Eliezer Finkelman

Competence Bores Us

Competence bores us.  Do not give us any stories about competent people; we won’t pay attention.  Really, who would watch a video, listen to a podcast, or read a story about people who do their jobs?  The manager who keeps the shelves of the grocery well-stocked, the corporate executive who pays the employees well and gives value to customers, the political leader who faithfully serves the interests of constituents? You cannot do a story about them.  No one would click on the teaser.

We want to feel superior to somebody; we want to feel anger; we want to feel victimized; we want hate villains, or even to root for villains.  Tell us about people who fail miserably, or who betray the public trust, or who do other horrifying deeds.  Look for weakness in the competent people, and tell us why we should get rid of those boring folks.

In the run-up to an election, do not bore us with words about what the incumbent gets right.  Do not waste time with stories about what competing candidates would do in office.  We do not want to pay attention to that boring stuff.  Tell us if any candidates make funny misstatements. Tell us about the most outrageous candidates – they make the best stories.  The election story generates excitement if you predict that it will be this close, and, even better, that the craziest candidate will win.  Engage our emotions, especially fear and anger.

Follow this advice, and your stories can get the most followers. You can sell the best advertising slots.  If you treat your audience as emotion-addicted information-poor fools, you can encourage them to become even more emotional, ignorant, and foolish.  That makes them even more receptive to your kind of journalism.

If the election produces the predictable result, you can forget about those competent leaders.  You can enjoy having more and more entertaining political leaders.  Then you can easily run stories about their zany antics.  You can achieve journalistic success.

How does this work out for the country? Probably badly.

About the Author
Louis Finkelman currently resides in Beit Shemesh, Israel. Until recently, he taught Literature and Writing at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan, and served as half the rabbinic team at Congregation Or Chadash in Oak Park, Michigan.
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