Skip to comments.Spiegel: "There are lots of us too"
Posted on 03/09/2004 7:16:34 PM PST by Otto Krueger
Below is my translation (rough, don't swear by it) of Der Spiegel's latest on-line article about the Freeping of their "poll" about President Bush.
I note, Vote, capitalized, refers to an online-vote conducted by a media site. There's a difference between it and the verb "to vote" or the noun, "vote."
I apologize for the length of the body of the comment. If I knew a way to hide the bulk of it, I would do so.
An earlier thread deteriorated into a shouting match including lots of ethnic slurs on both sides, IMO. Blah.
I think these folks are objectionable enough as sanctimonious, left-wing, anti-American creeps without bringing race into it.
"There are a lot of us, too"
The story about the Vote-manipulation by the users of a conservative U.S. website led to the manipulation of the manipulated votes -- and a massive readers response. While many greeted the "Vote War," others called for a more reasoned handling of Votes and expressions of opinion in online-journalism.
At 5 p.m. Monday, the "report card" Vote on the presidency of George W. Bush totaled 38,449 votes, 59.6 percent gave the U.S. President a "one" [the highest grade], about 13 percent gave him a "six" [the lowest].
These numbers in and of themselves demonstrated that something wasn't normal with the Vote. "Taken purely from a statistical standpoint," wrote Hans Wegener on Monday evening, "one could see that something was up with the above-mentioned survey. The division of votes with the maximum at one and six (a reverse bell curve) demonstrated that the voting had deteriorated into two groups. From this perspective, it's easy to surmise that a voting war had broken out among two extremes in the political spectrum."
That's indeed the way it looked, and, based on the Spiegel-Online article about the manipulation of the Bush-Vote by readers of the weblog "Davids Medienkritik" and the hard-core conservative U.S. website, "Free Republic," that's the way many saw it: as a challenge. "There are a lot of us too," one reader's letter declared. "We'll show those bloody Americans." [The term was "Amis," which is really the equivalent of calling Germans, Krauts.]
The results were there for all to see on Tuesday morning: At 9:25 a.m. the vote stood at 291,164, with 29.38 percent grading Bush with a "one," and 59.04 percent with a "six." We can freep too. And quod erat demonstrandum? [What has been demonstrated?]
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Stuffin' nonsense. [The idiom is "insulted liver sausage." Got me.]
Not a few readers perceived it this way: They regarded the publicizing of the Vote-manipulation as a knock-down rebuke against those who started the process. The driving motivation? Spiegel Online simply couldn't accept that a Vote would produce a result [a picture of public opinion] that didn't coincide with the "positioning " of their presumed readers. And that's OK, actually.
Others objected, saying that the whole incident demonstrated clearly that Votes are "not a serious tool," that one simply can't take seriously, are never representative -- and for that reason don't belong on a journalistic website: "What's more unspeakable? The counterfeiting of this vote or perhaps the vote itself, that could be nothing other than unrepresentative and should have no place in serious journalism?" (From a reader's letter by Stefan Kraemer.)
A minority criticized the critics of those whose behavior first led to the Vote-manipulation. In fact, they argued, the action's legitimate; you can't pre-select your readership. "Their voting didn't achieve the desired result," wrote one reader, Peter Kneer. "But to impute purposeful falsification by the voters is a sign of the leftist conception of democracy. A mature, engaged citizen is one who only carries his cross on the left."
So what's this all about?
Is it an ideological battle? About a tool, that deserves no place in "serious journalism?" About the attempt to correct a "false" portrayal of public opinion?
The overwhelming majority of letter writers were of the opinion that you shouldn't overvalue the worth of the Vote "tool." "As your 'Votes' note, I don't view this ballot as a representative picture of public opinion." (From a reader's letter submitted by Peter Kneer.)
And for that reason, this isn't about the correcting an account of some public opinion that the editors presumably couldn't accept for ideological reasons.
In online-journalism, these sorts of votes are an element of communication or interaction with the reader -- admittedly on a very formalized level. Many Votes are the kind of thing you'd see in the tabloids and send a signal that they're really not trying to be a representative survey of public opinion. They're "part of the fun." For a lot of people, this informal approach is too casual: One reader criticized a Vote, in which George W. Bush received school grades, for "reducing the president to the level of a schoolboy."
You can take it that way, but that's not the intention. In Germany, it's not unusual for surveys to rate politicians according to the system of report card grading. It has nothing to do with lack of respect, but rather with an uninhibited approach toward so-called authorities. Why should "all those people up there" be protected from having their achievements measured by their employers, the citizenry?
The basic question is and remains, why would one publicize a "vote manipulation" at all, or in the form of an article. "Can't you simply prevent this kind of manipulation?" many readers asked.
Of course you can.
You can factor out multiple votes that come from a single ISP number. You could simply filter out any votes that came from certain ISPs. You could attempt to ascertain where the voter came from before he set his hooks -- Davids Medientkritik and the Free Republic linked not to the original article, in which the vote could be found, but rather direct to the voter-interface. Spiegel-Online could have easily minimized the "false picture of opinion" and replaced it with a supposedly "desired one."
"Just ask yourself seriously this question," challenged reader Thomas Schröder. "How would you have reported it if Bush opponents had similarly rigged a survey on the White House or Fox's homepage?"
The answer to that is simple: Either exactly the same way or not at all. For there are only two notable thing pertaining to the topic we reported.
First: The fact that there are political groups that take things like Votes so seriously that, in service of their goals, their will reach out around the world in order to "make public opinion."
Second: The fact that these sorts of things happen, and can happen, with Votes -- and what sort of implication that has for their use in online-journalism.
The first point deserves journalistic coverage, yes, even if it were to affect another website (and yes, even if "left-wing" groups had "attacked a "right-wing" publication in the same way).
The second point one is more likely to address when it affects you directly. Those who sit in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones. To admit your vulnerabilities against it is, in fact, legitimate.
The "attack" of the Freepers on the Spiegel-Online vote has, with exagerrating it, news value. If it were just this one case of one Vote, that news value would be limited. But in the case of the Freepers, it's about an organized group that engages in a massive undertaking, whereever they can, to manipulate "expressions of public opinion" like Votes.
"Manipulative handling of the Internet for political purposes must be made public," reader Hans Wegener observes.
We agree entirely.
The "attack" of the Freepers on the Spiegel-Online vote has, without exagerrating it, news value. If it were just this one case of one Vote, that news value would be limited. But in the case of the Freepers, it's about an organized group that engages in a massive undertaking, whereever they can, to manipulate "expressions of public opinion" like Votes.
gave the U.S. President a "one" [the highest grade], about 13 percent gave him a "six" [the lowest].
Cute. They're using the grading system from German schools. Spiegel's not a bad magazine actually -- they don't pull many punches for their own politicians.
The term was "Amis," which is really the equivalent of calling Germans, Krauts.
"Amis" is not always a derogatory term. It totally depends on the context and attitude of the person saying it.
Yavoll!! Ve must haves Strriccct Totalitarain control ova zis internet !!
It's been fun, too bad they won't 'get it'. But they never do.
Agreed. It can be the equivalent of Yanks. In this case, I think it was intended in a derogatory fashion, but I could be wrong.