Playing the Blame Game

Erik Weber has a nice post up over at Greater Greater Washington that explores what went wrong during the Rally to Restore Sanity. I don't think anyone who attended would agree that it went off without a hitch. The overarching issue was that way more people attended than event planners were expecting. This created some serious transportation problems, and a lot of angry people looking for someone to blame.

(from MissChatter on Flickr)

In this case, there is no single party who's at fault. Blame falls in a lot of different places. The problem is... it's so much easier when blame can neatly in one place; when it's really easy to point the finger in one direction and move on.

So who can we point the finger at? We can blame Metro for not providing enough service to accommodate travelers. We can blame Comedy Central for not ponying up the money to allow Metro to run more trains or for providing WABA with funding to operate a bike valet. We can blame the rally-goers for not making it clear that so many of them were going to go. We can blame Mother Nature for giving us the most beautiful autumn weather.

If only Metro had run more trains... if only Comedy Central had paid for more service... if only more people had biked... if only fewer people showed up at the Mall... if only it had been rainy or snowy or cold... maybe none of this would have ever happened?

In Washington, Metro is the bad guy. Anyone who has used Metro more than a few times has had at least one frustrating experience. It's usually chalked up to bureaucratic incompetence. Often, this is a fair criticism. I've experienced my share of frustrating Metro situations. It's so easy to blame Metro when something goes wrong.

Comedy Central, on the other hand, is the good guy. After all, they host two awesome late-night comedy shows. And without them, there wouldn't have been a rally at all.

The tendency is to hold the bad guy to a much higher standard. There's also a tendency to look for a single fall-guy. In this case, that's Metro. Regardless of how much of the transportation disaster can be traced back to them, and regardless of whether people are willing to defend them, they'll still bear a brunt of the anger, because it's really really easy to unconditionally blame Metro.