Sensory Deprivation Tank

Here’s what happened on Tuesday, November 7th (the day of the election). The two days leading up to comprised pundits of all media attempting to predict the outcome – some even got into fights and made bets because they felt threatened by statisticians. Ultimately though, the narrative leading up to the election remained the same: who will win and how are they going to win (i.e. did their campaign strategy touch the right states and which states will swing their way?)

Jon Stewart comically expresses the same rage and frustration I feel toward pundits.

CNN and all other major news networks have cool touch screen TVs to fiddle with for hours on end, filling time that could be spent on actually discussing greater questions like – WHAT IF Obama won, how will the economy be handled, or WHAT IF Romney won, how will he deal with Afghanistan? But these important questions are not asked, neither are semi-important subjects like the possibility of Puerto Rico become a state (you have to search too hard for actual information).

In general though, I was tracking major news networks, Silver’s online blog for the Times, and newspapers.

Once Obama won, and Romney quickly became obsolete (click on his Facebook page and note the number of “likes,” hit refresh and see the “likes” go down, then click again, repeat), my election tracking switched over to social media. See, the news quickly reverted back to bell-ringer stories (war, fiscal cliff, a divided House, a country whose minorities elected the president), whereas social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter continued the conversation about the two men. Namely, Donald Trump’s (“who has driven well past the last exit to relevance,” in the words of Brian Williams) egregious Election Night tweets about Obama became a trend within themselves, as did commentary on surprising senate wins (like Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Chris Murphy).

I didn’t follow Social media often during the campaign, but post campaign it’s interesting to think of its place in shaping Americans’ minds on the election.

One person believes it is irrelevant in actually helping a presidential nominee: “In truth, the most interesting uses of social media in this election cycle were not directly focused on the presidential campaigns, but outside them. First with the Tea Party and Ron Paul movements, and then later with Occupy Wall Street, we saw that when ordinary Americans want to, they can use these tools to make powerful cause with each other.”

But this Atlantic article begs to differ, citing research that shows Facebook’s influence on voter turnout.

Nieman Journalism Lab shows how Slate’s Farhad Manjoo contrasted the speed and depth of TV with Twitter’s cacophony, observing that “the Web was full of what one usually finds on cable news: pointless bloviating peppered with unsubstantiated rumor.”

Leading to my final conclusion that while journalists’ data illiteracy is an embarrassment, it at least has to be held somewhat more accountable for mistakes than random Tweets.


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Benjamin A Simon Election 2012 Blog

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