‘Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows’

Here was a tweet sent out Tuesday night:

Obama reelected. For those shocked this wasn’t a Romney landslide, I’d broaden your news viewing beyond @FoxNews.

That wasn’t written by a gloating liberal, but by a frustrated conservative — Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research. Stetzer is the chief number-cruncher for the Southern Baptist Convention. (You can think of him as the Southern Baptists’ Nate Silver.) Stetzer measures things and reports on those measurements, that’s his job. That job requires Stetzer to seek and to respect facts, otherwise, what’s the point?

This put Stetzer in an awkward position throughout the anti-pollster, anti-fact wave of evangelical politics ca. 2012. He writes about this in “Politics, Pollsters, and Fox News: Don’t Create a ‘Conservative’ Set of Facts“:

As a pollster and an evangelical Christian, several people have asked me to weigh in on polls and this election.

I’ve commented several times about the polls on Twitter and Facebook. … On a couple of occasions, I pointed out that it was statistically unlikely for Governor Romney to pull off an upset. Also, when I simply listed the poll numbers indicating President Obama “won” the second and third debates, some screamed “no way” (among other things).

Virtual reality glasses, or, if you prefer, an extremely expensive blindfold.

Each time, some folks went crazy, explaining how the stats are all biased, particularly the ones from “those bad people at CNN.” People questioned MY judgment and called me naive — some said I was GLAD President Obama was winning (though I did not support the President’s reelection). Yet, now that everything is over, it appears that my judgment was not the issue — but there are issues of judgment to consider here.

… I don’t have a problem with disagreement, but it appears that some have confused their faith with Fox News — for some, to question the judgment of Fox News cannot be tolerated if you are an evangelical Christian. However, some on Fox News did not serve their viewers well by promoting the myth that polls were biased. I am not saying they are evil, but they were wrong — and some are admitting it now.

The truth is that I enjoy Fox News. … However, if you love Fox News more than you love facts, it undermines your credibility, and I think that is evident in the discussion all over the media today. I’m saddened that many Christians are being included in the groups that “create their own facts.”*

Conor Friedersdorf offers similar reflections in his post-election post-mortem at The Atlantic,How Conservative Media Lost to the MSM and Failed the Rank and File“:

It is easy to close oneself off inside a conservative echo chamber. And right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh’s show are far more intellectually closed than CNN or public radio. If you’re a rank-and-file conservative, you’re probably ready to acknowledge that ideologically friendly media didn’t accurately inform you about Election 2012. Some pundits engaged in wishful thinking; others feigned confidence in hopes that it would be a self-fulfilling prophecy; still others decided it was smart to keep telling right-leaning audiences what they wanted to hear.

But guess what?

You haven’t just been misinformed about the horse race. Since the very beginning of the election cycle, conservative media has been failing you. With a few exceptions, they haven’t tried to rigorously tell you the truth, or even to bring you intellectually honest opinion. What they’ve done instead helps to explain why the right failed to triumph in a very winnable election.

Why do you keep putting up with it?

… In conservative fantasy-land, Richard Nixon was a champion of ideological conservatism, tax cuts are the only way to raise revenue, adding neoconservatives to a foreign-policy team reassures American voters, Benghazi was a winning campaign issue, Clint Eastwood’s convention speech was a brilliant triumph, and Obama’s America is a place where black kids can beat up white kids with impunity. Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense — not that they speak up against it. They see criticizing their own side as a sign of disloyalty. I see a coalition that has lost all perspective, partly because there’s no cost to broadcasting or publishing inane bullshit. In fact, it’s often very profitable. A lot of cynical people have gotten rich broadcasting and publishing red meat for movement conservative consumption.

On the biggest political story of the year, the conservative media just got its ass handed to it by the mainstream media. And movement conservatives, who believe the MSM is more biased and less rigorous than their alternatives, have no way to explain how their trusted outlets got it wrong, while The New York Times got it right. Hint: The Times hired the most rigorous forecaster it could find.

It ought to be an eye-opening moment.

“Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows.”


(If you can’t watch video, here’s a transcript.)

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Just to be clear, Stetzer is a pollster, so his point here is to lament that Christians are willing to “create their own facts” when it comes to polling data and survey responses. He still believes that Christians can, and should, create their own facts when it comes to evolution, biology, geology, astronomy, etc. When it comes to “Christians creating their own facts” about evolution, the Southern Baptist Convention says it’s not just acceptable, it’s mandatory.

