Polling and the Truth

The Berlin Tagesspiegel recently went after a young Protestant theologian whom naïve readers might have mistaken for a polite, unassuming scholar. This figure was outed by an academic colleague who discovered that he wrote for “new Right” publications, a term that in the German context should be understood quite broadly.

One of the venues of this putative extremist is Cato, which is a classical liberal magazine known for making fun of political correctness; his other preferred site is Blaue Narzisse, an educational website on which I, too, have discoursed on literary and philosophical topics. One would have to hang out for several years with the squad in order to be inclined to locate either of these literate publications somewhere on the far-Right. But then the German government and German media apply an expansive definition of the enemy—namely anyone not in line with Islamic, feminist, and LGBT activists or who fails to hate the German language and Western culture sufficiently.

On the Origin of Money Menger, Carl Buy New $5.99 (as of 03:01 EST - Details) The Tagesspiegel also showcases a poll that, we are assured, deserves our full attention. Readers are asked whether the German government “is presently taking sufficient steps to deal with right-wing threats” or whether more drastic means are required to address this danger. About half of the respondents said they believe the government is doing enough to combat raging rightism; but the other half thinks there is a need for more governmental action.

The poll is obviously connected to the story about the young theologian and religious historian who posts on unacceptable cultural websites. Allow me to ask what the German press would not likely ask: How reliable is your poll, which appears to reflect the views of your predominantly leftist readers? Is there no one out there who might have replied “yes” to a third question that your employees understandably never raised: “Has the German government gone too far in interfering in people’s lives and abridging their civil liberties in search of a right-wing danger, which now includes writing for the wrong satirical or literary website?”

This use of polling to confirm one’s sentiments was driven home to me a second time recently when I heard Mara Liasson on National Public Radio crowing about Joe Biden’s resounding popularity. On the day after his inauguration, Biden’s popularity ratings were already in the mid-50s. Unfortunately, the opposition, according to Liasson, can’t negotiate with an enormously popular leader because they are caught in an “epistemological crisis.”

“Seventy percent Republicans,” she informed her audience, “believe the lie that Trump won the election, and that the election was stolen from him.”

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