Open Letter to Allen Wastler, Managing Editor, CNBC.comSubmitted by Michael Nystrom on Sat, 10/13/2007 - 00:29
Dear Mr. Wastler,
Thank you for the explanation of why you took down your post-debate CNBC poll. As the founder and editor of the DailyPaul.com, the largest and most popular Ron Paul blog on the Internet today, I feel it is my duty to respond.
Your letter was polite, informative and revealing, not only for what it says, but primarily for what it does not. As you mention, Ron Paul supporters are indeed a force to be reckoned with, in the spirit of Samuel Adams:
It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds.
Ron Paul supporters are that tireless minority. As you are certainly well aware, Dr. Paul has the most supporters on social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, leads in the number of YouTube video views, has the most Meetup groups and members, as well as the most volunteers of any candidacy of either party. His official campaign website is more popular than any of the so-called GOP "front runners." Heck, my little Ron Paul blog - run from the kitchen table of my suburban Boston home - is more popular than any of the official websites of the other so-called GOP frontrunners based on data from Alexa.com.
Given the evidence, continuing to maintain that this phenomena is based on "spamming" or "hacking" by a few active supporters calls into question the competency of your judgment and that of your news gathering organization. This tired explanation might still play well to those who are used to getting information spoon-fed from major media outlets, but as the Internet grows, the size of that audience segment is shrinking fast.
If it there were truly only a "few" Ron Paul supporters, how can you possibly explain the massive turnout of supporters - in the flesh - at Ron Paul rallies across the country? Dr. Paul was greeted by over 1,000 at rallies in Seattle and Salt Lake City, as well as 2,500 in Michigan after your very own CNBC debate! I don't know of any other candidate that draws those kinds of crowds, yet such events receive nary a mention in the mainstream media (MSM). It is no wonder that Americans' trust in the MSM is eroding.
The 20,000 daily visitors to my website are most certainly real people. While this number may be small potatoes compared to the traffic that CNBC.com receives, it is likely that many of the votes cast in your poll came from links on the Daily Paul. But I find that it stretches the limits of credibility to believe that a website as large as yours, with its army of dedicated programmers and staff, would find itself vulnerable to what you describe as "hackers."
Your statement that Ron Paul was a "dynamic presence throughout the debate," is kind but only half true. It was true when he was given the opportunity to speak, which unfortunately was not often. As these statistics show, your organization gave Dr. Paul the least amount of speaking time, and the fewest number of questions during the debate. He was given only 7 questions to Giuliani and Thomson's 18 each, and given just over five minutes of speaking time compared to Giuliani and Thomson's 14:00.
Once again, I'd like to thank you for your letter, but sadly most Ron Paul supporters feel that you miss the point entirely. "Congratulations," you say. "You folks are obviously well-organized and feel strongly about your candidate and I can't help but admire that."
It is not that we are "well organized." In fact, there is practically no central organization of the various Ron Paul groups that are scattered across the country. We are a diverse collection of individuals who have found Dr. Paul and who act independently based on our beliefs and convictions. From your vaunted perspective, it must look like we an organized mob, but that is your fundamental misunderstanding. There was no organized "plot" to overrun the MSNBC poll. It was simply thousands of individuals - nearly all of whom, I assure you, watched the debate in utter frustration - who each decided to participate in one of the sadly few remaining avenues of direct democracy left in this country - an internet poll. But you decided to take away even this lousy little venue.
You also say that, "In the end, [internet polls] are really just a way to engage the reader and take a quick temperature reading of your audience. Nothing more and nothing less. The cyber equivalent of asking the room for a show of hands on a certain question."
If you were attempting to "engage the reader and take a quick temperature of [the] audience," then I think we all found out what the temperature is: Hot - very hot. Too hot, apparently, for your liking. The number of Ron Paul supporters showing up at rallies across the country demonstrates beyond any doubt that Dr. Paul has in excess of the number of supporters that voted in your poll. There is no reason to think that the poll was "hacked."
If I wasn't clear the first time, let me say it again: It is laughable that a large, well financed website such as CNBC with its army of programmers would leave itself vulnerable to being "hacked" by the general public. Either your programmers are incompetent, or you are making a convenient excuse that you hope will fly with the majority of casual computer users who have only the vaguest understanding of what the term "hacking" means. You may be able to fool them, but you certainly can't fool me.
If the so-called supporters of other candidates cannot overcome their apathy and lethargy long enough to register a single mouse click in your little poll, then that too is telling of the "temperature" of the audience. The other candidates, reciting rehearsed platitudes and recycling tired old ideas are lukewarm at best and impotent when it comes to inspiring the American people. But by removing your poll, you are aiding in the suppression of this very important information.
A real news organization would certainly be curious about the reasons behind Ron Paul's lopsided, runaway victory. A real news organization would certainly do some investigative work to get to the bottom of the story. Instead, you accuse Ron Paul's supporters of "ruining the poll," and make unsubstantiated claims of "hacking."
How can you so confidently state that the poll was no longer an "honest show of hands?" Did multiple votes come from the same IP address? Is there evidence of some type of nefarious infiltration of your system? Have you contacted the FBI? Hacking, after all, is a crime. If so, please let us know - we are just as interested in accurate news and in preventing such behavior as you are. If not how can you possibly make such a claim and remain a reputable news organization?
As one blogger put it (much better and more succinctly than I can),
To put up a poll where the respondents are self-selected and then attack it because it fails to mirror the results of polls where the respondents are not self-selected is just dumb.
Yes, in the end, it is just dumb. There are a variety of reasons that Dr. Paul is not pulling large numbers in, as you call them, "legit" polls (your quotes). In many cases, his name is not even included.
I realize that it may be inconceivable for an executive of your position and stature to understand just what is going on here, but that is understandable. A very real shift is taking place. People - especially young people, who make up such a large part of Ron Paul's support - have less and less confidence in the mainstream news media. Keith Olbermann's post-debate commentary that deliberately excluded Ron Paul as the only anti-war Republican, and stunts like this one demonstrate why trust in organizations such as yours is crumbling.
Instead of leaving the poll results up that show overwhelming support for Ron Paul, you chose to take them down. You justified this by saying "It certainly wasn't our intention and certainly doesn't serve our readers ... at least those who aren't already in the Ron Paul camp."
But leaving these statistics up for all to see would of course be a service to your readers. It would let them know that there is a group of Americans - people just like them - who are distressed and dissatisfied with the current crop of media anointed "leaders" and who have found a candidate that truly speaks for them. However, I don't think that you are interested in serving your readers, the American people. Instead, it appears that you are more interested in serving your advertisers and preserving the status quo. It is clear to most Ron Paul supporters that the mainstream media has already selected its winners. These winners were not chosen because they are the best for the American people, but because they are the best for the corporate media and its corporate constituents.
Ron Paul supporters have long known that the only way to gain media attention for our cause is by growing our own grassroots efforts, and setting our own brush fires that become so large that they cannot be ignored. Thank you for once again reminding of this with your actions and your letter of explanation. It helps to clarify what we are up against, to focus our actions, and inspire us to work harder and contribute more. It also most certainly it hastens the speed with which we abandon mainstream media outlets such as yours.
With that, allow me to leave you with another quote from Samuel Adams that to me seems strangely appropriate.
If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us
in peace. We seek not your counsel, nor your arms. Crouch down
and lick the hand that feeds you; May your chains set lightly upon
you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.