Mariner has been writing often about myths. Myths are a legitimate, indeed critical part of religious understanding; without myths, the indescribable spirituality we draw from our faith would not be possible. From the same box of tools for explanation is the generalism.
Everyone uses generalisms every day. We use generalisms to express opinion without having to give a lecture and in the context that offering the generalism does not mean it is absolute. A simple and innocuous example is:
Larry says, “Hello, Tom. I plan to have a Thanksgiving dinner this year. What do I need?” One knows instinctively that Larry does not want a half-dozen recipes dictated or directions to the library or a show and tell about Tom’s last four Thanksgiving dinners. Tom uses a general statement to offer Larry an opinion: “Oh, maybe the common items are a turkey, potatoes and gravy, some vegetables and desert, like a pumpkin pie.” A generalism is an excellent means for expressing a large, unofficial collection of information. It should be noted that a generalism is not an idea; it is an assimilation.
Like myths, while absolutely critical to insightful communication, generalisms can be abused:
One can adopt a literal value for a general statement. This is called prejudice. Good or bad in intention, a generalism is not a specific, formulated entity; making a general statement innately means there are many exceptions and diverse perspectives included – one cannot legislate by means of generalism. It is this error that confronts Donald at every turn. Further, one cannot live a healthy and insightful life trying to act according to a set of prejudices.
One cannot infer a further generalism from an existing generalism. That is the same as executing a split-middle in a syllogism: All cats are four-legged animals; all horses have four legs; therefore all horses are four-legged animals. The derived generalism: all animals have four legs; ducks are animals; therefore ducks have four legs.
However, it is this abuse, building a generalism referencing another generalism that is the foundation of racial prejudice in the US: Whites are successful; blacks are less successful; therefore blacks are not the same as whites. The derived generalism: Successful whites are ambitious; blacks are not as successful; therefore blacks are not as ambitious. One can imagine the multiplicity of prejudice by those who believe generalisms to be literally true.
Broadcast news has drifted from investigative reporting to information of viewer interest, that is, generalisms and placating viewers. This weakness has allowed Donald, among many other misrepresented issues, capable of running an entire campaign and Presidency leveraging generalisms. Donald’s flamboyant pontifications were the news – invalidated by facts. News organizations have lost credibility as a consequence; individuals and legislation hurtful to our culture succeed without scrutiny or public awareness. Generalisms are not always the proper form of communication for the task at hand.
Three cheers and a gold plaque for NBC White House press reporter Peter Alexander when he corrected Donald’s claim to have the Electoral College’s highest win votes in history since Ronald. Peter had done his investigative homework and called out Donald on his blatantly touted falsehood; Donald wasn’t even fourth. Asked how the public could have faith in him if he lies, Donald said someone else gave him the information. Except for Peter, would the public have accepted the generalism not knowing the facts that make the generalism false and self-serving?
Generalisms are not facts, they are presumptions.
Yet, because the public prefers not to spend time postulating and judging facts, generalisms are more entertaining therefore draw a larger viewer share. As the official prevaricator of information, broadcast news owes the public more than entertaining generalisms. A condition lasting several generations, the public will require therapy to restore the requirement for facts.
[The first news center was converted from a public service to a profit center in 1977 (20/20). By the late 80’s all news was competing for profit rather than better news based on facts.]
The public has become lax about being correctly informed – paradoxically, during an era when more facts are free, more information is quickly accessible and more available than ever. If the news won’t investigate, the viewer is vulnerable unless the viewer decomposes news generalisms into the ‘facts’ that may or may not support them.