Toby Keith, who did not serve in the military, and his dog tags
Did you hear? President Trump dropped the MOAB on Afghanistan, killing 36 ISIS fighters and presumably ending our 15-year war. “MOAB” stands for “mother of all bombs.” The 11-ton weapon loves all other bombs and just wants them to be happy, and even though it has different expectations for each bomb, it is behind every single one of them 100 percent. You know who else loves bombs? Fox and Friends. Here’s the video they put together for yesterday’s strike:
“The video is black and white,” Ainsley Earhardt says, “but that is what freedom looks like. That’s the red, white and blue.” It’s true that a tyrant could never bomb anyone. Freedom isn’t life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. It’s a giant explosion seen from 30,000 feet. It’s Geraldo Rivera and his Wario mustache saying that “one of my favorite things, in the sixteen years I’ve been here at Fox News, is watching bombs drop on bad guys.” Today is Friday, and the most comfortable people in the world love to watch other people get bombed. Won’t you experience hot, searing freedom with me?
“Each” is singular, you guys. The question in the poll whose results are pictured above should be “How credible is each of the following?” Informal polling finds me unpopular, still. But this formal poll from the Morning Consult brand-tracking company finds that, despite widespread abuse of the phrase “fake news,” most people still think mainstream news outlets are believable. Sixty-three percent of those polled, for example, rated The New York Timesas “credible” or “very credible.” It’s kind of terrifying that a third of respondents don’t trust the longest-established journalistic institution in the United States, and the write-up suggests that this portion is larger than it has been historically. But the overall lesson to be taken from these admittedly months-old numbers is that President Trump’s gaslighting re: news has not succeeded in turning Americans against the media.
You may have noticed a more interesting nugget at the bottom of the chart, though. A combined 19 percent of poll respondents said Breitbart was a credible source for news. That’s only one point higher than the percentage of respondents who said the same thing about The Onion, an explicitly satirical venture trafficking in obviously made-up stories. The Onion beats InfoWars, which I thought was implicitly satirical until about 18 months ago. But Breitbart is a horse of a different color. It puts “news” right in its name, and its former executive chair is now the White House chief strategist. That this nominal news organization would enjoy the same credibility as The Onion is astounding, given its influence.
But here we encounter the misleading elements of polls, which are—dare I say it?—kind of fake news. You will notice that the “credible” and “not credible” numbers for these outlets don’t add up to 100 percent. The missing portion comprises people who have never heard of the outlet in question.
For instance, 42% of respondents said they had never heard of Breitbart, which is heartening. According to the crosstabs, 32% have never heard of The Onion, and another 15% said they had heard of it but had no opinion of its credibility. One presumes that a significant number of these respondents knew it it was satirical and therefore found the question of its credibility irrelevant. While we’re presuming stuff, the spike in The Onion’s credibility among 30- to 44-year-olds might be attributable to smartassery.
Anyway, The Onion and Breitbart may not be comparably trusted so much as comparably unknown. That, too, is terrifying, given the enormous popularity of one and the enormous shittiness of the other. But the larger epistemological point—that we should not take this poll to mean that people trust Breitbart about as much as they trust The Onion—holds up. Polls mislead. Also, 17% of the country has never heard of the Wall Street Journal. What a time to be alive.
Pyrrhus’s war elephants in an ad for Liebig’s Extract of Meat
If one thing connects the modern age to antiquity, it is the ongoing usefulness of the phrase “pyrrhic victory.” Sometimes you win at such cost that winning defeats you. If we are willing to stray from the original context a little, sometimes what you conquer is rendered valueless by the conquest. This modern world offers us plenty of things worth having, from iPhones to Iraq, but they aren’t always worth getting. Unfortunately, the motto of 21st-century America might as well be “by any means necessary.” Today is Friday, and one more victory might ruin us. Won’t you survey the field with me?
“I love you so much I can hardly concentrate on my work at the polling firm. Please, tell me if your feelings toward me are very favorable, mostly…”
Good news for Democrats! The Republican Party has registered its lowest favorability rating in the history of the Bloomberg Politics poll, a venerable institution that dates back to the America of 2009. Basically, the GOP is as unpopular as it’s been since George W. Bush left office. But sic transit gloria, you guys, because no sooner is this laurel heaped upon the brow of Democrats than their feet are heaped with poop.
Just over half of respondents to this poll found the Democratic Party “mostly unfavorable” or “very unfavorable.” That’s about a one percent improvement from 2009, with some peregrinations in between. The astute reader may observe that the two parties’ respective peregrinations kind of resemble each other, as though they were variations on the same line. Probably, any poll like this should also include the question “how do you feel about political parties?” for perspective.
But probably we shouldn’t pay attention to polls at all. It’s hard to argue the boys at Bloomberg really captured the geist of the zeit when 55% of respondents said they’re better off than there were in 2009, but only 23% said the country was on the right track. Maybe Rush Limbaugh is right, and the country really is filling up with guilty millionaires. Or maybe you can’t learn anything substantive by calling one thousand arbitrary yahoos. There is at least one good band name in this paragraph. You can read the Bloomberg story here.
As Vizzini in The Princess Bride, Wallace Shawn taught us a classic error.
Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, Hillary Clinton is guaranteed to become president. It’s obvious Trump can’t win. He’s utterly unqualified. His negatives are too high. Everyone of sense can see he is doomed in the general, just as we all knew his candidacy was going nowhere in the primaries. Okay, so he won almost all the primaries, but that was a fluke. This time, there’s no way. Democrats will keep the White House in 2016, because all of Trump’s signature issues appeal to fundamentally limited subsets of voters. He’s not selling anything the majority of Americans can agree on. On a completely unrelated note, the Intercept has reported that Trump called Hillary “trigger happy” at a rally in Lynden, Washington, where he warned that she would embroil the United States in another land war in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Hillary is courting neoconservatives put off by Trump’s isolationism. Here’s Republican strategist Steve Schmidt:
Donald Trump will be running to the left as we understand it against Hillary Clinton on national security issues. And the candidate in the race most like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney from a foreign policy perspective is in fact Hillary Clinton, not the Republican nominee.
Finally, the Democrats have an opportunity to position themselves as the party of hawks—and at a moment when war is so popular!