Archive for ‘Nate Silver’

November 21, 2008

Pot. Kettle. Black.

Nate Silver:

There are a certain segment of conservatives who literally cannot believe that anybody would see the world differently than the way they do. They have not just forgotten how to persuade; they have forgotten about the necessity of persuasion.
John Ziegler is a shining example of such a conservative. During my interview with him, Ziegler made absolutely no effort to persuade me about the veracity of any of his viewpoints. He simply asserted them — and then became frustrated, paranoid, or vulgar when I rebutted them.

What got Silver on this hobby horse was Ziegler’s assertion that Barack Obama “launched his career” at the home of Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. But the factual record is unambiguous:

In 1995, State Senator Alice Palmer introduced her chosen successor, Barack Obama, to a few of the district’s influential liberals at the home of two well known figures on the local left: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. . . .
“I can remember being one of a small group of people who came to Bill Ayers’ house to learn that Alice Palmer was stepping down from the senate and running for Congress,” said Dr. Quentin Young, a prominent Chicago physician and advocate for single-payer health care, of the informal gathering at the home of Ayers and his wife, Dohrn. “[Palmer] identified [Obama] as her successor.” Obama and Palmer “were both there,” he said.

Neither Ayers nor Palmer has denied this, and there are multiple other connections — including Ayers’ choice of Obama to lead the Chicago Annenberg Challenge — that identify Ayers as an early and influential supporter of Obama. These are not “viewpoints,” but facts.

Silver seems to expect Ziegler to engage in a “what ‘is’ is” type of parsing, or else to cite sources as in a bibliography, about the phrase “launched his career” in describing the Obama-Ayers connection. This is a clever method of obfuscation — interrogating the premises of the syllogism so as to prevent a discussion of the conclusion — and when Ziegler quite naturally objects, his objection is cited by Silver as evidence of Ziegler’s unreasonableness.

Silver does not wish to discuss the potential significance of the Obama-Ayers relationship, and therefore engages in semantics over the meaning of the phrase “launched his career” in order to prevent that discussion. Of course, the actual subject in dispute was whether a Zogby poll about the beliefs of Obama supporters was legitimate opinion research or a “push poll,” as Silver asserted. But the term “push poll” — a campaign tactic of disseminating negative information through a bogus telephone survey — can hardly be applied to a survey conducted after the election.

Zogby was asked to determine what percentage of Obama supporters were familiar with certain memes of the campaign, to get an idea of how well-informed these voters were. Silver is angered that the results lent support to Ziegler’s hilarious video:

Silver’s anger over the portrayal of Obama supporters as ignorant informs his rage against Ziegler, and Silver’s attack on talk radio as a medium is nothing but scapegoating. What fuels Silver’s rage is his guilty knowledge that Obama ran a campaign brilliantly calculated to appeal to “low-information voters,” and that this success would not have been possible without the willing cooperation of the mainstream media. Silver fears that, at some point in the future, the media will be compelled to start telling the truth about Obama, and that Obama’s subsequent political failure will endanger the “progressive” project.

In a free society, any political effort founded in deception is ultimately doomed to failure. If progressives like Silver have learned nothing else from the Bush administration, they ought to have learned that.