As you may remember, I got in a somewhat public tiff with a local Republican/libertarian blog, the Red Clay Citizen, over the veracity of their poll numbers on a state labor issue. Among other things, I was accused of being “basically a government-paid lobbyist for the labor unions,” a particularly incredible idea since NC government is deeply anti-union!
When I returned from vacation this weekend, I had a message waiting for me from UNC’s head of internal audit, whose job is to insure that UNC employees don’t abuse their positions for commercial or political gain.apparently someone had called the state auditor’s tip line–anonymously–to complain that I was “using state resources and your position to conduct and publish the results of public opinion polls.” The auditor laughed out loud and pointed out that this is precisely what I’m supposed to do!
This brings up two lessons worth considering:
1.) People who don’t like the results of the research are, apparently, willing to resort to anonymous intimidation (however pathetic their real-world results) instead of mounting a substantive argument; and
2.) We have descended to a point in at least some political discourse in which the only thing left is opinion; presentation of data, ideas, arguments, etc., is considered always-already charged with political partisanship and therefore to be discounted without even considering the content. I find myself making very old-fashioned, frankly conservative (intellectually) arguments about the value of truth and data.