I imagine that I was like roughly 48% of the American electorate this week; I went to work everyday to earn my paycheck. I kept my nose to the grindstone for the entire shift (much like any other “normal” workday) and then came home in the evenings to doom and gloom about the imminent viral Armageddon. Two very different worlds just minutes apart.
The stories that greeted me at the end of each long day spanned a wide spectrum from the absolutely meaningless (“…county officials confirmed they had two cases that may be determined to be…”) to the absolutely preposterous (“…based on death rate of those contracting the virus…already the worst pandemic ever…”). OK, those aren’t really direct quotes but they really aren’t very far off.
So late last night as soon as I finished nailing plywood over all my windows and put the finishing touches on the sandbag wall around my property…just kidding. As with most things these days, I’ll admit that I’m skeptical but with a young family there is a healthy dose of caution in my skepticism. With any luck, we will look back in a week to ten days and find all of this alarmism was more than a bit overplayed…probably for our own good (in the near term). Unfortunately, this has been yet another splendid example of how too many Americans are not properly equipped to handle news…especially when the Irrelevant Media Outlets and their local subsidiaries put on a real full-court press.
Without doing any sort of exhaustive study, I would guess that most people fall into one of two categories: (1) single-source and/or part-time news consumers and (2) crisis-only news consumers. Unfortunately, in “crisis” situations like this, both groups are ill-equipped to filter through the fire hose of technicalities from reporters who are themselves learning the material on the fly mixed with hyper-sensationalism by editors after windfall ratings. (Don’t let a good crisis go to waste!!!) They tend to believe it all. Without a calibrated BS-filter or a check-valve on their news-induced-emotions, they are easy prey for overreacting themselves and demanding overreaction from their leaders.
I will not presume to guess how much overreacting we are currently witnessing or how much of it is top-down (“…Mayor cancels everyone’s birthday so he doesn’t seem less caring than the local ISD Superintendent who cancelled school for the next three semesters…”) or bottoms-up (“…250,000 flu-partiers rally in twenty cities around the nation demanding Universal Happiness, World Peace, and Tamiflu for all…”) but I will suggest that these un-calibrated news lemmings are also dependable tools of the more sinister elements of the Irrelevant Media Outlets.
To be clear, this lack of critical media screening skills has nothing to do with intelligence or party affiliation. It has more to do with having a sufficiently engaged public with the established, nominally broad media source base to which each individual can apply their own mental curve fit in times of “crisis” in order to gage the proper response. Obviously, most don’t “prepare” for this in advance. It’s doubtful that many would ever seek out multiple sources on any such story to identify common elements, consistency, and inappropriately placed speculation and editorializing. Similarly, few could point to a journalist by name that has been consistently more accurate on any one or many stories and therefore provides a personally demonstrated (calibrated) base on which to put any trust on the current topic.
This is how the drivers within the MSM can so confidently frame a story like DOMESTIC SPYING or ILLEGAL WIRETAPPING with little more that large headlines and consistently worded top-of-the-hour mantras while knowing that most consumers will never consider reading multi-paragraph or (gasp) multi-page reporting to come to some detailed level of understanding of a technically complex terrorist surveillance program. These news-makers then poll the same consumers and spit their own headline-induced creations right back at us as if it was real news. The vicious cycle perpetuates itself.
If I have to make some kind of point with this rambling mess, I guess it’s that as much as the MSM really is a pathetic joke these days, the current state of the MSM consumer base isn’t much better. How else could you explain the total lack of immediate national embarrassment when the popularly elected Sophomore-in-Chief describes his ideal Supreme Court nominee not with a statement centering on the Constitution and judicial temperament but with silliness like this:
“…And we need somebody who’s got the heart — the empathy — to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor or African-American or gay or disabled or old — and that’s the criteria by which I’ll be selecting my judges.”
We’ve got the government we deserve. The future isn’t looking so bright.
Proud Member for 4 years 8 months
PS. Who was on that plane?