Sunday, September 27, 2009

Michael Tomasky, an American editor-at-large for the UK Guardian recently posted this video on his blog:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/michaeltomasky/video/2009/sep/17/barack-obama-anti-christ-republicans

In the video he discusses a new poll of New Jersey democrats and republicans. According to the poll, an astoundingly high amount of republicans in New Jersey think that President Obama is the Antichrist, or aren't sure but speculate that he might be. According to the video, in the same poll a large percentage of democrats that that former President Bush had prior knowledge of September 11th. I have many questions about this poll and the choice to publicize it. How valid was the poll? How was it executed? Was it a fluke or can it be checked? Does Tomasky have an ethical obligation to tell us a little bit more about the poll before reporting on it? Should the report contain more information than just the statistics on a poll and editorializing? On a more fundamental level, what are the ethical ramifications of giving this poll so attention when there are so many other things happening in the world? Discuss.

5 comments:

Lauren said...

It seems like Tomasky put this information out there but failed to set a context for the poll. Do I think there are much more important word issues that could be discussed? Yes. But, I think that people calling the President the Antichrist is a big accusation. I think ethically, Tomasky should have explained the poll a little more. How was the poll conducted? What age group took the poll? Was it a random sample or was it representative of the republicans of New Jersey?

I just think that he made this accusation without researching it. Even with the example of George Bush knowing about 9/11 before it occurred. Who was represented in that poll? Tomasky is so general in this video that I can't even take it serious without credibility.

Brian Brause said...

Honestly, I don't see any ethical lines being crossed here. If this poll was published as part of an article in the newspaper, I'd question its objectives, but Tomasky puts this poll on his video blog and is making social commentary on it. I guess that raises the question of how much credibility blogs have, but right now, I'd say that they are still very low on the credible totem poll.
I found this bit of information somewhat entertaining. I think it's funny that 1/3 of New Jersey Republicans think Obama may be the anti-christ. Its's also not surprising that a fair amount of liberals believe that Bush had prior knowledge of 9/11. These types of polls really have no political point, other then maybe make people look silly. Like when Obama was first elected, there was a group of people who thought that Obama wasn't born in the US.
Anyone can start a rumor and make a poll out of it and send it to narrow-minded people. But the fact that this wasn't supposed to be 'real news' and that no one person is targeted kind of relieves the story of its ethical obligations.

Chloe said...

I would like to know more about how the poll was conducted, but at the same time I think if Tomasky had gone into the details, this little video clip would probably lose it's humor. Because of the nature of this video, I would agree with Uncle Brian and say that it didn't cross any ethical lines. If there is an article in conjunction to this video, it would be nice to have more details on the poll.
I think it's credible, because I have little faith in humanity. This world is full of ignorant fools.

Kevin Na said...

I also don't really see any unethical intent in this poll. It's already been pointed out that this was just on his video blog, and in my opinion if there's anyone out there who thinks Obama is the antichrist (much less 1/3 of New Jersey Republicans), that is worth telling people about. Of course it'd be helpful to know how many people in total were polled, and all that good stuff but as far as an entertaining video on a video blog is concerned, I did not see any ethical issues being presented here.

Meghan said...

Well I can't say I don't know the source of the information... or that Tomasky is being evasive. Right at the top of the blog: "A poll shows 18% of Republicans in New Jersey think the president is the antichrist, MICHAEL TOMASKY SAYS." He is the source of this information. The question that arises is: Do you trust Michael Tomasky? If he thinks the poll is credible enough to talk about, then it is.. to those who choose to trust him. I agree with everyone who said the outlet of the story-a video blog-makes it much less of an ethical dilemma. If this were covered in a story by a major newspaper or network, I'd hope the details of who conducted the poll, how many people were involved, etc. would have been highlighted.

I know some people generally hate polls and surveys because they can be inaccurate and broad. I did a survey for a story once and received a lot of criticism for basing it on the responses of a fraction of students. (Though I'll note, they were randomly selected.) But then again, how accurate is random? Who knows... Now that I've rambled, back to Tomasky. I think it is very unlikely that the poll is trustworthy, and I don't follow Tomasky so I don't personally know whether I trust his judgment. Regardless, it's an interesting little piece of information. I'd care a lot more if I thought it had the potential of being true. I guess that's where a credible presentation on Tomasky's part would have been critical.