Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Polls Are Like Guns... They Don't Lie, People Do

This poll supposedly shows that 35% of Democrats believe that Bush knew in advance that the 9/11 attacks were going to happen and that, therefore, Bush was "in on it," in the words of Jonah Goldberg, and that "a majority of Democrats in this country are out of their gourds."

If it were true, I would say that the Democrats who truly believe Bush was "in on it" are, indeed, batshit crazy. Further, I would tell them that they are as deluded as the right-wing "faith-based community" and to get their heads out of their asses. The Bush regime scheming to cause or allow 9/11 to happen would not only be freakin' impossible to keep secret for this long, but would be too big a political gamble even for Rove and his gang: If they got found out, they might be literally crucified, tarred-and-feathered, or drawn-and-quartered, and it would probably be the end of the GOP. No, even if I believed that Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld were so evil they would actually do such a thing, which I don't -- they're evil, but not that evil -- it would just be a political risk beyond risky and desparate, and the regime didn't need to make such a desperate move in 2001. They just didn't.

However, I don't have to say any of those things, because the poll doesn't actually tell us what Goldberg wants us to think it does. It doesn't tell us whether even a single Democrat thinks Bush was "in on it" or whether his regime conspired to cause or allow 9/11 to happen. Because the Democrats polled weren't asked about that. Here's what the respondents were actually asked:

Did Bush Know About the 9/11 Attacks in Advance?

Which, Mr. Goldberg, I'm afraid is not the same thing as asking them if Bush conspired to cause the attacks or allow them to happen. No, this poorly-worded question only tells us that 35% of respondents to the poll who were Democrats think Bush may have known something that related to the 9/11 attacks at some point before they happened.* Respondents could easily interpret the infamous pre-911 Presidential briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike inside America" as "advance" knowledge, for instance, and not be even vaguely considering that a 'yes' answer would be used to imply they believed in a conspiracy. In fact, in that sense, I do believe Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and may well have answered 'yes' myself if asked that question without further context.

Or, one could believe that Bush knew about the attacks before the planes hit the towers but after the planes were in the air, and that it was too late for him to do anything when he learned.

Since the question does not specify what the respondent thinks Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks prior to the attacks nor when the respondents thought he knew it, Goldberg is out-and-out making shit up and lying through his teeth when he claims that the "most common" reason respondents answered 'yes' is that they think "Bush craftily enabl[ed] a terror attack as a way to whip up support for his foreign policy without too many questions." Goldberg doesn't know if this was the reason anyone answered 'yes,' let alone that it was the "most common" reason.

Simply put, he's full of shit.

Later in the article, Goldberg tries a sleight-of-hand to make himself look less like a lying sack of shit and more reasonable. He says:

So then there's [the] option... [that] the poll is just wrong. This is quite plausible. Indeed, the poll is surely partly wrong. Many Democrats are probably merely saying that Bush is incompetent or that he failed to connect the dots or that they're just answering in a fit of pique. I'm game for [this] option...

Wait, you say. Didn't he just agree with you?

No. Notice the sleight-of-hand. He admits that the Democrats might have said 'yes' for a different reason than the one he asserted earlier, but he doesn't admit that the poll doesn't support his claim and that he just made it the fuck up... No, he says that maybe "the poll is just wrong," [my emphasis]. The poll can't be right or wrong on this issue, because the poll doesn't say anything about it one way or the other! Why is Goldberg trying to pull the wool over our eyes? Because otherwise he couldn't use it to call other polls, polls he doesn't like, into question:

But if we're going to throw this poll away, I think liberals need to offer the same benefit of the doubt when it comes to data that are more convenient for them. For example, liberals have been dining out on polls showing that Fox News viewers, or Republicans generally, are more likely to believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in 9/11. Now, however flimsy, tendentious, equivocal or sparse you may think the evidence that Hussein had a hand in 9/11 may be, it's ironclad compared with the nugatory [?] proof that Bush somehow permitted or condoned those attacks.
Oh, snap! Oh, wait, no! He's full of shit again. We don't have to "throw this poll away" to reject the notion that 35% of the Democratic respondents believe Bush was "in on" 9/11, because the poll doesn't fucking say that! Goldberg did! As such, the amount of evidence that Hussein had a hand in 9/11 compared to the evidence that Bush did is utterly irrelevant and we do not, in fact, have to give the "benefit of the doubt" to results of the polls Goldberg wants us to ignore.

Further, even if this poll said what Goldberg claims, his argument is just stupid, because we can reject the results of a single, unverified or duplicated poll without calling into questions the combined results of the dozens of polls that all indicate that Republicans and Faux News viewers believe, after the Bush regime repeated the lie in the media thousands of times, that Hussein was involved with 9/11. You'd need a bunch of polls all indicated that Democrats think Bush was "in on" 9/11 with an amount of data commensurate to that supporting the 9/11 Hussein polls for us to even consider this argument.

Goldberg is a lying bag of ass.

Also, it bears noting that the pollster who conducted the poll, Scott Rasmussen, is a right-winger and has written articles for WorldNut Daily. We cannot, of course, commit the ad hominem fallacy of ignoring his data out of hand because of who he is. However, since we also know from vast amounts of research on polling that polls are very sensitive to factors that don't show up in the numerical results, factors like the inflection or tone of voice the pollster uses when asking the question or how the pollster determines who to call for his sample, and since we already know Rasmussen asked a poorly-worded and vague question -- not a good sign for a professional pollster -- I think we are right to be cautious about anything we draw from this poll.

Hat tip to denialism.

* Goldberg also falsely implies that "most" Democratic respondents said 'yes' to the question, thus trying to mislead us about the actual numbers presented by the poll results as well as what they mean. Plus, he later just makes up a number that isn't presented in the poll data when he says that "61% of Democrats polled consider it plausible or certain that the U.S. government would let [9/11] happen." That's bullshit. 35% of Democratic respondents said "yes" to the question about whether Bush had advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks and 22% said that the CIA had advance knowledge of the attacks. Neither are a majority nor do they match Goldberg's magic "61%" number he got from his ass, presumably.


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