CSotD: Assessing the SAP Factor

Al Goodwyn (Creators) brings up, somewhat indirectly, the Stupid Angry People factor in current coverage.

At least he singles out a flaw in how things work, though not specifically citing the Stupid Angry People themselves.

Back in the Olden Days, someone might ask a reporter how a particular public forum had gone, and, in our newsroom, it was common to observe that there was the usual crowd of Stupid Angry People there but that such-and-such had happened and so forth.

Good reporting involved filtering out the people who understood the issue and had a right to be upset from the Stupid Angry People who had no idea what was going on, but were bygawd agin it.

You wanted to report on the people opposed to something but not on the people opposed to everything.

This was sometimes in conflict with an editor’s desire for flash, such that something fairly mundane became far more interesting in the next day’s paper than it had been when it happened.

If, for instance, there were a demonstration against a war, you might have a crowd of several hundred students and housewives and other average people, and a photographer would get a few crowd shots.

But if one person showed up dressed as Uncle Sam, smeared in fake blood and carrying a toy machine gun, I promise you that would be the photo in the paper the next day. It wouldn’t be representative of what had gone on, but it sure would be colorful.

As Goodwyn suggests, poor reporting can elevate a colorful factor well beyond its actual status in a story.

Thus a spectacular candidate can dominate a story without being representative of anything beyond being the brightest, shiniest object in the room, as long as reporters act more like magpies than like sharp-eyed hawks.

Last night, for example, I watched the network coverage of Biden’s visit to Maui, and, as in this Dana Summers (Tribune) cartoon, it seemed the reporters went out of their way to find Stupid Angry People to interview, including one or two who were furious that the government had given them $700 quick payments to get them through the next week or so while the need and mechanisms for further aid could be assessed.

Would they have rather waited six months for help? Nobody asked them.

But these folks were angry with Biden for something or other, including the stopgap aid packages.

Let me pause here to observe that it would be astonishing if nobody in Maui were upset with how things had gone and how they are going.

And in any such disaster — Katrina or the Puerto Rican hurricane or the Maui wildfires — you have the issue of whether having the President show up is a demonstration of caring or simply a way to pull needed first responders off their jobs for a photo op. So you’ll inevitably have some people angry that he showed up so early and some others angry that he waited so long.

Which means it really isn’t news. But angry people are colorful, even if, as on Fox the other night, they are told to blame the Biden administration for allowing a hurricane to strike the West Coast.

Nobody of any intelligence could possibly take that seriously, but that’s why we used to refer to them as “Stupid Angry People.” They are both angry and stupid.

These cranks were once only alluded to in passing as bits of local color, but they have, in the recent past, been elevated to a level that makes furious ignorance a genuine factor in politics.

Which would be bad enough if they were simply swaying elections, but they’ve also started shooting people or threatening to. As John Deering suggests, we’ve gone back to a violent, deranged era we thought the nation had outgrown.

But those people didn’t go away, and they’re no longer being ignored.

Their revolution will indeed be televised, and the more it’s televised, the more encouraged they will become.

It’s not just a matter of interviewing stupid angry people as if their half-baked, hostile response to life were more common than it is.

Which, BTW, is nothing new: A generation ago, tough guy reporters would interview voters by going to bars in the middle of the afternoon, while the majority of people were more likely at work or, at least, sober.

What is new, as Jen Sorensen points out, is that we have now established a cottage industry of stirring up division and anger.

We’ve always been able to find horrible people to say horrible things, if we were willing to turn over a few rocks.

Now there are networks and websites and podcasts happily giving them airtime and oxygen and profiting from their diatribes.

Example? Rupert Murdoch finally had enough of Tucker Carlson’s toxicity and, having paid a hefty sum for those and related lies, kicked him to the curb, whereupon, as Ward Sutton suggests, he and a whole crew of attention-attracting malcontents have been picked up, dusted off and put on display by Elon Musk.

Tucker will be interviewing Donald Trump over on The Platform Formerly Known as Twitter, in place of Trump standing up with the other Republican candidates and defending his policies.

Though, as Nick Anderson notes, it’s not really a matter of defending policies, because the Republican Party hasn’t bothered crafting a platform in years. They don’t discuss policies anymore, though they’ll throw out a few inconsistent, irrational proposals that will never see the light of day, like building a wall and having Mexico pay for it, or raising the voting age to 25 to keep those damned Gen Z’s from screwing things up.

Things are much simpler today: The GOP Primary is just a question of whether primary voters want Trump or someone who isn’t Trump, and it’s fairly obvious that they are in no mood to accept a substitute, particularly since few of the substitutes dare depart from the Trump template.

As Morten Morland observes, there’s really nothing to debate. The faithful will once more anoint their Emperor.

Then, in November, we’ll see who truly amounts to a majority. And if anybody cares about a technicality like that.

2 thoughts on “CSotD: Assessing the SAP Factor

  1. The one-two punch of 24/7 “news” and the internet/social media gave Stupid Angry People a huge platform to yell from and they ain’t going away.

  2. If Fox dispatched all the Stupid Angry People from their channel there would be no one hosting any of the shows.

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