Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Five Most Endangered Words on the Internet

Dave Pell, one of the rabble of bloggers who happens to write occasionally at Gizmodo.com has come up with what he thinks are the most endangered words on the Internet:
Let me think about that.
He’s partly right. Though he writes his post mainly in reaction to the Shirley Sherrod story, what he says certainly applies to much of the news reaction – be it from professional and highly-paid politicians or media pundits or members of the pajamas media cognoscenti, our inability to control our umbrage before all the facts are in is, in a word, unlimitless.

Pell goes on to write this:
This story is less about politics and more about pace. It provides a clear example of how our Facebook and Twitter behaviors are bleeding over into the rest of our lives.
Almost. While this is absolutely about pace, I’m not sure you can really blame this kind of overreaction on the Internet. The Internet certainly makes such overreaction much easier to do, easier to disseminate and easier to send to your friends, but I’m certain that such overreaction was quite common in the era of newsprint and radio, and even further back. We only hear about it not because everyone’s got a chance to shout their umbrage from the rooftops. Scroll back fifty or sixty years or so and you’d see lots and lots more letters to the editors of newspapers, for example, than we do now, simply because back then that was how people let their umbrage be known. Plenty of fact-avoidance happened in those kinds of venues as well.

So it’s hardly a new national pastime, as Pell puts it: “Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and making determinations and judgments without a full set of facts.” He’s paraphrasing White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs in that pithy quote, of course.

I certainly agree with Pell when he says, however, that the most endangered words in the blogosphere are “I don’t know.”

On a related note: Uncle Jay, over at Uncle Jay explains, says something this week that dovetails nicely with this discussion, coming about midpoint in this week’s episode. He reminds us – as Pell likely would – that we do need to have an assemblage of the facts before we rush to judgment – and that goes for the left as well as for the right.

Here’s what he says, in regards to the Sherrod/NAACP/Brietbart/Tea Party thing, showing that even if you can’t be satisfied with saying “I don’t know,” you can at least say, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Every political party, every religion, every race, every group of every kind have members who embarrass the group, but those members don’t define the group. And people who say they do should be embarrassed.

Amen, Uncle Jay.

Play this video

So I’m challenging myself: Increase the density of my umbrage filter. Spend the time gathering the facts and then, when you’re ready, state your case using the facts. If the facts don’t agree with my preconceived notion, I’ll do the daring thing and change that notion, rather than ignore the facts. The NAACP and Andrew Brietbart could both learn something from that.

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