Politics & Policy

The Corruption of My Poll; Clarifications & Corrections Friday


Well, it seems the merry pranksters of presidential politics have decided to violate the double-blind protocols of my rigorously scientific poll. I would love to say that I normally get 10,000 votes in less than 12 hours. But I know how these things go. Frankly, the candidates who played by the rules are a little ticked. I’ve heard that the 503,376th name in the Chicago phonebook kicked his cat because of his low standing in this poll.

So, like the reed that bends, I have decided to lay down the gauntlet. Like the early bird who knows it is better to be in the hand with another bird than in the bush alone; like the sleeping dog who cannot tell a lie; like this author who is fresh out of lithium, I have decided to turn this chicanery to my advantage.

Now, this poll is a direct challenge to the various presidential campaigns. Who can get the most of their supporters to take five minutes off from envelope-licking to cast a vote for their guy? Like the Kobiashi Maru or an afternoon on my couch when the cable’s busted, the only limit is your imagination. The poll bars people from voting twice, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create different screen names or odd little hotmail subroutines. You can send interns to the local computer superstore, dispatch little old ladies in tennis shoes to their grandkids’ houses, get medium-security prison customer-service representatives to vote in exchange for cigarettes, sharp spoons, or pictures of Leonardo DiCaprio.

This poll no longer has anything to do with democracy. It is political theatre. It is propaganda. It is a symbol to your own troops that you guys can turn over an apple cart. It is color war and Tony Robbins seminar, it is bragging rights and Internet buzz. And yes, it is a cheap ploy on my part, but until the suits at NR can fork over some serious schmundo, I can’t afford expensive ploys. If you don’t participate that will not stop your opponents from saying: Hey, they didn’t try because they knew they couldn’t win. This poll will continue until Monday at 5:00 P.M. May the candidate with the most dedicated and hardest-working staff win.


Surprisingly few of my readers have commented on the fact that I have not run a Clarifications and Corrections Friday in quite a while. Some have written in saying, “Hey, were you perfect last week or something?”

Obviously, that’s not the case. But to be honest I have been rethinking the tradition of re-airing my dirty laundry, as it were. First, my staff is deeply embarrassed by it. They do most of the research and spell-checking, so when something erroneous slips through, they see it as a reflection on their work. Sometimes, they get so dejected, they just sit there motionless for hours or even days. Second, it is actually a lot of work for a guy who hates to miss the beginning of Matlock. Third, quite often the corrections I get from people are wrong, too. There are few things more obnoxious than James Carville. But one of them might be people who write me saying, “You idiot, Churchill didn’t say that, Gandhi did! Fool!!” And then of course the actual quote turns out to be by Bernie Shaw; no, not that one.

Anyway there have been a few major themes that people have been writing me about. First, thanks very much for the kind words about that stupid article in George.

Second, many of you have been wondering what I think about the Goths since the murders in Littleton. As regular readers will recall, I got into a little tiff with the forces of Gothdom before those little monsters went shooting up Columbine High. I still think Goth culture is mostly silly, but I don’t think it led to the murders in any major way. Of the hundreds of Goths who wrote me, the vast, vast majority sounded like hippies. They droned on about the violence and hate of “white male Christian culture.” I think screwed-up kids are drawn to marginal cultures; I’m not willing to say that marginal cultures necessarily screw up kids, at least not to a murderous degree.

This brings me to the next bit of controversy-stirring: irony. Some of you absolutely hated my discussion, others loved it. Some thought I was confusing cynicism or sarcasm for irony and others thought I was just plain confusing. More on irony another day.

But what I really liked and what made me really proud of my readers (over, say, The New York Review of Books’) was that almost a dozen of you responded with the same quote from The Simpsons:

Two nose-pierced teens are at Homerpalooza. Homer is the freak who gets shot in the stomach with a cannon. One teen turns to the other and says, “Oh, the fat guy with the cannon. He’s cool. The other kid asks, “Are you being sarcastic?” The first kid responds, “I don’t even know anymore.”

Another handful of people wrote in to point out that the Alanis Morrisette song, “Isn’t It Ironic?” doesn’t have a single example of actual irony in it.

What I hated about the irony column is that for some reason it transformed many of my more intelligent readers and critics into pun-meisters. I got dozens of e-mails with subject headers like “You have an Iron Knee,” “You have too many Ironies in the Fire,” “Give me an Iron E!” Please, please stop. What did I ever do to you?

Almost no one had any trouble with my twenty combined reasons to hate the French, except that many of you thought twenty was too short a list. A few Francophiles made some lame arguments about how the French are really … oh to be honest I wasn’t listening. It all just sounded like “I surrender!” to me.

A sum total of zero people stood up in defense of Dominick Dunne.

Yes, I know Lincoln didn’t say what I said he said — “You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong …” I know that Churchill probably wasn’t the first guy to say America and Britain were two peoples separated by a common language. I know that bear repellent can work if you actually spray it in the bear’s eyes rather than behind each of your ears. I know that some of you are getting sea-sick watching me sway to and fro on the issue of Kosovo (Hey, that rhymed!).

There’s only one last oversight. Yesterday was Momma G’s birthday (She said to say that she’s 89 years old. That way, everyone will say she looks great for her age.). In lieu of presents, send me cash.

Coming Monday: Something I haven’t figured out yet!

THE JONAH POLL: Who would you most like to see get the Republican nomination and become President of the United States? (link defunct)

To view the results, please click here. (link defunct)


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