Sunday, April 22, 2012

The blind men and the elephant

In a perfect example of how two people can look at the same information and draw opposite conclusions, take a look at two headlines from the biggest newspapers in the country on President Obama's fundraising to date for the 2012 election:

First, from the New York Times: Obama Sees Steep Dropoff in Cash From Major Donors.

From Wall Street to Hollywood, from doctors and lawyers, the traditional big sources of campaign cash are not delivering for the Obama campaign as they did four years ago. The falloff has left his fund-raising totals running behind where they were at the same point in 2008 — though well ahead of Mr. Romney’s — and has induced growing concern among aides and supporters as they confront the prospect that Republicans and their super PAC allies will hold a substantial advantage this fall.
Now, for the Washington Post: Big money in a big way for Obama's reelection campaign.

President Obama’s reelection campaign has been rapidly increasing the number of big money “bundlers” collecting checks for his reelection, doubling the number of financiers who have brought in at least $500,000.
The influx during the first quarter of the year shows the president is getting an especially warm embrace from Hollywood and the broader entertainment industry, partly making up for a drop in support from Wall Street after Democrats passed broad new regulations for the financial sector, according to a list of fundraisers released by the campaign on Friday.

I gave you a little taste of what each article is talking about so perhaps you can see the nuance that is driving the disparate headlines - the NYT is reporting on single big donors and WaPo is looking at bundlers. So they're working with the exact same information and come to opposite conclusions based on where they chose to focus.

I think this is a perfect example of a phenomenon we see very often in the media. Much of the time its driven by ideological and political differences...Fox News and MSNBC reporting on the same thing and coming to opposite conclusions. I don't know the reporters well for these two stories but last fall we saw the same phenomena play out between the NYT and WaPo. Its just a fact of life when you're dealing with human beings. I'm reminded of the old story about the blind men and the elephant.

And so once again we have an example about why being an informed voter is hard work. I'd suggest that you need to read both articles to get the whole story. Or just read my summary from yesterday ;-)


  1. Case 29 from the Gateless Gate, involving the 6th Patriarch of Ch'an:

    "Two monks were watching a flag flapping in the wind. One said to the other, "The flag is moving."
    The other replied, "The wind is moving."
    Huineng overheard this. He said, "Not the flag, not the wind; mind is moving.""

    You need someone to help you sort these things out, so thanks SP!

    Nice redesign, too!

    1. Ahhh...more ancient Chinese wisdom - I love it!

      Glad you like the redesign. I get bored with things easily. It was time for a change.

  2. Hi SP
    Im afraid I prefer a more colorful background but I come for the content!
    Those 2 articles are exactly why our work is so hard. Their audiences are very distinct. Working from one neighborhood to the next is quite like those 2 articles.

    It is amazing the level of infection by repugs of low-information voters (women & men). It is easy to get discouraged when publications like The Atlantic pick a bad case to illustrate the discouragement of Americans. No mention of lazy Americans who wont do research, who take the word of the TV, their pastor, their spouse, etc. to decide for whom to vote! They, themselves, have NO actual information. They make me sick when you look at the new repug governors and what they are doing.
    Sorry for the rant!

    1. So how about a little floating on water action for some color?

      I'm not sure of it yet. But I know I LOVE the water so I thought this might be fun to try.


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