Some years back, there was a wonderful book called "The Way Things Work". I seem to recall that it was very popular. Sadly, it didn't go into the way things really work. My case in point is the sad sad story of the young man in Florida who was shot to death by a a man who has been variously reported as being associated with, being the Captain of, or having no relationship with the local Neighborhood Watch of the gated community in which the event occurred.
Disclaimer: For the last several days I have been besieged by the grippe. Perhaps I'm just cranky from it. Perhaps it's the lack of sleep followed by sudden four hour naps. Whatever. Here's the story.
Late this afternoon, one of the web portals I use featured a news story at the top of its webpage. The headline read, "Public opinion shifts on Treyvon Martin case". It was the top item in a "News for You" section. The website/web portal involved is Yahoo. I read the story, which involved the shift of public opinion away from the idea of arresting the man who shot the kid (the kid obviously up to no good as he was wearing a hoodie and armed with a pack of Skittles). The basis for this news story was a study done by WPA Opinion Research two days after a CNN poll which showed most Americans thought the shooter should be arrested. CNN I had heard of. I decided to look up WPA Opinion Research. It turned out to be Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research. They have a website that is a little bit frightening, considering what I found in their own write ups:
"WPA's research is grounded in traditional research techniques but adds the latest behavioral science and communications science discoveries to show our clients how to change opinions and behaviors."
That was from their homepage. On one of their other pages, I found this:
"Market research from Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research provides unmatched information that can make or break a politician, election, organization, lobbyist, or political objective."
Although their home page lists them as having been in business for a decade, it turns out that they've only been around for a year (formed March 2011). Previously, the company was known as Wilson Research Strategies. They used to have an entry on Wikipedia, but it was deleted by a user whose credentials are listed as being a translator of Portuguese to English.
The Wilson part of WPA turns out to be Chris Wilson. He used to be the Executive Director of the Republican Party of Texas back when George W. Bush was governor. According to his Wikipedia entry, he worked for Karl Rove. (Which he seems to have forgotten to list in his WPA company bio.) Interestingly enough, he was also the person who leaked the story of former candidate for the Presidency Herman Cain sexually harassing a female employee of the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. It was the beginning of the end of Cain's candidacy. Wilson is elsewhere listed as a supporter of Texas governor Rick Perry. He did the polling for the Super PAC that supported Perry's presidential candidacy.
The Perkins part of WPA is Chris Perkins, who ran the "Independent Expenditure" unit of the Republican National Committee. Before that, he was director of the Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, which was created by and run for the benefit of Former House Speaker Tom Delay. It was fined and shut down by the Federal Elections Commission. Delay was convicted on charges of money laundering.
Now look, let's be clear. I can't afford lawyers and what not, and since this information was turned up in web searches, I am not saying that WPA is comprised of shady characters, and I am most certainly not saying that because they worked for a couple of the known lairs and thieves of the Republican business trade that they themselves are tainted. Guilt by association is not the kind of pejorative reference that should be used. But these things should be noted, that's all. I'm just sayin'.
Oh, before I forget, if you're wondering about the A in WPA, it's for third partner Bryon Allen, who directed political polling projects for the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies.
Now, I use two other web portals, both based on their various news providers. Neither listed this story nor the poll results from WPA.
I looked at the story again. Aha! It wasn't from a news source at all (even though presented along with the news). It was from a political blog called "The Daily Caller", which has been referred to as the conservative answer to the Huffington Post. It is run by conservative Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, and Neil Patel, former adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Now, while I like the idea that political blogs of various viewpoints are included in the telling of a news story, I do not like them being passed off as real news. Especially when there are so many "clues" from a bit of web research which point to manipulated opinion making news stories. Why on earth would Yahoo position this as a featured news story? Might it have something to do with the situation in which Yahoo has found itself? It's revenues and influence declining, its CEO was recently replaced with the guy who used to run Pay Pal. This was done after investors got a bit upset when the former CEO led the company to refuse a very lucrative offer to be bought out by (Oh, excuse me, I meant "merge with") Microsoft. One investment company which has a billion dollars in the Yahoo kitty is hedge fund Third Point. They started buying Yahoo last September. Their owner and CEO, Daniel Loeb (best known for writing publicly published letters critical of various businesses' management) insisted that Third Point get four new seats on the Yahoo Board. One of the seats would have been for Jeff Zucker, NBC-Universal's former CEO, who presided over that company's descent in ratings from first place to fourth. NBC-Universal has been bought by Comcast, who forced Zucker out. One seat would have gone to a former MTV Networks executive. One of the seats would be for himself. Loeb, by the way, is a supporter of the presidentail candidacy of Mitt Romney.
So what I want to know now is why are these alleged movers and shakers of the Republican Party getting behind stories supporting the poor schmuck who did the shooting in this sad story down in Florida?