frequently asked question:
In our polls, the outcome of interest may be support for war on Iraq and the past experience or characteristic of interest would be the misinformation that Saddam Hussein was involved with Al Qaeda, with 9-11, or had weapons of mass destruction.
1. looking back on the past 2. applying to the past as well as the future...."
Easily the most frequently asked question of Retro Poll is: why did you pick that absurd name? This is sometimes spoken with a baleful expression. Some undiplomatic friends occasionally suggest our name is so negative that it can damage our image and inhibit financial contributions. We've heard enough of this to rethink whether we made a mistake in choosing the Retro Poll name. Still, we believe there are compelling reasons for the name. Here's why.
Retro Poll, in some respects, tries to shadow the polling methodology of corporate pollsters. We buy random sample phone lists, attempt to get our survey numbers up to the popular "norm" established by those organization, distribute our findings in such a way that they reach out as widely as possible and hope they might be picked up in the media. But, of course, this is all a bit of a farce. Two articles, one by Marc Sapir and Mickey Huff in Z Magazine, October 2003 posted here on this site, the other by Marc in the book Censored 2004--make clear that we believe the public opinion polling methods being used by many pollsters are not only seriously flawed but have the disguised function of creating and manipulating public opinion. The DVD we are selling by Justin Lewis and the Media Education Foundation draws the same conclusion.
Though it looks as if we are using the same methods as those we criticize, we actually aren't. For one thing the first half of each Retro Poll is made up of factual questions both of a historical and current events nature. The purpose is to look at antecedent knowledge, the background information on which people form their opinions. This "looking back" is a form of "retro"spective analysis. It also allows us to reset people's minds so that they do not anticipate what they "think they are expected to say," something that happens all too often in public discourse. For example, in the factual section, before asking if George Bush should be impeached for misleading the public and Congress on weapons of mass destruction, we asked people to identify the 20th century President who was about to be impeached (Nixon) and the one who was impeached (Clinton) to set the actual context.
Although social science survey research can be very useful to the public when designed for the purpose of truly understanding peoples' needs and viewpoints, we find that opinion research in the corporate media realm is rarely more than an extension of marketing plans by politicians, political parties, media editors, and the corporate and financial elite. Their polls aim at getting people to back the ways of thinking (the assumptions) of these institutions. In the minds of those power groups we live in a nation that on the one hand leads the world and is the historical and contemporary representation of human progress at its pinnacle of scientific and technological achievement and, as well, the bastion and font of democratic values; yet on the other hand they see us as a nation of sheep who can be trained to walk in a straight line wherever the trend setters choose to lead us.
The new world order into which pseudo-democratic American exceptionalism draws us was presaged not by the invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan, but by the Spanish American War at the dawning of the 20th Century, by two cataclysmic world wars, and by the reformation and restructuring of the capitalist world in the 50 years after world war II with the defeat of Nazism and old fashion colonialism. The forces which created the New World Order which crushes the viability of public services by governments around the world, presided over by the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO were not invented by George Bush Sr. or Ronald Reagan, any more than the exceptional aggression against Iraq was simply the work of the son and a coterie of reactionary advisors. Indeed, humanity is also today being led by people like Tony Blair, a Laborite, as well as George Bush to the brink of irreversible catastrophe by this "progress," progress which resulted from the explosive supremacy of technique under 20th century capitalism.
In the social realm, technical advances allow a practice of behaviorism that dwarfs the efforts at social manipulation that occurred under the Nazi and the Soviet Regimes. Besides the intentional use of Retro to suggest the importance of looking back at antecedent knowledge of those polled we are attempting to highlight this entire panorama of antecedent 20th century history that plays into the way that Americans (we should say citizens of the U.S.A.) view the world. We are implying that the social, political, economic, and cultural road we are currently trodding may not be the road of human progress that our institutions teach us to believe in.
We believe it important to fracture the dominant patterns of social manipulation. Such action enhances the probability of human survival. This is a motivating force in this project. Since the mythology of the "New American Century" is promoted as the paradigm of progress in the world view currently dominant in the U.S. then, in fact, the word "progress" has become its antithesis. The militant rush to overt U.S. dominance and supremacy and the extreme accumulation and concentration of wealth in the hands of only a tiny fraction of humans stares in the face of a world roiling with social catastrophes. There are many biological and environmental markers suggesting we are moving toward an irreversible destruction of our habitat, the seas, climate and the plant and animal species upon which we depend, as well as the degradation of our own species through wars, dominance, nuclear and chemical contamination, disease and neglect.
If a significant proportion the intelligencia of this mass market culture insists that we are living in the greatest age of progress in human history, then someone must shout "what you call progress is NOT progress at all." It is retrogressive. We are going backward. And if forward is now backward, then by rational analysis, backward must be forward. On some level then, these are times when we must seriously reassert the importance of understanding history (looking backward) and how it is manipulated. In doing so we may hopefully understand our historical location and why people draw certain erroneous conclusions and have misguided opinions. In addition we hope to highlight the urgency of moving back from the precipice, of withdrawing ourselves and our participation from a mass culture gone berserk at the behest of money
Of course Retro is just a word. Words can't do any of this. Nevertheless, words are among our small armamentarium to resist. 'Retro' Poll is another way of saying what must be said to those in power: NO! NO! NO! Not in Our Name. Not with our blood. Not with our sweat. Not with our tears. The people shall decide for themselves which direction is forward and which backward.
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