It’s easy to fool people that want to be fooled. If you have people who are addicted to nicotine and you give them a BS “scientific study” showing that the deleterious effects of tobacco smoking have been overblown, chances are most of them will buy into it. I know, I’ve seen it, many times—people who are intelligent enough to know better, but they hold up “studies” paid for by tobacco companies as evidence that smoking isn’t so bad.
Want to see this principle in action, right now? Then head over to Fox “News.” The big, blaring headline there:
Hundreds of cases of potential voter fraud uncovered in North Carolina
Wow! Voter fraud! In large numbers! Just the proof we’ve been looking for that Republican voter-ID laws are not a political scheme to steal votes, but instead are completely reasonable efforts to stem massive amounts of voter fraud!
Of course, the headline does warn that the fraud is just “potential,” but we know that this is just Fox being unusually cautious, right? After all, if it weren’t real, then why would Fox make a big deal out of it?
So, let’s see the really convincing evidence!
State elections officials in North Carolina are investigating hundreds of cases of potential voter fraud after identifying thousands of registered voters with personal information matching those of voters who voted in other states in 2012.
Oooh! Thousands! Fox was being really cautious, to say it was just “hundreds!” After all, this lede just says it all: thousands of voters with matching personal information of people who voted in other states. This paragraph doesn’t say that any of these people voted in North Carolina, but I’m sure they will.
Tell us more!
Elections Director Kim Strach told state lawmakers at an oversight hearing Wednesday that her staff has identified 765 registered North Carolina voters who appear to have cast ballots in two states during the 2012 presidential election.
Umm… OK, we’re back to hundreds. Not sure what’s up with that, but hey, they appear certain that these people all voted twice in the last election. (I bet they all voted for Obama!)
Strach said the first names, last names, birthdates and last four digits of their Social Security numbers appear to match information for voters in another state. Each case will now be investigated to determine whether voter fraud occurred.
Well, that’s pretty convincing! If all those things match, then it’s pretty certain that they’re the same people. This paragraph doesn’t say the people among the “hundreds” cast any votes at all in 2012, just that they were “voters.” But I’m sure this will be cleared up soon.
“Could it be voter fraud? Sure, it could be voter fraud,” Strach said. “Could it be an error on the part of a precinct person choosing the wrong person’s name in the first place? It could be. We’re looking at each of these individual cases.”
Um, what? “A precinct person choosing the wrong person’s name?” What does that mean? Nothing, I’m sure, they’re just being cautious again. I won’t take the time to figure out what that means. Let’s read on.
WRAL.com reported that 81 residents who died before election day were recorded as casting a ballot. While about 30 of those voters appear to have legally cast ballots before election day, Strach said “there are between 40 and 50 [voters] who had died at a time that that’s not possible.”
Um, wait. Voters who died? I thought that this was about voters who matched other voters in other states. And it was hundreds, maybe thousands.
No matter! It’s the graveyard vote! I’m sure that that’s tied in, somehow! Onward ho!
“We have the ‘Walking Dead,’ and now we’ve got the ‘Voting Dead,’” said state Sen. Bob Rucho, R-Mecklenburg. “I guess the reason there’s no proof of voter fraud is because we weren’t looking for it.”
Yeah, right! Because the five years the Bush administration spent looking for fraud doesn’t count, especially because they only found a hundred or so cases nationwide, most of which were simple errors, and the few that were real involved local races—that doesn’t count, because it didn’t show us what we know is real! That, and the whole US Attorney thing, and the huge amounts of scrutiny and attention by conservatives and the media over the past decade—hell, it’s like nobody was looking for anything!!
So, how did all this come to light, anyway?
A law passed last year by the Republican-dominated state legislature required elections staff to check information for North Carolina’s more than 6.5 million voters against a database containing information for 101 million voters in 28 states.
Money well spent, I’m sure! Let’s see the results!
The cross-check found listings for 35,570 North Carolina voters whose first names, last names and dates of birth match those of voters who voted in other states. However, in those cases middle names and Social Security numbers were not matched.
Well, that kind of makes that number irrelevant, but it sounds like a lot! Otherwise, why mention it? Go on!
The analysis also found 155,692 registered North Carolina voters whose information matched voters registered in other states but who most recently registered or voted elsewhere. Strach said those were most likely voters who moved out of state without notifying their local boards of elections.
Wow! A hundred and fifty-five thousand! That’s another big number! OK, so it’s just matching information and may have no relation to people who voted twice, but it’s still a big number!
Let’s hear more of this unusually consistent and convincing evidence!
Republicans leaders immediately touted the preliminary report as evidence they were justified in approving sweeping elections changes last year that include requiring voters to present photo ID at the polls, cutting days from the period for early voting and ending a popular civics program that encouraged high school students to pre-register to vote in advance of their 18th birthdays.
Exactly! Because what we have seen so far is rather shockingly clear and damning evidence that as many as dozens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, or more than a hundred thousand people may have somehow been in two databases at once! An absolutely iron-clad reason to believe that laws which just happen to throw roadblocks in front of mostly Democratic voters are completely justified and are not political chicanery at all! And I’m sure they’ll tie all those numbers together somehow at some point, or eventually show that any of the names are really the same person and that they actually voted twice in the same election—but at this point, do they really need to?
I mean, hey, where’s the outrage?!
“That is outrageous. That is criminal. That is wrong, and it shouldn’t be allowed to go any further without substantial investigations from our local district attorneys who are the ones charged with enforcing these laws,” state Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-Wilmington, told the Charlotte Observer.
State House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, and Senate Leader Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, issued a joint statement Wednesday on what they termed as the “alarming evidence.”
“While we are alarmed to hear evidence of widespread voter error and fraud, we are encouraged to see the common-sense law passed to ensure voters are who they say they are is working,” said the statement. “These findings should put to rest ill-informed claims that problems don’t exist and help restore the integrity of our elections process.”
There’s the outrage! Yeah! About time! Alarming evidence! Which I’m sure has been somehow proven by this time, I mean I’ve lost track, but dammit, it’s alarming! And outrageous!
Of course, by this time, I have seen so many mentions of large numbers, and so many different ways people are cheating, that I have completely forgotten about how every paragraph seems to have wildly varying numbers of people, and that nothing whatsoever in the article is anything close to actual evidence of anything more than clerical errors and the fact that when people move, they almost never bother to remove themselves from voter rolls in their former states. (As it turns out, the 765 number appears to be the only relevant number, as it is the only one with names that might actually match—but it is very likely that most if not all were errors where the precinct worker checked the wrong name on a list—not at all surprising considering the millions of ballots involved.)
And that’s the trick: just throw a whole bunch of nothing, just random clumps of bullshit—even better, toss in a few words of caution that there might be errors involved, so the story comes across as more honest—and pepper it with just the correct amount of righteous indignation, then wait for a few weeks or months—and then most of the people who read the story will only recall that they saw a news story where it was all but certain that rampant voter fraud had indeed taken place. They proved it! At least I’m fairly sure that that’s what happened after all that evidence was looked at, though I never saw it or anything.
Also, after months have gone by, the same people will have seen many other reports of the same nature, with the same results, and bullshit piled on to bullshit will come across as even more convincing. Because few people dismiss total bullshit completely, and when they see variations of the same bullshit enough times, they begin to believe that at least some (probably most) has got to be true.
Especially because they want to believe it.
It’s what you call “modern journalism in action.”