SOURCES OF PARALYSIS: Lehrer and the (compliant) professor!

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2013

Part 3—The world of Broderian tales: “But we were England’s, still colonials.”

That’s how Frost described the American condition around the year 1775. Centuries later, we the people are still colonized, this time by a set of paralytic elites.

We’re in thrall to the fatuous values of the New York Times and its Hamptons/Paris set. Intellectual squalor is produced when sets of professors sally forth with their streams of fake facts.

Then too, we’ve been colonized by the so-called press corps’ old guard, with their endless array of foundational stories. Consider what happened when we watched Jim Lehrer lounging on C-Span last weekend.

(In The Sisters, Joyce’s young narrator chafes beneath the empty pronouncements of “old Cotter.” We’ll substitute Lehrer’s name.)

On April 22, Lehrer appeared in Kansas City with a professor by his side. Here’s the way C-Span describes the event:
Conversation with Jim Lehrer
Apr 22, 2013

Jim Lehrer talked about the history of presidential debates, his 2011 memoir Tension City, and his post-debate interviews with many of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. This event was held at the Kansas City Public Library and co-sponsored by the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Mr. Lehrer was joined by journalism professor Lee Banville and Kansas City Public Library director Crosby Kemper.
Banville hails from the University of Montana. You can watch the whole thing at this link.

Was Lehrer “joined” by this professor? More accurately, Lehrer was enabled by Banville as he told the succession of silly old tales which constitute the public’s store of understanding about modern presidential elections.

Lehrer kept telling his familiar but ridiculous stories. The professor kept affirming them, sometimes by his silence. How silly were these tired old tales?

Early on, Lehrer said this. We highlight the memorized groaners:
LEHRER (4/22/13): I’ve always believed that these debates are less about substance. By the time you get to these—I’m talking about contemporary debates now. By the time you get there, it’s usually a month before the election, most everybody’s made a decision between Sammy Sue and Billy Bob. “Oh well, I’m in favor of this person—of Billy Bob’s Social Security plan.” “I’m against”— whatever. They’ve gone through the campaign

So what you do, what you want to see on television between or among the candidates, if there are more than two, and there have been a couple of times, you want to see who these people are. You want to take the measure of the individual. And you can only do that— It doesn’t matter what they’re talking about!

“What’s your favorite color tie?” You say, “Well, blue!” “Well, I like red!” “Oh well, blhhhh blhhh.”

You learn something. You learn something about the individual. And so, there are obvious—You know, there are all kinds of examples, where a—

Kennedy-Nixon is a perfect example. People who listened to that on the radio thought Nixon won. People saw it on television thought Kennedy won.

2000, first debate, Al Gore, George W. Bush—exactly the same thing happened.
Try to ignore old Cotter’s idea about the discussion of neckties. Instead, marvel at what Lehrer about two famous elections.

Good lord! Will the old guard ever stop telling the tale in which Nixon won on the radio? By now, it’s abundantly clear that there is no serious basis for this hoary old claim. But old Cotters have learned this story by heart, and they can’t, or they won’t, stop repeating.

Nixon won on the radio! It’s a famous old story. Lehrer’s remarkable contribution lies in the way he now connects that tale to the first Bush-Gore debate.

“Exactly the same thing happened” in that (crucial) debate? No one with any sense has any idea what that could possibly mean. Obviously, very few people listened to the first Bush-Gore debate on the radio. Obviously, there was no polling of such people's reactions.

Meanwhile, the general reaction to that debate is clear. By solid majorities, people in all five overnight polls said they thought Gore had won.

For the most part, these were surveys of people who had watched the debate on TV. By an average margin of ten points, they said they thought that Gore had won—unless you’re watching old Lehrer proclaim, a lapdog at his command.

What kind of “professor” sits and says nothing when such ridiculous stories are told? The claim about Kennedy-Nixon ought to be challenged; the subsequent claim about Bush-Gore comes straight out of old Lehrer’s ascot. But Lehrer has been parading around repeating this nonsense since 2011, when his egregiously awful book, Tension City, appeared.

