I Owe Mitt an Apology — So does Linus

I don’t usually blog on day-to-day politics, because it’s all noise, and I prefer signal. That’s a systems joke.

Which is why I didn’t jump on the dogpile of reports and guffawa about Mitt Romney’s latest gaffe on opening the windows in the airplane. OK, I did the guffaw part. Well, it turns out, it was a joke, and thereby hangs a tale. Two tales, actually.

First, that the clown shark that is the US press is perfectly capable of distorting a report, if it makes better news. Everybody who was present knew it was a joke, but it never got reported as “he cracked”. It was a story that was ‘too good to check’. Then it got picked up by the piranha Internet and echoed its way around the world, to the point where even Linus Torvalds – as apolitical person as you are likely to find, commented it on it (“he’s a *** idiot”). A week later, someone who was there remarked in an interview that it was a joke, and the howling died down. No retractions were printed.

This happens all the time to Presidents, and presidential candidates, particularly when the press doesn’t particularly like them. The elder Bush once gained the derision of the DC press corps by saying that he’d gone to a tech trade show where they had machines that could automatically read the label on a can of tomatoes at checkout. Obviously, he was a fool who didn’t know what a bar code was because he hadn’t done his own shopping since the demise of the general store. Actually, he was describing a machine that could read the actual label as it rolled down the ramp. It never got adopted by industry, but that’s another story.

So it’s not Mitt’s fault.

Second, people are willing to believe that Romney will say idiot things because he has a history of idiocy. I have friends who will vote for him because he’s a Republican, but they will hold their nose while they do it. You see the same thing with DHS and TSA. They’ve done so many stupid, criminal, things over the years that any report (“yeah, they made the baby go through the baggage scanner”) is automatically accepted without being checked. When you have a vid of him castigating the 47%, probably half of whom are conservative Republican retirees, then a press report of airplane windows seems not only plausible, but possible.

And that’s Mitt’s fault.


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