(By Ray D.)
Just a day before voters went to the polls, SPIEGEL ONLINE bravely predicted a miracle "photo finish" in the North Rhine-Westphalia elections. According to experts known only to Germany's most-quoted news magazine, the CDU's lead in the polls was "rapidly melting away" in the final days before the election. In an article entitled "NRW Election: Swing or Blues?", author Hajo Schumacher wrote of a furious last-minute SPD comeback:
"Election researchers are observing an odd phenomenon: For three days the distance between the SPD and the thought-to-be certain winner CDU has rapidly shrunk. In the opinion of experts it will come down to a photo finish."
Well, so much for that "odd phenomena." The CDU blew away the SPD by nearly eight percentage points, placing far better than most experts expected. This election wasn't a photo finish, it was a head-ringing knockout for the entire SPD. So dramatic was the loss that the Chancellor has decided to call for early elections. It seems the only thing rapidly shrinking now is SPIEGEL ONLINE's credibility and possibly also its readership.
Of course we don't want to accuse the fair and balanced people at SPIEGEL ONLINE of being SPD election cheerleaders. But reporting on a phony SPD comeback that existed only in a few peoples' imaginations certainly won't help the publication shake the appearance of being firmly biased to the left. And passages like this from Mr. Schumacher's article certainly won't improve the site's reputation either:
"However, for several days the opinion researchers have been registering an odd up and down of the percentages: Very suddenly, since the second of the two TV duels on last Tuesday, the values of the CDU are sinking while the values of the SPD are improving, and "noticeably" at that, as a known election researcher in a small circle who is otherwise known for being reserved declared."
Perhaps our "known researcher" should have stuck to his usual reserved approach. As always, SPIEGEL ONLINE continues to cover its journalistic rear by attributing bogus projections to anonymous "election researchers", "opinion researchers" and "pollsters." That way no one has to take the blame or the responsibility if they turn out to be wrong. In fact in the Schumacher article, only one so-called expert is actually identified: Professor Karl-Rudolf Korte of the University Duisberg-Essen, who is quoted as saying:
"I am not surprised by this development. The CDU has largely mobilized its potential, at the same time there are still 30 percent undecided voters. The majority appear to lean towards the SPD."
The article continues:
"According to Korte's information, the two camps, Red-Green against Black-Yellow, have closed from a difference of 12 percent three weeks ago to three percent, which about corresponds to the margin of error of the pollsters. "Nothing at all has been decided," so Professor Korte, "it is like a marathon with photo finish.""
Wrong Professor. It is like a marathon and the winner is miles ahead and you are miles from the truth.
Perhaps the truly odd phenomena is how often SPIEGEL ONLINE has incorrectly predicted the outcome of several recent elections, especially when conservatives or supporters of the Iraq-war have ended up the winners. Remember the recent election in Great Britain? SPIEGEL ONINE author Dominik Baur wrote this opening paragraph in an article entitled "Labour Fears Shock-Results", just one day before the British election:
"Iraq war here or there - up to now, a victory for Tony Blair in tomorrow's parliamentary elections seemed to be as certain as the absolute majority for the CSU in Bavaria. However, now it could, according to pollsters, still be close for the British Prime Minister."
Doesn't that sound remarkably similar to the Schumacher article? The race could still be close...a photo finish...shock-results...a comeback... Not! Tony Blair slam dunked his competition. So did the CDU. Game over, lights out.
Oh yeah, while we are on the subject, let's not forget the US election. Remember the good old Bush meter that, at one point, only gave the US President a 25 percent chance of winning against Kerry? Remember the article SPIEGEL ONLINE ran three weeks before the US election entitled "Interview with US Media Critic: Bush Victory Highly Unlikely" in which another objective expert explained why John Kerry was destined to win? Remember the cocky, self-confident Der SPIEGEL cover published over eight months before the election? (Is there a pattern here?):
Will America Be Democratic Again? Five to Twelve for George W. Bush
So here is a little advice if you are a bookmaker in Las Vegas or just someone interested in politics: SPIEGEL ONLINE is usually wrong about elections. It pays to bet against them, especially when they are in the midst of one of their usual election-time fantasies.