Public polls such a laugh

Someone once related to me the definition of “polling.” It means the removal of a bull or steer’s horns. If we stick with the economists’ term of endearment for the general public, the great beast, the meaning of polling booths comes full circle. Polling is to take the sharp pointy bits from the common man’s arsenal. His power to vote.

If you want to bank on what the public will decide, this being a democracy, tell the public what to decide! More effectively, tell the public what it itself has decided. That’s an easier sell. Black equals white, no? Well 70% of the American public believes black is white. Ergo it may as well be. What “is” if not what is believed to be so?

Mainstream media’s infamous “some people say” mis-attribution not only represented what no-one indeed had said, it also implied that what some people say ought to include you, unless you want to hang with the wrong people. Polls go further. They tell us what some of US say, apparently. And not just some, but most.

When we’ve become too guarded to have spin-doctors tell us what we just heard, a focus group will tell us what we have concluded ourselves we heard. Did Saddam Hussein have anything to do with 9/11? Polls show Americans believe he did. Ergo…

What is this? Are we to believe democracy is about majority consensus concerning which is ass or hole in the ground?

Never mind that the media can choose who they poll, depending on the conclusion they want drawn. But who is the media to tell an American public what to decide about a given news development? Imagine if they tried to tell you that inedible crap tastes good. Actually I’m not impartial about that one. Imagine if they dared to tell you what was funny on television!

Laugh tracks on sitcoms break up the dead air between sometimes questionable jokes. Like professional laughers planted in a theater audience, they encourage the rest to laugh collectively, to share in the mirth at what must certainly have been funny. Since funny is subjective, and enjoyment is a matter of the spirit of the experience, it’s hard to argue that canned laughter doesn’t enhance the experience. No harm done, unless the jokes are really insensitive and mostly condescending put-downs. See the haunting Rodney Dangerfield sitcom parody sequence in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers if you want to see a laughtrack off the tracks.

We’re used to being led to laughter, being misled by shills to fall for the cardsharp’s con or the rigged auction, being fooled by phony customers who claim to be cured by snake oil salesmen or revival preachers, you’d think by now we could see through “focus groups” of dubious wits appearing to giving voice to our silenced participation, or see through polling figures pulled from thin air, actually straight from an advertiser or politician’s custom order of their wet dream for our submission.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *