IS THERE SUCH A THING AS JOURNALISTIC MALPRACTICE?

…And, if there is, what would the appropriate penalty be?

Anyone who ever doubts the depth of the shock Donald Trump delivered to the political system (and the supposedly no-longer-extant Establishment behind it), would do well to read this analysis of the 2016 election–delivered a few weeks before election day by the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza.

For those who may not want to read the whole thing (and my still bleeding eyes are strong evidence it may not be good for your health so consider yourself warned) here are the key points that got my interest, all these months later:

Over the past 72 hours, polls have come out in AlaskaTexas and Utah that show Trump narrowly ahead of Hillary Clinton. That comes on top of data that suggests Republican-friendly states likes Arizona and Georgia are already a jump ball between Clinton and Trump….

Simply put: Trump is not just in danger of losing, he is in danger of causing a fundamental reorganization of the electoral map that could set back Republicans for a number of future elections…..

The problem for Trump is that the group of people who support him is not now and never has been large enough to get him anywhere close to the 270 electoral votes he needs….

Cilliza nicely sums up established thinking, as of Oct. 14, 2016. But there’s no need to pick on him. If one were to decide that journalistic malpractice included substituting wishful thinking (bordering on delusion), for reportage, then he should have been fired the day after the election (more on that in a moment). Only problem is–you’d have to fire his entire support system as well. All the editors and publishers who supported him–and the dozens of like-minded “journalists” who spouted similar pablum (and who accepted polls that were designed to bring them the results they wanted as “news”).

That would have meant just about everybody–including the bulk of the actual pollsters who provided the underlying mush that could then be reported as news, and half the talking heads Fox News (the only place where there was something of a bloodbath, though, even there, everyone was careful to pretend it was for different, completely unrelated reasons).

And how mushy was the underlying mush? How delusional was Cilizza’s reporting?

This mushy. This delusional:

Cillizza identified five “shocker” states, where Trump could lose historical Republican advantages, and five “purple” states, considered true swing states (with Arizona, oddly, placed in both categories), which, by definition would fall Clinton’s way if the “realignment” he was effectively predicting–and encouraging his ideologically pre-selected readership to embrace as a hard truth (the bit where he reminds folks it’s not a done deal yet is the kind of weasel-tongue I was taught to avoid the first week of my junior college journalism course–and every week thereafter).

Here’s how the election held twenty-five days later actually played out in those “toss-up” states which were going to “cause a fundamental reorganization of the electoral map.”

First, those where he “narrowly led”:

Alaska–Trump by 15.2%
Utah–Trump by 18.6%
Texas–Trump by 9.2%

Next, the “jumpballs”:

Georgia–Trump by 5.7%
Arizona–Trump by 4.1%

Then, finally, the swing states that were practically guaranteed for Clinton by Cilliza’s logic:

Florida–Trump by 1.3%
North Carolina–Trump by 3.8%
Ohio–Trump by 8.6%
Arizona (again)–Trump by 4.1%
Nevada–Clinton by 2.4%

Hey, one out of nine ain’t bad!

But we shouldn’t forget that states Cilizza and the world within which he remains safely ensconced didn’t even put Pennsylvania, Michigan or Wisconsin in play. Trump won them all.

And, as of today, there is no credible evidence Democrats can flip even a single state in 2020.

Outside the polls, of course.

No wonder so many people done gone crazy.

SIGNS OF THE….END TIMES? (Segue of the Day: 1/2/17)

A friend of mine sent me a link to this Rolling Stone story, which is worth reading in its entirety. Let us hope Matt Taibbi is not soon resting with Michael Hastings. 

This is a pretty brave piece, but one not-very-brave line stood out:

“The idea that it’s OK to publish an allegation when you yourself are not confident in what your source is saying is a major departure from what was previously thought to be the norm in a paper like the Post.”

My immediate response was “Who thought this? I want their names!”

It could be I’ve just been conditioned by thirty-five years of what my friends like to call paranoia and what I, watching them recede ever further into their cocoons, like to call reality.

You know, as in: It’s not paranoia just because the rest of ya’ll are too damn stupid to know they’re out to get you too.

Or it could be I was just extra-sensitive because I had been listening to a little Creedence over the New Year’s break….because that’s always good for some perspective on a bright, sunny new year. And what I thought when I played this one particular video (part of a small DVD package that comes with the Creedence Singles‘ collection), was that  I had not only missed the significance of John Fogerty’s ability to measure up to Marvin Gaye’s finest paranoid hour, but the significance of his band being able to measure up to the Funk Brothers’ finest hour of any sort period.

Which then further made me consider, to a degree I hadn’t before, that I never really missed what the Beatles left undone because I never thought they left anything undone. But if I could turn back time and change a few things, having Creedence stay together, and somehow always be as they were here, would be high on my must-do list.

It also made me consider that, if Van Morrison really was the most important white blues singer between Elvis and Ronnie Van Zant, then it was really saying something, because the competition was even fiercer than I thought.

