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Politics is back December 30, 2006

Posted by gordonwatts in politics.

The next two years, mostly for those of us that live in the USA, is going to be thick and heavy with politics. For those of you living outside the USA — consider yourself lucky. It won’t be until things get serious, in about one and a half years, that this election campaign will start making regular international headlines. But for those of us in North America…

We hold our politicians to impossible standards. We analyze every single word they say. A trip up, or a loosely worded phrase means hours of commentary about what they really meant. The candidate’s staff and others all try to spin it one way or the other. There is the real fear that a human mistake could preoccupy a campaign for days; valuable time better spent getting their message out. Most often these are innocent mistakes. The candidate, answering 100’s of questions didn’t understand the context of the question, or perhaps wasn’t briefed on background for a question they thought they understood. Whatever — human.

I’ve seen this in physics. For example, when the rival experiment, CDF, publishes something that we are working on we’ll go over it with a fine tooth comb. Sometimes we’ll find something that doesn’t make sense, or perhaps an efficiency or result we can’t reproduce. “Did they lie!?” is often, only half jokingly, asked. Or sometimes CDF requests something from lab management and DZERO immediately thinks “Hey — what are they trying to do to us?” I can’t recall any scientific result that was wrong: it is always a misunderstanding. I also don’t recall CDF going out of their way to harm DZERO. Now, cooler heads have always prevailed at DZERO — but my point is plenty of people willing to start something like this. Politics is way worse.

I’ve always thought communication was the way around this. The more people knew about the candidates the more they would see them as human and thus not get so tied up in knots over the innocent mistakes; rather they save their ire for the real mistakes. [As I re-read this (yes, I do proof read my posts) I’m reminded of John Stewart’s Crossfire rant].

Scoble, a fairly well know tech blogger, has followed Edwards around New Orleans during the whole “I’m running” press spectacular. He has a series of posts, and in one of his summary posts he talks about this aspect:

I found that I was far less cynical about the political process. Leave Edwards out of this. Anyone who is doing this deserves a lot more support than we’ve been giving political leaders. We treat politicians like scum and I came away with a lot more respect for the process and for the people who put their ideas out in front of people.

Blogger’s, it sounds like, are going to get quite a bit of access to political campaigns this time around. Will it change our perceptions? Of course, there are plenty of attack-bloggers out there who do as much damage as anything else (i.e. the whole Liberman fiasco).

On the other hand, most of us (myself included) just don’t have the time to read all this stuff. In the end I’ll rely on some small subset of (biased) news sources for my information. Oh well. 🙂

UPDATE: Fixed error pointed out in comments by A. Thanks! So much for proof reading!



1. Aaron F. - December 31, 2006

Nice post! However, I can’t seem to parse this sentence…

“For example, when the rival experiment, CDF, that we are working on we’ll go over it with a fine tooth comb.”

Is there a clause missing, or am I just a little woozy from all this vacation? 🙂

2. gordonwatts - January 1, 2007

Nope. It is I who is woozy…

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