The Gross National Debt

Friday, March 4, 2011

Ya don't know enough to shut up

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Having just enough knowledge to know something can lead the person to believe they are a total expert.

You know people like that. They have just a tiny bit of information and suddenly believe they are possessed of all the facts, data and input and can render flawless judgment and opinions.

Think teenagers.

For those lucky enough to mature, this ability to know everything by knowing only a little does wane. As we age, we realize how little we actually know and refrain from spouting off until we get far more information to assimilate.

Some folks never manage to mature and so never learn how little they actually know.

"As for me, all I know is that I know nothing." Socrates.

To explain - we in the journalism biz, especially those of us who work general and generic beats, are expected to know about everything. Literally.  Never mind that's unfair, it is what is expected. You can switch the word journalist for generalist and pretty much mean the same thing.
Do yer part, eh?
The sad truth is, we don't know everything, but we often act like it.

It infuriates me.

I've also done the same thing, which drives me even further around the bend. GAAAAAAAH!

Journalists take a little information and expand it into a universe-worth of knowledge, getting it wrong in the process.
I have in the past attempted to redress these errors of fact, which has not endured me to many of my brethren-in-words. I'll probably keep doing it, never minding that it tears down my colleagues' tightly held and long cherished belief that they are absolutely correct.

I'm used to being a pariah.

Yeah, I again admit to taking an inch worth knowledge and stretching it to cover a football field, with the results I complain about herein.

Sparking my particular ire today is young journalists (duh!) who are liberal (duh!) and gun control believers (duh!). Invariably when discussing firearms they refer to "high power" guns and most recently a journalist referred to an AK-47 as a "large gun."

AK47 in several configurations.
It ain't. They ain't.

Cause this is my rant, I'm gonna 'splain even if you don't wanna know. The AK-47 is a light-medium rifle. It's not a tremendously accurate rifle, of middlin' potency and only medium range. What it does have is extreme reliability under harsh conditions, ability to sling a fair, not a lot but a fair, amount of lead in a given direction in short order and simplicity of construction.

It's also 'bout the most common military-style rifle on the planet owing to the fact so many countries have made and continue to make it.

It is decidedly NOT high power NOR is it large. It is a middlin' to fair deer rifle, but not a gun to hunt moose, elk or large bear.

To give you a more concrete example, some time back I spoke to a group of journalists. I produced two rounds of ammunition, a .22 long rifle and a .50 BMG 750 grain FMJ.
.50 BMG at left, AK-47 round, 4th from left and .22 Long Rifle far right

I asked them to decide which bullet is implicated in the most murders in the United States. The lowly .22 round holds that record by a long shot. The .50 BMG has never been used in a murder in the United States and has been implicated in one and only one criminal offense and that was one of negligence, not malice.

I ask you, looking at these rifle rounds, which one is high power?

Journalists with no experience in handling firearms just attach whatever adjective they feel is most appropriate to their report on a firearm. Reality has nothing to do with it. Such statements calling the AK47 "high power" and a "large gun" only add to the problems legitimate gun owners have.

I calls 'em like I sees 'em.
But the problem is greater than just the discussion on guns. Journalists have the habit of appending modifiers to everything they (we) write. It shouldn't be done in straight news - opinion pieces are different. But we are human. It takes a very strong will and intense effort to keep ourselves out of the stories we write, especially matters on which we are particularly passionate.

The real hell of it is, as journalists we're not really supposed to be experts. We are supposed to find an expert, ask him and report what he says. Our expertise is supposed to be knowing who to ask.

When we, as journalists, start substituting ourselves in the place of real experts the world gets heaping servings of talking heads with cable TV shows who are more interested in slinging insults at the opposition than engaging in an intelligent and rational debate.

When that happens, civil discourse goes the way of the dodo, the woolly mammoth and politicians interested in serving the people rather than serving themselves and the people who fund their campaigns.

The other more insidious problem is people are given wrong information, factually incorrect, which they accept as the truth. This is worse than not knowing at all.

If there is no knowledge, then it is a blank slate ready to accept whatever is laid down. An easy move.

When the wrong information is in place, it must first be removed which can be a complicated procedure and is often hard to do, sometimes impossible. Then, new information must be put in place.

Brain surgery, physical brain surgery that is, can be much easier to do. You don't have to believe. If you don't believe me, try to reason with a zealot of any stripe. Then come back and tell me which is easier.

1 comment:

  1. Very well done,my friend. I often here the 47 described a "high powered, heavy machine gun" and laugh to myself every time I hear it. As a part time journalist/commentator myself I am aware of the expectations pushed upon us and the reality of our situation. You are right in saying it is our job to find the experts to give us the info we need and so many of our kind don't. That's why we have so many Commentator shows (Hail Glenn Beck! Ultimate BS artist) posing as news shows. Keep preaching it and let Hell count the number of dead.


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