"We're playing 5e. But yeah, that archer's volley was more fun in 3.5, when it ..."

LBCF, No. 181: ‘Meet the Steeles’
"National Aeronautics and Space Administration.I expect that it's partly historical accident that climate research ended ..."

The blurry line between ‘fixer’ and ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • EllieMurasaki

    Sue on voter intimidation grounds, maybe? I don’t know. Especially if these people do value jobs in the general and therefore voted Obama despite the risk to jobs in the specific.

  • ReverendRef

     So now am I going to become a Unitarian?  Start stocking up on communion wafers and crummy wine?

    Just to clarify . . . I don’t allow crummy wine in my parish.

  • It’s also a bullying tactic.
    “Nice economy you got here, shame if we were to purposely sabotage its recovery.”

    Yeah, I read a Paul Krugman column with an analysis coming to the same conclusion.  His comment on it was something to the effect of “Is this really what we have come down to as a country?”  

    Going back a bit further, this is the argument I have heard given by some Republicans in congress when they were obstructing the Obama administration. They were claiming that the reason the recovery was so slow is because Obama has been “hostile” to business owners, and that the business owners were refusing to hire out of spite until another administration more friendly to them took the helm.  Some had even made the analogy with Atlas Shrugged, saying it was kind of like Galt’s Gulch, with the “job creators” going on strike until the world had gotten better.  

    Actually, I do not necessarily think that is too far from the truth, if some of the quotes from wealthy Romney donors I have read are true.  They were saying something to the effect that they did not like Obama because he seemed disrespectful of the “wealth generating” class, and even if they did well by most financial measures under his administration, they could not abide the disrespect.  

    I am not sure how “you should pay a little more in taxes” and stressing the importance of national infrastructure in business equates to “disrespect” but that was what they cited.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    they did not like Obama because he seemed disrespectful of the “wealth generating” class

    Who is finding gold and gems, who is planting and tending cotton? Who is refining the gold and extracting the gems, who is carding and spinning the cotton? Who is shaping the gold and cutting the gems, who is weaving and dyeing the cloth? Who is assembling the jewelry and the clothing? Who is increasing the value of these things at every stage from raw material to finish product?

    Since all those jobs except the first one and the upper echelons of the last two pay approximately jack shit, I’m confident that the answer is ‘not rich people’.

  • If rich folks are going to be that nasty and spiteful, then it’s probably time to bring back this speech:

    The income tax is a just law. It simply intends to put the burdens of
    government justly upon the backs of the people. I am in favor of an
    income tax. When I find a man who is not willing to pay his share of the
    burden of the government which protects him, I find a man who is
    unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like ours.

  • vsm

    Ah, yes. I haven’t been to an amusement park in five years for similar reasons.

    Who is finding gold and gems…
    That’s one of the better descriptions of the Labor Theory of Value I’ve ever seen.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    About the title of this post: I’ve loved the poetry of the phrase since Fred last shared it a few years ago, but I can’t pin down exactly what it means. Can anyone help me out?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    And right-leaning outlets like Fox News and Rush Limbaugh’s show

    I thought the phrase “right-leaning” meant that you were generally in the centre, but tilted towards the right from time to time. Fox and Limbaugh aren’t leaning to the right, they’re all the way over there.

    Re the Maddow clip: a friend shared that yesterday and I thought it was just about the best thing I’ve seen from a media outlet in years. Fantastic stuff. I take my metaphorical hat to you, Rachel Maddow, who I shall now have to seek out in my surfing time.

  • Apparently it’s from C.S. Lewis.

    I ended up going with “Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows,” which is one of my favorite quotes. It comes from C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.

    (the relevant extract)

  • P J Evans

    “We’re among the largest of our type in the world,” is a red flag to get a very precise definition of “of our type.”

    The main transit agency in my area likes to claim that it’s the best in its class, but in never actually describes or defines the class. I suspect that it’s defined in such a way that there might be two or three members at most.

  • P J Evans

     This particular coal company executive was already in the heartless category – it’s Murray of Crandall mining, the same guy who made his employees show up to a Romney rally and didn’t pay them for the time. The same guy whose company has been ignoring safety regulations and has killed a bunch of people in ‘accidents’. (Quotes because ignoring safety regulations makes it more likely to happen, and he knows it.)

