October 26, 2020

Now Playing

Juliet Naked
(Reviewed September 21, 2018)

An amusing but slight adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel which can laugh at its characters without precluding the possibility that they may laugh at themselves

Won't You Be My Neighbor?
(Reviewed September 20, 2018)

Did Mr Rogers’s extraordinary capacity for love end up producing a generation of haters?

Lady Bird
(Reviewed March 6, 2018)

A delightful and not entirely politically correct movie about growing up as a Catholic schoolgirl in 2002-2003

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
(Reviewed February 22, 2018)

An occasionally amusing parable of guilt and forgiveness whose setting in small-town America, like the prejudices of its author, does it no favors

ENTRY from October 22, 2020

In Britain, as in the U.S., opinion polls consistently show that more people favor stringent public health measures against the coronavirus than favor less stringent measures. In Britain, however, they ask people about lockdowns specifically, where American pollsters, obsessed like the rest of the media with Donald Trump, rarely do. Instead their questions about the virus, as about other things, all seem to come back to their obsession with Mr Trump’s approval rating. How do you rate his performance in dealing with the virus? Oh! Oh! I know the answer to that one! For the benefit of the slower pupils a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll helpfully supplied as one of four possible responses to this question a popular media mantra picked up from Bob Woodward’s new book: “He did not take the threat seriously enough at the beginning and is still not handling it well.”

Not too surprisingly, 51 per cent of respondents picked this over the other suggested responses — many no doubt because they had a vague memory of having heard it said before. Yet it was hardly any more of a leading question than many others asked by pollsters about Mr Trump — which may be the best reason not to trust what the polls seem to be indicating about the election just now. Pollsters have always had to guard against asking questions which imply a “right” answer — a response that is not what people really think but what they think they ought to think because they have been told that other people think it. But what was once a bug in the pollsters’ system of data collection is now a feature, as that question about taking the virus seriously enough shows. The pollsters, perhaps because they are influenced by the turn away from news and towards advocacy and propaganda by their media masters, more and more often seem to be looking for a particular response to their questions and asking questions designed to produce it.

Nor is this dubious approach to their business limited to questions about Donald Trump. On the lockdown question, for instance, roughly two-thirds of Britons have consistently answered that the British lockdowns (now being reintroduced at the local level) are either just about right or aren’t draconian enough to suit them, so public-spirited are the Brits. I think it fair to say that there is a certain amount of skepticism about this particular result in the British mainstream press which, unlike its American counterpart, doesn’t always march in lockstep. “It makes me wonder” wrote Rod Liddle in the (London) Sunday Times, “if the pollsters phrased the question thus: ‘Do you want another lockdown — or do you want to kill your own grandmother, you selfish bastard?’ Because I can’t find anybody who agrees with the current government policy.”
  Full Entry

Media MadnessBefore there was Howard Kurtz’s Media Madness, there was mine — now, alas, out of print but still available while supplies last for the cost of shipping and handling. Send $5.99 to me in care of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, 1730 M Street, Suite 910, Washington, D.C. 20036

Honor, A HistoryAlso available, now in paperback and Kindle version, is Honor, A History, which was first published in 2006. A study of Western cultural artifacts, from the epics of Homer to the movies and TV shows of today, it is focused on explaining why Western ideas of honor developed so differently from those elsewhere — and especially from the savage honor cultures of the Islamic world. The book then goes on to trace the collapse and ultimate rejection of the old Western honor culture from World War I until the present day and to suggest the conditions that would have to prevail for its revival.

Recent Articles

Experts in spate May 31, 2020.
Experts can never be wrong for, if they were wrong, they wouldn’t be experts. They would be Donald Trump. — From The New Criterion of May, 2020 ... Full Article

Cancel nation April 30, 2020.
Imagine the media’s frustration: they keep canceling President Trump, but he just won’t stay canceled — From The New Criterion of April, 2020 ... Full Article

Polite fictions March 31, 2020.
Like Humpty-Dumpty, we now use words to mean just what we want them to mean — From The New Criterion of March, 2020 ... Full Article

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