Dial Testing Hurts Me


Nate Silver at TNR on dial testing during the debates:

It’s not that the squiggly lines aren’t fun to watch. Rather, they’re too much fun to watch. It’s hard to avert your eyes from them. It’s hard to separate your own, independent reaction from theirs. And it’s certainly hard to integrate back into to the non-squiggly universe once you’ve gotten hooked on the squigglys.

Yeah, the squigs (as I’ll dub them) do tend to sway my thoughts a bit, which is why I’ve been watching the debates on PBS. More importantly, I think they are utter bullshit. My brain is not limited to varying degrees of positive and negative thinking. It is near-insulting to suggest that viewers’ minds work like this.

When McCain says:

The catalyst for this housing crisis was the Fannie and Freddie Mae that caused subprime lending situation that now caused the housing market in America to collapse.

I am convinced that, until we reverse this continued decline in home ownership and put a floor under it, and so that people have not only the hope and belief they can stay in their homes and realize the American dream, but that value will come up.

He’s stating information. Should I dial up because it’s true? Should I dial down because it’s boring? Should I hold that dial, and wait for him to say something sexy?

I don’t get it. Our thinking is not restricted to judging things as good or bad. When I am washing the dishes I am not thinking, “Things are going well for me because this bowl is easy to wash. Uh oh, now times are tough because I am scraping out this pan, this is a negative experience.”

My worry is that we’ll start finding these Happy Dials used for TV and film focus groups (I’m sure they are already). Shows like Six Feet Under and The Wire were not always the most pleasant to watch, but they were incredible because they brought out a complex range of thoughts and emotions. And you should feel a similar complexity of thoughts and feelings when listening to two men, one of whom will become president. I have an degree of respect for McCain, but I’m also kinda creeped out by him. I find myself susceptible to Obama’s charisma, but am somewhat annoyed by some of his condescension and politicking. There are too many already thinking in terms of good and evil, we don’t need this to be encouraged.

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