Plays Dimmesdale role at Slate: We're going to make a confession today concerning something we'd say.
What would you say if someone walked up to you on the street and asked you the following question:
When it comes to the Islamic faith, which of the following is closer to your view?When Bloomberg asked that question in a recent survey, 64 percent of Americans chose "inherently peaceful." Twenty-eight percent chose "inherently violent."
“Islam is an inherently violent religion, which leads its followers to violent acts.”
“Islam is an inherently peaceful religion, but there are some who twist its teachings to justify violence."
That's why we're going to make a confession. If someone walked up and asked us that question, this is what we'd be inclined to say:
"We don't know very much about Islam. You should probably ask someone else."
In the case of a polling outfit like Bloomberg, that answer would be missing the point, of course. When it poses its polling questions, Bloomberg isn't trying to learn the truth about some subject. It's trying to assemble data so journalists like William Saletan can unsheathe their B-bombs after scanning the results.
Let's be fairer than that! Saletan doesn't use any B-bombs in today's detailed exegesis of recent polling results. The formulation he uses is this:
"One of America's two ruling parties is controlled by voters who are ready to turn the government against a religious minority."
That statement is even less precise than the Bloomberg question. That said, an editor knew how to bring it all home. This is what the headlines say atop the Saletan piece:
Donald Trump Isn't the Problem.It's time we face that fact? We liberals have reveled in that claim since early in the Year One!
It's time we face the fact that he's just channeling the bigotry of the Republican Party's base.
Just so you'll know, 61 percent of Republicans said Islam is "inherently peaceful." Thirty-two percent said "inherently violent." Eight percent weren't sure.
That said, no results are good enough when the Dimmesdales of the center left collaborate with headline writers to let the B-bombs fly. In the example shown below, Saletan engaged in a play we always find a bit odd:
SALETAN (12/8/15): Most Republicans chose the "inherently peaceful" version. But 32 percent (compared with 17 percent of Democrats) chose the statement that Islam was inherently violent.Does that mean that 17 percent of Democrats are bigots? All through his compendium of data, Saletan reports that lots of Democrats gave the wrong answers to the polling questions at issue. But because more of Them gave the wrong answers, this seems to mean that They're the bigots while We, of course, are not.
Dimmesdales like Saletan love to locate the bigots. Beyond that, the Dimmesdales are always sure they know what the right answers are. That leaves Saletan locating bigots through the help of a question like this:
SALETAN: The San Bernardino, California, attack took place on Wednesday. Over the following two days...a Reuters/Ipsos poll asked Americans what they thought of Muslims in the United States “following the events in Paris and San Bernardino.” Sixty percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents chose this answer: “I view the Muslim community in the same way as any other community in the United States.” Only 30 percent of Republicans chose that answer. Forty-eight percent of Republicans chose a different statement: “I am fearful of a few groups and individuals in the Muslim community.” Twenty-one percent of Republicans chose a third statement: “I am generally fearful of the Muslim community."The Dimmesdales can spot the bigots every single time! According to Saletan and his editor, you're a bigot if 1) you're a Republican and 2) you say you're "fearful of a few groups and individuals in the Muslim community.” As a Dimmesdale, Saletan knows that the first response was the non-bigoted choice.
(Thirty percent of Democrats also gave that middle answer. But because that's less than 48 percent, we get to call Them bigots!)
Our sensibility tells us something a bit unpleasant. People who lovingly run through data in this way may be suffering from a slight strain of "groupism" themselves. If Bloomberg approached us with the question shown below, we'd consider giving an answer:
"When liberals refer to Republicans as bigots, is that mainly similar to racist behavior, or is it mainly different?"
We'll have to admit it. Our incomparable sensibility does see some similar impulses there.
A final point to Saletan and his editor:
Donald Trump is very much a problem. (There's probably more than one.) He's been a problem, and a disgrace, for a very long time.
He was a disgrace in 2011 and 2012, when he fashioned himself King Birther. His conduct in the past few days has been especially rank. (His comments about the sister of Syed Farook have been a virtual incitement to murder.)
Donald Trump is a very large problem. Constructive people look for ways to convey this important fact to others. The Dimmesdales choose to rise in the pulpit, B-bombs in each hand.