“Professors” like Banville know they’ve been summoned to sit in silence as nonsense is offered. In this way, the hoary old stories of White House elections get served to a colonized people.

Watch the way the good people of Kansas City laugh and applaud as old Lehrer tells his weird tales. They don’t know they’re applauding pure nonsense—that they are the colonial property of an inane old guard.

If you suffer through the 76 minutes of that C-Span tape, you will see Lehrer drowse his way through a panoply of famous tales. There is one thing he’ll never tell you about them, and the professor who sits by his side knows he must never object.

What will Lehrer never say? He’ll never reveal the source of these stupid old stories! He will pretend that they came from “the voters” when he knows that they actually sprang full blown from the heads of his guild.

In the brief passage which follows, Lehrer touched on three of the guild’s favorite tales, tales which keep us stupid:

George Bush glanced at his watch!
George Bush was stumped by a supermarket scanner!
Michael Dukakis should have punched Bernie Shaw right in the mouth!


Where did these favorite old stories come from? In the passage which follows, Lehrer kept saying that these offenses got their spice from impressions which were “in the wind.” Finally though, he blamed the whole thing on “the voters.”

This is bogus all the way down:
LEHRER: The interview I did with Clinton about the debates...The point that he made about the watch, for instance, he said, “Well, the only reason that hurt George H. W.—

He said, “If I had looked at my watch, or if Ross Perot had looked at his watch, no one would have paid any attention, no one would have cared.” The only reason that mattered, because it was already in the wind, because this man, George H. W. Bush, couldn’t make a grocery checkout machine work. Remember the scanner thing? He was disconnected from the American people.

[Clinton] said that the reason that hurt him was because it was a confirming thing. And he said most of these quote “gaffes,” this is Clinton talking now, most of these “gaffes” were only, were “gaffes” because they were perceived to be confirming of something that was already in the wind.

Michael Dukakis. You know—

MODERATOR: Bernie Shaw—

LEHRER: Bernie Shaw, you know, Mr. Cold Fish? He proved it, at least to the voters.

MODERATOR: The question about, from Bernie Shaw, the first question of that debate. About what he would do about the death penalty if his wife, Kitty Dukakis, was raped and murdered.
Was George Bush really stumped by a supermarket scanner? That claim was called into question long ago, described as an error by the press corps. But as Lehrer recited these favorite old tales, he refused to explain the most basic fact:

All these episodes were pimped into life by the press corps! The impressions which were “in the wind” were in the wind among the press.

The press corps seized upon these events and said they were “confirming” events. It was the press which leaped into action when these events occurred.

There is no sign that the voters noticed or cared when Candidate Bush stole a look at his watch. That, and these other cherished events, were basically press corps inventions.

Lehrer was a howler machine this day. His claim about Kennedy-Nixon came into dispute long ago. His claim about Bush-Gore was false on its face, also completely absurd.

It isn’t clear that President Bush was baffled by a scanner. And quite plainly, reaction to all these cherished episodes began with the press corps, not with “the voters.” But the press corps' role was never mentioned in Kansas City that day. When these famous old stories get told, the press corps doesn't exist!

In what kind of world does a professor sit quietly by while famous old howlers like these get repeated to the public? Answer: In a colonial world, where the wisdom of the people is constantly undermined by the fatuous favorite tales of a whole gang of old Cotters.

Muskie wept! Bush looked at his watch! Candidate Gore just wouldn’t stop sighing! Dukakis should have punched Bernie Shaw! (And many more.)

Some of these stories are simply false. Others are accurate but inane. But hacks like “old Lehrer” love to recite them, just as old Cotter drove Joyce's narrator mad telling his favorite old tales.

One improvement has been added. As the Lehrers repeat their tales, the nation's professors applaud them.

Tomorrow: More sources of paralyzed minds

A truly horrible book: Lehrer pimped all these ridiculous tales in his horrible book, Tension City. They constitute a record of the colonial relationship between us the people and a Broderian guard.

They repeat their stories again and again, even though everyone knows they are bogus. And even though everyone knows they are bogus, no one is willing to say so.

