B Rant: The Poll Network - Free TP!

by Brantly Martin

28 September 2015

 B = me 

Rant = declaim violently and with little sense; rave

There was a time in the distant past—about four years ago—when “the polls” still felt like a numerical barnstorming teenage-runaway sideshow with all the staying power of that first rail of yip and all the accountability of plans discussed after that tenth rail of yip. This was especially true so early (the Fall before the Fall) in a Presidential Electathon. The polling high was not unlike plowing through statistics (in the key of Nationalism) on the pages of The Economist after takeoff and before sleep on a trans-Atlantic flight in the late 90s: Aren't I so damn informed! For me, the “latest poll” was a fun if dissolving factoid, similar to “Mota is eight for his last fourteen with a man on first in daytime games that start at 1:05 Eastern.” Polling's long-range accuracy was less reliable than the Iowa Caucuses—When I say GIULIANI … you say SANTORUM … 

On the Democratic side, the polls still appear to follow the laws of Camusian absurdity: HILLARY SLIPPING IN POLLS, SANDERS GAINING GROUND … (a day later) … HILLARY SEES HUGE BUMP, SANDERS IN FREE FALL … ( a day later) … SANDERS GAINS GROUND IN PRIMARY RACE. And this alleged fluctuation pre-debates. Will the ensuing CNN to CBS to ABC to NBC to Univision to PBS—(no Megyn Kelly?)—home-theater projections exacerbate this Schizophrenic Numerology (a new American religion?) or ease it into the realm of the to-be-managed? (Trending!) (Narrative!)


If the 2008 Presidential Electathon anointed social media the Prophet du Aggregation (Digiversian for “one whom can herd cats”), the 2016 version appears ready to equate (but not quite … maybe 2024) polls to the word of God. Our culture has been prepping for this moment: from (gulp) Yelp to Rotten Tomatoes to IMDB to Amazon to Seamless to iTunes we’ve come a long way from the now innocent if gun-toting practice of Payola. 


Does language matter? I’m not sure. If a film tops the box office you better believe the next week you’ll see that ad: “The Number One Movie In America.” Now, of course, we (the oh-so-clever lot) know what the ad is saying: the movie sold the most tickets. We don’t really think it’s the best movie in America anymore than we think McDonalds’s serves the best burger in America. (Right?) And when one says (in American) “S/he is worth ______” we know they are talking about loot and not one’s soul. (Right?) 


“Numbers don’t lie.” Perhaps … but people lie all the time. Corporations lie like it’s their job—and it may just be. If human nature is being reassessed through neuroscience perhaps our relatively infantile understanding of behemoth capitalistic entities should be reassessed through Colony Collapse Disorder. 

The belief in and co-signing ability of polls is about to jump in the polls. At least that's my intuition—which has no place in the polls. Hell, I still think the pull-up elbow jumper is a good shot, but being a Rockets fan and, thus, subject to shot selection à la Morey, I'll have to settle for the 3-or-layup/all-or-nothing. (What's more American?) 

If the polls show that trust is going up in polls, then how long before someone invests big to make sure polls keep polling well so they can launch The Poll Network? (More on that after the jump.)

If the most trusted dude in news—or, at least, the most watched—oscillated between making Hemingway-/B.I.G.esque (Big Papaesque?) shit up about himself and regurgitating words appearing on a flatscreen in front of him and gets away with it for a decade, what's going to happen when the higher-ups switch completely to Polling as New (new) Testament? And—is this already going down? 

Wait, I just missed the point. 

Brian Williams didn't “get away with it” anymore than Anderson Cooper and that other son on CNN “got away with” reading from their flatscreens that Charlie Hebdo was an equal opportunity offender—no, dude, they weren't (and NO, DUDE, that still doesn't justify that insanity)—before (wank alert) quoting Voltaire—“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend … (blah blah blah)”—without hammering home with a fraction of their usual high-and-mighty the fact that France, like most of Europe, has banned free speech. Neither Saint Reagan nor Saint Patti “got away with it.” Did Cheney “get away with it”? Is El Chapo “getting away with it”? It seems to me that more people are getting what they want than aren't … And, goddamn it, if dem folks don't know what dey want, we gonna tell em! 


Back to The Poll Network. 

So … in 2040 … some sorta Steve Jobs, P.T. Barnum, Bill James and Rupert Murdoch quartet is formed and The Poll (they decide to take away “Network”)—or TP—premiers across all platforms. The presenters are all A.I. Their appearance is malleable (the patented technology is called MalleaFace): every viewer sees a combination of what their algorithmic lifeline tells TP they want to see and what the latest polls program the viewer into believing they want to see: male/female and every variation on male/female the future has in store, skin color, bone structure, language, accent … on and on to that N in the clouds. 

TP’s biz plan—what they call internally “Taze”—is: TP is free on all platforms, TP is commercial-free on all platforms, and … TP will provide you with all platforms for free. (“Free TP for life!”) TP's only revenue source—which they don't hide, but PUSH—is that all their polls are bought and paid for. They advertise: “TransParency is here!” and “#s don't lie!” and “Polls are Diversity!” 

The legalities of all this were pushed through congress via an onslaught of special interest groups and polls showing the American public was in favor of TP. The “winning argument” on the floor of the Senate invoked America's leadership in allowing Big Pharma to advertise on television. “The United States of America's decision to follow the guiding light provided by our Founding Fathers—those twins of freedom and liberty—and allow Big Pharma to speak directly to the American public has shown us that We Americans can decide for ourselves what is true and what is pure. What began as advertising boner pills has grown into providing the strongest facts on the strongest opiates on earth for our children and their future.” The junior Senator from Texas continued: “Where there is an itch, we have a God-given right to scratch it then medicate it—you know, creating a bigger itch—then scratch it once more with God's hand. Which brings me to polling, folks. Let's be clear: The opinions expressed in polls, in the form of numbers, are protected under the First Amendment of this great country. And NEVER has there been a time when the First Amendment was more important to our country!” 

So … now, here in 2040, polls, numbers, even medical statistics (“Last year alone, crystal meth was responsible for 28.5 million happy marriages and saw 90% of consumers lower their blood pressure.”) are deemed “free speech” under this new legislation. The Supreme Court hears Ramos v. TP and rules that polls are numbers and numbers are people and protected under the First Amendment. 

TP is in business. It launches during the Presidential campaign of 2040. Personalized A.I. personalities present polls. The poll pricing options are made public: x millions of dollars to have candidates poll at a 70% approval rating, y millions of dollars to have candidates poll at a 95% approval rating, z millions of dollars to have any candidate poll 100% at anything. New polls go up every day. Slight discounts are given for buying in bulk. The American public knows the polls are bought—no one cares. They know it's not real but in 2040 the word real has lost meaning, “evolved,” been downgraded. In 2044 the junior Senator from Texas is back at it: “It’s un-American for one American to tell another American what is ‘real.’ It’s of the utmost importance to our children’s future that we pass this bill and classify as a ‘hate crime’ any use of the word ‘real.’” 

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