Fake News – Part One

I became aware of how truly fake the mainstream media was a few months before the 2016 election. I’m primarily known as a gambling expert, based on four decades of writing I’ve done on this subject. If you google my name you will mostly find references to my gambling writings.

I have many friends who are professional gamblers. Back in the late summer of 2016, after the candidates had come down to Clinton vs Trump, one of my gambling acquaintances told me about a link she’d found on Twitter in which someone had posted an email exchange that had allegedly taken place between a well-known odds maker and a professional election polling company. The polling company had asked for advice on how to conduct a poll in which it would appear that Hillary had a big advantage over Trump.

The odds maker responded with methods that would skew results however you wanted them. There are numerous technical papers written on how to conduct reliable polls by Pew Research and Harvard and others that can be found online that describe proper techniques for getting trustworthy results on election predictions from polling the public. Some of these techniques include polling only those who had voted in the prior election of that type, and looking at demographics from that and other similar prior elections that showed voting tendencies by sex, race, age group, education levels, average income, etc. Many of these factors had to be guesstimated based on zip codes and other factors, so there was always an element of error. The odds maker provided a breakdown based on the 2012 election which showed that by increasing polling among the demographics favorable to one political party, the poll itself would be a true poll, based on public response, but it would not be an honest assessment of the results in an actual election. By using demographics rigged to favor one side, you can make a poll predict anything you want.

The gambler who told me about this said that these academic papers on polling became of great interest to a few pro gamblers who were curious about whether this email exchange on how to skew poll results was real, or just some BS someone posted to make trouble.

So, a few of the gamblers started examining the poll results that were coming out in the media on the Trump/Clinton election and comparing the demographics used by the pollsters to the Pew/Harvard recommendations. Most of the major polls publish their “internals,” meaning the demographics of their polled sample. Most people never click on the link to the internals because the internals are just a bunch of number data which is meaningless to most people. So, some gamblers started analyzing the internals. Over and over again, they came to the conclusion that the polls being published weren’t adhering to the recommendations of Pew or Harvard, but were consistently skewed to poll demographics that would be more favorable to a democrat than a republican. What was most noticeable was that all of the skewing was done the same way, never to make the republican come out ahead., when in fact, if the demographics were adjusted for more realistic voting patterns by age, education, etc., the republican was more often the predicted winner.

This didn’t make a lot of sense to me, because why would a polling company purposely skew and publish phony results? And why would almost ALL of the media’s polls be agreeing that Hillary had it in the bag? It was beyond logic to me that all of the mainstream media would be conspiring to publish phony polls. Wouldn’t this just be setting up one candidate for massive disappointment? The answer to that came from another gambler who posted that a media expert, Robert Cialdini, who had written a best-selling book (“Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”), was a paid consultant for the Clinton Campaign. “Read the Book,” said the gambler. “It will enlighten you.”

I ordered Cialdini’s book at Amazon and couldn’t find anything Cialdini had written about rigging election polls, but one of Cialdini’s techniques was in a chapter titled “Social Proof.”

In a nutshell, “social proof” says that if people think a lot of other people like something, they will want to get on the bandwagon. Cialdini gives the example of the television laugh tracks that were standard for sitcoms in the early days of TV. If people watched a show with a laugh track, they would laugh. If no laugh track, the same show would fall flat. The laugh track gave social proof that the show was funny, so it became funny. Laughter is contagious.

Another example Cialdini provides is a technique professional gamblers have used to get better odds at a race track. They bet $100 before any other significant bets have been placed on a horse they don’t favor, then watch as the public piles onto that horse thinking it must be the favorite. The odds paid on that horse continue to go down, and the payout on the horse the pro gambler likes increases substantially. He then gets a bigger payout when he places his BIG bet on the right horse at the last moment.

Social proof is used, sometimes obnoxiously, on sites like Yelp or Amazon, where the public may post candid opinions. Many posts on these sites are posted by people who have something to gain. For example, WTF Inc. posts alleged customer reviews of how cool their product or service is and what a great deal it is and what a wonderful business WTF Inc. is to work with, etc. WTF Inc. might also post alleged negative customer reviews on competitors’ products saying what a rotten product PDQ Inc. is selling and how poor the service is, etc. But never revealing that it’s actually WTF who’s doing all these posts.

The problem with these phony praises and bashes that are attempts at social proof is that they sound phony. Too many of the people producing this verbal dreck just don’t know how to sound like real customers. To succeed, social proof has to be believable.