 

IT ISN’T ONLY ELVIS THEY SAY STUPID STUFF ABOUT (Sports Division…Occasional Sports Moment #16)

In case you want to prep yourself for this small rant, the article it refers to  (by Robert Samuels of the Washington Post) is here

Now to the confessional bit: I had no particular rooting interest in the Women’s Figure Skating competition at the Sochi Olympics this week. Busy last couple of weeks so I missed everything but the women’s long program. Usually try to catch a bit more but it just wasn’t feasible this time around.

As a rule, I have the common habit of not following figure skating any place outside of the Olympics or (maybe) the Olympic trials. I can appreciate the skill and artistry required–and, on average, its the greatest Olympic drama (which means the greatest sports drama) there is–but I’m certainly no expert.

I do follow a lot of other sports, though, and I’m always fascinated by the psychology of “judged” sports–by the sense that I’m being allowed every so often (in skating, gymnastics, diving) to look in on a very insular world with very peculiar, roiling passions.

Not having any idea of what the real technical issues are–let alone being qualified to judge them–I have to fall back on knowing what I like…and on guessing how the human aspects will play themselves out if several closely matched competitors all perform well.

Which is another way of saying I–like Samuels (who is a self-avowed amateur skating enthusiast but does not cover the sport for a living)–expected Kim Yu-na to win following her clean final skate based on one set of usually reliable, though purely psychological criteria. She was the overwhelming favorite and she had done well–certainly had made no serious errors and had been calm, composed and regal.

That’s usually enough.

Except in this instance, another set of usually reliable criteria (and one which I happen to favor and which thereby suddenly gave me a rooting interest) was in play.

The Russian teenager in question, Adelina Sotnikova, had clearly taken bold risks and, more importantly, had radiated joy.

In a judged sport that usually translates into victory, as well…all other things being equal.

Watching the event on replay (but without knowing who had won) and waiting for Kim’s final score to come up, I had what turned out to be a prescient feeling which translated itself thusly:

I watched Kim’s face in repeated close-ups and I could practically see a thought balloon above her head, which read:

“I didn’t skate well enough to beat her.”

And I watched Sotnikova’s face in repeated close-ups and I could practically see a thought balloon above her head, which read:

“She didn’t skate well enough to beat me.”

Later on, I kind of analysed it along the lines of risk/reward, daring versus caution, a triumph of strategy over tactics (admittedly one had to read between the lines, but it was pretty clear from post-competition commentary that Kim had basically built minimal risk into her own program because she assumed all those who did not would fall–as all but Sotnikova, who has evidently fallen in every other major world competition she’s ever competed in, in fact did).

But in the moment all I really had to go on–being as I said, no expert–was those reactions and those competing psychologies based on long observation of sports in the world (i.e., the athletes usually know best and are usually not very good at hiding what they know).

Even then, I thought there was a fifty-fifty chance Kim would win because, well, I’m a pessimist.

So, having nothing for or against either skater, but preferring always to see boldness rewarded, I was pleasantly surprised by Sotnikova’s win.

But I wasn’t really surprised when a fuss was kicked up almost immediately.

Or when Washington Post “reporters”–in this instance, as so often, recording opinion as fact–and other members of the crit-illuminati (journalists’ division) reported it as a “controversy.”

Or when they then reported it as no controversy at all, but simply a travesty, since “controversy” would imply a diversity of reasonable opinion and the only opinions they reported–or held reasonable–were those that mirrored their own.

Certainly from reading Samuels’ article linked above (and his was only one of many that deployed the same tactics) one would never guess that the three NBC commentators who happened to be former Olympians themselves (Johnny Weir, Tara Lipinski, Scott Hamilton, the latter two gold medalists)–that is, the people who, by virtue of their life experience, training and presence in the venue, were best qualified to make the call for American audiences–were unanimous in saying they believed Sotnikova should have won.

And one would certainly never guess that two of the three (Weir and Lipinski) said precisely what a casual fan like myself had presumed without knowing a thing about skating: that Kim had played it safe, which is its own kind of gamble.

Out of all the various quotes I read, therefore, I liked Lipinksi’s (who won a controversial decision in her own Olympics with some of the same elements in play) reaction best, even if it was only mostly true: “You cannot skate safe in the Olympics.”

Actually you can.

You just have to hope everybody who doesn’t falls down.

(NOTE: Hilariously, if you follow Samuels’ first link, you’ll find a much more balanced article by Sally Jenkins, which does not at all make the point he implies it does. But then, Jenkins is rather well known for being an actual journalist. That does tend to confuse people who live in the crit-illuminati bubble.)

(NOTE: Extra booby prize to The New Yorker’s Amy Davidson, who called Russia’s fifteen-year-old phenom Yulia Lipnitskaya an “apprentice assassin” and referred to American Ashley Wagner’s smile as a “Dick Cheney-like crooked grin,” which I’m guessing is a much greater insult at The New Yorker than merely comparing a fifteen-year-old who skates to the theme from Schindler’s List to an assassin.)

As always, I ask you to remember that those who provide this sort of commentary on sports and pop culture are from the same gene-pool as those who “report” on politics and news.

And, as always, I leave you with my usual cheery thought…Goodbye us.