Skepticism vs. cynicism

One common thread in a lot of current discussions in politics and sports — we are cynical. We either immediately agree or disagree with whatever we hear.

Cynicism is dangerous. Skepticism is much better.

This piece puts it well: “The difference between skeptics and cynics is a focus on moving forward.”

Source: Skeptics vs Cynics: Problem-Solving with a Bias Towards Resolution – 99U

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Print rules, digital drools? Well …

Great quote in this POLITICO piece on the joy of newsprint:

“The print edition consistently leads me to unexpected stories I might have otherwise missed,” agrees Inc. Executive Editor Jon Fine. “I find digital editions and websites don’t have the same kind of serendipity—they’re set up to point you to more of the same thing.”

We get the Post only on weekends, and I like taking at least a couple of sections and browsing. (Yes, especially the comics, which simply have not made a solid transition online.)

But I don’t miss wrestling with a broadsheet newspaper seven days a week. And I’m puzzled that the typical newspaper has done so little to adapt its format.

First of all — broadsheet printing should only be used on Sundays, when people stretch out with the news on their coffee tables. It’s a no-go for commuters.

Before I left the newsroom, I often heard some people ask why we haven’t switched to a tabloid format or perhaps the Berliner, which is somewhere in between. It makes perfect sense. The weekday paper, if it exists at all, doesn’t need to be that size. It’s shrinking rapidly — pretty soon, each section will be one four-page sheet.

And newspapers haven’t really adapted to the shrinking paper. A daily paper should have some good medium-length features, appealing to the “serindipity” fans mentioned here, and a whole lot of briefs. And QR codes to see more online.

More than 20 years ago, our editor said he could picture different parts of the newsroom working on different products — a newspaper, a magazine, newsletters, and the website. We’ve improved the latter of those. Why not the first? And why aren’t we doing the other two?

 

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Journalists, merchants of fear

I thought this story about anxiety would recycle some complaints about Big Pharma and psychiatry. Nope. As it turns out, we journalists are the ones who are profiting on the misery of our customers.

In other words, I feel a little less guilty about clicking on clickbait now. Cat videos are a little less likely to make people suicidal.

Source: Why Anxiety Is The Plague Of The Modern World | Cracked.com

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Good riddance, Nancy Grace

There are now studies, pop science books, and school-mandated PSAs disseminated to prevent the sort of relentless, torch-’em-first, get-facts-later culture of overnight internet hate mobs gaslighting citizens for alleged misdeeds. But do not get it mixed up: Nancy Grace wrote the playbook on it. She made ruining people’s lives based on hearsay look like model behavior. Facebook and Twitter just helped scale it up.

Source: All the Times Nancy Grace Was Terrible – The Daily Beast

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A quick bit of Icelandic history (or why I’m rooting against my ancestors)

My favorite bio is at Popdose: “Beau Dure learned everything he needs to know about life while stuffed into the overhead compartment of a bus while writing Enduring Spirit, a book about the Washington Spirit’s first season. … He’s best known for his decade at USA TODAY, where he wrote about Icelandic handball.”

Yes, covering Icelandic handball is one of my fondest memories of USA TODAY. I went out on my own accord to see them once, telling my editors they had the potential to be an interesting story.

Far more interesting than I thought …

What we thought before this game is just to do what our forefathers did. They at most endured, like, two or three days at home in peace, and then they had to destroy something. They had to go and fight war somewhere. They went with their boats and stuff like that, and we were just on our boats, destroying something. That’s how we went to the game, just to enjoy those 60 minutes like our (unintelligible) in life. That’s what you do. That’s what you live for.

I have no idea what I asked to get a quote like that from captain Olafur Stefansson. But the rest of the team was fun as well.

It doesn’t matter what time it is, the game starts at 6 in the morning in Iceland, and I think 80-90% of the nation was watching. That’s just typical when we are doing well, everybody follows us.

So said Robert Gunnarsson, a big bull of a central player about the Olympic quarterfinal victory I covered.

Others in the U.S. media, especially Washington Post writer Dan Steinberg, took notice. He and I were among the other American journalists present when Iceland won the biggest game in its history (until today), beating Spain 36-30 in the semifinals. We went to the mixed zone to meet the well-connected first lady of Iceland, Dorrit Moussaieff, who immediately ushered us past security onto the floor, claiming Dan was her husband. (I have no idea who I was supposed to be. Chief of staff? Special Icelandic security detail?)

Gunnarsson compared the game to 300, a movie in which he very easily could’ve been an extra. Gudjon Sigurdsson told me he’d happily play in a U.S. pro handball league if we ever formed one. (Why have we not done this?!)

Moussaieff was clearly the outgoing one between herself and her husband, president Olafur Grimsson, interjecting several times in his interview with us. She was perhaps the most convincing spokesperson for Icelandic tourism imaginable.

Grimsson took office in 1996 and was widowed in 1998. So you can imagine Moussaieff as Annette Bening in The American President, sans the controversy.

