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Posts from the ‘Politics’ Category

All of you political PR flaks need to quit bugging me

God forbid you should ever donate to a cause because once you do, your in-basket will be filled with dire warnings such as DONATE NOW TO STOP WORLD FROM BLOWING UP.

Does this almost-SPAM really work?

I associate it with the kinds of pitches I see aired with late-night TV shows where actors who look as reputable as Hannibal Lector try to push “miracle” products that I can get delivered immediately at 99% off if I call now. “Operators are standing by.”

So now, it’s politics. The bogus theme I hate most is, “Hey, Malcolm, we need 100,000 signatures by midnight to stop [whoever] from doing [whatever].” Are you serious?  What’s with the deadline? This crap has been going on for years and suddenly I have to sign some silly petition with no legal standing by midnight?

And, “Malcolm, are you with us? A mysterious donor will triple match all contributions made in the next 15 minutes.”

I wonder how long it will be before this shrill rhetoric turns into outright threats. “DONATE OR DIE. Killers are standing by to rub out everyone who fails to support our nonviolent loving kindness campaign by high noon.”

When I see a lot of this schlock from the same place, I unsubscribe, assuming I can figure out how and can get through the barrage of questions I have to answer: “Don’t you love us anymore?” “Did we do something wrong?” “Do you think we’re just a bunch of assholes?”

Then, after I unsubscribe to something I never signed up for in the first place, guess how much good it does? Nada. Zip. The dire messages and pleas for money keep coming.

I figure e-mail SPAM and blog comment SPAM must work because they aren’t going away. I’m starting to think that I should use this technique to sell my books: “Hello, buy a copy of Conjure Woman’s Cat by midnight or I’ll put a hex on your ass.”

Okay, it was just a thought.

But seriously, you political bastards asking for money and signatures before midnight need to shut the hell up. Let’s see, if given the choice between donating to your petition drive or buying a bottle of Scotch, what should I do? I’m buying the Scotch because it tastes good while the petition drive probably isn’t going to do squat.

I saw an article today that said most cell phone calls will soon be from spammers. I can believe that. Most of the e-mail in my in-basket is SPAM. Thank goodness WordPress weeds out most of the SPAM comments on my blog. Everybody’s talking and nobody’s listening.

The reason is simple: those doing the talking are selling snake oil.

Malcolm

 

 

 

Polarized shouting matches won’t solve the school shooter problem

Yesterday, a friend of mine began a discussion of the school shooter problem with a measured status update that, rather than looking for simplistic solutions, clearly invited people to look at the culture and the nature of our society that are behind what might be called an epidemic.

While most of those commenting seriously tried to talk about why people with access to guns today are becoming school shooters when young people have, for years in this country, had access to guns (hunting, trap and skeet shouting, informal target practice) and–until recently–didn’t kill their classmates in mass shootings.

Other commenters didn’t like this approach for various reasons centering on beliefs that (a) so-called profiles of school shooters also described a lot of other people who “suffered the same problems” but didn’t become shooters, (b) the solutions–such as get the guns, arm teachers, put metal detectors at school entrances–were clear and, if approved, could be implemented before efforts at understanding today’s youth would get off the ground, (c) psychology is a “soft discipline” that most insurance plans don’t even cover, so how could it possibly be expected to solve what people believe is a law enforcement issue.

Some people said they thought the media–both news and social–helped fuel the problem by inciting copy cat killings, contributing to the so-called easy fix approach  through non-stop panels of experts, and by providing a fame of sorts to the shooters. Others speculated that non-stop texting and social media use made today’s youth more isolated while giving them the impression they were tied into a larger whole.

In his “Psychology Today” article “‘Profiling’ School Shooters,” George S. Everly states that  While the debate rages on gun control and is not likely to be resolved in the near future, renewed interest in “profiling” those who are at highest risk for committing violence has emerged. However, we must proceed cautiously as no predictive paradigm in behavioral science is perfect, especially “profiling.”

The emphasis here is not, I think, to come up with a formula that predicts who, amongst people suffering similar problems, will be the next shooter. To me, what’s important is considering conditions which appear to have impacted shooters to date and using them not as predictions but as issues to address in schools, families, and perhaps society itself.

Every’s list of primary factors, includes:

  • Males who were students or former students at the school–that is, they were part of the target school’s population.
  • Anger and revenge from people who had been bullied or felt they had been treated unfairly.
  • Individuals who were socially awkward and had few friends.
  • Media contagion as a motivator to frustrated and angry individuals.
  • Dysfunctional family situations.
  • Individuals who expressed frustration/anger through social media posts or some form of “art.”

