Hot Air: The Squared Circle

So, the cage match is tonight. D. (The Greatest American) Trump vs. Hillary (The Murderer) Clinton.

I’ve heard and read upwards of a hundred million people will be watching the big debate tonight Here’s the morning line on the outcome: The winner will be…

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The Murderer Demonstrates Her Death Grip and…

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…The Greatest American Creams A Guy In A Suit

… whomever you’re voting for.

Yeah. Go with the form book. One thing you can always count on, the winner of a debate will be the guy (and now, gal) you support.

Anyway, I won’t be watching because just looking at D. Trump turns my stomach. Anything he says, ergo, is likely to spur me into a projectile vomiting jag. Truth is, I’ve never watched a presidential debate. I find it a waste of time. I read about it the day after in the papers. That’s all I need. Hell, the New York Times regularly runs a transcript of the presidential debate the next day. Besides, there’ll be a Cubs game on TV at the same time. I know my priorities.

And — hey — my beloved Cubs over the years have spurred me into jags of projectile vomiting many a time. Now they’re the best team in baseball, so I’m going enjoy them while I can.

Keep in mind TV images — especially, but not limited to, those in presidential debates — are all too often the products of creative stagecraft, well applied facial makeup, and the producers’ knowledge of precisely what the viewer wants to see and hear.

Somebody wrote an op-ed somewhere online today saying Hillary’s team is hoping for Trump to blow his stack as some point or another. As if that’ll convince a huge swath of the tens of millions who support him to switch ponies as they make the first turn.

Damned fools. If Trump bullies Hillary — say he explodes and calls her a fat-assed liar to her face — his supporters’ll experience spontaneous orgasms (or organisms, as one soc. med. poster mis-typed last week). He’ll have won even as members of Hillary’s brain trust are busy patting themselves on the back.

But back to TV. I’m not telling you anything when I say pretty much everything on your flat screen is smoke and mirrors. You know that already. Yet you’re still going to watch the debate in the hope your candidate’s unassailable logic, cool and calm demeanor, and sensible pants suit ensemble will triumph over Trump.

Silly.

Truth, facts, unassailable logic, and all the rest of that rational bushwa mean nothing to TV viewers. I was reading Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise, at the end of the summer. In Chap. 4, he writes about the weather forecasting racket, comparing the predictions of the National Weather Service, AccuWeather, and the Weather Channel. (It turns out, BTW, all three fall within a comfortable range of accuracy when it comes to forecasting the next day or two but quickly fall apart when called on to see further than half a week into the future.) At a certain point, Silver reveals that TV producers have no interest in whether their weather forecasters are, well, good at what they do.

One weatherhead tells Silver, “There’s not an evaluation of accuracy in hiring meteorologists. Presentation takes precedence over accuracy.”

And why is that? Another weather critter explains: “Accuracy is not a big deal to viewers.”

Huh. Who’d’a figured.

Well anybody who knows anything about TV and its blithely flatlining audience would’a figured.

Silver writes about several ways TV weather men and bunnies fudge reality so their viewers can go to sleep fat and happy. Here’s one trick — when’s the last time you heard your local TV weather person call for a 50 percent chance of showers tomorrow? You’d expect to hear that quite a lot, but you don’t. Silver writes:

[T]he for-profit weather forecasters rarely predict exactly a 50 percent chance of rain, which might seem wishy-washy and indecisive to consumers. Instead, they’ll flip a coin and round up to 60, or down to 40, even though this makes the forecasts both less accurate and less honest.

It gets worse. It turns out local weatherbeings factor in a “wet bias” to their forecasts. Here’s why. TV weather women and men have learned that when they are wrong about a sunny forecast, when it rains on what was expected to be a dazzlingly clear 4th of July, say, viewers get teed off. Their picnics and parades are ruined and the potato salad gets all runny. Yet, if those weather seers predict rain for the 4th and it turns out to be dry and clear, viewers are thrilled to pieces, as if they’d gotten a reprieve.

So, what do they do? Local weather forecasters, and even some national ones, artificially bump up their chance of rain predictions so as to cover their asses and gain that slight modicum of good feeling from their viewers should their gloomy forecasts turn out to be sunny days. The Weather Channel, Silver writes, admits to this trickery, goosing their rain chance figures by ten to fifteen percent and more.

“The attitude,” Silver writes, ” seems to be that this is all in good fun — who cares if there’s a little wet bias, especially if it makes for better television?”

Movies, too, are cesspools of untruths and planned inaccuracies. That’s why I tend to stay away from biopics. They’re invariably as close to the truth as a philandering Hollywood mogul is when asked by his wife to explain why his shirt smells of woman’s cologne. The last biopic I saw was The Imitation Game, a somewhat fanciful telling of the life and work of brilliant British mathematician and World War II code-breaker Alan Turing. In the movie, his superior, Naval Commander Alastair Denniston is portrayed as a stuffy old fuddy duddy who constantly threw roadblocks in front of him because his methods were so unconventional.

In reality, though, Denniston was Turing’s champion and did everything he could to facilitate the mathematician’s offbeat proposals. I wrote in these precincts that if I were a descendent of Cmdr. Denniston, I’d be mightily red-assed about the whole thing. Hell, I’d consider it a slander upon my grandfather or great-uncle’s or whatever’s good and well-earned name. I actually pontificated on this specific topic herein once already.

Funny thing, one of my loyal Pencillistas actually wrote in that I was a dope for belly-aching about that inaccuracy. The re-drawm Cmdr. Denniston fit the dramatic arc of the movie better and why’d I have to go trying to ruin it for him, the commenter?

Smoke and mirrors, untruths, inaccuracies, even flat-out lies — Americans today prefer them to the unvarnished truth. They’ll be thrilled tonight.

Somebody To Love

Great song, and the first line is perfect for today’s post: When the truth is found / To be lies.

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