I didn't get into blogging so I could learn stuff.
That's seems like a silly concept. I started a blog so I could write and so I could talk about Syracuse Orange sports. That was the extent of my thinking. There would be jokes, there would be game recaps and there would be interesting situations from which we could extrapolate meaning that may or may not actually be there. But the idea of writing to actually learn something? That's nerd talk.
However, in the 8+ years I've been writing about Syracuse for this site (Ed. Note: My life...what have I done...), I actually did learn something. Something rather spectacular.
I learned about the human condition. And I learned it from Jim Boeheim.
Whatever you think of James Arthur Boeheim, you are probably correct. And you are also almost certainly wrong. Because I'm willing to bet that when you think of him, you think of one thing. A specific attribute.
He's whiny. He's a jerk. He's cruel. He's defensive. He's funny. He's a curmudgeon. He's nice, actually. He's a bad person. He's a good person. He's a liar. He's selfish. He's generous.
Cover Jim Boeheim long enough and you will read an article that boils him down to one of those things. It's a simple process. You take a Jim Boeheim quote. You extrapolate meaning from the quote. You adhere that meaning to the man and, voila, Jim Boeheim is INSERT ADJECTIVE AND/OR NOUN HERE.
Of course, you don't have to write about Jim Boeheim for just shy of a decade to know that's not how human beings actually work. No one is one thing, certainly not Jimmy B. You might think he's a monster because of what he says about Chris McCullough's NBA lottery chances but he's a monster that sure raises a ton of money to help find a cure for cancer. You can say he's a bully the way he lords over reporters during press conferences but, for a bully, he sure does spend a lot of time helping kids. You can cherry pick quotes and easily come to the conclusion that everyone who plays for him must hate him and yet tons of people who play for him love him.
You don't have to read Bleeding Orange to know all of this. Jim Boeheim is complicated. And then again, he isn't. Ultimately, you just have to be a human being to understand that. And to take something said during a press conference or to read a quote and extrapolate the full meaning of a person is to miss the entire point altogether.
Because of what Boeheim has taught me, he's also inadvertently shown me something fascinating and depressing about the state of writing on the Internet. Let's go back to those comments about McCullough for a second. When he told reporters that he had a better chance of winning the lottery than McCullough did getting drafted as a lottery pick, I made a prediction. That at least one online sports outlet would write a 2,000-word tome the next morning taking Boeheim to task for his comments.
That's not some amazing feat of knowledge or wizardry. It's a fairly obvious guess that I'm sure many other people made. A public figure makes an intriguing comment and that comment gets analyzed. To be fair, I'm not defending his comments, either. While I don't think they're as laden with spite as people seem to think, they also weren't necessary.
What I didn't mention at the time, but I also knew was coming, was the influx of responses that would come from that response. Like this one. That's how it works. One place reports on a new item or writes an article and then that information is regurgitated ad nauseam across the Internet. I know the game, I've played it myself countless times.
I don't find that fascinating. That's how it's been for a long time now. What I do find fascinating is the way that news aggregators, like-minded blogs and other outlets will not only take a story and regurgitate it but they'll also take the tone used to communicate the story and regurgitate the story and re-use that as well.
Next time some interesting piece of news detritus hits the web, try to find out who reported it first. Read their article and look not only for the nugget of noteworthy information but also check the tone of the piece. Is it looking down on the person(s) involved? Is it praising them? Does the tone seem to say "this is correct" or "this is incorrect?" Then, once you've identified that, follow the story as it makes its way to other sites. Read their write-ups. My bet is that you'll not only find the same information but you'll find the same exact tone.
If Gawker breaks a story and inserts an opinion about how the person in question is wrong and should be ashamed of themselves, that rationale will follow the story when it gets posted on Uproxx and Buzzfeed and Slate and on and on. Very rarely, if ever, will you see a site not go lockstep with every other site in how they present the information in question. If they think the person is stupid, I better say the person is stupid, too.
Now it's worth pointing out that there are many times when that tone is completely logical. If someone famous kicks a puppy, no one expects an outlet to defend said puppy-kicker (except maybe Slate a week later in response to the overwhelming disdain). But what I'm talking about are the insignificant stories and the people involved. The quotes that may or may not be taken out of context. The way someone looks and how that affects the story in question. The assumptions the initial writer made about the intentions of the person at the heart of the story.
My hypothesis is that the way we consume news on the Internet is dumbing down our understanding of one another as human beings. Our posts have to be quick-hit, down-and-dirty, get-to-the-point action items punctuated with a good pun. There's no time for subtext and certainly no time for nuance. Someone said something dumb? That person is a MORON WHO DESERVES TO BE ROCKETED TO JUPITER. Someone makes a mistake? THEY SHOULD BE BANNED FOR LIFE FROM EVERYTHING GOOD.
I almost made it through this entire post without referencing Serial, which means I deserve some kind of award, but, we're still here. The way Season One of the podcast ended, with the truth still very much unknown, was a topic of great consternation for a lot of people. Some folks hated it because they assumed resolution was coming. Others hated it because they're so used to getting resolution from their entertainment that the idea of an open-ended story without conclusion horrified them.
Personally, I liked it. I like that even now I find myself thinking about the people involved, what they know, what they said, what they didn't say and whether or not they're telling the truth. The answers are hard to come by because the people involved are in flux. That doesn't make them strange. It makes then human. And because of that, it's impossible to sum up everything about them and their situation in a neat blog post that explains everything about them.
Just something to keep in mind, I think.