Everyone is wrong about everything, and other generalizations

I think there’s few things more appealing to people than an easy fight.

Now, I’m not talking about physical fights (people don’t usually find appeal in strapping on some gloves and taking on a small child in hand-to-hand combat), but I am referring to verbal sparring. Actually, that likely is not the correct term, as sparring usually implies that there’s somebody to spar with.

People enjoy picking fights with large, homogenous groups that will in no way offer any sort of rebuttal. These groups are extremely large, have no spokesperson in place to offer rebuttals and are often unjustly lumped together for the sole purpose of an attack. The most common example of this is the media.

“The media is reporting on this story and completely ignoring this certain aspect.”

As a member of the media, working for a small town newspaper, when people say this in front of me they often look at me and clarify that they’re talking about “the national media” or “television media” or “I didn’t see you standing there.”

The bottom line is, they’re looking to make a declarative statement about a large group of people without anyone being in place to offer a rebuttal.

It doesn’t matter who “the media” is, they’re pretty much evil. Now, if you wanted to get specific, “the media” would include Brian Williams, Hunter Thompson, Dan Rathers, the guy that writes “Jumble,” “D.J. Dave and the Party Pack on K-103.9 in the mornings,” Wayne and Garth from “Wayne’s World,” a small-town journalist in Idaho and Malcolm Gladwell doing a piece for “The New Yorker.”

To be honest, I don’t think them and everyone in-between that works for a media outlet are getting together in weekly meetings to try and figure out exactly how we can keep Sarah Palin (who’s also, technically, a member of “the media”) in the news, or how we can fabricate stories about global warming. If there were such meetings, the talk would likely be based on how little a majority of them get paid and probably wouldn’t work over to the topic of how a massive conspiracy can be implemented.

Also, “the media” has no spokesperson. When somebody randomly says, “it’s all perpetuated by the media,” they know there is going to be no rebuttal. Dan Rathers will not appear and offer his side of the story. Rush Limbaugh will not suddenly appear and patiently explain why you’re wrong. Donald Kaul will not suddenly appear and ask for clarification on what “it’s” is referring to.

In short, you’re picking a fight with nobody.

Having worked for different media outlets, I can always offer an explanation on coverage decisions from the perspective of a newspaper in our town – our coverage is always unbiased (print journalists are actually hyper-sensitive to this almost to a fault), it’s local (we don’t cover national politics once they drive out of our town…although that doesn’t mean we don’t care about them), and if a story didn’t receive coverage, a majority of the time it’s because our news staff (Jon and I) are currently writing or reporting something and can’t do 12 things at once.

Of course, people that attack the media are often quick to explain, “I’m not referring to you. I’m talking about the national media.”

I imagine if someone from the national media was present, they’d offer the explanation of “I’m referring to television media” or “I’m referring to Fox” or “I’m referring to MSNBC.”

Truth is, most media outlets cover news that people are curious about, and statements about media coverage of these events doesn’t reflect those that are covering them, they’re a reflection of the interests of our society. A majority of the time, stories that people don’t want to hear about are often the stories the reporter doesn’t want to talk or write about, but has to because that’s their job…to report the news, good or bad.

I’m not saying not to criticize anything – criticism and skepticism are two things that are vital to keeping people and organizations honest – but if you are going to be critical, be specific. State your frustrations and name a specific source, and if it’s causing frustration for you, chances are it’s causing frustration for others, so tell them about it. E-mail, write or call the media source and tell them what you didn’t like or ask for answer about coverage.

Don’t pick one-sided fights with large groups that can’t offer any sort of rebuttal because it’s a lazy way of having an opinion. Such sweeping generalizations often breed opinions that don’t vary from the norm and can’t be explained on the rare occasion that someone asks you to clarify.

Casting generalizations about large groups are wrong, and I say, with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek, that all who do so are buffoons.

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