Simple question – if you’ve based your opinion on a certain perspective or set of information and it turns out that the details as you understand them are invalid, would you sincerely want somebody to point that out to you???
Pondering after watching a Facebook thread unfold between family the other day in which arguments were made about the women’s marches taking place around the country and the world right now against President Trump. When confronted with corrections, the original poster got very defensive and eventually pulled her post down citing her opinion was always wrong and she should just keep it to herself or something of that nature…
But here’s the thing – all pleasantries aside, the original post was based on an incorrect characterization of said protest activities. It was presented in a personal light, albeit in an adversarial way meant to attack the protestors, but it really rang out to me the fact that when told that their understanding was flat-out wrong, all hope of discussion flew out the window. So what now?
Was it in the approach? Or was it just one of those posts where you’re welcome to comment if you agree with me, but I want to bitch about the other side because this is what I think of them and nothing is going to change my mind???
Nobody likes being told that they’re wrong – I get that. Yet in this day and age when many people get all of their information via Facebook and terms like “fake news” and – my new disgusted favorite that Kellyanne Conway just coined today – “alternative facts” are thrown around to defend against information that people don’t want to hear more so than for factual cause, a lot of people are going to be wrong about the perspectives that they have.
So how do you politely tell somebody that their basis of fact is complete and utter shit? 😕
When I first moved to Florida, I was a proud subscriber to our daily local newspaper – the now defunct Tampa Tribune.
I had actually started getting the Sundays mailed to me about a year prior so that I could look through the classifieds for jobs and places to live, and I ended up extending it to a full subscription when I got here admittedly because it felt like the grown-up thing to do, plus it cemented the idea that my new city warranted a seven day newspaper whereas the papers back home in Northern Michigan were only published something like twice a week! The paper would get delivered to the front door of my apartment every morning in time for me to take it to work with me, and it would end up getting passed around my team throughout the day until I had a chance to read it myself during lunch.
That went on for several years until eventually I stopped carrying it to work with me and the growing pile of unread papers on my floor became more of a guilt-trip than an honest source for news. By then it was probably 2007 / 2008 and I was getting the vast majority of my news, including stories from the paper that got delivered to me by hand, off the Internet before I ever got around to even unbagging the day’s newspaper until finally I just bit the bullet and canceled the thing altogether.
I remember literally sitting on the floor with several dozen newspapers, flipping through them methodically to skim for anything I may have missed just because I felt guilty throwing the papers out without ever even opening them!
So fast-forward to today, like many of my like-minded colleagues in the wake of the election season and particularly this fake news hysteria, I just recently subscribed to a couple of newspapers … electronically, that is. For me, I chose The New York Times because they seem to hit on most of the biggest national and world stories and the Orlando Sentinel because I enjoy their tourism and theme park coverage.
The total cost once their promotional periods are over is less than $4 a week.
Mind you, I’m a bit torn about paying for online content across the board just because I don’t think I want to see the Internet turn into a place where micro-payments are the cost of access, although between my own dwindling ad revenues and the awful user experiences that more and more sites are willing to subject readers to in exchange for ad dollars once again, my opinion on the topic certainly isn’t set in stone…
But I think when it comes to real journalism – not opinions that are a dime a dozen, but true, ethical reporting – as the information age continues to grow in ways that we’re not entirely sure how to contain, it’s important that we put our support behind those news sources which we rely on so that money isn’t a reason for them to fall off the edge of the earth like countless newspapers have done in the last decade. Sure, it’s becoming harder and harder to know what represents honest reporting these days and I’ll sincerely admit that my own selections aren’t 100% unbiased, but I think we need to start somewhere and for the stories that I’ve found myself wanting to read more and more lately, these are two of the papers that consistently deliver.
Plus I’m getting sick of seeing that “You’ve exceeded your 10 free articles for the month!” pop-up from the Times and they’re like every third story in my Facebook feed, so I’m willing to pay a couple of bucks a month just to get rid of that alone! 😛
It’s both strange and challenging to see how the Internet has evolved to where you can’t necessarily even trust that someone is who they say they are online, in a multitude of areas.
