Monday, March 22, 2010

Reading and Writing Polls and the Magic of Words

You get your answer according to how you word your question.  Words have such power.  Veteran readers of this blog know how riled I get by misuse of words.  The mother of all Holocaust museums, Yad Vashem does all the Nazi victims a disservice by saying they "perished" rather than that they were murdered.  People perish in floods, epidemics and earthquakes, but the Nazis murdered six million Jews and millions of others, whether directly with bullets, gas, poison or indirectly by creating these disease-filled camps, ghettos and other deadly conditions.

Another example of the power of words is the Obama campaign theme of "change."  It's brilliant.  It says nothing, because it means something else to each person.  Almost everyone wants change, but they don't want the same things to change, nor do they want the same changes.

Israeli governments consistently get us into "hotter water" by trying to answer the unsubstantiated and antisemitic accusations against us.  Obviously they're unfamiliar with Disraeli's wise advice, "Never complain and never explain."  We've seen how when we act contrite, apologize and explain, it just legitimizes and increases the accusations.  Sometimes you must make your own Teflon.  I remember learning that the ancient walls surrounding Biblical Shiloh had a substance that stopped invaders from climbing them to protect the city.  Israel's Hasbara Information Campaign must develop a modern version of it, and I'd start with Disraeli's instructions.

Opinion polls have too much power over the public and politicians.  There are politicians who resemble cats chasing their tails in their attempts to modify their policies after opinion polls, rather than showing integrity, leadership and vision.

hat tip: IMRA
I got started on this rant after reading how Israel's extreme Leftist Haaretz newspaper distorted poll results.
Haaretz misled readers to give the impression that an overwhelming majority of Israelis see US President Barack Obama as “fair and friendly” toward the country, the newspaper’s pollster, Tel Aviv University professor Camil Fuchs, said on Sunday.

No matter who writes his speeches and what they say, United States President Barack Hussein Obama is ironically incapable of change.  He is too inyani, focused on his own narrow interests.

Yes, you can read in the result of that poll, if you know how to interpret the words and numbers. 
The bulk of the "fair and friendly" is from "51% defined Obama’s approach to Israel using the Hebrew word “inyani,” which can be translated as “matter-of-fact” or “businesslike,” but not as fair."  Actually, "inyani" is a much too ambiguous word to be used in a poll.  It means different things to different people.  You can also explain/define it as focused, even myopic, closed-minded and short-sighted when it comes to a politician like Obama.  He has his policies and nobody should dare get in the way.  That's not very diplomatic, davka,  the exact opposite.  There's no empathy, neither genuine nor fake.  I guess that's the key to understanding Obama.


Unknown said...

Maybe this is why the word in Hebrew for a poll "seker", is so close to the Hebrew word for a lie - "sheker".


Batya said...

Adam, that's a good one!

Keli Ata said...

I like that too, Adam!

It's interesting how so many Hebrew words are like that. Each word close to its opposite meaning.

Hadassa said...

I recommend these two books for English speakers who are interested in Hebrew roots:
Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew
Based on the commentaries of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch By Rabbi Matityahu Clark
The meaning of the roots are fully explained in English. Cognates are given and issues like "seker" and "sheker" are explored. Published by Feldheim.
The Word by Isaac E. Mozeson. The book delves into the fact that Hebrew is the mother of all languages. Many languages are used in the book, not just English. At the Tower of Babel Hebrew was "confused" (hitbalbela) into other languages. Hebrew words are translated and transliterated. Google his name for a website. I think that the address changes from time to time.

Batya said...

I do believe that Hebrew is amazing. When I once paid a shiva (mourning) call to a neighbor born in the USSR, he and his friends (switched into Hebrew for me) were having a talk about history and mentioned the Cossacks, as they said it with their Russian accents, I heard חזקים chazakkim strong (plural) in Hebrew. It makes sense.

Jewish Ideas Daily said...

It's not just the question you ask, it's also the options in a multiple choice question. Depending on how you word those you may get very different answers.

Batya said...

JID, yes, exactly. Each word chosen builds an answer.