“The pen is mightier than the sword,” as the saying goes. If you give an idiot a sword he’ll end up hurting innocent people and, with any luck, himself. At that point he might begin to get the idea that he’s an idiot. But if you give an idiot a pen and a job at Rolling Stone, he or she will hurt plenty of innocent people, but the chance of his idiocy dawning on him is just about zero.
Now, I would never say that Rolling Stone’s Amelia McDonell-Parry (and the editors who hand her marching orders) are idiots that someone gave a pen. I am sure there is no evidence that any reporter has ever been an idiot. But since those bright and capable and eternally truthful women are working for Rolling Stone, let’s take up the subject of stones in general.
I have in my hand, an ordinary rock. Unless you move it around, it just sits there and does what rocks do, which is to continue being a rock, sitting there. This rock is a simple thing.
Skipping down the path is a hippie who needs to make some money but doesn’t want to take too much time away from his bong. He picks up the rock. He knows he can’t make money from rocks, but he knows he can make money from idiots. He calls it a “pet rock” and sells it to an idiot.
The idiot takes home his rock and treats it like a pet, giving it a name and every possible human characteristic in order to maximize his enjoyment of the rock. He might even get it a little leash and take it for a walk. He might even become a licensed rock trainer. He might even run for the legislature and propose the California Department of Domestic Rocks to oversee and protect pet rocks, license pet rock owners and have an annual roundup and adoption of wild rocks. An idiot will do just about anything…except, as we all know, become a reporter. That has never happened.
However, let’s show that same pet rock to a reporter. Along with all the imagined traits bestowed on it by its owner, our formerly simple rock now becomes mysterious and suspicious. “There must be something wrong with this rock” thinks the reporter. “It just sits there and says nothing.” “It must be hiding something.” “I have a deadline to meet.” “Let’s investigate.”
As a prequel to said investigation, this reporter has taken journalism classes. The journalistic catechism the students learn includes the mandate that all news stories must contain Drama, Oddity and Conflict. Accuracy and completeness are not emphasized. It’s not a report. It’s a “story.” Stories are supposed to trap attention, frighten and entertain, and oh yes… sell advertising space.
The reporter must now add these special elements—Drama, Oddity and Conflict—to all the others that have been piled upon this unfortunate rock. The rock now becomes strange, enigmatic and dangerous.
“There must be something wrong with the rock” thinks the reporter. “It just sits there and says nothing.” “It must be hiding something.” “I have a deadline to meet.” “Let’s investigate.”
Drama: “Unable to be reached for comment, the rock has stubbornly refused to respond to questions by reporters and it rejects all requests for interviews and opportunities to respond to recent accusations by its critics.”
Oddity: “This rock isn’t ‘normal.’ It tends to avoid public places and social activities. ‘It's not like you and me’ said one observer. ‘You'll never see one walking down the streets of Manhattan.’ It was also discovered to have once been a member of what many call a rock cult which excludes all non-rocks from its membership. The rock spent its entire existence in the company of other rocks and was unaware of anything beyond its rock pile until it was able to escape.”
Conflict: “Ever since its discovery in the late 1970s, the pet rock has been mired in controversy. While owners tout the benefits of such low-maintenance pets, others, such as Dr. C. I. Aehntuebreit of the American University in Cairo feel there is a danger in their proliferation. ‘Pet rocks are insidious and deceptive,’ he said. ‘By the use of black magic and witchcraft, the rock, along with other pet rocks, have brainwashed their owners into thinking they’re alive.’”
As we see, by the time a reporter carries out his or her orders, this simple rock has become ominous, dangerous and threatening. The tabloid-minded public will gobble it up. If reporters carry out their assignments well, the reading public will go into an absolute panic at the mere sight of a rock.
Now, I would never suggest that a reporter who calls Scientology “mysterious” is an idiot, when that reporter never cracked an actual Scientology book, and when virtually every written and recorded work of the religion is widely available to the public, in stores and libraries. It has been scientifically established that reporters cannot be idiots.
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