I suppose this started with the earliest days of spam email and scams with the prince of Nigeria trying to swindle people out of their bank account numbers, which we’ve watched grow much more sophisticated to where today it’s common to get spam email from your friends and family – often when they haven’t even been compromised – because it’s easy enough for scammers to crawl the Internet and build relationships between email addresses and names that it finds on places like Facebook.
Sometimes I’ll open up my spam folder in Gmail just to see what kinds of spam it’s accumulated and it’s admittedly a little impressive to see their capabilities, though also scary because the whole idea of spam exists because some people don’t know better and will get sucked in by those types of tactics…
And so now we’re seeing this taken to new levels with “professional” trolls and people who purposely write misleading, sensationalized, or even just blatantly fake news stories for fun and profit – this article originally from the Washington Post was an interesting insight into the world of a couple of twenty-somethings who do just that, not out of any journalistic passion but simply because apparently it’s very easy work, the money is good without having to ever leave the couch, and frankly it’s also amusing to see people get riled up.
I’m sure we all have at least one or two friends who do that either on Facebook or even in real life, always playing the devil’s advocate just because they take pleasure from ruffling people’s feathers and they enjoy arguing senselessly. And it’s one thing when it’s that friend you knew from high school who was kind of always an asshole, but a lovable asshole at that, versus the complete stranger who has never met any of the people who are reading his “work” – they’re just a number to him, and much like a video game the goal is simply to get the high score and dup as many people as possible, damn the results.
…even if it influences lives and ultimately impacts an election…
It’s bad enough when actual organizations like the mainstream media miss the mark and report something that turns out being false or misleading, but when integrity isn’t even on the table because the entire aim is to deceive and win clicks, it presents a big problem because once again just like spam email, it wouldn’t exist if people knew better. But many, many of them don’t, and so we’ve got this rise of fake news stories written by anonymous tricksters that gain so many likes and shares that they rank higher than legitimate news, and ultimately these are the ideas that shape people’s opinions because they help to reinforce what they already want to believe and even though anyone with five minutes and a free thought can technically setup a webpage, there’s still a certain air of authority to read words in print when you’re not one of those people who knows how easy it is to publish online today.
Of course, anonymity has its uses when it comes to people writing controversial things without feeling repercussions – it’s just unfortunate that the exact same thing is happening here with a very negative intent instead of using anonymity in a positive manner. When becoming a different person is as easy as saving a random portrait from the Internet and posting it as the picture on your new profile on any social network, it makes it all the more challenging for the rest of us to know what’s real and what’s not when we can’t even trust pictures of people we know and love when we see them appear online.
Despite being the most difficult, is teaching users to be skeptical the best approach to fighting these fake identities online? Social networks to some extent can try to ban fake profiles if they set off the necessary red flags, but just like trying to pick which news sources are legit and which are bogus, depending on the activity it becomes an editorial effort that is going to get criticism from either direction.
Maybe the answer isn’t necessarily in re-educating the older generation, but more so in teaching new generations who have never lived when this unprecedented access to information good and bad wasn’t available how to consume it, and what to trust and what to avoid. The sites that we do trust also need to continue to fight these issues from their own angles, but there are always going to be scammers trying to take advantage and trolls looking to stir up controversy, so it’s vital that as information continues to grow by leaps and bounds that it doesn’t just become a useless minefield where one can literally find anything that they want, but with integrity absolutely lost in the revolution.
In a way, I think that the Age of Information will have to evolve in see figuring out how to identify and designate that trustworthy content because otherwise its own growing size will become its downfall, and nobody wants that! We can’t just scrap the whole thing and start Internet2 when this Internet gets so full of garbage that it becomes unusable… 😉
…for your information, that is. 😉
Because somehow in the course of a week we managed to go from needing a more diligent news media to trust no one as if The X-Files is suddenly going to come back into style! And don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly good for people to be skeptical and ask questions about the information that they’re consuming, particularly online, but I’m not so sure it’s to anybody’s benefit when it gets to the extreme of nobody trusting anything that they read because the narratives in their own heads are fueled by anecdotal incidents that get turned into blanket assessments.
