I’ve been working from home for almost eight years, the only difference in the last eight weeks has been that I spend less time on an airplane and in hotels. I live in an insular world that I know primarily through the post on social media and conversations with a few trusted friends. I am a social creature, and as such, the lockdown has been particularly tough on me. But in many ways, the fact that everyone is locked down has made me more reflective and I’ve come to realize that a lot of the things that most of us have believed all of our lives are complete crap. So let me take aim at some of the most obvious:
- The Media Is Biased. Let’s begin by understanding that just because a media outlet has reported a story with which you disagree, doesn’t mean they are biased against your belief set. But yes the media is biased. I was a reporter for a small weekly newspaper early in my career when newspapers still meant something. Was I biased? Hell yeah, I was biased—I wanted to get paid, and if my story wasn’t posted (turned in to the editor) by 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday it was dead. Dead as in it didn’t go in the paper. Dead as I didn’t get paid. Dead as in all the time I spent researching, getting quotes, writing, and rewriting my story was all for naught. Dead.
The 24-hour news cycle means and in-your-face-in-an-instant news reports mean that getting the story into your phone that you stare at with the same intensity with which Narcisissis stared at his reflection is all that matters. As long as it was not done with malicious intent the media outlet is on the hook. Facts still matter, but context, subtext, or the deeper significance is lost or at least watered down to the point where it merely entertains and does not inform. The media outlets are still on the hook if they are caught lying—liable is still a crime— but don’t mistake lazy reporting or celebrity spin for an ominous bias that justifies you distrusting the legitimate press. And while we’re at it let’s take the time to identify the legitimate press from fan club newsletters. If you are as smart as you think, act like it. Educate yourself with more than sound bites that echo what you want to believe.
Yesterday Kim Jong Moon was dead. Confirmed by several credible news outlets. Today he appeared in public, seeming to refute these claims. Frankly, if the guy had any real brains he would have confirmed that he was dead but had risen from the dead (in just one day instead of three!) It would have been a great story, but alas, I am not the Supreme Leader’s Press secretary.
- You’re Family and Friends Are Panicky Idiots. You read that right. And you might even have started to get filled with self-righteous indignation, but then the best of your realized that I’m probably right. They choke Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram with so much “it must be true because I read it on the internet” dross that it makes you embarrassed to be associated with us…unless of course, this offal neatly fits or supports your skewed world view. They react to fact-checking or questioning their sources worse than if they caught you doing things to their significant other in their beds that are illegal in six states, and is a felony in Utah.
Suddenly they know about the Holocaust than Heinrich Himmler did, more about Pandemics than Jonas Salk, and more about the U.S. Constitution than Thomas Jefferson. The mouth breather that you were sure couldn’t pass a fourth-grade civics test know purports to an expert on the second amendment. It’s said that we have a right to our own opinions but not are own facts, and yet we let these imbeciles spout word salad without challenging them, making ourselves look as stupid as they do.
- All Politicians Lie/All Politicians Are Crooks. Sorry, wrong again. In my estimation politicians (with some notable exceptions) don’t tell any more lies than the next person (you and I). How many lies does a person have to tell before they are a liar? One? If so then we’re all liars. How many ommissions of the truth equal a lie? What is the fib to lie ratio? The fact is what makes us angry is when someone says something that doesn’t fit with our view of the world. As for all politicians being crooks, this is a little less convenient. A crook isn’t someone who thinks about committing a crime, but someone who HAS committed a crime. So if all politicians are crooks why are we fighting so hard to keep from prosecuting them? Because a crime committed in furtherance of our personal agenda is not a crime at all; it’s a necessary evil.
- All Politicians Put Party Before People. This is not far from the truth but it too is absolutely incorrect. All poor politicians put party before people. People grouse about the evil of “career politicians” but isn’t that what we really want, people with years of experience doing a job well enough to get re-elected? The years of experience that a politician spends working with a gaggle of people with opposing agenda and is still able to get things that matter to their constituents is a currency in politics if you don’t like an incumbent vote him or her out, but don’t punish a politician for having years of success in office.
- The Actions Of One Individual Do Not Excuse the Actions of Another. I am bored to death with people too stupid to address a topic without essentially changing the subject. Criticize the POTUS and one of his supporters will shoot back with “yeah but what about Ted Bundy? He killed over 30 women, and don’t get me started on Gacy. This isn’t refuting anything, it merely demonstrates your inability to construct a cognizant and lucid rebuttal of the original point. Introducing unrelated facts designed to get an emotional response makes you look like an intellectual child.
- There’s Nothing I Can Do/My Voice Doesn’t Matter. I know people who read the drafts of bills before they are passed (easy enough to find on the internet or from your congressional representative) and wrote or phoned their representative and told them exactly what provisions in the bill they supported or opposed. The problem is that people wait too long in the process and then whine about the outcome. Posting on Social Network doesn’t make you an activist, getting involved makes you an activist. If you’re tired of all these phony politicians then run for office. Even if you don’t get elected your voice is heard and you might just inspire a person or two.
OK, I’ve said my piece and I doubt I swayed a single one of you. I doubt I have even put the tiniest fracture in the tightly closed minds of any of you who read this, but then again, the next time you feel like running off at the mouth on anti-social media, maybe, just MAYBE you will check your facts.