Wednesday, July 19, 2006

AbbaGavNews: The Lying Poll 

The Jawa Report's coverage of a poll on the subject of lying has inspired me to raise the bar here at AbbaGav in terms of my journalistic ambitions -- of course, I'm never sure if I'm trying to jump over the bar or limbo under it. What I decided to do was present my own AbbaGavNews exclusive, scientific-ish-style poll, also on the subject of lying.

So I sent out AbbaGavNews' crack research staff to survey a few sample populations-of-interest with the following question, carefully tuned to avoid biasing the results:

Question: Would you be willing to lie if a pollster asked you a difficult question you prefered not to answer?
We started out by surveying a random sampling of Israelis on a busy street -- and don't even ask; my newly elevated journalistic standards require me to conceal from you how many Israelis, anything about their affiliations, or which street. Their responses fell out into a few basic categories:

So,using the tools of analytical journalism, we can see it's obvious you can never entirely believe an Israeli's answer to anything, unless you're asking for directions.

But of course before we etch these conclusions about Israelis onto stone tablets, we should first sample a few other reference populations for comparison, to verify whether or not the result for Israelis is out of the ordinary.

So we also polled random members of another local group, the Palestinian political group and ambulance society, Hamas. At least we think it was random members, but since they were all wearing hoods and masks, we took them at their word that it wasn't just the same guy over and over again. Here's what we found:

Amazingly, we got the same result when surveying Islamic Jihad (a self-improvement group for Muslims to struggle with their inner shortcomings). And the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade (a society for the preservation of historical religious buildings). In poll after poll, whether surveying Hizbullah or Al Qaeda, we saw the identical result:

So clearly the Israeli results do stand out in comparison to the absolute committment to truth-telling evidenced by the other groups. This explains why highly trained journalists know that you can always believe a masked Palestinian's word that a fatal explosion was caused by a stray Israeli shell rather than what looked like an explosives laboratory accident -- and that one must always take an Israeli denial of responsibility with a grain of journalistic salt.

The results of our ground-breaking survey now give us some context for understanding why there is a right way and a wrong way to report certain stories based on conflicting information from Israelis and Palestinians:

The Wrong Way

Two Palestinian men, aged 21 and 22, were killed in an explosion today. Palestinian witnesses claimed the explosion was caused by an Israeli missile. An IDF spokesman denied the charge.

The Really Wrong Way

Two Palestinian militants were killed in an explosion today. Palestinian witnesses who were willing to remove their masks claimed it was caused by an Israeli inter-continental ballistic missile. An IDF spokesman denied that the Israeli army possessed inter-continental ballistic missiles, and said that preliminary investigations showed no IDF activity in the area for the previous 48 hours. A followup investigation at the site of the explosion turned up receipts for chemicals and equipment commonly used in bomb-making.

The Right Way

Two Palestinian youths were killed in an Israeli missile attack today. Witnesses verified that it was definitely an Israeli missile attack and was clearly targeted at the two youths. An IDF spokesman struggled to deflect the charge, producing volumes of paperwork recording thousands of Israeli missile strikes in and around the area and claiming he did not believe one of those thousands of missiles was responsible for the deaths of the youths. The spokesman added that the IDF has no plans to release the results of its investigation of itself for a long time, if ever.
Please bear this in mind before questioning the wisdom of "main stream" journalists in the future. They know more than we do. Really, just ask them.

** NOTE: this story is fake, in case it isn't obvious. Also, in case there is any doubt, I am only exaggerating for comic effect when I give the impression that all journalists are demon-spawn. I'm sure there are a few who are not.

If you really, really liked this -- or even really, really hated it -- there's lots more: