Manufactured popularity of presidential candidates

Jerry Day makes a good case of how the popularity of major candidates in the U.S. 2008 election has been pretty much entirely manufactured, while a genuinely popular candidate (Ron Paul) has been suppressed:

Kinda reminds me of this scene from Futurama (Season 2, Episode Raging Bender):

[Teenage Leela takes on two guys and floors them. Her teacher, a green alien called Fnog watches.]

Fnog: Excellent. Bill, Keith, you will go to Junior Championships. Bill, congratulate Keith when he regains consciousness.

Leela: But, Master Fnog, I can beat these dorks with one eye closed.

Fnog: Perhaps. But there is more to winning than beating your opponent. You lack the will of the warrior.

Leela: What do you mean? Watch this!

[She kicks Bill in the stomach.]

Bill: (crying) Ow!

Fnog: No girl has the will of a warrior. You have the will of a housewife or, at best, the schoolmarm.

Leela: That's it. I'll take you on right now.

Fnog: Very well. But, you see, I have the will of the warrior. Therefore, the battle is already over. The winner? Me! Ha ha! Rematch? You lose again! Had enough? I thought so! Ha ha ha ha!

[He and the other guys laugh.]

You think the competition is fair, but the battle is already lost.

"You lack the will of the warrior! Ha ha! Go home."


Kolenkišta said…
Great analysis.
He should do another one in Slovenia. If you look at the media coverage of US elections here it seems like theres only one party running this year, its Obama vs. Clinton.
verbatim said…
kolenkišta: not only that. Sometimes I have a feeling that we are part of USA because they are covering their elections so much (daily coverage for more than 6 months now).

But if elections are in Germany or France, they barely mention it although those countries are important for us.
Greg & Sheryl said…
Counting YouTube videos is the most unscientific means we've heard of to measure a candidate's true popularity. At best, this indicates that Ron Paul's supporters are simply more motivated to use YouTube as a means of campaigning on his behalf. Mr. Day's premise is so flawed that we turned his video off after one minute.
denis bider said…
And in the time you took to compose this criticism, you could have watched the rest of the video, where Jerry shows some interesting graphs from Google Trends.

That's where he makes his point, not with the number of YouTube videos.
Anonymous said…
@kolenkišta: The reason is, that after 8 years of presidency of one man, US people often vote for the other party for changes. On the other hand the democrats are offering unique candidates: a coloured man and a women. Hillary and Obama were also running a tight race for the candidacy till the end. We could almost say that the race for candidacy by the democrats is a race for US presidency.
denis bider said…
At best, this would mean that, as the media try to predict and follow a trend, they create a trend, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The actual socially responsible thing to do would be for the media to focus on candidates of different kinds and rationally compare their arguments.

But you aren't going to have a commercial TV station do something like that for profit, because the media don't mean to educate voters, they mean to entertain them. That is all there is.

Sadly, I once read a book that contemplated, based on the decades of observed history, how much media can influence masses in the first place. In the first decades of radio, they tried cultivating listeners a lot, tried bringing them to a "higher level". Didn't work out. People are the way they are. You can't bring to a "higher level" someone who has already realized their potential.

Which is why I'm arguing that democracy is the wrong system in the first place, because it requires the agreement of the stupid in order for any policy to proceed.

A better system would allow good policies to proceed without necessitating the agreement of the stupid.

And as we can see, (1) the media certainly are not trying to make people non-stupid, and (2) history of media attempts at education of the masses suggests that even if they tried, they can't.
verbatim said…
Anonymous: I would say it is also important how a candidate looks like because people don't like watching "ugly" people, let it be state representatives, people in in commercials, movies, tv shows etc.

A better system would allow good policies to proceed without necessitating the agreement of the stupid.

Sadly this can't work in practice. Science is about optimal, politics is about being possible.
Greg & Sheryl said…
"Jerry shows some interesting graphs from Google Trends. That's where he makes his point, not with the number of YouTube videos."

If that was his real point, then that's what he should have opened with. When making an argument, you undercut yourself by leading with a weak or flawed point.

Regardless, studying Google trends, which merely measures internet chatter, is just as unscientific a survey. What goes on within the World Wide Web rarely, if ever, mirrors the way things happen in real life.
denis bider said…
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Greg.

Popular posts from this blog

When monospace fonts aren't: The Unicode character width nightmare

VS 2015 projects: "One or more errors occurred"

Thoughts on Bitcoin - and why I cashed out of BTC at $18k