Who Knows?

So, by a curious coincidence, my address has been tagged by a long-time and established polling organization, to receive increasingly plaintive pleas for any adult in the household to participate in whatever line of questioning on important matters which they have been asked to research. I guess that someone doing basic research has tagged my residence as representative of a demographic, based on value of home, area of address, ethnic background, income, education, profession … or whatever judgment is used to select respondents for national surveys. One of those mailers even included a $5 bill as token of earnest intent. I pocketed the bill – hey, five bucks that I didn’t have before – and threw the rest of it in the recycle bin.
Time was when I would have been Nancy Nice Person and signed on to give my opinion – hey, I signed up to review movies and books, yea these many years ago, mostly for the freebies which that exercise offered, and once again to give judgment on various surveys that my local grocery store chain offers (in hope of scoring one of those drawings for gift cards) but all that is merely a matter of consumer aesthetics and tastes. This polling enterprise is on a whole ‘nother level. It may touch on the political, and that – like the electrified rail in subway routes – is a thing that I will not venture in these present times. Although I post here, on matters social and political, it is not with my given legal name and residential address firmly attached to said opinions and comment.

A digression – once upon a military time, back in the day when I was stationed at an overseas base in the mid-1980s, a survey was put about to a randomly selected number of troops. If I recall correctly, it was to deal with domestic abuse; some bulging brains associated with research into this maddening problem wished to know the occurrence of and degree associated with military service. Very good and commendable of inquiring minds with a wish to know, and we all were strictly enjoined that if we were tagged to participate in the survey, we should answer honestly, or else. The ‘Or else’ was implied, as this was a matter of military orders. We were assured of confidentiality … but as it came out, many of those tagged to participate just flat-out did not believe such assurances. Troops complained to the base IG – that if they honestly and truthfully answered certain questions on the survey, they could be subject to charges under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. As much as the office administering the survey bleated about strict confidentiality … they were not believed. I can’t recall at this late date, how it eventually worked out, as I mercifully wasn’t one of those tagged for that survey. But the bottom line was – cynics that we all were, and the military generates cynics in a richly-fertilized field – no one believed claims of confidentiality for a hot second.
And such it is with this organization: I do not believe in or trust any assurances of confidentiality. Not if my legal name and residential address can be associated with my honest responses in any way or form. It’s come to this; a suspicion that any employee of this enterprise, processing responses, might be moved to moved to … do something. Break confidentiality, turn over a list of addresses and names to … whomever, in order to punish an opinion of which they disapprove. I do not trust – and that is rather a sad thing. Polling used to be a rather valuable thing for all sorts of constituencies and customers wanting to know the answers to all kinds of questions, and now they seem to be swimming in a sea of distrust.
The other thing is that I would rather keep the powers that be guessing. I’d sooner keep them in unbearable suspense about what the rest of us are thinking, as they are likely shaping such plans to maintain dominion over us ordinary citizens and using polling data to aid that effort
Comment as you wish. We’re all of us on a list somewhere, I think.

38 thoughts on “Who Knows?”

  1. I’d rather the powers that be were willing to take our judgments into consideration, but that hasn’t seemed to be of vast importance to them.

    The polls I’ve seen were worthless–I don’t use the same categories they do, and typically none of the proffered responses came close to representing my understandings of the problems. (I have taken to answering human callers with an eager agreement to answer questions as an advisor, billing for time and materials against a retainer. If anybody ever takes me up on that I’ll have to find a model contract in a hurry.)

    As one not involved in politics, I would like to be a private citizen, with my ballot secret and only such friends as care to ask knowing what I think of the byzantine political stew. But we seem to have an oversupply of witch hunters.

  2. For months, finally starting to become less frequent in the last couple of weeks, some polling organization has been calling our home phone. I know it is them because when I answer the phone I can hear the sounds of a phone boiler room. Then there is a “click” and I get a person who says that they are from [and they give a name that has ‘polling’ in it, but the name changes every so often] and say they would like to ask some questions about opinions. My response is loud, multi-lingual, uncouth, and ends with a demand that they take me off their [several expletives deleted] list. They hang up at that point.

    Similar reasons as you. We are in politically dangerous times. I did get a call today, with all the signs, but when they heard my voice they hung up. Maybe it is starting to work.

