Tuesday, July 14, 2015


I have pointed out in the past how leftists use misleading headlines and the such to sell you on an idea that they want you to believe, even if it isn’t true. This time, I’ve run across something similar at the Washington Examiner of all places.

Here’s the headline (LINK): “Poll: More Americans want states to ignore Supreme Court”. What does that imply to you? It’s the word “more” that is tricky here. The word “more” by itself is largely meaningless because it cannot be understood without more information. All it really tells you is that there has been an increase over some prior period. But at the same time, the way “more” is used in this sentence essentially implies a majority.

Now obviously, it doesn’t actually say that – nowhere is the word majority used. But the word “more” implies it here because what it asks you to do is to find the thing in the sentence that “more’ is modifying. In this sentence, the only thing it could be modifying is the word “Americans.” And since there is no time period placed on this, as there would be if it said “more Americans than before,” it becomes a reasonable interpretation of this ambiguous word to think that “more Americans” means “more Americans do than those who don’t.” Consequently, the headline gives the impression that a majority of Americans want their states to ignore the Supreme Court.

If I told you that “more Americans eat ice cream,” apart from shooting me for crimes against grammar, wouldn’t you think that I meant “a majority of Americans” rather than “more now that in the past?”

What’s more, the timing of the article and the mention in the second sentence of the article that this poll was taken after the Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage, further imply that this “more” result is attributable to the gay marriage ruling.

Hence, if you just read the headline and maybe the first paragraph, you are quite likely to leave this article with the impression that a majority of Americans found the gay marriage ruling so repugnant that they want their states to ignore the ruling. And that is exactly what some conservatives want you to believe.

But is that true?

Well, no. As you read further, you are told that the Rasmussen poll in question found that only 33% of Americans take this position... one in three. That’s hardly a majority. By the way, this 33% is up from 24% in the prior poll, which is where the “more” comes from.

So compare the headline above with a more fair headline and tell me if the one above still seems honest:
“33% of Americans now want states to ignore Supreme Court rulings.”
Nor really as striking, is it? Doesn’t quite seem like the mob is coming, does it?

Even worse, you need to realize that this 33% is not because of the gay marriage issue. This 33% comes from both right and left, with only 9% of that being added since the gay marriage ruling. Given the fact that the left has been at war with the Supreme Court for about 20 years now, I would suspect this number breaks down to 20% leftists, 4% “conservatives” plus 9% temporarily being added because of the gay marriage issue.

That’s hardly the image the headline sought to portray, is it?

This is the kind of stuff you need to watch out for. The article is truthful. Not a single word in it is false, and it does present the real numbers so that you will walk away gully informed... if you stop to think. At the same time, however, the article also creates an impression of something that is not even close to true: that the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling has a majority of Americans ready to overthrow the court. Unfortunately, too many people will walk away after skimming the headline and the first few sentences with that very impression and they will wonder why those evil RINOs don’t just do what “the majority” wants!



tryanmax said...

This is why language so thoroughly fascinates me. Meaning is less in the words than in the grammar. It's also worth observing that habitual liars seldom speak falsehoods. Rather, they overcomplicate or oversimplify and interchange opinion with fact.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Same here. It's fascinating to me that you can't say that anything said in this article is false or even misleading if you were asked point to a specific line that is misleading. They can easily defend the article with "it says exactly what is truthful." Which it does. BUT it still leaves casual readers with an entirely false impression.

It turns a temporary 9% chance in the polls into a majority if you don't stop to really dissect the article and get what it says.

AndrewPrice said...

By the way, this => " they overcomplicate or oversimplify and interchange opinion with fact." is exactly right. That's exactly how they do it. They don't invent facts, they obscure them in overcomplication, or they omit or downplay them with oversimplification, or they replace them with opinion. And in the end, most people don't realize they've been had because they tend to trust the people with whom they speak and they don't like to take the time to break down everything they hear.

I'm amazed at how good advertisers are in particular at using these principles. They start with some hard fact that favors them or is neutral and then they go to work obscuring, omitting and sliding opinion that sounds like fact into place.

One of the ones that has bothered me the most lately are the credit unions who want you to sign up to pay for what you can get for free from them... and what you don't need. So they mention facts like that creditors use credit reports in credit decisions. Then they imply that if you are a member, you have some power to control your credit score and that you can then use it to intimidate bankers and to get special treatment. None of that is true. But of course, they never actually say that. All they really says is that you will know your score and that banks will use that in "most" credit decisions.

AndrewPrice said...

Another by the way... speaking of gay marriage, has anybody noticed that (1) the issue has vanished off the non-conservative news pages and (2) all those people who made their Facebook and Google profiles into gay flags are now back to their normal avatars? The issue is quickly turning into a forgotten nonissue.

I think this means that the gay movement will implode in a glittery cloud of boredom much quicker than expected.

Anthony said...

Misleading, clickbait headlines are depressingly common nowadays.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony, Very true. The clickbait that just drives me nuts is when you see something like "This incredible trick has banks upset." Really? Bull.

tryanmax said...

Andrew, on Friday, The Guardian ran an article stating the gay gene does not exist, that science cannot find such a thing, and that "born this way" is a political construct.

AndrewPrice said...

Interesting. I wonder what that means? That would mean that gays no longer qualify as an identity group. Could they be looking at getting rid of the gay movement if it abandons them?

Anthony said...


That was an interesting article. It's central point seemed to be that homosexuality is derived from a complex, varying mix of nature and nurture. Sounds reasonable to me.


Sexual desire is due to a range of different factors — including biology, a person’s upbringing and education and social constructions at the time. Whilst female sexual “fluidity”, for example, can be linked to social acceptance of that idea (based on male desires) that one social construction does not tell the story for everyone. Our sexuality is due to a range of factors we not fully understand.

That doesn’t mean that gays and lesbians are less deserving of political rights. Queer relationships should be embraced, not because homosexuality is genetic, but simply because there is nothing wrong with them. While gay gene arguments may seem like a way to push the rights agenda forward it can actually have the opposite effect — limiting the debate solely to those traits and behaviours seen as genetic. There is no genetic evidence for much of our behaviour. Does that mean, even when we are not creating harm, we have less of a right to engage in those acts than others?

tryanmax said...

Anthony, I don't disagree with the article's closing thoughts. I just find it interesting that an outlet such as The Guardian now sees fit to raise a thesis that, mere weeks ago, would've been excoriated for a number of reasons, all boiling down to simple political incorrectness.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

I think this means that the gay movement will implode in a glittery cloud of boredom much quicker than expected.

I'm sure the hardcore activists will bristle but at the end of the day, isn't this the best possible thing that could happen? Gay people just become... people. And the idea of gay marriage becomes just as mundane (not mundane, but you know what I mean) as straight marriage.

Critch said...

I doubt they will be any better at marriage than straight people, just sayin'.

AndrewPrice said...

Critch, I guarantee you that they will be worse. Gay males don't do monogamy. And if DOJ stats are to be believed, lesbians are much more likely to be abusive.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The hardcore activists never leave. But if they have no troops, then they get dismissed as cranks.

AndrewPrice said...

Anthony and tryanmax, I agree with tryanmax. The interesting issue isn't what the article says per se as the fact that if someone had said that three weeks ago, they would have been crucified as someone who wants to murder gays. That a leftist flagship like "The Guardian" would say this really signifies a significant shift to something.

Also, on your point, the problem without having a biological basis is that it just becomes competing views of morality... "we think this is wrong... we think this is right." It's the claim that gays couldn't help it which won the day for them. Few people want to punish someone for something that is beyond their control, but they have little problem punishing people for chosen behavior.

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