Does man ever bite dog? OK, hot dog maybe, but not actual canine. At least not normally. I bring this up because one of the basic tenets of journalism has never made any sense to me. We’re taught that man bites dog is news and that dog bites man is not. Isn’t the opposite true?
We need to be informed of the clear and present danger of all those biting dogs so that we know to avoid snarling creatures. Worrying about the occasional and practically nonexistent rabid human is pointless.
I bring this up because in this age of seeming hysteria, the man-bite stories seem to be getting more and more attention while dangerous dog-biting gets neglected.
Bet you didn’t know that according to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, there were 5,987 pedestrians killed in 2016.
Bet you did know that one pedestrian was killed the other day by a driverless car in Arizona. That’s the story that got national attention and sparked calls for bans on cars without drivers. Apparently, the thing that practically never happens is scarier than the thing that happens all the time.
A rational person looking at those numbers would ban cars with drivers, not cars without them.
Now think about the people who want to ban immigrants because some of them have committed crimes. Do any of those people want to ban U.S. citizens because they commit the vast majority of crimes?
Journalists, of course, are not the only ones who seem to have this odd problem with context. An example from a tweet last week by a right-wing group: “Baltimore prosecutors ordered their staff not to charge illegal immigrants w/ nonviolent crimes b/c they could be deported. Now the city will hire immigration attorneys to help illegal immigrants too — while Baltimore has nation’s highest homicide rate.”
So the nonviolent criminals are committing murder? Are they worried about murderers not having enough lawyers because so many of them are representing immigrants? Would there be fewer murders by non-immigrants if we had fewer immigrants?
There are times when I think that we could have more sensible political discussions if everyone were required to take a course in statistics. But I do understand that forcing people to be reasonable is unconstitutional, so instead I’m going to offer a quick, very incomplete list of topics that you should be thinking about because I see lawsuits about them all time.
The real estate crisis. Remember the real estate crisis? Do you think it’s over?
If you do, you’re wrong. There are vast numbers of noisy titles out there. I know this because of the daily stream of quiet title suits and wrongful foreclosure suits and unfair debt collection suits. We’re missing a big story here.
People need to be warned to avoid buying houses.
Cars, cars, cars. If you eliminated litigation involving motor vehicles, we wouldn’t have clogged courts. Cars run into things, cars accelerate on their own, air bags don’t deploy, new cars are just plain defective, and cars destroy the environment. It’s a wonder anyone wants to own a car and that most of us are still alive.
Why has no one called for a ban on those things?
People falling down. Life imitates cartoons. I know this because every day I see lawsuits describing people slipping, falling, and having heavy objects crash into them.
We need to warn people never to enter a grocery store without slip-resistant footwear and a helmet.
Jerks. Why is there no in-depth reporting on the prevalence of jerks in society? There are so many discrimination and harassment suits that I sometimes wonder if being a horrible person is a prerequisite for management jobs.
People get sick and lose their jobs. Women get pregnant and lose their jobs. People get old and lose their jobs. People whose bosses suddenly realize they mistakenly hired a minority person they don’t like lose their jobs.
The list of things you can be harassed for or paid less for or lose your job for is so long it’s a wonder anyone still has a job. Where did all these mean discriminatory people come from?
It’s a wonder anyone is still working. We journalists need to warn the public that long-term employment is an illusion.