News kind of sucks lately, except for those rare occasions when schadenfreude can turn bad news for others into something approximating good news for you. I’d go into specific examples, but for the life of me, I can’t come up with any recent ones.
That all being said, there is one reality to the way we read news that is—regardless of our age, our intelligence, or our political ideology—absolutely constant. We amass a reaction when we’re exposed to information, and it sticks. We don’t change our mind… like, ever.
I’m not sure why we don’t do that. It may be just the way our brains are wired, but that still doesn’t account for everything. Where does our fear stem from? Do we all secretly harbor the delusion that we will one day be a serious contender for the Presidency and we can never be caught in the ignominious realm of the flip flopper*?
Maybe what is newsworthy only speaks to our entrenched sense of right and wrong, but maybe it’s more that most news stories are isolated incidents. Or, at the very least, subsequent details don’t change the nature of the original incident. Occasionally there are newsmakers that change in our eyes, but that’s only because a fall from grace is one of those story arcs that fits right into the news cycle. John Edwards, Ken Bone, and Mel Gibson can both attest to that much, and are starring—I think—in a new sitcom Oops, I Did It Again, airing this fall on CBS.
But it’s so rare—at least, it’s rare for me—for our reactions to a news story change at all. Such a transformation occurred with me this past week, and actually over the course of a couple of days. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the subjects you might assume. It involves a cell phone, an internet date** and a movie. I thought it was worth a closer look.
It started with this news story posted on the AV Club entitled “Hero sues internet date for texting during Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.” The “facts”—for lack of a better term—are these: Two people go on a date. The woman texts during the film multiple times. In turn, the gentleman*** asks her to take the phone outside. She did so, and left him at the theater without a ride. He sued for the princely sum of $17.31, which—as the article assumes—is the price of the ticket and the inevitable Lyft ride home.
Now, maybe it was because the story used the word “hero” in the headline, but I was immediately on his side in the dispute. Movie theaters are sacred spaces, and this particular Austinite was speaking out for every jackass who wanted to pierce the veil of that sanctuary. A posse had been formed, and we were certain in our righteousness.
Our mob had support from on high, as well. As mentioned in the follow-up article Writer/Director of Guardians Vol. 2 James Gunn even weighed in on the matter, and his loyalties were clear. Now, the title of that follow-up is “Defendant in Guardians Vol. 2 texting lawsuit speaks out: ‘This is Crazy’.” With that title, and the ensuing comments from the serial texter, I may have shifted my perspective a little bit. Yes, pointedly breaking movie theater decorum is one of those things that I wish I could end singlehandedly. But is it worth litigation? I mean, social pariah status sounds right, but I don’t think the lady needs to hire legal counsel. I mean, lawyers are the worst****.
Then the—hopefully—final AVClub story on the issue came out. I’ll let you read it.
And then, I was completely turned around on the issue. First, the woman had every right to do whatever she needed to do in order to get out of the situation. Second, this guy has never been, is not now, and hopefully never will be owed anything by society or the rest of us trying to be a part of it. Third, a tabloid TV show had to be the voice of reason so that this story concludes and this guy can go back to rage-commenting on Breitbart and hopefully be removed from the mating gene pool for all time, forever and ever, amen.
The point is that we should all wait to hear every part of the story before we decide how we feel about it. Filtering all dubiously-sourced media***** is difficult enough, but be sure and get the whole story. People—and I’m shocked I have to make this explicit—might seem like they are on your side, but they probably have their own agenda…
That last part shouldn’t be inferred to to refer to any other newsmakers as of late, I assure you.
*Is that even a problem anymore? I don’t understand the world anymore, and the only comfort is that no one else understands it, either.
**I’m still not entirely sure how that would even work. Internet dating? Like with one of those TV sets that have a typewriter attached? The things people can do today.
***Spoiler alert, but it feels pretty gross using that word in reference to him. Keep reading, you’ll get there.
*****Because somebody—who shall remain nameless—has made “fake news” a joke/gag reflex test as of late.