Private charities are pretty good at separating real victims from malingerers. But government is not. Its one-size-fits-all rules encourage people to act like victims.
Whether people have real physical ailments or just see the economic deck stacked against them, the most damaging thing say to them is: Give up. You can't make it on your own. Wait for help.
Pessimism changes what we think is possible. It shrinks our horizons.
We in the media keep an eye out for people who are victimized. Sometimes that's a valuable service. But it often means looking for victims when they really aren't there. This makes reporters feel like heroes -- noble sentries protecting the powerless.
Even the newly crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri, who sure seems like a winner by conventional standards, was portrayed as a victim in many news stories. Since she's the first Miss America of Indian descent, some trolls on Twitter made racist remarks.
But skeptical writer Gavin McInnes did a little digging. He found those racist Twitter users were almost certainly just irresponsible little kids. One of the media's most quoted tweets, "You look like a terrorist," was sent by a Twitter user with zero followers.
If millions of people are familiar with that remark now -- and some Americans grow up a little bit more frightened that they will be victimized -- it will be largely because media hyped racism rather than because of the handful of racists themselves.
America is full of success stories. But if we obsess over stories about victimhood, that is what we'll get.
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