When will Krugman and Drum and the horrible Maddow challenge this appalling culture? It’s a culture of colonials, and the answer is obvious:

Never.

Visit our incomparable archives: In 2011, when Lehrer’s book appeared, it fell to Gloria Borger to pretend that his stories weren’t patently bogus. For our first reaction, just click here.

In October 2012, we did a longer series about Lehrer's book and his past conduct as a moderator of White House debates. For one example, click this.

Lehrer's stories are silly, absurd. Starting in 1996, his conduct on the field of battle was substantially worse.

29 comments:

  1. Cue now the chorus who've always had a bigger problem with the little kid pointing out the emperor was naked.

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    1. Oh stop being so condescending.

      That hoary old tale may have had value once, but nobody listens to the courtiers any more.

      Now, we all decide for ourselves that the emperor looks pretty buff! Nice ink, too.

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  2. Although I was a dyed in the wool Democrat in 1960, I thought Nixon trounced Kennedy in the debates. As I recall, Nixon had facts and details at his fingertips, while JFK relied more on nice-sounding generalities.

    We all "know" that Kennedy won the debates because he was so good-looking and Nixon had 5-o'clock shadow. Today, I wonder if that's actually true. I wonder if media spin in 1960 helped the public believe that JFK had won the debate, just as media spin in 2000 helped the public believe that Gore had won.

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    1. What you recall about Nixon, we don't care.

      What you recall about Bush/Gore "media spin in 2000 helped the public believe that Gore had won" is just manifestly wrong, Bizarro World wrong, up-is-down wrong.

      It (reality) was quite the opposite:

      The press was determined to make Gore the loser, despite the fact that the post-debate polling prior to media spin didn't show the public agreeing with that view, at all.

      As always, you get your own opinion David, but not your own facts.

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    2. Sorry, that was an early morning typo. The last sentence should have read, "...just as media spin in 2000 helped the public believe that Bush had won."

      BTW I thought Gore trounced Bush. I didn't think Gore was great, but Bush was just awful. He was devoid of content. I was flabbergasted when media came out with Bush being the winner.

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    3. "What you recall about Nixon, we don't care."

      You seem to be dismissing his opinion before you even get to his facts. Right wingers have come to expect that treatment from the left wing--a kind of sneering contempt that I don't think D in C deserves.

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    4. He didn't present "facts" about Nixon/Kennedy, just opinions and what he "wonders."

      As for Gore, David had a fact -- about the press corps -- and now, corrected at 12:56, it's become a typo. That is to say, as far as he *had* any "facts" they were wrong.

      So I'll continue to keep my "sneering contempt" for the many things David "wonders," based entirely on his quite long track record. YMMV

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    5. A firsthand reaction to a debate 50 years ago is at this point a fact, an historical artifact, really. To dismiss that is to be part of the problem that TDH is decrying. The sneering contempt of Maddow and Collins towards those opinions they don't like. I understand the contempt, but it is uncivilized and degrades the conversation, especially coming from Anonymous.

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    6. DinK invites contempt. It would be impolite not to accept.

      Delete
  3. While it is certainly true that these old stories originated with the press corps and are foisted on us by an elite, the reason why professors don't contradict Lehrer is because he is clearly at the end of his career and not as sharp as he once may have been. It would be cruel to humiliate an elderly man during his swan song, even in the interest of truth. I think that is why professors and others sit by saying nothing as Jim Lehrer reminisces. It would be like the kids correcting grandpa as he spins yarns on the porch. Further, autobiographies are nearly always self-serving and revisionist. Historians don't trust the facts in them and neither should anyone else.

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    1. "the reason why professors don't contradict"

      BZZZZZT!

      Wrong.

      It's not 'cause he's old, or we'd see the kid hosts getting corrected -- which we don't.

      The reasons they don't correct are multiple.

      The most primary was stated succinctly by Orwell: It just wouldn't do! It's impolite to correct your hosts. You certainly won't be invited back, darling.

