‘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.

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  • AnonymousSam

    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.

    16,000 < 10,300,000

  • In the media, we have “reporters” and we have “cheerleaders”.  Reporters tell us what’s going on.  Cheerleaders tell us how good Their Side is doing.  When people get mixed up over which is which, there is trouble.  From the reactions of the Romney campaign, they’d been believing their own propaganda — listening to cheerleaders instead of reporters.

    “Reality bats last”

  • Lori

    To be fair, “one of the largerst” is not the same as “the largest”. The game’s MMO would still be one of the largest if there aren’t many games between them and Warcraft. I don’t keep up with it any more, but last I saw the drop off in number of users was pretty steep, with no other games even getting close to Warcraft’s numbers. This will change at some point, but I think the real competition is still in fighting it out to be #2. Of course, it’s likely that Fox was just being lazy and clueless, but that might not be the case.

    And I just kinda, sorta defended Fox News. It’s not even noon and it’s already shaping up to be a weird day.

  • Jim Roberts

    Lori, check out http://mmodata.blogspot.com/

    The data’s old but, to put this in perspective, Kingdom of Loathing has more than 16 000 active subscribers.

  • konrad_arflane

    On a couple of occasions, I pointed out that it was statistically unlikely for Governor Romney to pull off an upset.

    Either I’m missing something, or that sentence is an exercise in redundancy.

  • AnonymousSam

    16K is mildly respectable, but I’m pretty sure most of the eastern developers (Aeria Games, Perfect World, even Square Enix) have surpassed it several times. I’m pretty sure we can chalk it up to “the talking head has no idea what this is, so he’s making it sound very profound. Games, those are like what the kids play, aren’t they? Like Pacman?”

  • D9000

    I don’t watch US TV news, of course, but I was a bit disgusted with the BBC hyping the thing as ‘one of the closest contests ever’, when I knew damn well it wasn’t likely to be anything of the sort. I suppose ‘as you were, no change’ isn’t much of a ‘story’.

  • Carstonio

    I refuse to label Fox News and the radio ranters as “conservative” because they’re not pushing anything like a coherent, thought-out political philosophy. Fear of losing privilege based in personal characteristics, or demagoguery that stokes this fear, is not a political philosophy.

  • Jurgan

     Maybe that’s the point.  They were saying an upset was a sure thing, when by definition it’s unlikely.  However, they couldn’t accept that reality wasn’t going how they wanted.

  • Tricksterson

    Poor Mr. Stetzer.  He loves facts more than he does Fox News.  He has no future with modern day conservatism.  i will save him some cookies for when he comes over to the Dark Side.

  • flat

    well reality has a well known liberal bias.

  • Jessica_R

    A friend in Maine cracked me up with a tweet when marriage equality passed there, “I plan to spend the weekend roving the streets, explaining gay marriage to grade schoolers, it’s totally legal now!” Appeals to bold faced lies and ridiculous paranoia don’t work anymore in the anti-gay industry, apparently Christmas came early this year. 

  • It would not be the first time Fox News has really dropped the ball on researching a story about a video game.  The original Mass Effect was victim of this, for example.  

  • Omnicrom

     Don’t bother defending Fox News, 16000 players on an MMO puts them on the low end of things. There will indeed be a large number of games between them in Warcraft. Games like Rift, Eve Online, and Guild Wars 2 report 500K to a million active players, they can claim to be “One of the Largest”. You can also find many niche or less successful  games like The Secret World, Champions Online, The Old Republic, who can report 50 to 250K players.

    Hell, Myst Online: Uru which is now entirely supported by fans has about 1000 players. 16000 Players is nothing, and it’s complete dishonesty to call them “One of the largest”

  • TheFaithfulStone

    So I’ve been thinking to myself, “I don’t remember being THAT upset when Bush won,” and it turns out that I really wasn’t and I have a data point to prove it.

    Today, Justin Welby, former oil company executive and sometimes hater was appointed the Archbishop of Canterbury.  So now am I going to become a Unitarian?  Start stocking up on communion wafers and crummy wine?  I’m not going to burn my BCP or anything? Nope, I’m going to grin and bear it.   I’m going to have a sad because I don’t think it’s a good decision, and I think it’s wrong for the AC, and I think it has the potential to bring us perilously close to a schism.  But it’s not a foregone conclusion.  Maybe we can all work together to sort this out?  It’s tough for there to be a compromise position on this – but can we at least find a way where the African / Conservative section of the church doesn’t find it necessary to force us to join in their little hate-gasm?  I’m disappointed, but I’m not despondent.  Life will go on, and we might not win THIS one, but we’ll win eventually.

    Maybe that’s the difference.  Maybe when conservatives lose, they look around and see that their task is impossible.  You can’t stand ‘athwart history, yelling “STOP”‘ and ultimately expect to have anything happen other than getting trampled into the ground by history.  When liberals lose, it’s sad because we have to wait to improve society – but generally it does get better.  In the long run, progressives always win.

  • Ralovett

    As described in the start of this thread, the comment seems to have come from the company rep, not Fox itself. Also it may have had a hidden qualifier that didn’t get quoted above. I used to be a travel writer, and it’s amazing how many of the destinations I wrote about found ways to do this. “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.” But a beat reporter on a generic feature desk might miss it.

