Journalists within media outlets have a tendency to describe the overall sentiment of Americans. They might say we’re angry, upset, disenchanted, whatever. How do they know?
Journalists often isolate within geographic areas of the country and social circles. Their broad paintbrush simply makes them appear ignorant of the rest of us. Each of us in our socioeconomic class, at our varied levels of education and background, each from our ethnic and racial backgrounds, often marvel at these broad descriptions that don’t fit. What world do these journalists live in?
Such an experience happened in the past week (week of December 6th, 2015). A headline on a local newspaper described Americans as “jittery” over ISIS. This came only days after the discovery that the man and wife team responsible for the deaths of 14 Americans in San Bernardino, California, were whatever the current term is for those who use violence because of the influence of ISIS leaders. I read in one instance “Islamic extremism-inspired terrorist attack.”
Before that, in the week preceding Thanksgiving, President Obama assured the nation we can feel just fine eating our turkey dinners given the protection afforded us by the FBI, CIA, and Homeland Security. Because we’re “jittery.” But he didn’t use that specific word: it was assumed.
So our question of the day is this: “The media reported that we are ‘jittery’ about ISIS… How do you feel?”
(If the recorder would have worked, you’d see direct quotes. As it is, I have quoted to the best of my ability):
Pat B., Saint Paul (white male, 50’s): “It’s all propaganda. They talk about ISIS to distract us from issues that really matter.”
Arthur V., near Crosby, North Dakota (white male, 84): “Of course it’s hard not to be jittery. The United States needs to continue with its efforts to remove ISIS. I don’t really worry about it myself where I live in North Dakota. And I’m 84 years old.”
Victoria, Saint Paul, MN (white female, 50’s). “The real issues have to do with the effect talking about ISIS on the media has. It serves to spread the influence and power of ISIS.”
Jake M., Saint Paul, MN (white male, 40’s). “I don’t worry about it. Not at all.”
Patrick M., Saint Paul, MN (white male, 20’s). “I’m not jittery. I’m more worried about white supremacists. At least here in the United States. I’m also concerned about Syria.”
Ellen Gina K., Saint Paul, MN (white female, 50’s). “Of course you get jittery. But if I get jittery for one second, one second has been taken away from me by the influence of media stories. I don’t want even one second taken.”
Accompanying Ellen Gina (white female, 20’s): “We just heard about someone arrested in Eagan. I grew up there. So it has an effect whether you want it or not.”
The responses were quite varied and thoughtful. It was delightful to hear such a cross section of views with so few responding with an unfortunate limitation to only white people (hey, our first on the street interviews). In this limited sample, it certainly would not have been fair to say that they were NOT “jittery.”
What you can do…
- If you read or hear a journalist using a broad paintbrush to describe “America,” on the internet you can go to the source of the news and determine who you can write to. You might disagree with the sentiment they’ve attached to “Americans” or you may wish to question the fact that a journalist has the temerity and arrogance to even make a proclamation. In my own experience, I’ve written to news sources and, in one instance, the story was removed in the re-hash of the news later in the day.
- You may comment below.