For example, “None of this violence by Trump supporters against Muslims is actually happening…” because one case was investigated and proven to be false.
Or even just yesterday – Mike Pence gets booed going to see the play Hamilton … but did the cast boo him or did the audience boo him??? I’ve read accounts both ways, however Donald Trump has already tweeted that the cast owes him an apology and plenty have picked that version of the truth up to run with, but it’s a pretty big difference whether it was the cast on stage or simply people in the audience because I’ve got to think that the latter is going to happen a lot!
This whole concept of fake news being shared virally around social media is kind of crazy because even taking it a step beyond people reading into The Onion thinking that it’s actual news, I feel like a lot of the problem especially on Facebook is that people don’t even read articles anymore – instead they just react to and share headlines and memes that get them riled up. Hell, I’ve even witnessed this with my own family reacting to things that I’ve written where they go off on a rant without taking into any consideration the points that I actually wrote about!
It seems a little ironic to find ourselves in the middle of the Information Age yet people are so inundated with data that they either don’t know what to believe or just believe the thing that most closely aligns with what they already want to believe.
Even some of the bigger professional news sources are getting scrutinized right now, which in a way is good because they need to be held accountable if we’re going to rely on them holding other people accountable. But it can admittedly be hit and miss when the same news organizations can be on the ball one minute and literally reporting on tweets the next … which as far as I’m concerned is almost as unforgivable as reputable publications having Taboola ads beneath their otherwise reputable content!
Seriously, you shouldn’t be writing legitimate news stories from a 140-character tweet any more than you should be selling your journalists out with ads pointing to The Photos That Ronda Rousey DOESN’T Want You to See underneath their investigative work!!!
I thought it was interesting to see Mark Zuckerberg talking about how they can address the issue on Facebook because let’s be honest, a growing number of people’s information gathering both begins and ends with their Facebook News Feed. And it’s not as easy of a problem to solve as one would think on the surface because any type of filtering or adjustments to their news feed algorithm is by nature going to insert (more) editorial insight and political bias – they’ve experienced that already with their Trending Topics and being accused of suppressing conservative links…
I like some of the things that Google has done over the years as link harvesters and content farms chase link juice by looking at things like page quality in comparison to similar sites, load speed, and even evaluating design to encourage sites built for people as opposed to search engine spiders. But reliability of the content itself is another level tougher still, particularly because one thing you can’t rely on is social performance because we’re seeing people so actively liking and sharing absolute garbage! 🙁
It’s a problem that’s going to take multiple approaches to solve – it can’t be just the folks like Facebook and Google because, well, there’s only so much they can do, but I do think that it’s their responsibility to do as much as they can because having the largest user bases sharing around irrelevant and incorrect ideas isn’t really in anybody’s best interests. Yet just like Google has actually faced lawsuits about changing its algorithms to favor some sites over others, social networks will see the same thing, and really, if you’re Facebook you can’t really say that Occupy Democrats is ok but The Comical Conservative‘s links are crap … not only is the issue on both sides of the table, but unlike Google’s approach, they’ve got more support of their fans because it’s not like click farms are known for their loyal followers.
I’d like to say that a big part of this is somehow making more people aware of the fake that these links that they’re liking and sharing aren’t true, but whew – would that be a big nut to crack. 😛
It’s hard to say whether things are truly cooling down or if social media has just gotten quieter over the weekend because people are actually out doing things instead of sitting at work posting 😉 , but the time to process and soak up opinions and information has been useful, I think.
In particular, I’ve been weighing a lot the idea of responsibility as a result of the “I’m not a racist, I just like what he says about ______”-argument and I think the reason why I struggle with it is because for me when we talk about all of the different political issues, I find myself dividing them up into different groups and prioritizing them. So while I’m also concerned about the economy and ISIS and immigration and whatnot, when there are civil rights issues on the table like repealing LGBT rights or marginalizing women, it’s hard for me to even talk about something like immigration because I don’t see how we can discuss other things when equal rights for our citizens isn’t the #1 priority.