    Subotai Bahadur

  3. Reminds me of a story I recall from a polisci class about a Europe-wide survey in the ’50s,
    which all schoolchildren were to participate in. It asked questions about family life and income and while most countries reported great success in getting parental buy-in and response, the French had to withdraw theirs–French adults didn’t think for a moment that the government wouldn’t use the info against them. (Sounds like terrorisme’ to moi.)

    Until cutting the landline a few years ago, we got lots of those calls–none of which I had any interest in even if legit, which most were not–political stuff masquerading as consumer preference surveys etc.

    We are not only on A list, we are enmeshed in them, and the list-keepers can triangulate our weak spots and vulnerabilities with all the skill of their Stasi models.

  4. my former employer used to (probably still does) have surveys with some degree of guaranteed anonymity. Except that one of the metrics they knew was how many people in the group had filled it out. and the managers were judged on how high that number was. I was mostly honest on those since at the time they only dealt with such things as “engagement” and “employee satisfaction”.

    but we were also somewhat skeptical that the 3rd party company taking the survey really kept our answers confidential. Or if you were the one person in the group who didn’t fill out the survey.

    and they never paid any attention to my suggestions anyway.

  5. I’m with you, Mom, and the commenters before mine. Distrust and guessing, excellent summary. My secret (at this time, anyway) ballot will tell the pols what they need to know. Or my direct commo with some given pol.

  6. Back in the days of landlines I received a call where they gave a quick intro and then asked the first question. My reply was in that high pitched, not-quite-a-whine tone of voice some of you may be familiar with as I said “Ma.a.a.n, why fo you be trying to put me in a trick bag.”
    Dead silence for a few seconds, followed by the click as they hung up.
    After all the displays of bad faith, it would be a wonder why any one would trust them with honest answers.

  7. We keep our landline (actually cheap VOIP) because we’ve had the same number for almost 30 years and it’s convenient. However, we have turned the ringer off and do not answer it and only periodically check messages. Why? Despite being on the “do not call” list, we get from 5 to 10 scam calls a day. Other than perhaps 10 calls a year from medical or service providers, we do not get ANY legitimate calls. If pollsters call me, I’ll never know it.

    Besides, I am 100% with Sgt. Mom on this one. I wouldn’t trust the employees of any polling firm not to use my responses against me if it suited their personal agenda. No upside for me on interacting with them.

  8. I remember a few years ago filling out a phone survey. Then I realized I had been stupid to do so. Never again.

    I still get requests from political surveys all the time, though.

    My theory is that these surveys are somehow used to calibrate political polls, to make for better and more believable vote fraud.

    But since so many people have lost the willingness to participate, the pollsters are also lost.

    Hence we get such nonsense results as the poll that claimed Trump was 17 points down in Wisconsin, just before the election.

    Also, my employer has the anonymous surveys too. Flat no one believes they’re actually anonymous. If nothing else, they can determine who was logged into what computer when the survey was taken. We are also required to take a quite extensive survey to remain in the top tier of health insurance, including many personal questions, given by a third party. When this was announced, the company used to term “voluntary” about 50 times to describe their mandatory requirement to fill out this form.

    And fill it out I do, with all the honesty I can muster.

  9. Continuing Yara’s comment (above), RE: Employer surveys of “anonymous employee opinion.” Where I used to work did that annually. I caused a rather large hoo-haw when I started refusing to participate; when asked why I told them: “First, management claims it takes 6 months to get the survey results back; among our many and widely varied products, we also manufacture computers, do we not have the expertise to use some of our own products to process survey results more quickly, or at least contact our customers who buy them to see if they do? Second, given the employee breakdown – surveys are conducted by department, and employee sex and education level is among the survey questions – so among 12-20 people it’s not hard to figure who is who which automatically tilts the survey as far away from any potentially negative opinion as possible, so why should I consider it an accurate measurement mechanism? Third, I am not aware of any instances in which survey results led to correction of problems. So, if my department needs “100% participation” just take my copy and fill it in however you like.”

    As for random political or product surveys, given the current state of our communications infrastructure and population mindset, I’m quite skeptical that the great majority of any surveys produce accurate and meaningful data suitable for use in taking action. Action will be taken, certainly, sometimes based on, or influenced by, those survey data because the survey has to be “justified,” but I question the reliability of it being the correct action.

