Friday, August 23, 2013

Doris from Milwaukee had this to say...

I read a news report today about a five year old who was arrested, (actually, held in police custody), for bringing a gun to school. The gun was in his backpack, and went off accidentally. No one was hurt, thank goodness.

The administration of the school said the boy will be dealt with as per their zero tolerance policy toward weapons in school. The story happened in Tennessee, which happens to have a statute that says children under the age of nine can’t be charged with a crime, so, thankfully, this five year old baby is not going to the slammer.

One thing that made this story absurd, (among the many, many things that made this story absurd), were the comments below the story. Things like, “Where were the parents?” and “It’s shameful how people let their kids do whatever they want.” And on and on. The people that commented were very clear in their disdain for the parents of the five year old, going so far as to advocate the removal of the child from their custody.

Most interesting, though, was that no one… not one… commenter asked questions like, “was the gun brought from home?” or “did the gun belong to a family member of the five year old?” That would have been easy enough to check. No one asked any questions of the reporter, who obviously didn’t feel it was pertinent to include such details. They were content to simply slam the parents as unfit, incapable morons who were destined to destroy the life of their child, and, God forbid, anyone who came into contact with him.

People just swallowed what they were fed, and puked forth their knee-jerk opinions. It wasn’t even mentioned that there must be more to it than what was reported.

At some point, news went from, “story-follow up- close” to “Event-slanted implications-commentary by people not connected in any way with the story”.

When did this happen?

News, especially news online, has given away its integrity in exchange for “community” with people who are commenting on only what they are told. As long as they reinforce the narrative, they are encouraged to “contribute” to the “conversation”, which is just another way for news organizations to shirk their responsibility of providing all the facts. Some will go so far as to remove comments that don’t fit into the narrative they are creating.

This actually happened on March 28, 2012. A Fox News webpage carried a video touting the “ridiculousness” of a NY City Board of Education request to the state that the companies that create standardized testing remove certain words from tests.

The words suggested to be banned were pretty silly, and the “reporter” stated that it was being done to protect students’ feelings. After listing the silliest words to be banned, an “expert” was brought on to commiserate with the host over the liberalism running rampant. The contributor maintained that the state was making this a mandate, while the host decried the “knowledge gap” being created. The “far left agenda” was cited as the underlying cause.

Now, while they mentioned the fact that these words were to be removed in tests, the mood of the piece was that these words and their related topics were not allowed to be taught at all. The real underlying scream was that liberals were robbing our children of real facts, and would create a knowledge gap that could not be surmounted. The host even read a quote from someone in the NYC Department of Education, so the fact that it was a request and not the harbinger of doom as it was portrayed was certainly available. Just not stated to viewers.

Completely omitted from the report was the fact that this was a request made by the NYC DoE, and as such, had not yet been approved by the state. Just requesting it seemed to be enough to make it “news”.

When I posted to this website that this particular omission equated to their reporting only half of the story, I felt that I had at least done the honorable thing. Within an hour, my comment had been removed. All comments agreeing with the sentiment of the piece remained… six pages of them.

This is an extreme example, (FOX NEWS is just touchy like that. But, people that disagree with them are just liberals, anyway). Most outlets will allow for some back and forth in the comments. All of the major and most of the minor news outlets do this to some degree. You can get into a verbal slugfest with people of all stripes if you so desire. All of a sudden, my opinion on Benghazi or the Sudan or Ghana carries the same weight as Doris’ from Milwaukee and Bob’s from Wichita. But, you know what? I don’t know shit about Benghazi, or the Sudan or Ghana other than what I’ve been told by these same newscasters. Neither do Doris or Bob. That means that, while all of us may have opinions, they are worth exactly zero on the actual news and information scale. So, why are they included?

Because we like it.

We like to see our names on TV, in print, on the web… as long as someone else feels our opinion deserves to be heard, we keep sharing. For advertising-driven media - that’s a no-brainer. If putting your name on screen will get you to keep coming back and maybe buy a little sumptin’ from our sponsors, well, then we’ll be putting your name up there on the screen!

It had to happen.

It’s because America has a weird obsession with fame. Many of us feel that we deserve to be famous. Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga and a boatload of other talentless hacks are paraded in front of us all the time. If they can be famous… well, anybody should be. Getting your opinion read by Carol Costello on CNN is like getting your nipples pinched, (in a good way). “Look, Honey… she said my name! On the TV!”

As long as we believe that our opinions deserve to be heard, they’ll keep putting some of us on the news. The rest of us… maybe next time. That keeps us coming back. Because next time, we’ll really cut through the haze surround that story. My lucid and brilliant opinion is going to get me noticed! Then, when they need clarity, they’ll contact me! Soon, I’ll be considered an expert, and news agencies around the world will contact me for my valuable insights… I’ll be famous. Presidents, heads of state, all will want to know what I think. Yeah, that’s it. Famous. I’ll show ‘em. I’ll show ‘em all…

Monday, August 12, 2013

Judge You? You Betcha!

I saw a graphic today of a biker - tats on both arms, long, ZZ Top beard, shades, do rag, you know, the classic American biker. The graphic had text that read something along the lines of, “I may look strange to you, but I cried when my daughter broke her foot and my mom is proud of me…” and so on. The thrust of the piece was, I guess, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. A noble sentiment, but I have to ask…
Hi, I’m America… have we met?

If you have a long beard, are covered with tattoos and look like you will eat souls given half the chance, people are going to think a variety of things about you… and not all of them will be pleasant. Is that right? Is that the way it should be? No. Of course not. But, is it true?

(See? I used a curse word. Doesn’t that conjure up a preconception about me?)

The way we look, the way we dress and the way we interact with others shapes the way they look at us, feel about us and interact with us. That’s the truth, whether you think it should be that way or not. It just is.

Imagine this:
I walk into a supermarket, wearing shorts, an old t-shirt and sandals. I step up to the customer service counter and ask where I might find a jar of pickles. I’m polite. I smile.
The lady behind the counter is also polite. She smiles, albeit hurriedly, and says, “Aisle 4”.
Now, I walk into the same supermarket, step up to the same counter, but this time, I’m in a suit and I have a knotted brow, (it makes me look busy). I’m still polite when I ask, “Where might I find the pickles?” The lady behind the counter may tell me they are in aisle four, or she may ask what variety I was looking for, and send someone to bring the pickles to me. When they hand them to me, that person will inevitably call me, “Sir”.

I’m still the same me. The only thing that has changed is the perception of me from those around me. And my clothes fit a bit more snuggly, (I haven’t bought a new suit in a while).

Here’s the thing. It is wrong for people to judge you based on your appearance. We all know it, and we all still do it. Yes, you do… shut up. So, if you want to look like Edward Scissorhands, or a young Ice T or Dusty Hill’s stunt double, great. More power to you. You wear that style like you invented it. But, when the straight-laced mom pulls her child closer, telling them, “No, this way, Honey - we don’t talk to strangers”, she means you. Stranger. As in, stranger than her. That’s part of the gig. You chose to adopt that look, that uniform, (and, let’s face it, we all wear a uniform of some sort), you get the American judgement that comes with it.