That said, I do find it interesting how it’s already being reported that Trump is wavering on some of his key policies such as looking into amending Obamacare instead of repealing it altogether, softening his stance on immigration, and even using fencing for parts of his monumental wall instead of just miles and miles of infallible concrete as far as the eye can see.
Same thing for his cabinet – for an anti-establishment candidate, Trump certainly ran straight back to the well to pick top lobbyists and the current head of the RNC for his cabinet just like the politician’s playbook calls for, not so much “emptying the swamp” as emptying the swamp … right into his new administration.
I also read that there’s some confusion about how his businesses will actually be handled because traditionally it’s expected that a politician would put his assets into a blind trust to avoid any conflict of interest over policy decisions … however having the kids run the business in his place is a very different thing than a blind trust!
…particularly when it’s also being reported that he may desire to only live in the White House part-time and spend some of his days back in his penthouse in Trump Tower, which obviously has direct access to the office where he normally works…
I’ve got to say that it was a little weird reading about that suggestion because not only does it pose the question that a lot of people are asking about whether Donald Trump expects to be a part-time president, to me even more so it raises a lot of logistical questions about whether something like that would even be possible!
Already almost immediately after he won the election, the FAA declared a temporary No Fly Zone over Trump Tower in Manhattan until he is expected to move to the White House after being sworn in in January, however even though mum is typically the word when it comes to presidential security measures, it’s no secret that lots and lots of security is built into the White House and its surrounding area to protect the President and all of his staff.
Plus, his staff is all there, too!
How would President Trump work from his golden tower in NYC while the rest of his support staff is left running around back in Washington??? Not that leading his own companies is a 9-to-5 job, either, but the president pretty much works non-stop all of the time … aside from maybe spending vacation time in New York, and even then, what kind of disruption to the rest of the city would it pose to have the president coming in and out on a regular basis?
Are the windows in Trump Tower bullet proof? And missile-proof?!
It’s kind of like the same reason why he won’t be able to use his own jet that he’s used for years as well as the entire campaign. The two jets currently used today as Air Force One are highly customized aircraft between being able to also transport his entire support staff and also hosting security features managed by the defend the President and his staff against everything from other aircraft to even the EMP that would result from a nuclear blast.
It’s not like they make an aftermarket air force defense kit that Trump can just pick up to have installed onto his own plane, and I would think that the same thing would apply to Trump Tower, too.
Would they just close Fifth Avenue whenever President Trump feels like sleeping in his golden bed instead of the public housing that taxpayers pay for at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave?!
Ultimately I’m sure a lot of this stuff will work itself out, and for what it’s worth, Donald Trump is allowed to have anxiety for the job just like anybody else would … even though right now some people are interpreting all of these things bundled together as a question of how much he really wants the job in the first place.
Is there any possibility that Donald Trump actually wanted to win the presidency more than he really wants to be the president for the next four years, where his every move will be choreographed by Secret Service agents and his gold anointed life as a billionaire in Manhattan will have to be put on hold for him to hold this otherwise highly coveted office that only forty-four other men have ever held in the history of the entire country?
Last night’s post really blew up on Facebook in ways that I didn’t intend. I purposely made it public instead of using off my No Politics filter and the result was a lot of name calling and fighting, and even a really nasty exchange with my Dad.
It still shocks me how anyone could look at so many examples of violence and hate and have their first response be anything other than shock and disgust.
That said, late this evening it was reported that one of the stories about a Muslim woman getting her Hijab torn off was fabricated, and I fear that people will use that example to assume that every last story they hear must also be false.
I refuse to believe that.
It’s also been hard for me to process people arguing that the protests taking place are “just sore losers” and not a legitimate voice worth listening to. If nothing else, our own Constitution guarantees people the Freedom to Assemble, and though it doesn’t condone any violence or destruction of property, I think compared to people actually getting hurt in the name of racism/sexism/etc… it’s a minor concern at best.
