Even if only for a moment, step away from the Internet. Really, just do it, please.
I know it’s tempting to commiserate with like-minded people about how that mean, mean government “done you wrong,” and harp on all those terrible things in the political ads detailing how the people who are supposed to represent us are instead serving themselves, but believe me, it’s for the best. If you just seek out more of the same, you’ll miss possible truths. If you seek out what the opposition is saying, you’ll probably be horrified.
Yes, the Internet is wonderful for partisans in politics and other subjects, but it can be very distressing (or maybe not, if you like this sort of thing) to realize that the most partisan sites tend to do the least fact-checking … other than “so-and-so said it, so it’s true!”
These are some of the same people who tend to hang out on newspaper websites to answer well-reasoned arguments complete with evidence from original, reliable sources with such gems as, “Typical proglib/libtard response,” and “Well, your mama dresses you funny.”
That hurts. And my mama hardly ever dresses me any more anyway.
Plus, attacking the person rather than the argument is no way to win. (For some proof of the sort of sniping that ensues, check the comments on last week’s column. My favorite? “Obama is a Druid.”)
The Internet, in short, is not where you want to go if you seek moderation. Overreaction, yes. Overly emotional but low-on-facts diatribes, oh yeah.
Rational discussion … eh, not so much.
It doesn’t matter what subject—politics, abortion, guns, religion, quilts (really, I’m not kidding)—there will always be people on the opposite extremes who want to fight about it. Those people in the middle who don’t see the world in stark black and white? They’re just waiting for the smoke to clear to break out the reasoned arguments.
And maybe a little chocolate, as studies seem to indicate it can aid cognitive function.
The world is full of extremes, but it seems the truth rarely resides there (elements, yes, but not the whole truth). The truth tends, instead, to be somewhere in the middle in those wonderful shades of gray; we just have to be willing to see and accept it.
My prescription for those suffering from Internet extremism is pretty simple: If you absolutely cannot tear yourself away from the Web, try ending each session with 20 minutes of a site like Cute Overload or GoComics (just stay away from the editorial cartoons there).
If some relaxing laughter doesn’t help, well … I got nothin’.
On a serious note, there’s been more than a little uproar over a photo our editorial page ran of Barack Obama and a “sloppy” salute he gave a female airman last month.
At least a few people have even canceled (or are planning to cancel) their subscriptions to the paper.
My take? The to-do over the salute is much ado over nothing. A photo is a tiny moment in time. We’ve all taken pictures in which we look like complete idiots, or perhaps a chipmunk in a driver’s license photo.
Remember the George W. Bush door photo? Not exactly his brightest moment. Or how about the chest bump (and other photos from that Air Force Academy graduation ceremony)?
I think those who are getting so upset about the photo and citing it as proof that Obama is unqualified to serve as commander in chief need a reality check. There are more than a few photos of Obama executing a salute properly over the past six years, just as there are photos of other presidents in less-than-presidential moments.
C-SPAN does have video, but I couldn’t find the salutes only. The embed wouldn’t work (of course), so you’ll have to head here. Skip to about 38 minutes in, which is after he’s finished speaking and is saluting and shaking hands with vets and military personnel. As usual, there’s more to it than just a frozen moment in time.
As a research nerd, I’m always harder on myself when I make a mistake, especially one made in haste because I didn’t take the time to check the original source’s material. Last week’s column mentioned a poll in which more people thought Barack Obama was Jewish than Muslim (neither of which he is), but upon later checking the actual survey report, which had been corrected, I discovered that was wrong.
It especially was painful because I was talking about fact-checking.
The poll report, by The Associated Press and GfK, noted on that particular question that it had corrected the numbers, which in the first report had been placed in the wrong rows—meaning Jewish, not so much. In haste, I had relied on a couple of AP stories elsewhere about the report, which unfortunately hadn’t been corrected.
Ordinarily when citing polls, I run down the actual survey report so I can double-check margins of error, sample size and composition, and wording of questions because I know statistics can be twisted to prove just about anything. This time I didn’t until it was too late to fix the published version (since it would require more than just a deletion), and I’m still kicking myself. It was correct on the blog, but not in the paper.
Nobody called me on it, and though some in the business would just say, “Ignore it,” I can’t. That’s just not me. Yep, I’m a worrier.
We all make mistakes; I would just hope that more people could admit to it. Here’s mine: Sometimes I mess up in wording or I overlook something. My grammar won’t be perfect since my focus is generally on making things understandable, which perfect grammar sometimes doesn’t do very well; it also doesn’t lend itself well to conversational language. As I’ve said before, this page is a conversation, and conversations rarely have perfect grammar. The ones that do tend to be pretty boring … unless they’re in an English accent. Grammar snob or grammar nazi? Sooo not me.
I also don’t always have the time to quickly respond to everyone who has a question, especially during a short week or the week preceding a holiday. The past few weeks have been especially busy, so most likely if I didn’t get back to you, it’s not because you annoy me or I hate your ever-lovin’ guts, but because I’m just too busy to even remember to eat. My cat reminds me when I have to feed him, but couldn’t care less if I eat.
I set high standards for myself, so when I fail, it hurts.
And when I fail to feed the cat in a timely manner, it really hurts. Anyone have a Band-Aid?