Thursday, September 22, 2011

You Know Your Party Has Been Hijacked By Extremists When....

You know your party has been hijacked by extremists when you're forced to downplay how many people in your party are cheering for Americans to die. That's about where Maryland Republicans are these days....

Yes, you may have witnessed the recent spectacle of GOP members cheering for innocent people to die. If you didn't catch it, you can watch it on YouTube. But Red Maryland points us to Paul Krugman's summary at the New York Times:
"CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked Representative Ron Paul what we should do if a 30-year-old man who chose not to purchase health insurance suddenly found himself in need of six months of intensive care. Mr. Paul replied, 'That's what freedom is all about -- taking your own risks." Mr. Blitzer pressed him again, asking whether 'society should just let him die.' and the crowd erupted with cheers and shouts of 'Yeah!' "
Sadly, Red Maryland follows this excerpt with a contorted explanation for how the number of "yeah's" seemed like more than in reality. Are you really counting? If your talking point for the day is to downplay how many members of your party are cheering for innocent Americans to die, you are not in a good place. See the response below. It is surreal.
Well, the crowd didn't erupt; very, very few people "erupted," but it sounded loud. Look at the videotape.

There is a universal misperception: the booing and cheering of crowds almost always leads many observers to infer -- erroneously -- that a large proportion of the crowd is participating.

A number of observations need to be made without ambiguity:

1. It takes but a tiny percentage of booing crowd participants to sound as if the entire crowd is booing.

2. It takes a larger, but still a relatively small, percentage of cheering crowd participants to sound as if the entire crowd is cheering.

3. Crowd opinion has low stability and is prone to buyer remorse; people may, moved by crowd contagion, boo or cheer a person or point and regret it soon.

I am not a Tea Partier, but I know many. Almost all are well-motivated conservatives, and only a few are irresponsible. The latter is simply unrepresentative of the group as a whole, but when they boo or cheer, they sound like 10-100 times their numbers.

Journalists should remember that -- always.
Maryland Juice has one word in response to this post: wow.


  1. I actually have a chapter in my upcoming book about this exact issue. In it, I basically argue in favor of the individual mandate because of scenarios like this one. Of course, I would couple this with massive deregulation of the health insurance industry to make policies more affordable.

  2. Mr. Walters:

    Don't you realize that "massive deregulation of the health insurance industry to make policies more affordable" means, translated into the real world, "fly by night companies ripping people off and providing no coverage whatsoever"? That's what the "free market" gets you -- in order to make policies cheaper without affecting other parts of the equation, you either have to charge more or provide worthless policies that provide minimal or no coverage.

    It's not a choice between the individual mandate and regulation. Regulation is what keeps sleazy companies from offering shitty coverage that lots of people only figure out is cut-rate when they make a claim. The individual mandate is the critical piece that makes universal health care possible if you're going to maintain the current health care industry in recognizable form. Personally, I'd prefer single payer, but that's a different conversation.