On Crying Wolf

Does anybody remember streakers at sports events? You know, the guys who run naked onto the field for a laugh. It disrupts the game and they’re a pain to catch and drag out. Funny how that doesn’t happen much anymore. Consider why not though.

Did we go hard on enforcement? Maybe they should have broken out the spies, wiretaps, lie detectors, etc to track down anybody who ever thought about doing that. Tackled them hard and thrown the book at them legally every time. Shame their whole family and get them fired from their jobs or kicked out of school. Funny, I don’t remember us doing any of that, but somehow, it just all stopped anyways. What’s the deal? Seems like something we ought to figure out. All of that stuff is pretty messy, wouldn’t it be nice if we can just get rid of a problem without having to do all that?

What they did instead is a 100% media blackout on it. They required that anyone who covered their games give not a single second of airtime to streakers and the delays they caused. When nobody hears about it, all of the energy is gone, nobody has even heard of anyone else doing it as a thing, and it just disappears quietly into the night.

What does all that mean?

You can draw a lot of analogies to this. The one I want to draw here is towards idiots drawing swastikas on things. What the example of streaking shows is that the world is full of people who will do anything for attention. If you show people that they can get a lot of attention, even indirectly, by drawing swastikas on things, then they’ll do that. The sort of people who do that only laugh harder if you try to lecture them on how it’s so very scary to over-sensitive Jews who have never faced any real danger or discrimination.

I believe the number of people who do that to genuinely spread anti-Semitic ideology is effectively zero. Every time somebody spreads the news of idiots drawing swastikas on things, they’re spreading around the meme that you can get a lot of attention and freak people out by doing that. By doing so, you only encourage people to do it more. What should be done instead is to simply clean them off and mutter to yourself about the stupid vandalism, just as if some kids threw toilet paper over the house.

There’s another, deeper, reason why calling attention to these acts of vandalism makes things worse for everyone, and I’ll save that for a later post.