Back in the days before we lost our collective minds, there was a common sense rule about taking things mainly at face value. The most likely explanation for something, so the saying went, was probably true.
But in the current era of unwarranted mass hyperventilation, reactionary freakouts over trivialities are an everyday occurrence. In this brave new world, journalism has given way to speedy publication of half-baked bullshit based on inductive reasoning without even a token fact-finding effort.
Last Sunday morning, an airmen fell out of formation at Mildenhall after standing at attention and parade rest for a substantial period of time. He felt himself starting to fade due to fatigue and took the judgement to back away from his place and discreetly kneel down until he could recover and collect himself. This is what we have instructed airmen to do since long before Trump got his first draft deferment.
This airman fell out temporarily after saluting at attention throughout two national anthems. This was the entire story. The whole fact pattern. I got it directly from a senior officer with total and direct knowledge of the incident. A senior official I trust. He did not resist giving me the story. In other words, accurate knowledge of the entire fracas was entirely knowable.
And yet, the Stars and Stripes newspaper chose to interview ignorant bystanders with insufficient knowledge to comment constructively, leading to an uninformed and idiotic article that made something out of nothing and managed to diminish everyone involved, including Stars and Stripes. This after a photo of the airman kneeling had been used to send an unwarranted social media froth into low Earth orbit.
Here’s an example of the crack reporting behind this ultimate example of fake news:
Joy Bush, a British civilian, said she watched it happen and was confused by why anyone would leave a formation.
A friend of the airman, possibly trying to be humorous, told Bush that he was mimicking football player Colin Kaepernick’s protest movement against police brutality.
So … a foreign civilian’s speculative and uninformed account of what occurred during a US military ceremony is printed, presumably because it creates web traffic. Meanwhile, the story goes on to debunk that very statement with facts from those directly involved. Those facts are buried deep in the story, long beyond the point where readers looking to confirm there biases will have shuffled along to angry comment sections.
We need to get back to assuming positive intent. When you see someone saying or doing something, assume they meant well and were acting within what they believed to be the applicable guardrails. Unless and until they prove otherwise, give them the benefit of the doubt.
Toxic cynicism is rampant in our society, leaving in its wake crimeless victims. While doubts about government and politics are usually warranted, doubts about individual citizens are usually not … and if we’re too dumb to see the difference, we deserve the dark fate that seems poised to befall us.
Next time you see an airman down on one knee, (a) start by asking yourself if there might be a valid reason for it, (b) assume that valid reason is what animated the national servant you see before you, given that s/he has done more than 99% of the population to secure our defense, and (c) tell yourself to the shut the hell up and move on to worrying about something more important.