  • EllieMurasaki

    Oh. Him. I hope his employees organize a class-action lawsuit for everything he’s got and then some.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Tangentially related, I saw a Fox News story on a game company yesterday. The talking head was explaining that their MMO, with sixteen thousand players, was one of the largest in the entire world.
    World of Warcraft is actually reported to be doing worse in recent years, certainly not as well as they had been expecting. They had only 10.3 million subscribers.

    A Catholic friend of mine last year shared an article on Facebook about World Youth Day, in which it referred to the event as the biggest regular religious gathering in the world (1-2 million people when it’s in Europe, around half a million when it was outside Europe, except for the one in the Philippines with 4-5 million).

    Maybe it’s fear of being proven wrong or maybe it’s my weird scientific training that taught me to do the research before making a statement of fact, especially in an official publication, so I found it odd that the author didn’t spend 30 seconds on Google to discover the Arba’een and Kumbh Mela pilgrimages. But I didn’t need to do any research to come up the the Hajj pilgrimage–it’s on the news every year, for crying out loud!

    Claiming that X is the biggest something in the world (except for all the ones I chose to ignore) makes you look stupid and/or narrow-minded, and hurts whatever point you were trying to use that stat to support.

    It’s annoying, because you point out the error but they’ll be back making the same claim later as if the correction never happened. *frustration*

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Do you guys have unfair dismissal laws?

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Yeah, I knew that. But I’m a little dense about the “feet of shadows” bit. [This is clearly retribution for my teenage self rolling my eyes at people who needed metaphors explained!]

  • Here in Vancouver, the fact that the transit system here got the 1996 “System of the Year” award was widely derided as a joke then and even today.

    As my ex once so crudely put it, “Whose dick did the transit board suck to get that?”

  •  My understanding from having known some people from mining towns and families is that mine owners are, as a group, really terrible people. There is just something about the reality of owning a mine that only attracts the absolute scum of industry. (I dunno, maybe it’s because mines can fail unexpectedly and utterly so it drives off people who aren’t exceptionally ruthless)

  • Martin Jay Levitt, IIRC, opened up with a story of a mining town he’d been called to in order to bust the union.

    The owners were a pretty nasty bunch, all right.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     “If someone says that they made all their money through hard work, ask them ‘whose?’.”

  • I do seem to recall ToR playing with it once, though, in the male Sith Inquisitor storyline (only storyline I’ve played past lvl 15 or so), where a simple hand animation makes it look like Ashara is pulling her last glove back on, combined with her humming to herself (for bonus points, if memory serves, she’s humming the Imperial March. Truly her fall is now complete!…Save for the whole “being evil” part)

  • Steph

    Which companies are doing this, and how do we boycott them?

  • You pretty much have to assume just about any CEO under threat from a union will fail to respond reasonably and spend money like water from his war chest to fight yet another battle in the unceasing war on labor.

  • AnonymousSam

    The video says the company has about 60 employees. I did some investigation and it turns out only about 20 of them are paid and the rest are volunteers.

  • EllieMurasaki

    …by what definition are volunteers employees?

  • if your business has so much deadwood that it can afford to fire any significant number of its workers relative to its size, you’ve got problems as a manager that no election outcome could have helped you with

    That is not the way it happens. The way it happens, is that they fire a bunch of employees, and force the ones who are left to work 80 hours a week. That’s not “firing deadwood” — that’s abuse, pure and simple.

  • My point being that the “sex simulator” was absolutely nothing of the sort.

    I know. My point was that there really should be sex simulators in M-rated games, and that people getting their panties in a bunch over consensual sex but not over the ability to commit genocide shows that we’re completely and utterly screwed-up as a culture. Mind, I have no problems with a player being able to commit genocide in a video game, either, but one of these things is good in the real world and the other is not. And yet we as a culture have chosen to latch onto the good one and forbid it in a certain form of entertainment that wallows in the bad one. 

  • Do you guys have unfair dismissal laws?

    Yes, but it varies, some places are much less favorable to employees than others.  Many companies use at-will employment for example, which allows either party to be able to dissolve their work contract at any time and for any reason, provided it does not violate the existing employment laws of the state the business is operating in (some states try to attract businesses by deliberately keeping these laws lax.)  While this does allow employees to not get trapped in exploitative contracts, more often than not it just allows employers to get rid of employees and replace them with another with impunity.  A lot of employers like to keep it this way, because it means that they can just keep the “cream of the crop” employees, meaning the ones with the combination of job skills and spinelessness that will keep them exploited for low wages without complaint.  

