Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Hapless responses by pickup truckless urban reporters

Fascinating. John Ekdahl, a twitterer, posted a reasonable question.

Click on the tweet to see the responses.

His question is straightforward, however, reporters take deep umbrage. The response is chronicled on several sites such as, Smug liberal journalists are in complete meltdown over John Ekdahl’s simple question by Soopermexincan.

Of course there is a context to Ekdahl's question, whether Ekdahl knows it or not. It is an increasingly common trope that journalists are out of touch and I have made a somewhat similar argument here and elsewhere.

There is little doubt that most journalists for the major media live in cities, are college educated, earn high incomes, lean left to a degree far greater than most Americans. Judging from some of the more intemperate responses to Ekdahl, this idea that they live apart from most Americans clearly rankles.

In addition, the researcher Charles Murray has a recent update on his increasingly documented Bubble Quiz which illustrates the degree to which an individual is familiar with the life and work circumstances of others. Some of the questions in Murray's quiz closely parallel Ekdahl's.
Have you ever lived for at least a year in an American community with a population under 50,000 that is not part of a metropolitan area and is not where you went to college?

Have you ever walked on a factory floor?

Have you ever held a job that caused something to hurt at the end of the day?

Have you ever had a close friend who was an evangelical Christian?

Have you or your spouse ever bought a pickup truck?

During the last five years, have you or your spouse gone fishing?
Clearly, some of the insulted journalist respondees to Ekdahl either believe their manhood has been insulted or that their status as a "real" American is being called into question. I doubt that is what Ekdahl intended but clearly that is how it was received.

But it is perfectly clear that Ekdahl is after something different. You are not better or worse a person for owning a pickup truck. It is not a normative judgment. All it is, is a question which would shed light on how well you might know the America about which you are reporting.

Ekdahl is asking a clear and reasonable question and I suspect that the journalist reacting so negatively are 1) living in a bubble and know it, and 2) are sensitive to the criticism that their bubble-living might hamper their reporting. Hence, the intemperate responses.

Here is some empirical data backing up Ekdahl. Very roughly, 20% of vehicles are pick-up trucks, 30% are other forms of light truck (SUV, suburban, etc.) and nearly 50% are passenger vehicles (sedans, etc.).

I can testify to how surprisingly self-segregating things can be. In the past year I have spent a great deal of time in Silicon Valley. Early on, I noticed how uncommon it was to see an American car (Ford or GMC) on the roads. I would guess not more than 15% of cars I see between my apartment and office are American.

I next noticed how even more rare were pickup trucks. In that area of California, I can go whole days without seeing a pickup truck. In Atlanta, where I live, even in the inner city neighborhoods, there is almost always a pickup truck within view. There is nothing good or bad about the differences, they simply are different.

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