The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

27 August 2005

Meanwhile, unleaded is down 5 cents

Tulsa's Matt Galloway continues his search for blog trends, and he seems to have turned up a doozy, connecting anti-Iraq War postings with gasoline prices:

It seems like whenever there's increased buzz about high oil prices, it's followed with a surge of anti-war posts which don't mention oil or gas prices. That's important, so I'm going to say it again — high oil price posts lead anti-war rhetoric post[s] that don't mention oil or gas prices. This is not a huge surprise I guess — but this might indicate that we aren't terribly honest about our anti-war sentiments — maybe not even with ourselves. This seems to suggest that we were all okay with sending our young overseas to die as long as we didn't feel it in our wallet at the pumps. But once that happened, we suddenly develop issues with the war — of course, they are completely unrelated to oil or gas prices.

This may be true of some folks, but there was substantial opposition to the war long before the spike in gas prices.

And I'm thinking there's one more factor involved: the cry of "It's all about the oil!" has proven to be a non-starter in the discussion, odious attempts like this notwithstanding. (Besides, were it just oil, we'd have taken out Hugo Chavez instead of Saddam Hussein; Venezuela is a lot closer, and the food is better.) The price at the pump being an economic issue, it makes more sense to blame the Bush who's nominally in charge of the economy than the Bush who's Commander-in-Chief — keeping in mind, of course, that one must always blame Bush.

But back to Matt's graph:

Now look at the purple line. It represents mentions of Bush, Iraq and oil or gas. I think this line represents the level to which the American people (or at least those posting to blogs) associate Bush's action in Iraq with oil and gas prices. When this line trends up, it's really bad for the Bush administration. Once this line begin its upward trend, people are no longer separating the concepts, they are no longer thinking rationally. I think Matthew's right — we've reached the tipping point on gas prices, but it might also be the tipping point for the Bush administration and American support for the war effort.

This might suggest that rising oil prices are the catalyst for American people turning against Bush's war effort — but we're going to use something else as an excuse.

Think we can get Cindy Sheehan a meeting with the chairman of ExxonMobil?

Posted at 7:34 AM to Blogorrhea , Political Science Fiction

TrackBack: 8:48 AM, 27 August 2005
» Blogorrhea & Political Science Fiction from The Basement
This is how Charles Hill of Dustbury fame catagorized my discussion of the gas prices/Bush/Iraq tipping point. He talks about it here. His suggestion is that we try to "can get Cindy Sheehan a meeting with the chairman of ExxonMobil." As usual, ......[read more]

Mr. Hill thanks for the mention. There are a couple of points that I'd like to clarify here.

First off, I'm not saying it's all about oil - tipping points are about layers and layers of small changes until some small change - the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back - tips the balance. When things like the level that people freak out about gas prices or support for a war tip, they become unmanageable.

Second, you are right, there was lots of anti-war stuff before the gas price thing - but it was fairly constant, in equilibrium if you will. And before the gas tipping point Matthew Hurst identified, the "OMG gas prices are making us feed our children cat food" crowd was also in equilibrium. My observation is that in the last few weeks, both trends have tipped, both around the same time - this suggests that there might be a relation - and maybe it's cuasal.

Third, the most interesting line on the graph to me is the purple one at the bottom. Up until the last few weeks - people talked about Bush and Iraq OR they talked about Bush and Oil - but conversations that contain all three were much more rare and consistent (equilibrium). Think of it as a Venn digram - once circle represent Bush and Iraq - one represents Bush and Oil. Over time the two circles expand and contract but the overlap area stays constant. That is until a few weeks ago - people are begining to talk about Bush, Iraq and Oil in the same conversation in an increasing amount. If this trend continues it can't be good for the administration.

It's still early, but I think this will be an interesting trend graph to rerun in a few weeks.

Political views aside, the idea that the blogosphere can be used as a social thermometer of sorts is fascinating.

Your suggestion is an interesting one, although I think it's likely that the chairman of ExxonMobil has Cindy Sheehan "taken out". Getting either of these trend back into equilibrium would proably make the other more manageable. This would be good for the oil industry.

And one last thing - I LOVE your tags. As always, you crack me up. Keep up the good work.


Posted by: Matt Galloway at 8:29 AM on 27 August 2005

Hmmm. I just reread your post and it occured to me that I could have probably been more succinct by saying -

The purple trend might indicate that the American people are finally realizing that the Commander-In-Chief and the guy in charge of the economy are the same guy.

Thanks again,


Posted by: Matt Galloway at 8:37 AM on 27 August 2005

God, people are babies. "Oooh, gas prices are too high! I might not be able to order pizza with extra anchovies, and I won't be able to afford to rent five movies this weekend -- instead, I'll have to make do with just four! Down with the War! Bushitler!" I have to hear this every day at work. People who make lots more money than I do -- I can't even afford to buy a car -- whining about gas prices, which are still artificially low compared to the price of gas in other countries. And a large chunk of the price of gas is taxes, by the way. And another sizable chunk comes from the fact that we now get more of our gas from other countries than we used to, because oil derricks and rigs and refineries are dirrrrrty nassssty things that hurt caribou. But we can't build any more nuclear plants, because they are baaaaad!

So we're going to turn tail, drop trou, and tell our enemies -- all of them, no matter their nationality -- "go ahead, attack us -- we care more for our immediate comfort than about defending ourselves, and as for the rest of the world and its yearning to breath free etc., who cares about a bunch of foreigners? Let them suffer, just so long as we don't have to put out a few extra pennies for anything."

Posted by: Andrea Harris at 8:15 PM on 27 August 2005