This New York TImes article about school bullying and the corresponding discussion on MetaFilter brings back a lot of memories from high school.
I was picked on a lot in high school, and I spent many years trying to figure out why. After 25 years, I agree with the MeFi posters who say that bullying is all about enforcing social conformity. I think I was threatening to a lot of people–not because I was different, but because I was different and either didn’t know it or didn’t think anything of it.
For instance, I was tall and generally fit but not interested in sports. I realize now that I was fairly good looking but didn’t realize it (judge for yourself); I was smart but took it for granted; and I was ambitious, taking part and excelling in a variety of non-sporting school activities: band, choir, German club, and speech.
One particular provocation always comes to mind, and I think it’s a perfect example. My sophomore year, my assigned locker was in some out-of-the-way place, so my band friend Walter, a senior, offered to let me share his locker which was centrally located. Walter and I got constant hassling for sharing a locker, mostly by the ‘jocks’ and of the homophobic sort. Looking back at it, to have two band guys sharing a locker and not thinking anything of it must have been terribly threatening to the more narrow-minded and insecure among my high school peers. But at the time, that didn’t occur to me, that I remember.

The state of journalism

Over at Slacktivist, Fred Clark delivered a rant today about the sad state of journalism. As usual, it’s a thought-provoking piece. However, what makes the post even better is one of the comments, which begins:

Wow. You have basically described my job.
I’m online editor at a smallish newspaper in the Midwest. Once a week, I am given a page to fill dedicated to exactly this sort of swill. And I am given a couple hours to come up with the copy and photos to fill that page. I literally am required to skim through the press releases, submitted poems, online comments sections, e-mailed photos and family-written profiles to come up with enough to fill that gaping hole in the paper. I consider it a good week when I can find something that is at least written in the first person. It is a relentless schedule. Every Thursday, I wade into the cesspool looking for shiny things, while a relentless clock ticks away in the background.
And that is really the rub. I don’t have more time, nor would my bosses allocate more time, for me to factcheck every one of these pieces. Or any of these pieces, for that matter. And since I have that blank page staring back at me, I am genuinely relieved to be able to insert that terrible poem. Or that diary about your backpacking trip to Nepal. And if you send a photo? Ohmigod, you are my most favorite person in the world. Because that big, white page must be filled. And if you don’t send your crap in, what in the world will I fill it with?

The rest of the comment is just as depressingly insightful.