  10. I do not believe political surveys are intended as some sort of surveillance system. All the surveillance that the System needs is done via your cell phone and social media, information that basically anyone who’s not Amish effectively voluntarily gives them. They don’t need to call you and ask you questions to get information they can use against you. If you’re worth the trouble, they can just use what they already have about you.
    They’re also of course not intended to actually measure public opinion. They’re purely propaganda devices. All the hand-wringing about, “oh how will the polling industry survive another round of terrible polling, the industry needs to assess how it operates or it will completely collapse!” seems to intentionally miss that point.

  11. Confidentiality is gone. The Powers That Be can know anything they want about each one of us, and they could destroy any one of us with impunity. (Nation of Laws — Ha! Tell that to President Trump).

    The response is that we should each stand up and be open about our views. That is why I started using my real name on internet blogs instead of some pusillanimous cover (which the Authorities can easily penetrate). I do not believe that Epstein killed himself. I do not believe Sleepy Joe Biden* got 81 Million votes from living US citizens. I do not believe that the Ukraine is a democracy. If the Authorities don’t like it, they can come & get me — just as they can come & get any of us, no matter how careful we are to live off the grid. (See, for example, Ruby Ridge or Waco).

    Die on our feet or live on our knees. The choice is ours.

  12. Gavin, I don’t have a nom-de-net or two because I think it will make the Organs harder to find me, but because it makes it just a little bit harder for internet randos to make trouble for me or waste my time.

    The same way not having a landline makes it harder for bad actors to bother me personally.

    The admins of ChicagoBoyz and the other place know who I am, and we all know that anything they know is known to the Organs, so pseudonyms are what they usually are–conveniences, and personal statements in their own right.

  13. My current view of polls is that they are not used to gauge opinions so much as to justify actions already decided on. If poll results don’t match plans, well there’s always ‘outliers’ that will be discarded. “But we took a poll…”
    (Back in my days in the educational mills, I made a point of answering surveys with the most ludicrous answers possible.)

  14. “My current view of polls is that they are not used to gauge opinions so much as to justify actions already decided on”
    No, they’re designed to shape opinion. Republicans in PA and AZ are supposed to get depressed and not bother to vote, or even to do campaign work, because Oz and Masters are getting crushed, plus it allows Mitch to justify cutting off funding for guys he doesn’t even want to win anyway. They’re purely Dem political propaganda operations. Don’t let it work.

  15. Among the administrivia and PC that drove me to ‘early’ retirement (whaddya mean early? I’ve paid in since I was 16!) were the internal surveys. The library had about 80 employees then, about 20 faculty and the rest hourly employees. We had our own surveys devised by library busybodies, and of course the campus-wide surveys sliced, diced, and minced by paid professionals. Always with the surveys.

    The best thing I can say about that process is that after several years of bad rankings and damning comments my boss, the first and probably last dean of libraries, was given a lateral arabesque and removed from the job. Still making 25-30% more than the guy who took over, about a decade too late, and barely competent at her reduced role.

  16. “My current view of polls is that they are not used to gauge opinions so much as to justify actions already decided on”
    No, they’re designed to shape opinion.

    It’s both. And more.

    If the regime wants to do something unpopular, they’ll loudly tout a poll and claim the public supports their scheme. The was done with both the Ukraine war and the student loan “forgiveness.”

    If they want to depress Conservative turnout, they’ll conjure up a poll claiming the GOP candidate is so far behind they can never win, as you note.

    Polls are the Swiss army knives of political deceit. They can do a lot.

  17. Gavin, I don’t have a nom-de-net or two because I think it will make the Organs harder to find me, but because it makes it just a little bit harder for internet randos to make trouble for me or waste my time.


    I’m also sure the regime knows all it needs to know about me. But I figure there are many millions of higher priority targets than myself. If it gets around to killing me, the country is already at war with itself.

    But that said, I have no interest in having some loser upset that I don’t want to pay off his student loans decide to send the police to my abode, hoping to get me killed, nor do I want some crazy purple-haired SJW calling my employer to demand they fire me because of my badthink.

    I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t work, but my employer didn’t sign up to help me with my hobbies. I’d rather leave them out of it entirely, thank you.

  18. I go by a nom-du-blog as well and have done ever since I started blogging twenty years ago, for pretty much the same reason: thwarting some internet rando or bizarrely-fashioned SJW deciding to retaliate because they disagree with my opinion.

  19. Bizarrely-fashioned SJWs have had some fairly dramatic successes siccing the authorities on people who were very far from being public figures and maybe thought they were anonymous — probably because those SJWs are the hands & feet of some people in high places. A nom-du-blog does not give any real security — but it does make us seem too afraid to stand up and be counted.

