Talking about the new Pew survey of American Muslims.
Far more interesting to me than the results themselves was the reportage. Note:
Polls are basically free, easy content for newspapers. They’re like the “private label” laundry detergent that comes from one factory but gets labeled “Life Brand” or “President’s Choice” depending on the grocery store.
Polls and surveys give a scientific gloss to a story, because they have numbers and numbers impress people, especially journalists.
We’re told to be wary of “anecdotal evidence” but polls are just collections of anecdotes, rendered down from words to numbers like fat into soap.
And they aren’t even organic, spontaneous anecdotes, but are being related over the phone by someone who wants to be doing anything but talking to the pollster.
The most confusing question in the Pew poll was whether or not respondents thought the war on terror was “sincere.”
I have no idea what that means.
The word “sincere” hasn’t been part of the average American’s lexicon since the early 60s, and even then it was confined mostly to slight misuse (as a synonym for “genuine,” “not a phony”) by teenaged girls or people trying to sound like them, in “girl group” lyrics and Gidget movies. I hear it once a year in A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), to describe the scrawny tree. I’m pretty sure that killed the word off once and for all in real life.
So anyway: that question left me baffled and it shows.
Never mind me, though. Do tune in to catch Ezra’s opening monologue about Obama’s mysterious personal background, and his chat with Salim Mansur about his new book about multiculturalism.