Confirmation Bias and Voting in OH

I knew that the liberal/conservative divide in this country was bad, but never this bad.

I don’t mean to sound alarmist, but a recent episode involving the reporting by a certain right-leaning reporter of a mundane, although likely political, lawsuit filed by the Obama campaign and certain local Democratic groups against the OH Secretary of State opened my eyes pretty wide.

You can read the text of the lawsuit here. Really, it’s not very difficult. The story goes like this. OH has instituted early voting; people can vote up to a month early. There is a restriction, however: only members of the military can vote the last three days of the early voting period. While this restriction has basis in law, the plaintiffs of the lawsuit contend that not allowing non-military folks to vote on these three days has “no rational basis in law.” The lawsuit seekd to open the three days to all voters, military and non.

This is a statement of fact, obvious to anyone that has read the lawsuit, or any of the news articles reporting the lawsuit. If you are not comfortable looking for those articles, or reading the text linked here, I will supply a relevant passage from the lawsuit (Page 4, Paragraph 7, emphasis added):

For these reasons and those specifically alleged herein, Plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment, preliminary injunction, and permanent injunction prohibiting Defendants from implementing or enforcing the HB 224 and SB 295 changes to Ohio Rev. Code § 3509.03, thereby restoring in-person absentee voting on the three days immediately preceding Election Day for all Ohio voters.

Now, I am not about to defend this lawsuit. It is likely a political gambit: recent polling results have pointed to a tendency of poor, single mothers who use these three days to vote. Such voters are overwhelmingly Democratic, so it would seem on the face of it that this lawsuit is an effort to get those voters to the booths. But it is an enabling lawsuit.

I found out, however, how easy it is for facts to be distorted, twisted, and in some cases, thrown away completely. I found out about an article for Big Government on breitbart.com, written by one Mike Flynn, when two of my Republican friends posted the article on Facebook. The headline says it all:

Obama Campaign Sues to Restrict Military Voting

Whatever the lawsuit aimed to do, it was not looking to touch military voting. In fact, how would such an alleged gambit by the Obama campaign make any sense? Even if you buy that the military is overwhelmingly anti-Obama (which may have merit), Obama still gets no points for such petty behavior toward our fighting men and women. Not knowing anything about the lawsuit when my friends posted the article on Facebook, I decided to investigate.

It took me about 30 seconds on Google to find local articles – many of them – that say nothing about restricting anyone’s vote, and only mention expanding the vote to everyone. To the first person who posted, I put these observations into the comments. It took about 24 rounds of postings to get an acknowledgement of the facts in the case.  And I got word that my foils read the facts and understood them, then I knew that a sane discussion could take place.  Which it did.

It wasn’t long, however, before a second Republican friend posted this article with more snide comments.  It was occurring to me that a plausible lie (that is, plausible to someone already biased) was going to make its way into the discussion.  It was then that I decided to look into that discussion, in the comments for the article.

And, lo and behold, I saw not merely confirmation bias, but a complete disregard for the facts that was so total.  How to describe?  It was a totalitarian mindset in the comments, where the few misguided souls that pointed out the error in the article were roundly abused, threatened, insulted, and otherwise harassed.  I did, however, see some similar patterns where in some cases, a few posters were convinced to actually read the case and were driven to admit their error.

But how did Big Government react?   With irrelevant distraction (“It would not be the first time Democrats…have tried to stop the military’s votes from counting.”), useless non-facts (“Since Flynn’s story broke, the Romney campaign weighed in to support those facing down the Obama campaign’s army of lawyers. ‘I stand with the fifteen military groups that are defending the rights of military voters, and if I’m entrusted to be the commander-in-chief, I’ll work to protect the voting rights of our military, not undermine them,’ Mitt Romney said. “), and doubling down of the lie (“Regardless of the remedy they seek, Flynn points out, they are suing to end an exemption for military voters.”).  And of course, the right-wing sheep bought it.

This is the saddest fact of all.  I know that there are also left-wing sheep that believe anything out of Huffington Post or the like.  But in my experience, liberals tend to be more willing to admit when they are wrong, and their sheep will move along.  This is a much more worrisome phenomenon: a “news” site that plants lies and misinformation that is readily accepted by willing sheep, and refuses to budge in the fact of even the most crystal-clear evidence of its lies.  Thinking conservative supporters of breitbart.com should be very vocal about demanding the truth so that the rabid masses below do not make good on their threats.

Be Sociable, Share!

Published by

Ron Gordon

Math nerd in his early 40's who seems to have an opinion about everything and an inability to keep it to himself.