      And of course, one must always remember another pithy saying, accurate though cliched: Never attribute to malice what's easily explained by ignorance. The professors just aren't that smart -- they've unconsciously swallowed the same bullshit as anyone else.

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  4. From LBJ by Randall Woods

    LBJ--

    "There's a great press credibility in this country. One man can write an article that someone has planted with him and they're planted every day by certain people, serving their own ambition ... So many people read what one man writes, then they clip it and then they rewrite it and then the folks of the country start repeating it and repeating it and pretty soon it becomes accepted fact and then they have two polls to come along and confirm it. And then you've had it."

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    1. Legend has it that LBJ, in one of his early congressional campaigns, told one of his aides to spread the story that Johnson's opponent fucked pigs. The aide responded "Christ, Lyndon, we can't call the guy a pigfucker. It isn't true." To which LBJ supposedly replied "Of course it ain't true, but I want to make the son-of-a-bitch deny it."
      http://www.democraticunderground.com/1002579626


      I'm sure some folks had alot of fun watching Gore deny he was a psychotic liar.

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    2. The fascinating thing about LBJ is that he outdid both Cheney on the right and, arguably, FDR on the left. Realpolitik, liberal idealism and sheer political ability. I grew up right around Johnson City, Texas and was born while he was President. I never learned or heard much about his presidency growing up. I guess Vietnam killed his legacy and I can sure understand that but what I get from this book is that the politics of Vietnam and the 1960s in general were so devilishly complicated as to have destroyed almost any presidency.

      This is one of the most awesome speeches ever by a president.

      http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/153273-1

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    3. Don't ever compare LBJ to Cheney. LBJ was a fearless giant. Cheney a pussilanimous pygmy.

      Read Robert Caro's 4 volume biography of LBJ. Caro is a master. I've been saving the final volume for a time when I can give it my undivided attention. It's given me a totally new perspective on Johnson. You're right about the 60's. Just remember this.

      ***************
      By the time of the election in November 1968, LBJ had evidence Nixon had sabotaged the Vietnam war peace talks - or, as he put it, that Nixon was guilty of treason and had "blood on his hands".

      The BBC's former Washington correspondent Charles Wheeler learned of this in 1994 and conducted a series of interviews with key Johnson staff, such as defence secretary Clark Clifford, and national security adviser Walt Rostow.

      ........


      In late October 1968 there were major concessions from Hanoi which promised to allow meaningful talks to get underway in Paris - concessions that would justify Johnson calling for a complete bombing halt of North Vietnam. This was exactly what Nixon feared.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21768668

      ***************************

      Just another example of how Republicans will do anything including committing treason to win.

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    4. I have read Caro's first three volumes and I liked them a lot, but if you want a Texan's view, I recommend the Randall Wood's book as well. Hey, I don't like Cheney either but to dismiss the most dominant power broker in Washington and therefore the world as a pusillanimous pygmy is daft. The guy was Darth Vader. He appointed himself VP and from that traditionally weak position he controlled things more effectively than most Presidents. He manipulated appointments and agendas in multiple departments, privatized the military, started wars. His trek from Halliburton to VP is very similar to the way LBJ parleyed and Brown and ROOT, and other oil money from Texas into power in DC. The difference is that Johnson also had a vision for the poor and disadvantaged.

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    5. Yeah, all fair points. I still maintain he is a nasty little man who could never have won at the top of his ticket. He had to piggy back on the Bush family and sneakily do his dirty work.
      I'll get that book.

      Delete
  5. Poo Poo Platter (Who Knows What the Professor Knows)

    Our analysts only know from this post that Mind Reader Bob (who frequently objects to mind reading by anyone other than He Who Gives A Shit) states that the Professor
    in this post is here to represent all professors. His vocation is mentioned almost as many times as Maureen Dowd wrote conversations with Al Gore's bald spot.

    As a stand in for all professors, we know what he knows:
    "he must never object." We never get told what he said. In fact all the professor did according to Bob was affirm the old codger's (and he is almost eighty)
    tales. Affirmation to Bob is both audible and inaudible.
    Unless you object, you affirm. Let that be a warning to
    readers of the Daily Howler to always speak up lest you affirm that which is spoken in your presence.