  • This comment is going to be completely boring and pointless to anyone not interested in ToR.

    I’m unclear on what you’re trying to say here. Yes, you can have sex in ToR. It’s totally fade-to-black, the word “sex” is not used (“spend the night with”, “get to know each other”, “go somewhere private”, “play”) and right afterward you have a conversation while fully clothed and standing that makes no sense to have fully clothed and standing, then you fade-to-black again. I’ve seen it happen with both the female inquisitor (with Andronikos) and female smuggler (with Corso).  Unless those particular characters get less than male characters, and it would surprise me at this point if Bioware screwed over female characters in that particular way. 

  • No point, just that I liked the specific way they played with the limitation in that specific scene. I do agree that it was a stupid limation to begin with, though.

  •  This is total goofball quibbling, but in a saner society, maybe we would be OK with playing at genocide in games, where catharsis should be kept; and not OK with simulated sex and friendship, for fear that too many people would stop at the fast-food version instead of working through to the real joy?

    There’s a gamer metaphor for that last line that I can’t quite get, and also some joke about grinding.

  • vsm

    Your analysis is sound, but until video game sex scenes become a lot less askward-looking than the one in DA:O, I’d prefer  if they kept cutting to black. It may be because I share some of the unhealthy attitudes towards sex you discuss, but few things induce more cringes from me than bad sex scenes. Well, at least there were no mollusk similes involved.

  • interleaper

     IIRC it’s from The Great Divorce. The idea is that Heaven is hyper-real, which makes everything in it incredibly solid, while the not-saved-yet spirits visiting from Purgatory/Hell are relatively insubstantial, so that walking across a grassy field is a bit like walking on nails.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    This comment is going to be completely boring and pointless to anyone not interested in ToR.

    That was a fantastic lead-in to the rest of the comment :) Thanks!

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Ah, I see. Hmmm. Thanks.

  • Original Lee

     I have seen these, too.  The one thing that makes me think at least some companies are doing this, is that a friend posted a letter from her doctor, who is closing his practice before Obamacare drives him out of business.  I would like to point out to her that he is just looking for an excuse to sell his practice and retire (my roommate in college when to med school with him and he’s basically a jerk), but I think she’d probably not react well.  She normally is a very logical thinker, but it’s almost as if she has a chasm in her brain when it comes to politics, cutting those brain cells off from logic.

  • Ah, I misunderstood.  

    Yes, this is kind of a screwed up sense of priorities.  There are a lot of people looking to change this, but when millions of dollars are at stake in a product, those risks tend to be minimized.  As much as we would like to put some decent explorations of sexuality into games, there is always going to be some cultural wingnut who is extremely uncomfortable with the idea of sex at all contacting all their cultural wingnut friends and raising hell about it.  

    On that other hand, that does tend to boost a game’s sales, so perhaps publishers should not be as worried as they sometimes seem.  

    Incidentally, for a good analysis of the issue about sex in games, you should watch this episode of Extra Credits.  Well worth the eight minutes it takes to watch.  

  • Most conservative pundits know better than this nonsense — not that they speak up against it.

    I used to believe that.  The reaction of conservative luminaries on election night and immediately following has forced me to re-evaluate that claim.  It seems at least some very high-placed conservatives totally believed their own BS, and that’s a scary thing when you realize what it means for conservative governance.

  • zmayhem

     The most succinct commentary I’ve seen so far on this is a commenter in one of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s posts about the data gap (I think it was the “Sucker Punch” post), who noted dryly, “It’s always a problem when a dealer gets into his own supply.”

  • Alicia

    The “creating your own reality” thing did work for them for a while, since the made-up reality had no meaningful impact on their own political ambitions. They could tell any lies they wanted about the war or global warming or WMDs and rest assured that A) people would just take their word for it or B) even after people figured out they were lying, they would turn it into a false controversy/Both Sides Do It scenario where their lie was treated as just as likely to be true as the truth. By the time it’s all cleared up, they’ve already got what they wanted.

     (There are still people who think, even now, that Iraq had WMDs or that there was strong evidence to believe that they did, nearly a decade after that claim was discredited.)The problem they ran up here is that something like an election really is “do-or-die”. You can’t gin up a lot of false controversy about an election; even if you do a recount in every single state, eventually someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose and there’s no form of lie or trick or fake debate that you can make to conceal that. There’s only so far that flat-out denial of reality can go, and they used it in a case where it literally can’t work — it doesn’t matter how many fake polls you come up with saying that Romney will win 440 electoral votes, eventually there will be an election and it will have an outcome and once it’s over a President will take or retain office and that’s the end of that.