    There was a time when Americans were not afraid to stand up and pledge “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor“. But that was then, and this is now.

  20. I don’t care about what it makes us/me seem. I use the machine for my purposes and see no reason to invite others into my affairs without at least making them spend some time and energy, and I already get too much email etc.

    The DoI language is stirring, but not relevant to my situation. OTOH, pseuds were common in political polemic in the AmRev and Early Republic, and nobody complained.

  21. I don’t answer polls either. But… if you want the general public to know the truth, then you want to find out what they think they know. How else to find out?

    As to confidentiality – with true ironclad confidentiality, some extremely useful information can be obtained that would otherwise never be available. But that degree of confidentiality implies concealment of even really horrible connected information. Rock and hard place.

    Regarding that long-ago survey: society wants authorities to Do Something about nasty problems like domestic violence, sexual abuse of children, drug-taking, and quite a few others. But there is no reliable information about when/where/how much these things happen.

    So we fly blind – and crash regularly.

    I have sometimes wished that a truly terrifying thing be done by somebody: pick a thousand people at random and watch everything they do for a month without telling them. Such an operation would reveal an immense amount about problems like those noted above, and also about areas of common behavior that are normally below notice. (One can’t even ask people to self-report, because then they start thinking about and the behavior changes,)

  22. Yesterday I get an appeal from Tunnels to Towers. Then it hit me – a few weeks ago I went to their web site – left nothing – but I’ll bet those “cookies” traced me.

    Last night Roku askes me to fill out a survey. I’m an important user! I click on the link thinking what the heck – but then, question after question.

    Which of these programs have you seen? (out of a list of 5).

    On an on.

    By the 6th question, with no indication of whether it was the last or 6/50, it was adios, Roku.

    They aren’t paying me enough.

  23. I’m so old that I remember a time when my name, my address and my phone number was all published in a book that was nearly everywhere. The phone company allowed that information to be weaponized against us in order to make a few cents. “Unexpectedly”, the land line phone business cratered to the point where we have been forced to switch to cellular for our fire alarm and burglar alarm at work. Not because we wanted to, but because AT&T disconnected the lines by mistake and can’t reconnect them for months.

    Where the wife of a workmate works was just hacked after someone there was phished. There was a long chain of fail as well but the end is that the company may not survive. They were a financial type enterprise who’s web site, I’m sure, had all the pious incantations about how important they took their security.

    Some random person calls and expects answers to all sorts of questions, you’ve got to be out of your mind. By now, the respondents of any poll are probably as far advanced toward dementia as the President.

  24. I remember a time and place where you could get a booklet from the county that listed every license plate number and who it was assigned to.

  25. About 10 years ago, we got a letter from Harvard University. It said they were doing a ‘research project’ on political affiliation, and listed our neighbors as well as ourselves, identified by which party they had contributed to.

    I have a hard time imaging any valid academic purpose for this ‘research’, unless it was to find out how many people wrote back and complained. Which I did.

  26. The phone company allowed that information to be weaponized against us in order to make a few cents.

    I remember this. When I called to get an unlisted number, the phone company wanted to charge me a fee to keep my name out of their number book.

    I also recall the fee to have them come and fix phone jacks- which I discovered soon after rewiring several of them in my house.

    I dumped to the landline soon after.

  27. One of the primo resources for any historian of a city or part of a city were city directories. Polk’s and Cole’s are the two I recall as most widespread. These were national firms who
    compiled street-by-street lists of residents or occupants of every postal address in a city.

    If you knew a name, there was a phone-book style section; if you had a number you could
    track who owned it; if you wanted to know who owned or occupied a certain address, you looked it up. The ones through the 1960s–possibly later–even included occupational information.

    These were subscribed to by businesses and public and academic libraries.

    Back in the 90’s during the WWII 50th goings-on, I used 1940 and 1945 Memphis City Directories to illustrate the wartime Federalization of the city–yes, even the military installations had their phone numbers listed.

    I don’t recall with precision, but in 1940 there was a small section and most of the offices were in the Federal Building (now the UM Law School–posh!)–FBI, Customs, etc. In 1945 there were several pages to cover wartime sprawl all over the city and county.

  28. You can’t compare the Yellow Pages pre-internet to the post-internet era. It’s just not a comparable thing. Some rando from halfway across the planet couldn’t just find your phone number and use it to harass you or try to ruin your life using it and other easily findable information.

