I’m back from my break to go on a one-stop speaking tour, and it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. Unfortunately, a lot of what has been buzzing around the media has been articles that usually get bookmarked in my Crazy folder, the kind of stories where my first reaction isn’t “What happened?” but “Somebody really did that?”
So yes, residents of Bastrop, Texas (pop. 7,218) really did grill a U.S. lieutenant colonel about whether he was planning a military takeover of their town, complete with gun confiscation. (When he said no, they didn’t believe him.) Kids on their way to a prom in Colorado really did stop to pose for pictures with guns and a Confederate flag. Anti-Muslim extremists in the U.S. really did hold a Muhammad cartoon contest, and two gun-wielding Muslims really did fall for that bait and get themselves killed.
I’ve often puzzled over how the Sift should respond to such stuff — sometimes the incident or rumor has already gotten too much attention, so covering it just makes it worse — and so this week I’m trying something new: I’m introducing my Crazy Scale, based on the color-coded fire-danger scale you see in the national parks. It’s for stories where the question you really need answered is: “How concerned should I be?” In other words: Can you safely ignore this bit of craziness? Can you laugh and move on? Or does it deserve more of your attention than that?
That’s the featured article this week. It’s almost done, and should be out before 8 EDT. In the weekly summary, we’ve got a bunch of new presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, who will get a longer article next week. (In general, I’m trying not to make the Sift all-2016, all-the-time. So I’ll get around to Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina in my own good time, and Mike Huckabee already shows up in the crazy-scale article.) A lot of interesting discussion came out of the Baltimore riot. There’s more about the complexity of public opinion on abortion. And we’ll close with a musical trip to Negrotown, guided by Key & Peele. I’m aiming to have that out around 11.