My list oversimplifies the article, so I encourage you to read it. Whether or not such indicators are within the purview of school counselors is not for me to say. I suspect they are already overworked with a career-choice focus. Parents and parent associations might discuss these in relation to their own children, though we don’t expect a dysfunctional family to have a family meeting and vote to become functional.

Those who think rooms full of youths who are all texting others who aren’t there rather than interacting with those they’re sitting next to certainly have an issue to study. Why do kids do this? Does it isolate them and/or cripple their social skills of dealing with people more directly?

The legality of looking too closely at these indicators might pose problems, such as muzzling a free press, stifling free speech, or the school’s intrusion into emotional issues that parents think belong within the family’s discretion.

As a former journalism teacher, I think there is much the press can do to act with greater caution and restraint in its reporting. “Sitting on a story” for hours and hours during periods when no new information is available not only gives rise to inaccurate reporting and reliance on the opinions/speculations of experts, but ignores other news around the world. For shooters who are looking for their 15 minutes of fame, this endless coverage gives them more fame than they ever dreamt of.

Santa Fe school system photo

We saw how the Ferguson, Missouri violence was fueled in part by the lies told–and perpetuated by the media–about the Michael Brown shooting by people who claimed to be witnesses who weren’t even there. A lot of violence occurred based on those lies, and even after they were proven false, many people continued to believe them. A network I won’t name was taking phone calls after the Santa Fe, Texas shooting from people that did not appear to have been vetted who claimed to have been there. Were they really there? The network took their comments as gospel, something no good reporter would ever do. In this approach, the network wasn’t a news organization but another cog in the social media spreading viral information that could only incite more incorrect views on causes, and perhaps our next shooting.

Addressing these so-called indicators isn’t a quick fix. Personally, I am more interested in knowing what in society has changed that has allowed/facilitated this epidemic.  Some people think “getting the guns” is a quick fix, yet they seem to have no idea that much of the prospective legislation bandied about so far wouldn’t have stopped many of the shooters and/or would be unconstitutional. Trying to repeal or alter the Second Amendment is a process that–even if Congress starts the procedure–would take years and would probably fail. Not a quick fix. Others suggest metal detectors at school doors  which, of course, would have to be manned. So far, the costs appear to be higher than school system budgets. Not an easy thing to do even though it seems so obvious.

I don’t have the answer. And, it might be possible that even if we knew exactly what had changed in our society to create this problem, it might include a slough of so many things it would be hard to address. However, what doesn’t help, is intruding into a civilized Facebook post that’s looking for reasoned discussion with a single-quick-fix solution and then slamming those who don’t agree with it.

If this Facebook thread mirrors society as a whole, we’ll never stop the shootings. Meanwhile, as one survivor of the Santa Fe, Texas, shooting said in an interview, “It’s been happening everywhere. I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here too.”

Let’s hope public policy doesn’t become fatalism.

–Malcolm

A friend of mine has continued some helpful resources:

The School Shooter: A Quick Reference Guide
HOW WE TALK ABOUT BULLYING AFTER SCHOOL SHOOTINGS CAN BE DANGEROUS: EXPERTS
Are mass shootings a white man’s problem?

Is seeking peace a naïve thing?

Many of us who protested the Vietnam War–and subsequent wars–think that some initiatives on behalf of peace are a waste of time. During the Vietnam War, some people suggested that if our troops would sit down with the Viet Cong and sing “Kumbuya” together, the war would end. Among other things, this view showed an ignorance of the region’s history and what brought all the players into the conflict.

Could any of the great wars have been avoided if–prior to the days the first shots were fired–people had worked harder for peace? Historical accounts tend to convince us that the answer to that question is “probably not.” If you’ve read historical accounts, you know that World War I was billed as the war to end all wars. Those who believed that were fooled, I guess.

On the other hand, if we believe that peace is unlikely, then perhaps it is. Our beliefs about peace being unlikely probably shape a lot of our words and deeds and keep us from speaking out against the so-called hawks doing the saber rattling whenever potential conflicts exist. If we remain quiet, then the so-called doves and those who haven’t made up their minds yet don’t consider the fact that the “proper response” need not be a military response.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities tells us that maintaining the Department of Defense costs us (as of 2016) $605 billion, including “Overseas Contingency Operations” in areas such as Afghanistan. Those who advocate social programs, reduced taxes in general, and (naïvely or otherwise) a peaceful approach to the world see these expenditures as a waste of money. We’re lured, I think, into the belief that we must spend that money to keep ourselves safe. Personally, I don’t think the Iraq war or operations in Afghanistan made any of us safer, much less more secure. I support our troops, but not those who sent them to such places.

