“In Moulmein, in lower Burma, I was hated by large numbers of people — the only time in my life that I have been important enough for this to happen to me,” begins George Orwell in his classic essay “Shooting an Elephant.”
I know the feeling. My day job is investigative reporter. That means I, too, am hated by large numbers of people, and not for the usual reasons people hate the press (we’re “unethical, biased”), but because I tend to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions. Those who wish me ill include nearly everyone in local government, including elected officials, bureaucrats, school administrators — basically everyone on the public dole, an outcome most thick-skinned reporters would wear as a badge of honor.
Fortunately, my fiancée is also hated by large numbers of people, so we can commiserate. She is a social worker who works with inner city families on child abuse cases. She has been threatened and called a “baby snatcher” countless times. The fear of the child abuse worker has been largely exaggerated by the know-nothings who write for television and films. The last thing a social worker wants to do is tear a child away from its mother and try to find someone — often a hopeless task — to care for him. A mother really has to be messed up before it comes to that.
Not to be outdone is my brother the attorney. He’s not just any attorney, but a corporate attorney. And not just any corporation, but one of those large multi-nationals liberals think of as evil incarnate. He, too, wears this as a badge of honor.
For years I worked as a public relations man for an association of lawyers. My job was to get people to change their opinion of the profession. (It would have been easier to convince people to change their sex.) If I was able to sleep at night, it was only by constantly reminding myself that I was supporting a family.
There are no politicians in our family as yet, though my father, at age 75, is considering a run for the city council. If elected, my family will have all the most hated professions accounted for.
Judging by the number of “most-hated profession” stories I’ve read, such lists are indeed a popular pastime. My own catalogue would likewise put journalists, politicians, and lawyers near the top, edging out the traffic cop, who has slipped a few rungs since I bought a radar detector. Certainly, there should be a special circle of hell reserved for advertising people. A generation ago, before advertising masterminds dreamt up such inspired campaigns as the Budweiser “What’s Up” commercials, Malcolm Muggeridge said that “history will see advertising as one of the real evil things of our time. It is stimulating people constantly to want things, want this, want that,” which is refreshing to hear in a conservative thinker. I know, ad men are just doing their jobs, spewing out puerile swill to the great unwashed, but that doesn’t excuse them. So were Bonnie and Clyde just doing their jobs.
A RECENT POLL in Britain found that the most hated professionals were the lowly meter maids. No one likes finding parking tickets on his windshield, but if I’m going to hate someone for it it’s going to be the elected officials who are responsible for the meters in the first place. Parking meters have never made much sense to me, particularly in these days of suburban malls. Shouldn’t cities be encouraging shoppers to drive into the city to shop rather than punishing them for it?
Traditionally, Americans have disliked “oily” used car salesmen and “greedy” bankers, but I have nothing against either profession. Perhaps because I buy my used cars from acquaintances, while I suspect bankers — if anything — have been too free in lending money, thereby contributing to the current economic mess.
I still distrust auto mechanics, though I suspect they cheat women customers far more often than men, even men like myself who don’t know an alternator from a generator. And credit card companies remain the very essence of evil, playing as they do on the moral weaknesses of the masses.
Do I mind being hated by so many people? Not particularly, though it does make a reporter’s job more difficult when people refuse to talk to you because they hate you. But at least I am no longer doing spin for lawyers. And, yes, I’ve never slept better.