A WHOLE lot of wisdom in one bite-sized blog post from Dave Pell, internet superhero:
That’s an apt description of the new national pastime: Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and making determinations and judgments without a full set of facts.
When confronted with the realtime web’s constant flow of incoming information, who has time for a full set of facts? We each take a few seconds to consider a one hundred forty character blurb and then hammer out our reactions by way of a Tweet or status update.
— Read the full post
He’s onto it. Good on him.
It’s a natural human tendency (lazy) to revert to shorthand to describe things we encounter — we often frame new experiences in terms we already understand (the infamous, ‘Hmm.. tastes like chicken.’) One of my journalism teachers trotted out the adage: ‘Making the new familiar, making the familiar new’ describing an aspect of a reporter’s job.
The reason clichés are so common in reporting isn’t (just) necessarily because the piece was written by a lazy hack. It’s because clichés, bless them, communicate. That, and tired old hacks who have seen it all before and are reaching for the line of least effort. Also, some things ARE clichés: ‘Minister overspends expenses’, ‘Hollywood starlet comes off rails’, ‘Government breaks promises’.)
I remember reporting my first airplane-in-trouble-alert-at-the-airport story. It got my adrenaline pumping in a way the sixth one didn’t. Same with a sinking ship. (But, to be fair, I only ever reported ONE lion-escapes-from-the-zoo story. And I never got over the ghastly kidnap and murder of a young girl, Karla. Never.)
But back to Dave Pell’s excellent point: the rush to judgement without full facts is a hazardous path. I think the ‘wired’, ‘connected’, ‘status update’ aspect of the internet and (gasp) social media in particular … and the ‘snippet’ or ‘quip’ mentality that often ensues … can lead to a pronounced shallowness.
What’s wrong with taking a bit of TIME & THOUGHT to consider something, a situation, someone’s actions or the veracity of their statements?
What’s the hurry?
Research first, I say.
I’m personally often slow to form an opinion about people and situations. I’m reflective, almost a wonk in terms of archiving and gathering notes and ‘evidence’.
I’m also blessed, truly, with friends with whom I can and do share my thoughts and gestating conclusions deeply. I also check my expression of those ideas with that ‘brains trust’ (Main Q: Am I being unfair?) occasionally drawing back from some ‘purple prose’ (as one of my mates calls it) if the expression is getting too heated.
It’s the same with debate. Why jump down someone’s throat without fully considering their argument, if they offer one? I invite people frequently: Let’s hear your side of it. Have I missed something? Am I misunderstanding this somehow?
It’s different if their ‘argument’ doesn’t exist…. if instead of being a constructed series of facts or data points, it’s just a collection of shallow postures or vacuous, unsupported claims of genius, expertise, godliness or integrity.
You’ll never get to the bottom of that sort of stuff.