That said, with all of the negativity and fear being harbored, I’ve found comfort in a smaller group of likeminded friends and family whom I respect and trust on social media – many of whom are also struggling with how to process everything that’s taking place – and it’s nice to see that there are others who also deem what’s taking place to be something serious that shouldn’t just be swept under the rug.
I also took a lot of comfort in this compilation of stories from teachers about how they’ve addressed their students’ responses to Trump’s election from pretty much all grade levels. As much as I worry about youth hearing the horrible things that are being said and parroting them, the fact that many children identify that this sort of behavior is wrong and are willing to help support one another across demographic barriers gives me hope.
And finally, in that same story I came across a quote by Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu that I liked quite a bit:
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
As I walked through Walmart late this evening, I found myself reminding myself that there are so many good people still in the world – complete and total strangers, with no idea how or if they even voted – and it made me think of the things that I can do to help try to see that light among the darkness…
- Be kind to people, especially those who I’ve never met … because why not?
- Heaven forbid I witness something, be the person who steps forward to call out bigotry and not the one who turns a blind eye.
- Don’t allow myself to become complacent should these bad stories continue to surface.
- Use this passion for what’s right to make good art, whether it’s humor or editorials or just my own processing, and encourage my colleagues who strive to do the same.
- Look for the best in people, in society, in our future, even when all signs point to chaos. Have faith in America.
This is disgusting – a collection of the abuse shared by minorities from Trump supporters only a day after he is elected president – as found on social media…
A Muslim American is confronted by a woman in Walmart who pulls off her Hijab and tells her, “These aren’t allowed anymore, so go hang yourself with it around your neck, not your head.”
A group of white men on the subway sees a woman by herself in a dress and joke about “grabbing her by the pussy,” and one physically tries to do so as she walks by. She yells as they laugh it off until the group is kicked off the subway by some onlookers.
An African-American woman in Indiana is approached by some white men in a truck and taunted, “Fuck you, nigger bitch. Trump is going to deport you back to Africa.”
A Muslim woman in Louisiana is assaulted by two men and has her Hijab and wallet stolen.
A woman is presumed Hispanic when she has a cup of water thrown in her face by an older white man after he tells her, “I can’t wait until Trump asks us to rape your people and send you back over the biggest damn wall we’re going to build. Go back to hell, wet back.”
An African-American woman in Michigan is taunted by a group of men while pumping gas, “Yeah, we were talking to you, nigger – go back to Africa, Trump doesn’t want you here!”
A woman in Philadelphia finds her car graffitied with “Trump Rules” and “Black Bitch.”
A Muslim woman at San Diego State University is assaulted by two white men making derogatory comments about the Muslim community as they take her purse and backpack, and then proceed to steal her car.
An African-American woman is confronted in line by two men, “I’m so glad Trump won. Now all the niggers can go back to where they came from. Y’all don’t belong here. You shouldn’t even be able to vote.”
A gay man finds a note left on his car that reads, “Can’t wait until your ‘marriage’ is overturned by a real president. Gay families = burn in hell. #Trump2016 #REPENT #GODBLESS”
Multiple stances of school kids as young as kindergarteners teasing their Hispanic and Latino classmates about getting sent back to Mexico.
A Hispanic boy is beaten by his classmates and told they can’t wait until Trump deports him. When reported to the police, they deem it a school matter and do nothing.
Many of these stories were shared via @ShaunKing on Twitter, though I can imagine that even more occurred that weren’t shared at all…
I remember back in 2001 when we had relaunched Just Laugh, it was a big deal for us to finally get listed under the humor section in Yahoo’s directory.
Like, I got a big packet of information about Yahoo in the mail and everything – it was kind of cool!
Looking back at estimates, there were around 30 million websites on the Internet in 2001, whereas nowadays some 15 years later there are closer to one billion websites and the number of users has increased by a factor of six to nearly represent half of the planet now being online and connected.
In a lot of ways, the growth is absolutely amazing to see what the Internet has become and how people now have access to wealths of information that no one person could consume in their entire lifetime.