  •  I was pretty despairing in 2004. My brother began researching what it would take to move to Canada, and would likely have done it were it easier. Several of my friends were unable to have a conversation about President Bush without resorting to shouting obscenities for months thereafter.

    So, I dunno.

  • A few days before the election, this Fox news header started popping up on the Google news sidebar (this is all you’re getting of it, because I’m not clicking :) ):


    With just a few days left until the election, the left’s out-of-control fringe has taken control – blaming Mitt Romney for deadly meningitis or even…

    Stuff that’s supposedly all over the mainstream news, and first I hear of it is from Fox? Yeah, right.

  • cjmr

    I was so upset in 2004, I started a blog.

  • AnonymousSam

    At least they can provide citation. It’s demonizing of the left in general to say that “the liberal left” is doing this, but there are wingnuts on our side, sure. The first article they linked (Romney’s failure to regulate drug industry causing meningitis to be spread by bad drugs) looks a lot less objectionable than the second (“You’re a gay man voting for Romney, you should just take arsenic if you really want to die that badly”), but of course they’ll happily lump them all together and try to sell it as mainstream left beliefs.

    I think the big difference between the left and right is that when one of our side says something moronic, we’re a lot less likely to flock to support them.

  • I have a new favorite political commentator.  That was a fantastic speech from the usually hammy Madow.

  • Onymous

     it’s possible that what happened was the original factoid was “with on average 16000 subscribers online at once it’s one of the largest” –which isn’t WoW numbers but is a defensible claim– and the script writer cut it down to “with 16000 subscribers it’s one of the largest” not realizing the important difference.

  • what are you talking about? At most 5 seconds of sideboob and CG ass during an optional, non-interactive, skippable cutscene totally is the same as a “sex simulator”

  • Doubtful, since “16000 subscribers online at once” is just a really really awkward way to say 16000 concurrent users.

  • EllieMurasaki

    How are you using ‘concurrent’? Because it is possible to be a subscriber who is not online; sixteen thousand subscribers online might mean sixteen thousand total subscribers every single one of whom is actively playing every moment, or it might mean thirty-two thousand subscribers of whom about half are playing at any given moment, or it might mean a hundred thousand subscribers of whom about one in six is playing at any given moment, or fill in your own numbers here.

  • Lliira

     The drop off is to a couple hundred thousand, not to 16,000. 16,000 makes an MMO utterly tiny, in fact, and unless their overhead is basically nil, I don’t know how they’re in business.

  • Kisa

    Something I’d like to get the Slacktivist commentariat’s opinion and input about, please….
    Some of the people I follow on FB have been reposting (with almost perverse glee, I admit, a sort of ‘I got mine, I told you so, frack you all,’ tone) news reports that some companies have, started following up on their threats to fire employees if Obama is elected.  One of these I can discount almost certainly as a troll, but there are others I’m not quite so sanguine about.  Has anyone seen or heard solid evidence of this?

    A part of me sees this as sour grapes, as retribution against employees, or as misunderstanding the penalty and tax requirements of Obamacare.  But… I’m not sure.  Another part of me (the part that is constantly questioning everything I see and do) is asking if this sort of thing is preventable, or if it really is an inevitable outcome — financially, that is, that this is something that these companies genuinely have to do to stay in business — of the Obama administration’s policies.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Are they firing people or are they saying they have? Are they firing people to stay in business or to cut payroll costs so as to avoid a drop in profits?

  • Lliira

     And of course everyone was supposed to be aghast at a supposed “sex simulator” within a game in which you kill tons and tons of people.

    Luckily, Dragon Age did have something of a sex simulator, though it wasn’t explicit, and there are tons of mods that give the player throughly explicit sex scenes. Sadly, there is nothing like that in Dragon Age 2. You run around covered in blood the whole game, there is a metric ton of rape (not shown, thankfully), but gods forbid they show anything like fully-consensual sex.

    And in Star Wars: ToR, you have conversations which are obviously supposed to be in bed after sex… fully-armored standing on the bridge of your ship. You can flat-out murder people, but no post-coital PG snuggles. Utterly absurd.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Come to that, are they even bringing in less money under Obama than they would be under Romney?

  • Darkrose

    It’s not an inevitable outcome. If it were, then these people wouldn’t be doing it now. Obama’s policies haven’t changed since Monday.

  • “Concurrent users” when talking about online gaming is defined as “users online at the same time”

  • The attitude towards sex in gaming is completely absurd. “Sexual content” that would earn a movie a PG or at worst PG-13 rating automatically gets a game an M (equivalent to R) rating.

  • My point being that the “sex simulator” was absolutely nothing of the sort.  The blogger who broke the original story only looked at a few YouTube videos of the scenes in question, and made several assumptions about the game from there.  Then Fox News decided that was too juicy a news morsel not to investigate, repeating it with no fact-checking, and bringing in “experts” who knew nothing about it to talk about how morally depraved video games are… or something like that.  

    Fox News never lets facts get in the way of a good moral outrage story.  

