CSotD: The Boors of Perception

There’s really nothing new about the “latest” poll Cynthia cites in this Barney & Clyde (Counterpoint), and it’s good to have this particular episode set in school because, for years, people have said that (A) their own schools are good but (B) education is in terrible shape.

While people are aware of their own situation, they’re also vulnerable to a sort of peer pressure that makes them fall in line with perceived truths. This can be an amusing sideline or it can be a crisis, depending on what they are hearing and how they apply it.

What they hear can be the result of an orchestrated Big Lie operation, or it can be what I’d call the “Yelp! Factor,” which is that most of the people commenting on Yelp! seem to be sourpusses who complain all the time and are eager to find an excuse.

The crisis comes when people vote based on what they think is the general opinion rather than working things out for themselves, but that’s the essence of the bandwagon effect and it’s both a feature and a bug of democracy.

It makes semi-literate people in semi-developed countries re-elect their dictator because they seem to think voting is a contest to pick the person you’ve heard of, but let’s not be too snide about that, because in more upscale nations we vote for celebrities without questioning their political competence, and moreso if their rhetoric echoes what we’ve heard.

Never mind if it echoes what we’ve experienced.

Pearls Before Swine (AMS) points out why the centralization (and concurrent homogenization) of media brings this tendency to crisis levels.

It’s not so much that the media, with some exceptions, cater to the rich and powerful as it is that, as local news coverage is underfunded and effectively abandoned, you lose a sense of how erratically politics works on a micro level and thus have less suspicion that maybe it works that way on the macro level as well.

One-size-fits-all extruded journalism adds to faulty perceptions.

There was quite a laugh last week when, as Jen Sorensen records, David Brooks tweeted a ridiculous message claiming that a $78 food bill at the Newark airport was a result of Bidenomics and not of his ordering two expensive shots of bourbon to go with his burger and fries.

As she notes, it’s largely a case of his being completely out of touch with real life among regular people, which is part of that centralization of media.

Back when you had a local publisher — not just an interchangeable cog from Corporate HQ but someone truly part of the community — you’d never see this kind of disconnected foolishness in print.

Even if you had arrogance then, it was well-grounded arrogance that everyone in town recognized as such. But, while David Brooks — a New York Times columnist — has little reach beyond a certain well-fed elite audience, his absurd observation is typical of what we’re all being regularly fed on one level or another.

Though his attempt at an apology contains a charmlessly patrician air of astonishing condescension:

O spare me your sticker shock! The question being raised on-line was whether Brooks charged the whole thing on his NYTimes expense account. (And who drinks bourbon, rather than beer, with burgers and fries?)

I’m old enough to remember when the Rockefellers, the Kennedys and Daniel Patrick Moynihan were all well-aware of their wealth and made an attempt to tone it down in front of the rest of us.

Maybe that’s why Mitt Romney contained enough of his old man’s character to say the things he said, if only on his way out the door.

Now every spoiled heir to a TV Dinner fortune, every Yalie who can claim “hillbilly” roots, and every rich punk who inherited a real estate empire passes himself off as a “Man of the People.” even if they’d never stoop to ordering meals in airport restaurants.

Juxtaposition of the Day

Phil Hands

Matt Wuerker — Politico

Hands and Wuerker point out how, though it ought to be easy for a president who stands with striking workers to get their support workers, you will always find dissenters with loyalties that may not be easily explained.

But there are issues beyond simply identifying with a team. In covering Biden’s appearance, an NBC news crew found a union member who complained that Biden hadn’t shown up earlier, whatever that means. I suppose it’s the Yelp! factor, the inevitable malcontent who expects a presidential photo op at a hurricane before the rain stops falling.

My question was how the camera crew found the person, and whether they were actively searching for “balance” in their coverage, or perhaps a dissenting voice to provide color. The overall crowd at the event seemed pretty pleased with the president for having shown up and stood beside them.

Though Lara Trump did question the cost of flying Air Force One to Detroit. The same folks who agree with that no doubt remain upset that he hasn’t flown it down to the border.

Meanwhile, coverage by the Detroit Free Press revealed that, not only was Trump’s parallel visit made to a non-union plant rather than a picket line, but that some of the people toting UAW signs there were not members of the union.

And reading the Guardian’s coverage suggests that nobody had to search for those off-key voices.

Juxtaposition of the Day #2

Steve Brodner

Mike Luckovich

As Brodner and Luckovich say, it really doesn’t matter what Trump says, or what Biden says, or who stands with the unions and cuts inflation in half, or who preaches extremism, predicts wars that ended 75 years ago, mistakes presidents for their brothers and makes nonsensical claims about windmills.

If Biden clears his throat too often or slips on a metal airplane step, it’s because he’s too old.

If Trump claims George Washington seized British airports during the Revolution and stumbles down a ramp, well, Biden is still nearly four whole years older.

If you say it often enough, the perception is accepted as truth.

I noted here before that, if you keep telling kids that broccoli is nasty, they won’t bother tasting it to find out.

Which reminds me that, back in 1964, this song was taken off the air in several cities because even foolish suggestions can have serious impacts. (They still do.)

7 thoughts on “CSotD: The Boors of Perception

  1. Came for the comics, staying for the politics, culture, history, insight, and laughs. Keep it up! Thank you.

  2. Brooks should take a page (or several) from Thomas Friedman and talk with a cabdriver. Not that I admire Friedman or think this would improve Brooks’ writing, but it’s always amusing to read about a pompous dork being physically ejected from a taxi.

    1. Ralph Steadman does the labels for Flying Dog Brewery in Maryland. And I love that he designed stamps for the British Post Office (1985 for Halley’s Comet).

  3. Your ‘schools stink, my kid’s is ok’ mentality reminds me of acquaintances who tell me that kids today are lazy, don’t want a job, and want everything handed to them. I ask them how their kids are doing, and 90% of the time they’re hard workers who aren’t looking for a hand-out.

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