On the other hand, however, a lot of it is crap and it seems like at least with regards to news and the search for reliable, factual information, often times there’s more to mislead people than information that they can actually count on … if they can even find it in the first place…
Case in point is a quick search that I wanted to do this evening about last week’s shooting of Alton Sterling because a lot of rumors have surfaced that maybe he wasn’t allowed to be carrying a gun in the first place because he was a convicted felon. Here are the top results of my search:
As you can see, the top result – with its loaded headline and all – is from BearingArms.com, which is a pro-gun blog with ties to the NRA’s lobbying division. Not exactly the fair and unbiased resource that I was hoping for! The other sites aren’t much better, regurgitating reports from other publications with a bevy of linkbait stories on both sides. Of the two most reputable hits, USA Today and New Orleans’ Times-Picayune, neither story actually cites whether Sterling was legally within his rights to carry a firearm on the night he was killed by police.
Whenever we talk about web filtering software, we always think about protecting children from adult websites, but what about protecting any users from misleading and unreliable ones? Not so much as a form of censorship, but in the second wave of a digital age where websites are a dime a dozen and literally anyone can publish on the Internet now, maybe there’s some value to being able to say, “Only give me news content from vetted, accredited sources that I know I can trust.”
Granted, one could argue that social media already filters the modern web in a lot of ways – not all of them positive – but I don’t necessarily want to only view the articles that other people I follow have decided to share socially. In a way it’s kind of funny that the Internet would one day evolve to in fact having too much information, but it’s a good problem to have. I always laugh when people criticize Wikipedia as a source for information that the hardbound encyclopedias at the library still have their flaws, too, so maybe this is just the next challenge of the information age – figuring out how to connect people with the right information in a sea of clickbait and negligibly sourced garbage.
Don’t tell Marissa Mayer now after just shuttering the directory service that Yahoo was once famous for, but maybe they were on to something with curating the best links of the web after all!
This has been a real shitty weekend.
Friday night saw the death of YouTube musician Christina Grimmie who was shot while she was signing autographs outside of the venue where she had just performed.
And then Saturday night brought the worst mass shooting in US history as a man walked into a gay nightclub and gunned down 50 people, presumably because he was homophobic and possibly had ties to ISIS.
A lot of words want to come out, but none of them feel quite right.
I’ve spent a bunch of time watching social media scroll past the last couple of days as these events have unfolded just an hour’s drive from my home, and I know that in the past I’ve occasionally mused about whether I should’ve gone into journalism instead of the path that I’m on now, but in watching all that’s transpired this weekend, I say with great sincerity that I don’t know if I could do it.
Watching these people trying to sort out fact from rumor, all while everyone around them is screaming for answers and they’re fighting the misinformation spread by colleagues who might subscribe to less stringent journalistic standards like getting one’s facts straight and not just using each other as news sources to push their headlines … in world where less people want the answer as opposed to just an answer that they can like on Facebook before moving on to the next thing in their news feed, often times it seems like it would be such a thankless job for such a huge emotional toil…
…and here, I just write jokes about poopy diapers and funny names to call to your own farts. 😛
My sister, who recently moved to Orlando, pointed out how scary it all is because it just shows how things like this can really happen anywhere – you never know when you’re out to have a good time and a crazy person shows up with a gun under their coat, looking to take out their frustrations in life on a crowd of innocent people. I live in Tampa with my family, but we spend enough time in Orlando to be considered part-time residents anyways and this kind of thing could’ve just as easily took place at Disney Springs or at one of the new attractions on I-Drive, or even at the local mall down the street from our house.
It just makes you feel so helpless because you can’t do anything to prevent what happened – that’s all said and done. And you can’t stop your own life out of fear because what’s the point of living if you don’t get out and actually live your life?
So instead we cry, and we hold hands, and we do our best to honor the victims through vigils and prayers and happy thoughts in the face of this cowardly evil. Whether it’s enough or not is kind of irrelevant because at the end of the day, it’s all that we can do until we’re ready to exercise anything that we’ve learned from these events to change the political side … if there’s even anything that can be done, anyways.