  • The problem they ran up here is that something like an election really
    is “do-or-die”. You can’t gin up a lot of false controversy about an
    election; even if you do a recount in every single state, eventually someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose and there’s no form of lie or trick or fake debate that you can make to conceal that.

    Someone or other, either here or somewhere else i hang out, had an interesting idea.

    The day after the election, Mitt Romney’s official campaign website, responding to an automatic trigger that no one remembered to defuse, automatically rolled over and became the transition team website of “President-Elect” Romney, replacing all the material with information about the incoming Romney administration.

    The site was quickly taken down, but whoever it was who I was listening to speculated an alternative: What if they’d left it up. What if Mitt Romney had simply decided to abandon reality altogether and declare that he had won. And Fox News were to back him up, claiming that the voting in Ohio and Florida had actually gone for Romney and it was only those lying bastards in the “Lamestream Liberal Media” who were tryign to*trick* people into thinking Romney had lost. And they stuck to it. The Donald proclaiming it from the rooftops, all Murdoch-owned media insisting Romney was the president elect, no coverage saying otherwise — in fact, shouting down as bias, skew and lies any claim that Obama had won. And they’d jsut stuck to it, all the way to January.

    How far could it go? Would the secret service shoot Mitt when he showed up at inauguration, bible in hand and demanded the chief justice swear him in? Could the House Majority be persuaded to jump off the reality-boat and join Mitt in fantasyland?

    We’ve established that you can, with no basis at all, create a four-year-long scandal about the president being a secret kenyan pretender. So why not? All the rest of the media would fall back on calling Mitt’s claim to have won as being “Controversial” but given the state of news reporting these days, I don’t think they’d actually be so bold as to outright report that Mitt had gone completely round the garden path.  Who would stop them? How would they stop them?  ANd when the authorities finally had to physically stop the Mitt Machine, would all those crying white people from Tumblr, who’d chosen to come join Mitt in the delusion, actually rebel?

    (I’ve always found it mildly remarkable, all things considered, that we’ve had forty-three peaceful transfers of power — no one ever holed up in the oval office with a shotgun when his time came or tried to find a couple of generals willing to help him hold on to power, nor have we ever had a sore loser with enough clout to back his counterargument with guns.)

  • A milder version of that was what concerned me – that Mitt Romney might actually try to tie the election results up in court and get the Supremes to declare him President.

  • Tapetum

     I am reminded of a novelist who described Baltimore (paraphrasing) as – the city of excellence by stacked qualifications. I.e. full of descriptors like: The best fried chicken restaurant owned by an Asian quadraplegic.

  • Tapetum

     80 hours a week? Nice company. The last company my husband worked for prior to this job got the regulars up over 100 hours a week before they even considered altering their hiring practices (which is what the whole dispute was about in the first place). At one point they had a line supervisor break a shoulder because he fell asleep standing up, and fell off a lift platform.

    Of course this did backfire, because the people remaining started leaving rapidly at that point. We started looking for alternate work when the work week hit 85-90 hours regularly. By the time we got out of there, my husband had worked one 104 hour week, and a couple others close to that.

  • Tapetum

     My father keeps making that sort of threat (I’m a doctor, and I’m going to retire! They’re short on doctors anyway, that’ll make them regret this! would be the gist) I have politely refrained from pointing out that he’s 76, and they probably haven’t counted on having him still in full-time practice from year to year for some time now.

  • Carstonio

    But we have had the Nixon campaign’s attempts to tamper with public opinion and hoaxes targeted at stronger opposition candidates to promote weaker ones. If the Obama campaign had operated like Nixon’s, he might have been running against Palin  or Santorum.

  • D9000

    Well, not unless you count Jeff Davis. (And yes, I know it wasn’t Davis who lost to Lincoln, but it’s certainly the case that there were sore losers with guns).

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     I’ve read right-wingers complaining that Karl Rove did just that – propped up Santorum in the early primaries to force the other second-stringers out, so that Romney could win in the later primaries.

  • Matri

    I thought the phrase “right-leaning” meant that you were generally in
    the centre, but tilted towards the right from time to time. Fox and
    Limbaugh aren’t leaning to the right, they’re all the way over there.

    They’re not just all the way over there, they ARE the “right”. If they were to lean in any direction it would overlap and they’d end up left.