Herman explain how the media and the dominant political parties present Americans with a raging debate within a narrow political spectrum. The effect is to foreclose debate outside of that narrow spectrum.

Taibbi eviscerates the mainstream media. There’s too much to summarize, but it was beyond thought provoking. You likely won’t agree with all of it. I didn’t. But overall the argument Taibbi makes is compelling.

Among other things, Taibbi makes sense of how politicians and media types can get things horribly wrong, often repeatedly, yet still be sought by television hosts. We all can relate to this. I often watch Morning Joe while working out on the elliptical. No more than a day goes by without the appearance of Adrienne Elrod, the director of strategic communications for the Hillary Clinton campaign. What past job title could scream failure any louder than director of strategic communications for Hillary Clinton? But there she is on most mornings, getting paid buckets of money to pontificate on the Democratic primary race. Why exactly is it that viewers should value her opinion over, say, the Blue Meanie’s?

Of course, from the perspective of the Morning Joe crowd, what’s not to love about Adrienne Elrod? I’ve cracked wise that the name of the show really is Morning Joe Biden. I’ve never seen supposed journalists so in the tank for one candidate. As you might guess, Elrod has a pro-Biden angle to just about any news that comes along.

Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed the pliability of the margin of error when reporting on polls? When Biden polls higher than Sanders, no matter how small the margin, the reporting is that Biden is leading. When Sanders is slightly ahead in a poll, however, the reporting is that they’re “statistically tied.”

That’s of course based on the margin of error, which is disregarded when Biden is the one with the slight edge.

But what does the margin of error actually signify? Basically, it means a candidate’s actual support has a 95% chance of being within the margin of error from the amount shown in the poll. So, what does it mean if the spread between two candidates is less than the margin of error but greater than zero? Does it mean they’re tied? No. It means the likelihood that the candidate polling at the higher number is leading, if you polled the entire voting population, is more than 50% but less than 95%.

That’s not a tie. The higher-polling candidate still is the likely leader, albeit with less certainty than would be the case if the gap exceeded the margin of error.

Lately, though, the Morning Joe crowd are hedging their bets a little. They still like Biden, but they’re kind of sweet on Bloomberg as well. Bloomberg, their theory goes, could swoop into Super Tuesday to take on Sanders if Biden falters in the early states.

That’s only if Biden’s supposed firewall with Black voters in South Carolina doesn’t hold.

It’s odd, though. Biden, they say, is so electable and so certain to win in South Carolina because of his support with Black Americans. I don’t dispute that enthusiastic support from Black Americans is critical in both the primary and the general. But that being the case, how does the theory of Bloomberg being the centrist savior play out? After all, the Super Tuesday states have huge Black populations. Exactly what is going to motivate Black primary voters in those states to go out and support Mr. Stop and Frisk? If you believe, as the Morning Joe crowd does, that Biden is indescribably formidable in South Carolina because of his strength with Black voters, how could you also believe that Bloomberg will be similarly formidable on Super Tuesday despite a glaring weakness with Black voters?

The other prong of the centrist electability argument involves the supposed swing voters and the anti-Trump Republicans. Being a golfer, I interact with the so-called county club Republican crowd. Those Republicans, the common wisdom has it, are not nearly as tied to Trump as the Trump rally goer, MAGA hat crowd, right? Wrong! They’re every bit as tied to Trump. I’ve seen this, I’ve heard it from others who interact with the country club Republican crowd, and I even heard it from Bill Kristol on MSNBC. Okay, Kristol believing it means nothing, but I think he’s right on this one.

You see, for the greedy rich and, really, the greedy affluent, it’s all about their wealth. Things like public corruption, racism, kids in cages, and climate change just don’t register with them.

Frankly, I think a left-wing populist has a better chance of peeling off a few votes from Trump in rural America than does a centrist have of winning the support of country club Republicans.

Okay, gotta go. Need to check my Facebook feed. 🙂