    We are not told that the professor is a nice, reasonable man. That is because he is not being attacked by Somerby, who usually prefaces his blogger style beatdowns with faint praise.

    We are also not told that the Assistant Professor of Journalism is, for all intents and pruposes, a Jim Lehrer protege, who ran the on-line version of the News Hour from its inception under Lehrer before beating his retreat to academia. Lehrer could be both his mentor and meal ticket. Lehrer is an old codger. For all we know the professor at his side may have had more than a tiny hand producing much of the recent work for which Jim Lehrer gets credit since his obvious dotage set in a decade or so ago. Of course, then again, we don't know.

    Mr. Somerby quotes Lehere as saying "By the time you get to these—I’m talking about contemporary debates now. By the time you get there, it’s usually a month before the election, most everybody’s made a decision between Sammy Sue and Billy Bob." By his silence on this part of the tale, Bob must affirm it. So why carp about the inaccurate retelling of meaningless events. Want to see what the horrible press spinning did to Gore? Well Bob says there are no poll numbers to verify some of Jim's tales about the debates. There are poll numbers about 2000. They tell you neither the debates nor the spin, nor the stories about Al the Bore or Al the Liar had a measureable difference in the outcome of the election.

    http://www.pollingreport.com/wh2gen1.htm

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    1. If press spin is irrelevant, not worthy of the attention Somerby gives it, which seems to be your argument, then of what value is the attention you seem to be devoted to giving this blog?

      What are the polling numbers on the importance of your Poo-Poos?

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    2. I enjoy the writing exercise. Somerby represents the same kind of low hanging fruit to me as Dowd does to him. I must weigh in lest paralysis sets in or, horror of horros, my silence is taken for affirmation.

      Oh, and thanks for asking. Based on the silence which has greeted my thoughtful analysis of our civilization's savior's work, most agree with me.

      Delete
    3. Most ignore you, therefore they agree with you?

      Logic like that's the sign you're a real first-rate thinker there Poops.

      Delete
    4. BTW Poops:

      No, ignoring comment section trolls is NOT the same thing as being a news broadcast show host and ignoring when your guests spew bullshit -- so spare us, please.

      Delete
  6. The whole Bush-Gore debate was a set-up.
    In fact, all Presidential "debates" are scripted.
    The talking heads predicted that Gore would crush Bush based on Bush's notorious penchant for garbled language, and Gore's well researched and measured style.

    And that's what happened, except Bush had been ruthlessly coached and supplied with enough stock answers that he DIDN'T make a complete ass of himself.

    Day one, all agreed that Gore won handily.
    Day two, many noted that Bush didn't fall flat on his face, as predicted.
    Day three, predictions were conveniently "disappeared", and Bush was declared the winner because he did not go down in abject humiliation.
    I remember looking at my wife and asking, "WTF just happened?"

    TDH is about scripted news from the MSM, and the situation is getting worse, not better.

    Scripts have become entrenched, and Facebook and Twitter have only made them go viral all the faster.

    The FIVE SCANDALS are a classic example.
    The media accepts that Obama and/or Holder, and/or Rice have been deliberately deceiving the public over AP, IRS, NSA, Fast and Furious, and Benghazi.

    The administration's complicity is widely accepted, yet no one has come up with any direct evidence of orders from the top down.

    Republican politicians can beat the drum daily on all of these without being challenged by the MSM.

    We have Gore-Bush 24/7 on TV, radio, and newspapers, but at least now we have blogs and web news for those that want it.

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    1. Yes, but those scandals seemed to have largely failed, and it takes a fifth rate mind like David in Ca to be roused by them at all. The other night on CNN some hack referred to the political firestorm unleashed by Benghazi. I thought, "what, you mean Obama could have given Mitt an even worse thumping?"

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  7. Didn't Bush look at his watch simply because Clinton was taking an especially long time answering a follow-up question?