Through it all, I would say that there have been a few shining lights this weekend that I’ve personally observed myself:
- The journalists who take pride in what they do to share the facts and not let all of the rumor and assumption get in the way of that effort as they strive to inform the people in the best way they know how.
- The people who lined up across social media to share all of their kind words about the talented Christina Grimmie, and then literally lined up around the block today to give blood which has been in short supply after the shooting.
- The people of Orlando who take pride in their city and just wanted to share their support – a slideshow of scenes from the various theme parks with all of the employees and characters sending their love was one of my favorites!
- And lastly, believe it or not, the politicians who offered their condolences without taking advantage of these horrific incidents. There will be a time and a place where we’ll expect actions and words, but those that weren’t boisterous get an extra point in my book today.
I admittedly don’t really know how to end this, so I’ll wrap things up with a couple of choice tweets that I liked this evening…
— Lynn Tilton (@LynnTilton) June 13, 2016
— The Orlando Eye (@theorlandoeye) June 13, 2016
— Hillsborough County (@HillsboroughFL) June 13, 2016
I guess you could say that I’ve kind of been having a mini crisis of faith over the last couple of weeks where I’ve found myself second-guessing what I want to do with life from the perspective of being a writer.
I wrote about it a little here last week, but in light of the attacks in Paris that literally happened a day later and the tremendous backlash that’s surged since regarding the refugees from Syria, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and last night I believe I finally came to my answer…
Politics and reporting the news are important, and I can certainly see plenty of room for improvement, however that said I don’t know if it’s the right fit for me, I don’t think that it necessarily plays to my strengths, and most importantly, I think it would drive me absolutely insane trying to keep up with it after a while!
I had an idea that I was briefly entertaining last night about a new project that would essentially serve as a Snopes or a Politifact, but exclusively stick to factually correcting details shared around social media. On the surface it seemed like a worthwhile idea and it’s no doubt something that’s sorely needed … but the more I stewed about it, I came to the conclusion that it would end up being an extraordinarily negative pool to wade through because it would basically consist of purposely seeking out the most popular misinformed posts on Facebook and then doing the research to correct them.
A noble cause, no doubt … but is that really how I want to spend the limited amount of time that I have to dedicate to my craft???
And so that brought me back to humor and sort of shined a new light on the art form that I think I’ve somewhat taken for granted. Simply put, the intent of humor first and foremost is to make people laugh. It can certainly also serve to educate or enlighten or even ridicule its subject matter in the process, but all of those things are secondary to entertainment.
It’s an argument that I remember Jon Stewart making time and time again about The Daily Show when various news programs would compare themselves to his program and he’d have to insist, “You think that we’re the same, but we’re not. The lead-in to my show is literally puppets making crank phone calls!”
A lot of pundits gave Stewart crap about not being on the same playing field as they were – primarily because his job mostly consisted of lobbing fireballs at them for 30 minutes every single night – but that’s kind of the beauty of being a humorist. You can write hard-hitting, political humor that serves to cut through the bullshit and highlight the ridiculousness that our politicians spout on a daily basis, but you can also write about other things, too.
If I were to take on that social media fact checker project that I described earlier, sure, there would be a potential to “make an impact” by providing facts to (hopefully) displace the BS, but what would the other part involve for that job? I fear that much like trying to be a hard-hitting journalist, it would be nothing but one ugly shouting match after another where even if you change minds with your latest battle, you’ve still got another ugly shouting match ahead of you and ten more lined up after that.
At least if I stick to entertainment writing, I can follow-up a critical, but also silly post about the Syrian refugees with a comic strip about the joys of unpacking cardboard boxes! What are my alternatives if I dedicate the bulk of my time to dispelling conservative politics or trying to make a dent in the status quo through serious debate??? Those ridiculous cat stuck in the tree or how did she wear it-stories that always make me groan when I see actual news sources taking a break with them?!
People can still take serious cues from humor, but it’s a lot more fun to read … not to mention to write, now that I think about it. So maybe I need to get back to writing humor and stop worrying about finding an unnatural way for me to move the needle.
This was a good talk. Thanks, Internet! 😉