  29. Re city directories: In the late 70s I started dating a girl I met at a college function. She told me a few months later that she had looked me up in the city directory to verify that I was who I said I was. Like googling someone now.

  30. Yellow Pages vs Internet, no; earlier forms of compiled information about individuals, available to the public and/or those who know where to look. I think it makes for interesting historical context and contrast.

  31. I think that for most of history, the majority of people lived in small towns & the surrounding rural area. Small town gossips would know most everything about everybody, and were quite willing to share that info in a scandalized tone of voice.

  32. “I remember this. When I called to get an unlisted number, the phone company wanted to charge me a fee to keep my name out of their number book.”

    Ah, there’s a trick to it. Don’t pay the fee for a non-published number (there’s “unlisted” and “unpublished”; “unlisted” means your number is still public, just not included in the printed book but still available by calling “information”; “unpublished” means not only not included in the bok but also the number does not exist in any records accessible to information operators).

    Think up an unusual name, the more unusual, rare and convoluted the better. Something without any vowels and with doubled consonants is a good place to start and the farther down the alphabet the better. If what you end up with looks completely unpronounceable, you’re getting close, keep at it a bit longer.

    List your phone, publicly in the book, under that name and with only a first initial, something in the X, Y or Z range works well, and no address, just the city. It will be a rare day when you get a call, and it will be only from robocallers which auto-dial every number in an exchange or friends who know how to reach you. Some, but certainly not all, of the robocallers can be diverted by having your voice mail or answering machine answer with the 3-tone “disconnected number” tones followed by a short scratchy recorded verbiage and a loud click. 6-8 seconds of this is plenty. The robocall software will log your number as disconnected and not cal it again for, usually, 90 days. Your friends will suffer through the 7-8 seconds of crap and leave their message.

    Pro Tip: Do NOT use a common name for the listing and hope to hide amongst the masses. Bill collectors purchase the CD of ALL numbers in a state from the phone companies and search trhough them diligently; a friend tried the hiding thing with something like “C. Jones” and got 15-25 calls a day from collection agencies looking for Chuck Jones, Clarice Jones, Charlotte Jones, Charles Jones, Candy Jones, etc.

  33. @Frank: I can think of two differences between the small town and now: Scale and symmetry.
    It was a huge step, but you could flee the town if the pain was too great.
    You knew as much about your enemy as your enemy knew about you.

  34. Frank, yes, I sometimes long for the days when license plates told people what to me were quite interesting things: what county you were from being the first, many families got sequential numbers. The raised hand kept on the wheel on county roads often acknowledged bonds. (A friend’s will requests his remains be spread on a moonlit night in Franklin county. County was used to be a much more important marker of place.) Ah, well, but I like local banks, too. Nostalgia obscures downsides – occasionally I remember why I didn’t want to settle anywhere close to Adams county, despite the fact now my memories seem only positive..

    We keep a landphone because people have known that number for close to 50 years. Sometimes (especially at Christmas or, say, a retirement party for an old teacher) we get a phone call we would have missed and multiple phones in one convesation are more pleasant and easier than with a speaker phone .Balancing these arguments with persistent calls is getting harder to do.

    Sgt Mom I think the calls for pollling you get have got to be a sign of your relative youth – ours are all about medicare services we should want and that, they promise, they will send. These are clearly rip-offs – either of us or Medicare, though probably both. Some won’t speak to me because my husband is sweeter and more forgetful than I (he foolishly gave up his primary physician in one call). A really weird thing happened this week, a call appeared to come from my name at my number (even stranger because everything like that is under my husband’s name). It was a routine rip off but how did they get that?

    Given the empowerment of the IRS, the ubiquity of government aid of some kind or other, the hive mentality of our large institutions, anything seems possible. Some have direct reasons – recruiting for tort cases, for instance.

  35. }}} The response is that we should each stand up and be open about our views. That is why I started using my real name on internet blogs instead of some pusillanimous cover (which the Authorities can easily penetrate).

    As CE notes, I, too, don’t think my nym has any effect on the Authorities monitoring me and my activities.

    But it does make it much more difficult for the KancelKids to trace me down and do nasty things to me, just because i poke at the giant gaping holes in their arguments and called them out as the ignorant DK-posterchildren and fools they so clearly are.

  36. Well, the news this week that the facebook has been monitoring people’s private messages and ratting them out to the FBI for wrongthink probably won’t exactly encourage conservatives to respond to any phone or on-line surveys…

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