Even the best stories have some dark times, though, and Grimsson and Moussaieff are leaving office under a bit of a cloud. The Panama Papers had some sort of link to Icelandic politicians and to the Moussaieff family fortune, and though no one’s being prosecuted for any misdoing, Grimsson abandoned plans to stand for re-election. The next first lady of Iceland, oddly enough, is Canadian.

That election was held in the midst of the Next Great Icelandic Sporting Achievement. The country’s much heralded soccer program has made a nice run through Euro 2016 and toppled not-so-mighty England today to reach the quarterfinals against France.

Which brings us back to 2008 …

Yes, “Dure” is a French name. But I’m rooting for revenge.

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Link Dump, 6-25-16: Toss a sacred cow on the grill

Happy summer to everyone …

SACRED COWS

Worst president ever: Harding? Pierce? Fillmore? Carter? Bush 43?

How about Ronald Reagan? That’s the nominee from Cracked’s Adam Tod Brown, who cites corruption, the inequality of Reaganomics, the union-crushing that hurt the middle class, ignoring the AIDS epidemic, botching the Middle East, and mental health/homelessness.

But maybe Bill Clinton messed up? Slate takes Hillary’s husband to task over welfare reform, painting it as a catastrophic “states’ rights” failure.

Here’s one you might not expect: Bleeding Heart Libertarians tackled the issue of biblical literalism. (As you might expect, the “against” view dominates here. It’s just a strange issue for them to take on.)

And in case some of you have not yet been offended (or given something to think about), consider these piece on our reaction to the Stanford swimmer sexual abuse case. Is unanimous condemnation ever a good thing?

DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY

Cracked has been promoting some good pieces lately, even those from the archives such as this first-person account of being a Viet Cong soldier.

Another older piece, and I’m not sure how I found it recently — Psychology Today on new trends in the old American problem of anti-intellectualism.

EVERYTHING IS MUSICAL

Rush may never play live again or record another album, and yet they keep getting bigger. Here’s NPR talking with Alex Lifeson about the impact of 2112. Yes, they address the Ayn Rand themes.

And what’s that chord at the beginning of A Hard Day’s Night? Well …

 

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Consent: Unconscious people don’t want tea, OK?

Being an optimistic person, I’m hoping the fallout from the Brock Turner rape case (you know the one — the Stanford swimmer sentenced to only six months in jail, with all the letters from family and friends saying he’s a good guy and shouldn’t lose his love of ribeye steaks just because he was sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a Dumpster) will force more people to talk about consent and entitlement.

In some cases, sure — it’s complicated. A few people out there still think “something happened” at the Duke lacrosse party that ended in blatantly false rape allegations. That’s pathetic. And yes, there’s a difference between regretting something the next morning and having someone to accuse.

But in this discussion, we need to start with what’s clear-cut and proceed from there. If you’re the father of a son (and I am), the lesson you teach is really simple.

Don’t rape anyone.

For daughters, rape prevention is a more difficult conversation. Should you avoid drinking in places you might be vulnerable? How much responsibility can you take for your own surroundings?

Even then, there’s no guarantee of safety. You may have seen the recent story of the woman who went out to dinner with a work friend, only to be grateful for the intervention of three strangers who saw the guy slip something in her drink.

So those of us who drew the “male” end of the cosmic coin toss have it far simpler.

Don’t rape anyone.

One of the best pieces I’ve seen on the Turner case was from one father to another:

The idea that your son has never violated another woman next to a dumpster before isn’t a credit to his character. We don’t get kudos for only raping one person in our lifetime. I don’t believe your son is a monster but he acted like one and that needs to be accounted for. To be sure, this decision is not the sum total of Brock’s life, but it is an important part of the equation and it matters deeply.

Exactly.

Look, Brock Turner is the lucky one. He’s lucky two Swedish guys on bicycles stopped by when they did and stopped him from doing any more than he did. He has an opportunity to get through his time in prison and then start a real conversation — not about “promiscuity and alcohol,” which was never the issue here, but about consent.

And he can start by emerging from prison with a simple statement:

Don’t rape anyone.

Another bit of viral content going around today is utterly charming, and it’s a good-humored way of wrapping up this serious topic. A random blogger made an analogy of consent and tea. It had another simple statement: Unconscious people don’t want tea.

It has since been animated, with several versions floating around, one used by Thames Valley Police with a narrator who specializes in British understatement.

Simple, right?

We can talk about all sorts of ways to prevent rape. Sure, we should have conversations about alcohol — sometimes, people aren’t unconscious but are still in a state in which they can’t really consent.

But for men, it all hinges on one thing:

Don’t rape anyone.

That’s not a sure-fire defense against rape allegations. The Duke lacrosse guys went through a horrible experience they did not deserve. So did the fraternity at UVA that was impugned by fabrications repeated to Rolling Stone.

But it’s a sure-fire defense against rape.

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