But “independent” polls of random people published in various independent media—what could be more believable?

[I recently googled Robert Cialdini and discovered that he had, in fact, been a consultant for Obama’s campaign and was “consulted in the early stages of Hillary Clinton’s campaign,” (Guardian). In the Guardian article he seems critical of the way Clinton’s campaign was handled, so I doubt he personally advised the campaign to use his social proof technique in the way it appears they used it.]

The “adjusted” poll results (adjusted by savvy gamblers to reflect more realistic voting demographics) were so overwhelmingly predicting a Trump win, that a few weeks before the election, I started contacting pro gamblers I knew who typically bet sports online, advising them to bet on Trump to win. Even up to a few days before the election, you could get 6:1 on a Trump win. That’s a crazy payout when the polls adjusted for realistic demographics showed Trump getting at least 300 electoral votes. I explained to those I contacted that the polls appeared to be rigged and mentioned Cialdini and the Social Proof theory. And I warned them that there was a chance Cialdini would be proven a genius on election day. What if—when it came down to voting—Social Proof will have kept a lot of Trump voters home, because they didn’t want to vote for a sure loser, while bringing many more Clinton supporters to the polls because they wanted to get on the winning team?

But because the polls had never changed over the months we were looking at them, my gut feeling was that the rigged polls weren’t working. It seemed to me that if the poll rigging was going to succeed, the later adjusted polls should have reflected a move in Clinton’s direction. They didn’t. I even wondered if the poll skewing had the opposite effect. Perhaps a substantial percentage of Clinton supporters felt their candidate was such a sure thing they didn’t bother to vote, while Trump supporters felt that they had a huge hill to climb and if they didn’t get every one of their friends to vote for him also, they were dead.

On the night of the election, I watched the returns like everyone else, but rather than being shocked that the results didn’t match all the media poll predictions, I was amazed at how accurate the pro gamblers had been in adjusting the poll demographics to be more realistic.

What bothered me most about the rigged polls, however, was that I had so many friends and family members who had been Hillary supporters who were devastated when she lost. And I knew they were so broken in spirit because of the phony polls. If the media had been saying all along that the public was with Trump and that Hillary was a longshot to win, election night would not have been so painful for them. I even wrote a letter to my daughter who supported Hillary and I apologized for not telling her in advance that Trump was the likely winner.

I understand that if the HRC campaign and the DNC believed that Cialdini’s social proof theory would win the election for them, it’s hard to fault them for trying anything and everything that might work. But HRC’s supporters never knew they were being lied to and to this day they’re suffering from the lies, still unable to believe what a handful of pro gamblers figured out months before the election.

A couple months after the election at the 2017 Blackjack Ball, an annual invitation-only gathering of professional gamblers from all over the world, I talked with a number of pros who had made good money betting on Trump to win. They were the real beneficiaries of the media’s phony 2016 election polls.

But what I learned from this is that the mainstream media had engaged in a conspiracy to dupe the public and I find this very disturbing. I realize that every newspaper, website and TV news show has an editorial opinion and has the right to express that opinion. But should the media be actively fabricating news for the purpose of manipulating the public? I find it hard to believe that the media was not in on the scam. I can’t believe that the major newspapers and TV networks don’t have experts who can interpret the published internals of the pollsters.

I’m sure there were many media reporters who weren’t on a need-to-know basis and who would not be let in on the scam. So, maybe Wolf Blitzer and Rachel Maddow and Michael Moore, etc., believed the polls themselves. So, many of the media’s talking heads may have been duped the same as the public.

To me, if a gambler can skew odds in his favor on a horse race or a sporting event simply by placing early bets to influence later bettors, I say more power to him. It’s only a horse race or a ball game. Deception is a widely respected technique of pro gamblers. We use it at the blackjack tables, the poker tables, and anywhere else it might give us an edge. But to use deception on the public in an attempt to skew an election result that will have a huge effect on an entire country? This is not acceptable to me. Hopefully, the perpetrators of this fiasco have learned their lesson. Social proof, or at least, an attempt at social proof by skewing polls, apparently doesn’t work in a major political election where people have actual opinions and aren’t just looking for a bandwagon to jump onto. Hopefully, we won’t see an attempt to do this again. But I know some gamblers who will be watching the internals of the polls now every time there’s a big election.

Go to: Fake News – Part Two

Print Friendly