Monday, March 17, 2014

Sham-Wow! Confirmation Bias Alert!

I got a heap of grief last week for my Globe and Mail post on the Crimea referendum.  Most focused on the questionable wording.  I had to back off slightly from my original statement that the referendum wording was asking people to choose between irredentism and secession.  Instead, it was more like asking if people wanted irredentism (joining with Russia) or Quebec' 1995 unclear question.

Why is that?  Because the question focused on the 1992 Crimean Constitution and staying with Ukraine.  Well, that is more confusing than it sounds since the 1992 Crimean Constitution was actually quite controversial with much opposition from Ukraine for its secessionist elements.  Kind of like asking for sovereignty and yet not sovereignty, as confused Quebeckers may remember.

The funny thing is that folks focused on this, but that was not the only parts of the referendum that were sham-tastic that I discussed in the piece:
  • Only external observers turned out to be far right folks from European Parliament.  No observers from respected election monitoring places.  And, no, the CIS folks don't count.
  • The pop quiz nature of the referendum--a week?  Really, since when has any democracy held an election a week after the election's announcement?  I dare you to name one election that was held in such a short window.  Pop quizzes are to enforce attendance and reading requirements in classes, not for major political change.
  • There is that whole occupation thing by Russian military folks who deny that they are Russian military folks.  Add that to opposition folks being arrested/disappearing and other forms of repression.
And so what we do get?  95% support in the referendum for irredentism.  What percentage of the Crimean Tatar and ethnic Ukrainian vote would you need to get that result?  Yeah, I am questioning the validity of the referendum's outcome.  It was a sham from the start, whether the question itself is as confusing to the voters as it was to me and to much of the coverage or not.

If you think that the referendum was perfectly democratic, then either you don't understand democracy or your confirmation bias is so strong that reality has a hard time getting through.

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