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  8. I didn't know that the Nixon/Kennedy Radio/TV story was based on very flimsy evidence. If you didn't, either, here is Salon covering it. The relevant passage:

    "The media scholars Elihu Katz and Jacob Feldman looked at all of the polls about the debate—a survey of surveys, they called it—and found that polls didn't break radio listeners out as a separate group. The one that did, conducted by Albert E. Sindlinger's Philadelphia-based market research firm, did find a large discrepancy, with Nixon winning among radio listeners 43 percent to 20 percent and Kennedy winning among TV watchers, 28 percent to 19 percent.


    "But Vancil and Pendell found several reasons for being skeptical of Sindlinger's findings. First, only 282 radio listeners were surveyed—fewer than is usually considered sound for a national random sample. Second, there was no effort to poll a representative group, so we have no idea whether the survey included, for example, a disproportionate number of Republicans. Third, there was no effort to explore whether radio listeners as a group might have been more likely from the start to prefer Nixon—perhaps, say, because they lived in more rural areas that television had not yet penetrated. (Relatively few Catholics—a key Kennedy constituency—lived in the countryside.)


    "Vancil and Pendell even present some statistical evidence to suggest that the Sindlinger sample probably included a disproportionate number of Nixon supporters. In any event, this single, flawed survey hardly constitutes strong enough grounds for the idea that Nixon won on radio to have gained the currency that it has."

    ReplyDelete
  9. I didn't know that the Nixon/Kennedy Radio/TV story was based on very flimsy evidence. If you didn't, either, here is Salon covering it. The relevant passage:

    "The media scholars Elihu Katz and Jacob Feldman looked at all of the polls about the debate—a survey of surveys, they called it—and found that polls didn't break radio listeners out as a separate group. The one that did, conducted by Albert E. Sindlinger's Philadelphia-based market research firm, did find a large discrepancy, with Nixon winning among radio listeners 43 percent to 20 percent and Kennedy winning among TV watchers, 28 percent to 19 percent.


    "But Vancil and Pendell found several reasons for being skeptical of Sindlinger's findings. First, only 282 radio listeners were surveyed—fewer than is usually considered sound for a national random sample. Second, there was no effort to poll a representative group, so we have no idea whether the survey included, for example, a disproportionate number of Republicans. Third, there was no effort to explore whether radio listeners as a group might have been more likely from the start to prefer Nixon—perhaps, say, because they lived in more rural areas that television had not yet penetrated. (Relatively few Catholics—a key Kennedy constituency—lived in the countryside.)


    "Vancil and Pendell even present some statistical evidence to suggest that the Sindlinger sample probably included a disproportionate number of Nixon supporters. In any event, this single, flawed survey hardly constitutes strong enough grounds for the idea that Nixon won on radio to have gained the currency that it has."

    ReplyDelete
  10. I didn't know that the Nixon/Kennedy Radio/TV story was based on very flimsy evidence. If you didn't, either, here is Salon covering it. The relevant passage:

    "The media scholars Elihu Katz and Jacob Feldman looked at all of the polls about the debate—a survey of surveys, they called it—and found that polls didn't break radio listeners out as a separate group. The one that did, conducted by Albert E. Sindlinger's Philadelphia-based market research firm, did find a large discrepancy, with Nixon winning among radio listeners 43 percent to 20 percent and Kennedy winning among TV watchers, 28 percent to 19 percent.


    "But Vancil and Pendell found several reasons for being skeptical of Sindlinger's findings. First, only 282 radio listeners were surveyed—fewer than is usually considered sound for a national random sample. Second, there was no effort to poll a representative group, so we have no idea whether the survey included, for example, a disproportionate number of Republicans. Third, there was no effort to explore whether radio listeners as a group might have been more likely from the start to prefer Nixon—perhaps, say, because they lived in more rural areas that television had not yet penetrated. (Relatively few Catholics—a key Kennedy constituency—lived in the countryside.)


    "Vancil and Pendell even present some statistical evidence to suggest that the Sindlinger sample probably included a disproportionate number of Nixon supporters. In any event, this single, flawed survey hardly constitutes strong enough grounds for the idea that Nixon won on radio to have gained the currency that it has."

    ReplyDelete