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Word Usage at National Conventions

Nathan Weinberg [PersonRank 8]

Sunday, September 5, 2004
15 years ago

I realize this is not a political discussion site, which is why I won't get into this much, but as a a reporter I feel I must say it, so the basic point is this:
The Times so-called research of words used contains a very specific bias, wherein they only used words that fit the point they were trying to make. They tried to make it seem like the Republicans were more negative by saying they used the word Kerry more than Democrats used the word Bush. However, there is no mention how many times speakers used the words "President", "opponent" or "other party". This is because both sides used those words a near-equal number of times, which does not make a large enough impact. Studies like these, conducted by news organizations not as a means of informing the public but rather as a means of proving a point, are not the actions of a responsible news organization, something the Times has not been in a very long time.
Now back to our regularly scheduled Googling.

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

Thanks Nathan. The forum is open for political discussion too, or at least, I won't actively delete anything (I only delete spam or certain types of begging for Gmail). Personally I'm wary of making political statements on the front-page because

a) one would get into endless discussions (political discussion never seems to stop, and if there would be one party that would clearly be best, I'm sure people would have made a final decision by now)

b) people aren't here to be lectured about their beliefs, and they might be offended (they are mostly here for Google)

c) I can't really express my opinions in either left or right or this or that, there's mostly too many shades to anything. (Especially when you're programming in your day-job you are training yourself to always include every side, every possibility, or else your program will break.)

d) being from Germany I don't know much about foreign politics

e) politicians often are not concerned about what is important to me (say, copyright policies and free speech on the web, heavily reforming schools, to mention just some) – I guess many just didn't get the 2nd culture that is living alongside the 1st one in the real world.

f) I'm somewhat cynic about politicians who follow public opinion/ interest groups, and have to have a certain attitude towards power to be where they are

g) my knowledge on the subject is average, so others won't gain much from my opinion (which yes, I do have – let's wrap up my German perspective on American politics as something along the lines of "anything but Bush in 2004, but Kerry's a flip flop").

As for the word usage, agreed, that methodology opens up misuse – after all who decides which words to use? As with most (or any) statistic, the way we ask the question determines the answer. Even though this answer would be factual, it might not be objective. Same happens when you point a camera somewhere to make news... the camera is objective, the photographer not necessarily.

Nathan Weinberg [PersonRank 8]

15 years ago #

Excellent response. I believe that covers the whole issue. However, to make one point about what you said in "C)", programming as a metaphor for objectivity and compromise. A very unique way of looking at things. Perhaps peace will come from the programmers, not the politicians?

Philipp Lenssen [PersonRank 10]

15 years ago #

In that way, and to reverse the analogy once more, a bug-free program would be a peaceful one, in which every conflict has been resolved by including all possible sides and arguments. Then again I guess most programmers prefer to work on problems which can be tackled successfully by applying the most elegant solution. Success in politics on the other hand might be much more about being pragmatic, and never directly applying the best solution. I guess both camps struggle for some control to push their ideas, which they hope in the end makes the world a better place (not to sound like a pop singer here). But I'm no politician nor do I think I understand exactly what they're up to :)

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