Sunday, April 16, 2017

Analysis of an Internet Outrage Story

Do you get outraged by things posted on Facebook or Twitter or YouTube or even the Evening News?  If so, you haven't listened to a damn thing I've said.

Externalization.   I mention it a lot in this blog - nearly every posting.   What is it and why does it keep you down?

The first is easy - Externalization is the idea that outside forces far beyond your control are running your life, so you might as well not bother doing anything other than drowning your sorrows in overeating, overdrinking, drug use, gambling, overspending, and other self-defeating behaviors.  Hey, you just can't win in life, right?  So give up and wallow in your own crapulence.  Maybe someday you'll win the lottery - or lawsuit lottery.  But actually trying?  Forgetabout!

How does it keep you down?   Well, for starters, it squanders your emotional energy worrying about things that really don't affect you.   It gets you to think that obsessing about the "issues of the day" is your primary function in life, and your almighty "opinion" (as measured by those oh-so-accurate polls) will change the world, one bumper sticker or protest at a time.

The reality is, of course, that what you do in your own life affects the world far more than ranting and complaining about the unfairness of it all.   And if you end up a "causista" and neglect your own personal business as a result, you lose twice.   Because all your "concern" about the "issues" doesn't change things at all.   And if your fail at life because of this distraction, then you've failed, period.

You want to change the world?   Vote.   Donate to a campaign.   But please, do so only after carefully considering issues, not after hearing some story of "outrage" on the Internet from some biased source and getting only half the facts.  Most of the people who are "outraged" all the time simply don't vote, or claim that "the candidates are all alike anyway, so why bother?"  These clearly are deep thinkers.

I wrote before about one-sided stories and how you should be able to spot them and why you shouldn't listen to them.   This latest thing with United Airlines is a case in point.   You should be able to spot this as a one-sided story from a mile away.   Why?  Because it is the kind of "outrage" story that seems so incredible, that is, until those pesky little "facts" start to peck away at the outrage.

The bottom line is, of course, that when you go on an airplane, you don't own the airplane.   So if they ask you to get off, your only appropriate response is, "Yes, sir, let me get my bag."   And you leave.   You do not fight or struggle against airline employees or the Police.   It is not your airplane.

And even if it was your airplane, if the Police come aboard and ask you to get off, you get off.   They are the Police and you are not.   Most of these "outrage" stories seem to have that in common.  A Policeman says, "you're under arrest!" and the other person says, "I don't agree with that!"

That's now how the game is played.   If you have a problem with being arrested, then tell it to the Judge.  Or tell it to your lawyer.  Once the cuffs are out, it is too late to argue with the cops.

This is pretty basic stuff, but since there is a compelling Youtube video then people get all riled up.  What they don't see is the other side of the story - a passenger deciding that his rights trump those of everyone else on the plane.

People like this kind of story as it fits their preconceived notions.  "Man, the big corporations are evil!" they say, or "I remember that one time United lost my bag and the gate agent was rude!"   Suddenly every inconvenience you've ever had in air travel comes to the fore.   But as I noted before, most of these inconveniences of the modern age are our own fault, because we demand low fares, which means crowded seats, cattle-car boarding, and over-booking.   You have a problem with that, look in the fucking mirror.

And that is not even addressing our own boorish behavior.   I was in Hilton Head the other day - a place full of aggressive drivers from Northern Virginia.   You wouldn't know they were on holiday - they drive like they are commuting on the beltway.  People doing 50 in a 30 zone where pedestrians and children are crossing in the crosswalks at night (all wearing black of course).   We come to the inevitable wreck at an intersection, where five lanes are trying to squeeze by into one.  I tell Mark, "This brings out the best in human nature!" 

And sure enough, it did.   People were jostling for position, trying to merge, with no one letting them in.  Others tried to "drive around" and cut in at the last minute, to a chorus of horns.   Where I'm going is more important than you! is the message.   And no one seems to notice that the fellow extracted from the small car with all six airbags showing is under a sheet as they carry them away.   No, what is more important is getting where you are going 60 seconds sooner.

Why people "feel sorry" for this jerk on the airplane is beyond me.   And when you scratch the surface of the story, well, a lot falls out.   According to some sources, this doctor is the same one who lost his license due to drug dealing.  And allegedly, he has a slew of complaints against him for belligerent behavior.  Wow, didn't see that coming.   Supposedly, he is allowed to practice only one day a week, due to his malfeasance.   I guess that is why he was so keen to get back in time.

But hey, let's all jump to conclusions, right?  We all hate the airlines, and this guy is our "hero" for standing up to them!  Right?   Or maybe not.  Maybe he just delayed a flight for five hours for no real good reason other than his own selfishness, putting his needs above those of the hundred or so others on the plane.  Maybe we need to choose our heroes more carefully after fully vetting them and understanding the other side of the story. 

Some have argued that since United apologized and changed its procedures, then clearly they are admitting fault!   Well, they are trying to stem a PR disaster.  A PR disaster does not mean you did anything wrong, only that public perception is that you did.   And public perception is fueled by, well, idiots on facebook.   If you are on facebook, you are an idiot, period.  Sorry.  If you follow that shit and "like" things such as half-assed outrage stories, you are part of the problem, not the solution.  We all know by now that all facebook is, is an outlet for lonely people trying to make their lives look less meaningless than they are, and a haven for fake news stories that said people like to spread.  Just get off it - there is nothing on there that makes life better, only worse - for all of us.

One reason why companies don't change procedures or issue apologies, is that people often set up gags like this with the idea of winning "lawsuit lottery".   How did this guy injure himself?  Was it deliberate or what?   Clearly if he complied with the legal instructions of the Police, none of this would have happened.   And to claim this was worse that escaping from Vietnam?   Isn't that a little over the top?  Isn't that an insult to the boat people who struggled and even died escaping?  Or do you just not think about things that might destroy the narrative you've constructed in your head?

Don't waste your time and energy on these "outrage" news stories.   Let the parties involved sort these things out.  Chances are - as in this case, clearly - the outrage isn't as outrageous as it seems.  And yes, he probably will win some sum of money in court - although the legal fees on both sides will dwarf that.   But that is between him and the airline.  No sense being "outraged" by it any more than being outraged by the "McDonald's cup of coffee lady" whose case wasn't quite what the media presented, either (no, she didn't win five million dollars, not even close!).

If you don't like the airlines, don't fly.   I don't.   I haven't in years.  Frankly, there are very few destinations in the continental United States where air travel makes sense.   If you have to drive an hour to the airport, wait an hour (or more) for TSA (two hours for international travel), have a layover of two to three hours, and then spend an hour (or two) getting off the plane, getting your baggage, renting a car, and then driving to your destination, well, that can be four to six hours of non-flying time right there.    Add in the flying time, and well, you can basically drive in about the same time.

Air travel really makes little sense anymore unless you are flying coast-to-coast or overseas.   Maybe if more people simply stopped flying things would change.  Vote with your pocketbook, that is the real deal right there.  And no, saying you are going to "boycott" one airline isn't going to change much, as they all are basically the same.

 But voting with facebook "likes"?   That ain't accomplishing anything.

And if what I say pisses you off, well, then be outraged at me - for all the good it will do you.   In fact, here, let me help you out: 


Traditional Left Handed Fancy
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33% off! 66% off! Manufacturer's Defect!
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The Euro The Pound The Lira
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Or maybe the answer is, not to be outraged all the time.  Because it doesn't accomplish a damn thing, but it is an interesting way to keep the plebes in line, by throwing them these tidbit stories, so they can think their opinions actually mean something.