It never ceases to amaze me how quick people are to pop off with opinions on a certain local Facebook ambulance chasing news page that can't wait to break bad news, such as shootings, car crashes, acts of crime and any and all bad news stores.
The postings of Central Valley TV often result in a rash of crude, biting, sarcastic and harsh comments about suspects, victims, police, etc. There are a lot of armchair quarterbacks in our society who have a know-it-all attitude from ordinary walks of life. I'm not saying housewives and students don't know anything but they also don't know everything. They talk like they do, however.
It's very common to read people calling suspects names and then friends of the suspect coming back with more in-your-face remarks and a Jerry Springer type free-for-all breaks loose in a classless manner of back and forth sniping and showing the lack of refinement in our culture.
Americans are getting real good at rushing to judgement - content not to wait for all the facts - and that has me concerned for the quality of jurors sitting on our trials or those marking ballots on election day.
If there's anything that I know from being a reporter for 33 years, the world is generally not so black and white to offer quick and simple opinions about everything.
It's too easy to take a cursory glance at a story and make a judgement. Take our story about the woman Tasered at the Prime Shine Car Wash on Hatch Road. An officer sees a woman tampering with vacuums outside the business and stops to talk to her. He ends up Tasering her. Seems heavy-handed, right? Well, maybe if you didn't have all the facts. Omitted facts can make the difference between night and day. Let's suppose readers failed to read that the woman, Deanna Webb, was wanted for a warrant and that she ignored officers' attempts to arrest her and that she tried to run off. Maybe they glossed over the fact that Webb was repeatedly told to stop but kept running, so a non-lethal form of stopping her was used. That information can lead you to understand why the officer shot her with a Taser.
Thousands of people in the country rushed to judgement against police in the Ferguson, Mo., shooting of Michael Brown. Whenever a white officer shoots a black suspect, the media feeding frenzy begins and great pains are taken to mention an "unarmed black man." The Grand Jury report paints a clear picture of a robbery suspect who ignored and disrespected an officer, then slams the patrol vehicle door on the officer, then wrestles for the officer's gun to likely shoot him and then retreats before returning to charge the officer. Did we mention that Mr. Brown, 18, was a hulking figure at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds?
But the rush to judgement goes beyond the realm of reporting of crime stories. If the political narrative doesn't fit, people have a tendency to make outlandish statements.
I just encountered an instance of this on Monday when a cousin made a comment about Ted Cruz running for president. He wrote on Facebook: "Ted Cruz is Canadian born but intends to run for president. Correct me if I'm wrong but that alone disqualifies him! Or does the Constitution = toilet paper now days."
I had to correct my cousin since he was born on foreign soil to parents who were American citizen; that makes him a natural born U.S. citizen (same as I since I was born in Japan to American parents).
The same line of drivel against Cruz came out of the empty heads on the View TV show on Monday. The sad thing is that non-thinkers believe what they say is true without doing fact checking.
We need to learn how to be reasoned people in this country.
We might start by getting the facts. If the facts aren't available, at least be honest and say "I don't have all the information to make an intelligent decision."
Proverbs 17:28 sums it up well: "Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues."
How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org