If you read the news, it’s hard not to think that the world isn’t a very nice place. North Korea is threatening to blow us out of the water, ISIS is causing trouble wherever it can, and it’s getting harder and harder to tell the difference between the Russian government and the Russian mob. Almost every week, we hear of a new terrorist attack somewhere. It seems logical, doesn’t it, to buy more guns and spend more money on defense and covert activities.

But is all that logic a self-fulling prophecy that leads only to more unrest and less security? I think so. I don’t think it helps us to be naïve about the world and its dangers. I do think that if we assume war is the only answer, then that’s what we will have. We need to stop listening to the playground-style bullies who keep telling us the only answer is to “kick the shit out of” one group or another. That keeps leading to more or the same. We kick them. They kick us. We kick them. It’s lose-lose for everyone.

–Malcolm

 

 

Candidate Discriminated Against Due to Silver Spoon in Mouth

Junction City, Texas, August 6, 2017, Star-Gazer News Service–Mayoral candidate George Argentite, 47 Metallica Way, filed suit in federal court under the Americans with Disabilities Act claiming he was being discriminated against because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.

“Slanderous statements by incumbent Clark Trail alleging that a man with a silver spoon in his mouth cannot possibly govern fairly or understand the needs of the majority of prospective voters have not only poisoned public opinion against me in the current election campaign, but have cost me my job at P.S. 47, gotten me kicked out of my role as head deacon at the church, and essentially banned me from local restaurants, movie theaters and grocery stores,” Argentite told reporters outside the courthouse this morning.

Political commentator Joe Everyman, who says his family uses stainless steel flatware, believes Agentite’s troubles stem from Trail’s campaign slogan “My opponent thinks he’s a privileged man or possibly a god.”

Members of the family have mixed views about the origin of the Wallace Silversmiths Grand Baroque teaspoon that protrudes from the left side of Argentite’s mouth. 50% claim that the spoon was swallowed by George’s mother Anne at a Rotary Club dinner while she was pregnant and 50% say the spoon–which is completely fused into Argentite’s jaw bone–resulted from a gypsy curse.

Hospital records indicate that early attempts at removing the spoon threatened to destroy Argentite’s head, “potentially transforming him into a two faced individual.” The pediatrics department believed he would grow out of it by the time he lost his baby teeth while surgeons discovered that cutting off the spoon at the gum line resulted in the object “regrowing rather like a lizard’s tail.”

“Prior to Trail’s smear campaign, most people didn’t realize I couldn’t get the spoon out of my mouth any more than a real rich person could pretend he wasn’t rich,” said Argentite. “People just thought I sucked on the spoon in the same way other people walk around with cigarettes, toothpicks and bits of straw.”

Trail told reporters that “saying your opponent has a silver spoon in his his mouth is a traditional method of vilifying the rich as a class of people who deserve to be tarnished for reaching the pinnacle of the American dream that the rest of us have yet to attain.”

According to informed sources, Argentite has received lucrative offers from monarchs, mob bosses and dictators to serve as an official taster since silver can detect the presence of arsenic in food.

Agentite’s wife, Flora, said, “We’re too scandalized to kiss in public any more,”

–Story by Jock Steward, Special Investigative Reporter

 

Newspapers Use Puns to Report SNL Skit

As Poynter Online notes, some newspapers and other media outlets used blindness puns to report the fallout (at least from New York Governor David Patterson’s office) about the Saturday Night Live skit Saturday poking fun of his blindness.

Patterson–in the skit–blundered around looking for a successor for Hillary Clinton’s seat. Risa Heller, the governor’s communications director called the skit offensive. Newspapers then reported the story with such headlines as GOVERNOR DIDN’T SEE THE HUMOR and BLINDING MAD GOV. PATTERSON RIPS SNL FOR SKIT.

Obviously, the skit was a parody and intended as political humor. It’s protected speech, offensive or not, and seems no more offensive to me than the endless barage of purported humor–much of which comes from politicians and not comedy shows– and stereotyping aimed at Republicans.

Personally, I think Heller erred in calling greater attention to the skit, especially by using the rather lame “it’s offensive” charge.

What bothers me is not the skit but the newspaper reporting. As tempting as it might be to use blindness puns, the reporting of this story is supposed to be objective. Conservative readers might note that when they’re portrayed as hunters, rural, Southern, etc., their claims that they are being stereotyped seldom make the front page–or any page. On the other hand, perhaps they’re lucky since the headlines might just make it worse.

In the old days, journalists were taught to leave their opinions at the door. In the Patterson matter, their job is to report the fact that SNL angered the governor, not make additional jokes at the governor’s expense. This is not objective reporting. It’s, as they say, “high school.”