I’ve been at the Library of Congress for two days now, capturing a selection of archived campaign websites that are only available on-site (because of legal reasons) for a dataset I’m putting together as part of my dissertation. And in that time I’ve looked at literally hundreds of pages of content, and it’s a generally-maddening experience—if a 30-second ad full of BS gets you mad, try reading that stuff in 8-hour shifts. But I think what gets me most is the desecration of logical argument practiced by candidates who try to persuade voters of the correctness of their positions.
“In West Virginia, we have the highest per capita gun ownership in the country with also one of the lowest – if not the lowest – crime rates. This is proof that disarming American citizens actually makes them less safe and secure, and I will fight to preserve our Second Amendment rights and freedoms.” (John Raese, Republican Senate Candidate for WV, 2006)
This sort of thing makes me almost yell at my laptop screen, and in the LOC’s Main Reading Room (which is absolutely beautiful, btw—see the previous post) I imagine such things are greatly frowned upon. But for the love of science, is there anyway we can get No Child Left Behind (or its successor) to require an understanding of the difference between correlation and causation in order for a student to graduate 8th grade? Because the saddest thing isn’t that so many politicians make these kinds of false arguments, it’s that so few voters can tell that they’re wrong.