Tuesday, November 21

Vocal Minorities And Newscasts

I found this cool book about human psychology that talked about vocal minorities. The authors argued that fringe groups were able to get heard and get changes made because they were basically loud, which made people in the center (politically) believe those groups were an important part of decision-making. Recent events at UNF have once again proved this theory.

Local news was out in full force, as were counter-protesters, in order to thwart the attempts of white nationalists to be heard on the campus. The problem is that the media and antagonistic attention is what the group wanted in the first place.  There were more reporters interviewing those who supported the "self-described white supremacist" than actual supporters. The local HD skycam even made it to the scene.

I counted ten police vehicles in one shot, but I could not find an estimate as to how much money was spent to protect protesters on both sides of this issue. The counter-protesters had 75 people show up to say they wanted the student thrown out of school.

Arguments could be made that there's a silent majority that appreciates the efforts of these four people, standing up for white people rights, but I think if we really had a referendum on whether or not we care about a white supremacist and his hearing, the silent majority would say they don't. And the vast majority would say they don't agree with people claiming to be Nazis. However, we would protect his right to get the tattoos and write his thoughts online.

White nationalists and other vocal minorities win when they can get on TV or covered on the internet, especially if the media feels the need to sensationalize or not offend. I'm sure there are some ways the media could have belittled the foursome of white nationalists, but the job of the media is to report the facts. So the fact that two sides showed up to protest is the main takeaway, not that one side is more right because it had 18 times the protesters or just because the other side was completely misguided. Audiences see that both sides have the right to an opinion and both opinions are valid.

I'm not saying the media can do a lot to fix the vocal minority problem. It's part of the news. Most of us are at work or at home, living lives of quiet desperation, as reporters interview people who tend to hang out near crime scenes or at protests. When there's no research added, those people offer the opinions of us all. How many people are even part of hate groups? Do you know?

The problem is that hate groups first have to be defined. If you use the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is itself a vocal minority, there are 917 hate groups in America. Sure, if each group only had four members, we wouldn't even notice them. Let's assume the groups have, on average 1,000, and that's being pretty generous, like including wives and kids. That would put us at right around 1,000,000 Americans in hate groups. We have 323,000,000 people in America. And it could be more like 100 in each group, or only 100,000. The point is that whether its 1 in 323 or 1 in 3,000, it's a tiny minority. 0.3% tiny. Most of us are like you and me. I've never once met anyone who told me he was in a hate group, and remember that these folks are vocal. It's your choice whether to listen.

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