At least 33% of what’s wrong with American culture is encapsulated by this statement, from “Sports Guy” Bill Simmons*:
And again, I appreciate 99 percent of the New Era of Sports Thinking. We’re unquestionably and undeniably smarter now. But you also read and hear so much more hedging, so much more stammering, so much presenting-both-sides-of-the-picture, so many timid arguments because writers don’t want their opinions thrown back in their face later. It also enables certain radio hosts and television hosts to take comically strong stands, one way or the other, simply because everyone else is setting up shop somewhere in the rational middle. They don’t have to be right; they just have to stand out. It’s much easier to stand out in 2015, that’s for sure.
In a more sensible era, the folks who took “comically strong stands” would be rightly regarded as comics. More importantly, note the rationale: “writers don’t want their opinions thrown back in their face later.” Again, in a more sensible era, this would be rational — a pundit who regularly got big things wrong would lose his job (“10 Reasons Why Wally Pipp Will Be the 1926 MVP!”). But this is the internet era, and as Vox has shown, making fun of idiots who get literally everything wrong all the time is a viable business model for both the critics and the idiots.
The problems we face aren’t amenable to timid, middle of the road arguments. More importantly, they can’t be solved by people with mingy, timid characters. Be wrong! And if you’re wrong, admit it like a man. That’s the true middle ground between weak sauce and hyperbole, and if more people embraced it, a lot of our problems would be a lot less pressing.
*I really can’t stand Simmons, but Grantland.com is fascinating. Its schtick seems to be “we’re middle-aged men pretending to be teenage girls,” and it does what David Stove said JS Mill did — it performs the valuable service of making important mistakes clearly.