Informed and Not Informed

(Trying again, after Blogger ate the great post I had been working on…)

In case you were wondering…

Poll: Many Still Link Iraq With WMD:

“More than half of Americans, percent, continue to believe Iraq had weapons of mass destruction or a program to develop them before the United States invaded last year, according to a poll released Friday.”

I keep saying, you and I are different. We read blogs, we follow the news, WE ARE INFORMED. We listen to all the evidence and then weigh it, deciding what we think about the sources, and finally all of that leads us to reason out a conclusion. But this is not how most people learn about what is happening in politics.

This is why things like Bush’s Swift Boat smear are so effective. We look at it and think, “How could anyone fall for something like that?” MOST people get their information through channels that are very different from what you and I would think. The e-mail chain letter, the “joke” with the premise that Kerry is a flip-flopper, a comment by the DJ on the FM station…

You and I (like to think that we) get information from many sources, and balance what we learn with what we know about the sources, and weigh the evidence, and we think that logical arguments lead to conclusions. But that is not how it works for most people. The Right understands this, so they study the process. They learn how people DO receive and process information, and use that. The Right, like the marketing industry, has been studying this for 30 years. Books like ‘The Tipping Point’ or ‘Why We Buy’ or ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ are excellent sources of info on persuasion.

The instant I saw the Swift Boat smear ad I knew it was going to be effective. But I was looking at where and how it was being spread. I think maybe the people at the top of the Kerry campaign were looking at what they saw in the mainstream papers, and the mainline pundits, and thought that having McCain denounce the ad would be enough. I think they were seeing the world through their logical, reasoning eyes.

Do you remember some time ago I wrote about a flurry of letters-to-the-editor and talk-show call-ins claiming that Kerry pushes in front of people in lines and says, “Don’t you know who I am?” One I heard was on a financial call-in program and out-of-the-blue a caller says she was in a drugstore and Kerry pushed his way into the front of the line… (The second time I wrote about it was here. Can’t find the first.)

Here is another example, from an e-mail a friend innocently forwarded to several people, including me, the other day:

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A:

GEORGE W BUSH — We don’t really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The chicken is either against us or for us. There is no middle ground here.

GEORGE W BUSH — America is a safer place today because we stopped these chickens in their tracks. Sure, they wanted us to leave – that’s because these chickens hate freedom – have you seen their coops?? But we ran ’em out. Smoked ’em out. You might say we fricaseed ?em (if I could pronounce a word that big). And now the’?re crying fowl. But the next time some evildoers think about crossing America’s streets, they’ll remember our little pullet surprise.

JOHN KERRY– Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against allowing the chicken back to the other side, unless our international allies agree to escort it.

RALPH NADER — The chicken’s habitat on the other side of the road had been polluted by unchecked industrial greed. The chicken did not reach the unspoiled habitat on the other side of the road because it was crushed by the wheels of a gas-guzzling SUV.

RUSH LIMBAUGH — I don’t know why the chicken crossed the road, but I’ll bet it was getting a government grant to cross the road, and I’ll bet that somebody out there is already forming a support group to help chickens with crossing-the-road syndrome. Can you believe this? How much more of this can real Americans take? Chickens crossing the road paid for by their tax dollars. And when I say tax dollars, I’m talking about your money, money the government took from you to build a road for chickens to cross.

MARTHA STEWART — No one called me to warn me which way that chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer’s Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

SIGMUND FREUD — The fact that you are at all concerned that the chicken crossed the road reveals your underlying sexual insecurity.

BILL CLINTON — I did not cross the road with THAT chicken.

AL GORE — I invented the chicken!

COLONEL SANDERS — Did I miss one?

Innocuous? You tell me.