  • What really galls me is how businesses use their ecomomic power like this to purposely whip up resentment against left-wing politicians who want to create a society where everybody gets a fair shake.

    A milder version of this happened here in B.C. when forestry companies as a whole purposely stopped increasing fixed capital investment and then disingenuously blamed the government for lack of increases in employment in the forestry sector.

  • wendy

    In fairness, it really was very close. 

    Court proceedings on various suppression tactics came down to the last few days, judges’ orders were being issued as late as Monday afternoon, county offices were opening and closing on random schedules, early voting was onoffonoffonoff, ID requirements went up to the appellate court and back down for rehearing… there was true uncertainty as to whether everybody could vote. 

    Had Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida’s Republican governors and Republican legislatures succeeded in their attempted rules changes, Mitt would have taken all three states and won the election. 

  • wendy

    Are they firing people whose politics irritate them so they can replace them with people whose politics they like better? 

    I’m not sure if that’s even illegal… it’s not race or gender or religion or any other legally protected category. 

  • Meh. All they have to do is mass layoff 25% of the workforce, mumblemumble new regulatory climate, blah blah, and then when the inevitable lawsuit comes, stand there in faux wide-eyed innocence and say, “Why, your honor, we had to cut costs and unfortunately our largest was our payroll.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Whereupon the judge, if sensible, will demand to see the balance sheets, and if the profits of the company exceed the reduction in payroll costs, the judge will slap the company with a fine of at least that much money.

  • Fusina

     Squeeee! I’ve been playing Myst since the first game came out. Now I have a reason to dig the Windows laptop out. Squeee!

    Err, and the Myst player number is about to go up by two.

  • Omnicrom

     Yeah, Myst Online is currently run only by fans who were given the source code to the game. The official fansite is now the official Site Site for Myst Online. I’ve heard that if you liked Myst you should try it out, and if you can they’re always looking for donations.

  • Omnicrom

     That’s very possible. If you knew nothing of MMOs you’d think that both numbers are the same. In reality 16000 online at once is quite active whereas 16000 subscribers is the mark of a fairly dead game.

  • Kisa

    The news I’ve been hearing has been that they have started firing people.  And it appears that there’s more than just rumors of such.  I ran into this article on The Atlantic Wire: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2012/11/so-whats-it-get-fired-because-president-obama-was-reelected/58874/ which appears to be a genuine accounting of events surrounding a coal executive who has laid off some of his employees because Obama was elected.

    As yet, this is the only story that I’ve found that did not come off as a troll trying to, well, be a troll.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So it has nothing to do with whether they stay in business. It’s a political statement. Or rather, it is at least two statements, and the one they probably didn’t intend to make is along the lines of “we are utterly heartless and we want everyone to know it”.

  • Are they firing people whose politics irritate them so they can replace them with people whose politics they like better? 
    I’m not sure if that’s even illegal… it’s not race or gender or religion or any other legally protected category. 

    Ballots are ostensibly private.  Without resorting to some rather illegal (and probably quite difficult and unprofitable) methods, they cannot necessarily tell who any given employee voted for with any certainty.  

    Most probably they just use it as a smokescreen for a few layoffs they were planning on doing anyway.  It was mainly an attempt to “kill two birds with one stone” if that also encourages people to vote for the candidate they favor.  

  • It’s also a bullying tactic.

    “Nice economy you got here, shame if we were to purposely sabotage its recovery.”

  • I played Uru: Ages Beyond Myst back in the day, even first got broadband partway through it.  Played online a little, but the game had a lot of latency back then, made it difficult to enjoy.  

    My first love played it too.  She met a guy on there in another state who eventually moved up to be with her.  They are married now, and I was not invited to the wedding.  The game brings back some… bittersweet memories.  

  • EllieMurasaki

    The ‘nice X you got here, shame if something were to happen to it’ formula is all about plausible deniability. The second bit must be in passive voice, because that leaves unspecified who causes the something to happen.

  • Dash1

     I wouldn’t necessarily put it past someone like Donald Trump, for whom rationality seems to be something of a foreign concept, but seriously, 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.

    It’s possible, I suppose, that some companies decided to make planned restructurings look like they were caused by the election. But this is too soon for anything like that to truly be the result of the election. So anyone firing anyone now (if indeed it’s happening) is simply displaying their utter incompetence. They need to get out of the managerial end of business and seek work at some level where they will not be troubled with decision-making.

  • MMO population data!

    It’s from early last year, and it’s the numbers are “estimates based on limited information” and therefore of limited accuracy, BUT these 15 MMOs’ subscriber populations slope from 12M down to 80K, leaving our disputed 16K figure nowhere in sight. Also, I’m betting most of those 15 MMOs’ populations have grown since Feb ’11.

    Surely documentation of employer threats along the lines of “If Obama wins, I’m going to half to lay off a lot of people HINT HINT HINT VOTE ROMNEY IF YOU VALUE YOUR JOBS” (with the all-caps bit obviously being implied not spoken) coupled with actual firings after the election ought to be the basis for legal action? Surely some watchdog organization could be moved to help these people win damages against this sort of treatment?

    In a just world, anyway…